Tuesday 11th December
Go and tell this people - Isaiah 6:5-9

''Woe to me!' I cried. 'I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.' Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, 'See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.' Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?' And I said, 'Here am I. Send me!' He said, 'Go and tell this people: 'Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.''

The words of the prophet Isaiah are a familiar backdrop to the narratives and episodes of the nativity story. Within them we catch glimpses of the events that are recalled and re-told through our Christmas celebrations, and can recognise deeper meanings and purpose as they happen. In common with many other Old Testament prophets, Isaiah reminds us that God was present within those events, and God was speaking before any of them happened.

The verses above recount the moment when a prophet is called to become the mouthpiece of God. It begins with a vision of God's presence, which in turn causes Isaiah to recognise with even greater clarity the failings of the nation of which he is a part. Yet he does not stand in detached judgement, but rather recognises that he himself bears those shortcomings and iniquities.

Confronted by the scene of a dying king repeating empty rituals before a nation in decline, the prophet's first instinct is to add to the chorus of despair by declaring 'Woe to me.' But God is speaking, and God invites him to embrace other narratives. God responds to his sense of failure and inadequacy with grace and forgiveness, and God commissions him to become a key narrator in the midst of a nation's anguish, fear and uncertainty.

From this moment, Isaiah's voice echoes across many decades in the life of a people and its leaders. Isaiah speaks not with inflated opinion but because God has something to say. At times his words will be stark and uncompromising, exposing forthcoming realities that eclipse anything that even the most pessimistic might have forecasted. At others, his will be the only message of hope and purpose amidst utter despair and brokenness. But the common thread through it all is that God is speaking.

The commission is entirely realistic. The people will hear the prophet's words, see the realities he describes, yet still fail to listen and understand. But this does not deflect from the reality that God has something to say, and God is seeking those who will listen for and speak God's truth into our earthly realities and struggles. Amidst it all, we are invited to be still and listen for that Divine voice. As those who have seen God's salvation, we are those called to speak this truth in every age.

God of all truth, grant me the wisdom to listen for your voice, and the courage to speak your message in every earthly situation.

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