This past week marked the celebration of an annual event in Paraguay, the country God called me to work in over 25 years ago now. December 8th is the feast day of the Virgin of Caacupé, and many thousands of people make the pilgrimage to her basilica to thank a small statue for some miracle received over the previous year. It always makes me imagine how the Father must be shaking his head and thinking, but I came to dwell among you, and you prefer an idol!
Isaiah chapter 8 tells a story of how God’s people reject Immanuel, God-with-us, in favor of Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, Hurry-to-the-plunder. Instead of resting in the blessings that come from living in obedience to the Creator, they choose to walk the path that will lead them to destruction. God’s prophet, Isaiah, is tasked with warning them of the consequences of their foolish choice, but we know from history that they decided to ignore him.
We live in the limbo-time between Christ’s first coming, as a baby, and his second coming, as conquering king. Advent urges us to contemplate the former and yearn for the latter, remembering all the while that we must decide how to walk during the waiting.
Israel determined to take its cues from its neighbors, ignoring Yahweh’s own revelation of himself to them. Isaiah 8:13-14a admonishes Israel, and, subsequently, us, that “The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread. He will be a holy place…” Our world, like theirs, works hard to convince us to admire, believe in, wonder at, love, fear, and pursue things of no genuine depth or value. And all the while, God in his incarnate Son calls us to Himself, who is alone the worthy object of our devotion.
Andy Bowen is a long time friend of the camp and serves as a WGM Missionary in Paraguay with his wife Lizet and sons Lucas, Timothy, and Joseph.