We have waited (perhaps even patiently, though probably not) through the Advent season. We have waited for this very moment, when the Nativity of the Lord has finally come. It comes as no surprise that the themes of Advent—hope, peace, joy, and love— continue to run deeply through the nativity narrative. But there is something else. If we back up just a bit, we find that the people of God, in Zion, were desperate too. In exile and in exodus, the people had despaired. But the good news that has come is the very presence of the Lord who proclaims, “Here am I.”
Ironically, without taking much creative license at all, we could translate the words about lovely feet in this way: “The journey is beautiful.” I can’t help but think about how intricately related these two phrases are, if you have ever had the joy of looking at a baby’s feet. It is overwhelming to think of the feet of baby Jesus—the feet that have journeyed both everywhere and nowhere at all. Fully God and fully human, Creator and created, the one who will fully understand the breadth and depth of human experience and become salvation. But on that night in Bethlehem, those little feet were soft and wrinkled, tucked away in strips of cloth, likely irritated by straw between the toes, just beginning.
Here’s the message: Peace, good news, and redemption are here, because, “Your God reigns!”
This is an exciting moment in which to live, but the people of God (throughout history right on down to this very moment) always seem to need to be persuaded. In our defense, maybe this is because God is so unconventional! The Old Testament prophets had to make a case for the return of the Lord, much like modern day prophets have to deal with questions of eschatology. In reality, it is odd that these cyclical rhythms plague our understanding of God’s presence to us, throughout history. The ancient Israelites had God with them in the pillars of cloud and fire. God never left them. We have God present with us, even now, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the testimony of all of creation. God never leaves us. Still, the bodily incarnation of God, in Jesus, is something special, and this passage lends itself well to understanding what it is to interact with God in the flesh—voices responding to feet and eyes responding to arms.
The Israelites didn’t expect a king in the shape of a baby, but I suppose they never expected a king in any of the other shapes God took, either. They are encouraged to sing. We are encouraged to sing! For God breaks into our ruins as comforter and redeemer, regardless of the form God takes.
Interestingly, the prophet seems to think God’s presence should be obvious, and this is not limited to the recognition of the Israelites! He proclaims, “All the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.”
God in plain sight. God before our very own eyes. What are we missing, even now? May we be attuned in such a way that we see how God is present in our lives, in others, and in the world around us, and may praise flow from our lips, even out of brokenness; for our God is here, today, and our God still reigns!