Think of Advent and what springs to mind? Angels and shepherds? The journey of the magi? Mary and Joseph travelling to Bethlehem? But what about the prophets?
Advent actually begins with the prophets who spoke of Jesus' coming centuries before His birth. By the Spirit, God's word was given human voice. Prophets were the voice of a Holy God to His people.
Prophets are characterised by being 'a voice’. The truth is that their voices were probably not exceptional in tone, clarity or resonance; in and of themselves they possessed no special qualities, except for one thing: they spoke on behalf of the Lord God. In fact the prophets couldn’t help themselves because God’s word entered their hearts and souls.
In the words of Jeremiah:
"If I say, 'I will not mention him or speak any more in His name,' His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot." Jer 20:9
On first seeing the Lord in the temple, Isaiah begs God to leave him as he, Isaiah, is a man of 'unclean lips.'
Isaiah’s lips are burnt clean by burning coals in the temple; Jeremiah’s heart and bones are burnt clean by His Word.
Jesus came as the Word itself, to cleanse, free and redeem all who hear and receive 'the good news.' From His temptation in the desert, to this first moment of proclamation, to His death on the cross, Jesus loved and quoted the words of the prophets and the words of God. The Word turns to God's word at all the key moments of His life. He loved and lived the scripture.
The theme of this year's Advent Wonder's reflections is 'generous voices’ and in a sense it all starts with the prophets: they are generous in speaking His word, generous even to the point of death. Speaking the word was costly to the prophets. John is beheaded by Herod; tradition has it that Jeremiah was stoned to death in Egypt while in exile, Isaiah was sawn in two (Hebrews 11: 37); and that Peter was crucified upside down.
Why did they all die in rejection, tortured and hate?
Because they had their eyes—and their voices—set on the message, and most especially on us. Because of them we hear. They were generous in giving their earthly lives because of this message of a baby, a child Messiah, as in Isaiah 9: 6-7:
'For to us a child is born, for us a son is given...And He will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace... He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom...forever.'
The generous voices of the prophets point—all in some way—to this child, to Jesus.
Live, listen and love generously this season of Advent. Listen to the voices that point to Him.