Third Sunday of Advent – Published in 2014 Advent Devotional of Trinity School for Ministry
by The Rev. Dr. Dave Johnson
posted on December 4, 2014.
Third Sunday of Advent, December 14, 2014
It can happen in an instant. One moment your life is moving along fairly well—you are healthy, you can pay your bills (or most of them anyway), your relationships are by and large in a good place, and your job is going fine. The next moment your life is shaken to the core—you get in a severe car accident, you suffer a major financial setback, you are betrayed by someone, or you are a casualty of corporate “restructuring.” Sometimes this shaking may occur in several areas of your life at once, or in the words of Jerry Lee Lewis, sometimes there’s a “whole lotta shakin’ going on” (1957).
In today’s passages from Isaiah and Hebrews there is a recurring theme of things being shaken to the core on a cosmic level. At the root of this shaking is neither chance nor bad luck, but rather the providence of Almighty God. The Lord put it this way through the prophet Isaiah: “Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken out of its place” (13:13). Similarly, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews cites another Old Testament prophet, Haggai, through whom the Lord spoke again about shaking: “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens” (12:26).
The good news of the gospel is that Jesus was no stranger to this shaking of things to the core, for at the moment of His death “the earth shook, and the rocks were split” (Matthew 27:51)—and on the cross Jesus atoned for all our sins, including all the times we had a hand in the shaking of our own lives (or the lives of others) to the core.
While such shaking in our lives can be overwhelming , often the result is a deeper sense of humility, like that articulated by John the Baptist in today’s gospel reading: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Moreover, we can be comforted, for in Christ we are assured an eternal place in “a kingdom that cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 12:28).
Lord, please give us the grace humbly to trust in You especially during the seasons when our lives are shaken to the core. Amen.
Dave Johnson, Rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Valdosta, Georgia