The Heavens Torn

“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down...”  Many American worshipers will still be savoring pleasant memories of Thanksgiving turkey when they hear these prophetic words burst into their consciousness: a perhaps-unwelcome interruption.  The coming of Advent, the beginning of a new liturgical year, is meant to be intrusive.  For the several prophets trading under the name of Isaiah, preaching to a despairing people in exile, the abrupt intrusion of God into human affairs is a sign of hope.  Such is the case for oppressed peoples in every place and time, who have historically welcomed apocalyptic imagery far more readily than those who are complacent and satisfied.  “Our God is an awesome God,” we sing, with radiant smiles on our faces: yet can we, who are for the most part comfortable and secure, even begin to understand what God’s “awesome deeds” (v. 3) are really like?