This familiar Advent passage is filled with encouraging promises made real in the birth of Jesus. Given all the troubles the year 2020 has brought, this Christmas we may be able to relate to these images more than ever. Many of us are mourning as the losses pile up— people close to us who have died; jobs lost; events and celebrations cancelled; separation from loved ones during a special time of year. Some of us may feel like captives in our own homes. I’m sure all of us feel the deep need for “good news” and restoration.

Given this context we may be happy to simply turn the calendar page, celebrate the roll-out of a vaccine, and wait for the pandemic to end. We yearn for the day we can once again come together as family, as friends, and as congregations. Yet if a “return to what was” is all we yearn for, I wonder if we may miss the full potential in God’s promise of “good news”? I wonder if we may miss how Isaiah’s words challenge the status quo? And I wonder if it may keep us from grappling with what we might need to address or change in order to more fully be the bearers of God’s “good news” to others?

I grew up in Hamilton in a house built in 1892. When we first moved in, our front door was a bright, turquois colour. It had been painted over and over in thick glossy layers. It also had this odd knocker that made a “thud” sound that could hardly be heard when someone came to the door. My parents decided there must be some beauty hidden under all that paint. I remember them taking down the door and pouring caustic chemicals on it. They worked on it for days, digging at the paint with scrapers, chisels, and sandpaper to reveal the rich wood grain. It looked amazing! There also was a surprise. When the paint was stripped off the knocker, it turned out it was actually a bell. When it rang you could now hear it throughout the house!

But to fully restore the door it took more than just stripping off the old. There were cracks to be filled, and holes to be patched so the door would hold together. Updated weather stripping meant it kept out the cold better than it ever had before.

Isaiah’s words of “good news” and restoration asks what layers in ourselves, in our congregations, and in our world need to be stripped away so that we can fully receive the promise God intends. Are we ready to be surprised by how God’s restoration may transform us? Are we ready to be made new? How might we more fully align our hopes and yearnings with those of God in this the year of the Lord’s favour?

This Christmas as we celebrate the arrival of Christ’s presence, may we look toward a future that not only seeks the restoration of the best of what was, but also embraces the fullness of God’s vision of healing and hope for the world. May we seek ways to live into that vision in ways that reflect “good news” proclaimed for all.