There are some things I’ve grown accustomed to in my life. I may be 33 years old, but there are things that I prefer simply because it’s what I’m used to or how it’s always been.
For instance, I rarely eat cereal with milk. Most of the time I eat my morning Cheerios dry. It’s just something I’ve always done. I’ll pour my bowl, take it to the couch, and slowly eat my breakfast while watching “Sportscenter” or “CBS This Morning.”
I know that sounds odd and, I am sure, there are several dairy farmers who wish that I would more regularly pour milk into my cereal, but it is just something about myself that I’ve grown used to. It is part of who I am. I like it and I don’t see a reason to change this trait.
We all have things in our lives that we’ve grown accustomed too. They range from the serious to the silly. For instance, we might have certain ways that we prepare for the day, or why we only shop at a certain store, or why we drive a certain brand of automobile. No matter the reason, the things that we’ve grown accustomed to help to bring a sense of consistency into our lives, especially in an ever-changing world.
There is nothing wrong with having certain things that we are accustomed to. They tell us something about ourselves and gives us a glimpse into our personalities. It is really is acceptable to enjoy some things simply because it is “the way things are” or “have always been.”
I say that recognizing that there are some things in this world, and even in my own life, that I don’t want to be accustomed to. There are some things that I refuse to accept as “the way things are” or “have always been.”
I refuse to accept the violence that exists in our world and communities as just “how things are.” I don’t want to get used to the fact that so many of our families are broken. I don’t want to accept that there will always be people who struggle for food, to provide for their families, or to even have a basic education. Even within my own soul, and perhaps yours also, there are things I don’t want to accept as “how things are.” I don’t want to be used to feelings of fear, anxiety, hopelessness, or many of the negative emotions that can define how we see ourselves and others.
There must be something better. I yearn for this. I yearn for something new to be created in our world and, truly, within our lives. Something deep and holy that recognizes that they way things are are not as they were meant to be. I yearn for the image of a renewed and deep life that Isaiah paints for us in our passage from Isaiah 65:17-25.
Isaiah’s words come at an interesting point in Israel’s history. Israel has returned to Jerusalem after spending years in Babylon. This happened after the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem. Scripture says this was because of Israel’s continued disobedience towards God. The people of Israel had experienced their worst defeat and were now returning to Jerusalem to start over.
It was a new day for the people, but it would have been easy to assume that they way things were were how they would always be. It would’ve been easy for the people to live in fear and to accept that they would always be dominated by outside forces. Anyone in Israel would’ve been excused for living in a perpetual state of fear and hopelessness.
However, Isaiah desires for Israel, and us, not to live in fear, but to cling to our hopeful promise. That promise is that God is creating something new. God is working to create something new where brokenness, pains, and hurt exists. This is our hope. A hope that the way things are are not how things have to be. Isaiah expresses this promise, truly, beginning a verse earlier than our passage. In Isaiah 65:16, he writes that God will “forget the evil of earlier days.” Truly, God will forget the brokenness and bring about something beautiful and holy in those places.
This is truly the work of transformation and bringing creation back to its original purpose. Genesis tells us that God created everything perfect. Creation was made to be in a deep and intimate relationship with the Lord. However, we know this is not the case today. We can see that the world is not as God intended. This is because of the choices that we make every day that distance ourselves from God. From our spiritual ancestors of Adam and Eve, to the people of Israel, and down to us, we each have made choices that have distanced ourselves from God and harmed how we relate to each other. The brokenness in the world is not because it is how things are. The brokenness in our world exists because we choose to maintain broken relationships with each other and our Lord.
Yet, the good news is that even though this brokenness exists God never stops working to redeem creation. God never stops reaching out to us. Even though we distance ourselves from God, our Lord took it upon himself to bridge the gap and redeem creation. It was an act that began once sin entered the world, and has its fullest expression through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When brokenness shattered God’s creation, God began the work of creating something new, something holy, something loving, through what Christ did for the world and for each of us.
What is doing is remaking us into the people that God desires us to be. God wants to take our hurts, our pains, our wounds, our brokenness, and transform them. He wants to move us from being defined by our hurt and make us into a people who are defined by our hope and love. Truly, God desires for us to be transformed and to reflect what it means to be a child of God.
That is the something new that God desires and it is reflected in much of Isaiah’s imagery. We see that Isaiah reflects on some of the characteristics of God and says that this new creation will look just like that. The new creation will reflect the holiness and love of God. For instance, where there was once brokenness and pain there will be joy. Where there were once enemies there will be connection and a deep relationships. This is the reality that God is working to bring about in our world and in each of us.
It is a reality that will come when Christ’s returns in final victory. That is our hope. We claim this hope that when Christ returns that life will be restored. Revelation builds off Isaiah’s image and gives us a beautiful picture of what this will look like. This is the hope that we remember as we move into the Advent season in a couple of weeks. Advent is about waiting for this hope of new creation to come. It is about trusting that Christ will come again. It is about our hearts truly yearning for Christ’s return and this new creation to come when we sing songs like “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”
We live with that hope each day. We live with the promise that God is not done building something new where there was brokenness. But, we do not have to wait for tomorrow to receive this hope today. While God is at work redeeming creation for the time to come, we can experience a taste of that new creation in our lives today. We do so by allowing Christ to transform us and to do the work of guiding us into what it means to reflect the love of Christ each day.
This happens when we allow God to do this work of transformation in us. We are called to a daily life of renewal and of being remade daily into the image of God. It only happens when we are willing to put aside our expectations of “how things are” or “how they’ve always been” and allow God to do something new within us. It is the work of allowing God to shepherd us into a deeper relationship, to let go of our fears and doubts, and to be willing to be molded by the love of Christ. This is true spiritual growth that comes as we reflect more of the humility and love of Christ. Becoming something new in Christ is about becoming something less, about letting ourselves go, so that Christ can become more in our lives and the world around us. God never stops desiring for us to reflect the love of Christ and shows us the way forward through the peace of the Holy Spirit working in us.
In his work in India, Ghandi once said something that I believe is appropriate for us today. I’m paraphrasing, but he said if we want to see change in the world then it must begin with us. If we want to see brokenness eliminated in the world, then the work must begin in us by allowing Christ to redeem our brokenness. If we want to see hope in the world, then we must allow Christ to speak hope into our lives. If we want to see growth in our churches, then we must allow Christ to help us grow closer to the Lord so that we may reflect Christ’s love into the world. If we want to see something new in this world, then the work must begin in us and allowing God to do something new in us. We must allow God to do the work of recreating us to reflect God’s holiness and love.
We do not have to grow accustomed to how things are today and accept the way things are. We can hope in something better and that is that God is doing something new in us and it is available for each of us today. What if we refused to accept things as they are, today, and seek the way things could and should be in Christ? What if we did this in our lives and as a church?
God has something beautiful for us. Will you allow God to show you this today?