LO!

Bible Text: Isaiah 40:1-11, Mark 1:1-8 | Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

Did you know that a very important anniversary passed us not too long ago. The internet turned 45 years old this year. It’s true. On Oct. 29Th, 1969, the first link between a computer at UCLA and a computer at the Stanford Research Institute was realized at 10:30pm. It went something like this, a telephone connection between the folks at UCLA and Stanford was set up. UCLA’s computer typed “L” and they asked over the phone, “Do you see the L?” “Yes, we see the L” came the response. Then they typed “O” and asked, “Do you see the O?”, “Yes, we see the O”. The UCLA computer was supposed to transmit a G but then the system crashed. As a result the first word ever transmitted across the internet was “LO”. The internet revolution had begun and 45 years later we send people messages over the world wide web, and our systems still crash. Webster’s dictionary defines the word “Lo” as a word used to call attention to something or to show wonder or surprise. These two simple letters, “L and O” are used to declare and announce the arrival of a more important message. It can be a precursor to important words of greetings, like the Angels to the Shepherds, “Lo, I bring you tidings of good news and great joy” or words of warning. The prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah often used the word “Lo” to bring attention to their warnings. Like in Isaiah 59:9 “We wait for light, and lo! there is darkness.” Two simple letters can be the bearers of good or difficult news.
Although it is not written as such I imagine that John the Baptist used the word “Lo” a lot too. Like the prophets of the Old Testament he was trying to bring attention to words of repentance. The Gospel lesson for this week introduces us not only to the person of John the Baptist but it is also the very beginning of Mark, the Gospel for the majority of the New Testament readings throughout the coming year. Yes, the Gospels are all about Jesus, but before Jesus there was John. John, like the word lo, is not the important person but is the one who brings attention to the important message.
Before John there was Isaiah. In Mark’s Gospel John the Baptist is essentially an Old Testament figure. His clothing is based on descriptions of Elijah. In fact, Mark believes that John IS Elijah, just as the prophet Malachi predicted. John serves as a link between these two testaments, between these two worlds. He behaves much like the prophets of old, hence why I suspect he used the term Lo, but he is also announcing new words of promise. There are many carols that reflect these two stages in the life of faith, the Old Testament words being used for a New Testament announcement. Our opening hymn, “Hark the glad sound”, includes references to words from Isaiah as well as “Angels from the realms of glory” , “It came upon a midnight clear” and “O little town of Bethlehem”. Isaiah’s words are embedded into much of our Advent and Christmas language.
The Gospel passage today reflects that of Isaiah 40, our Old Testament lesson. The passage announces God’s intention to visit, to be among, God’s people and reminds those listening to be prepared. It is a resounding announcement that the time of promise is drawing to a close and the time of fulfilment is drawing near. The voice of God in Isaiah’s text does not say, “Tell my people to get ready and when they have done so, I will come to them.” No, God says, “Prepare the way! I am coming to my people (whether they are read or not!)” Now, for Isaiah, the time of fulfilment was not in fact a coming of a messiah but rather the end of exile for the Israelites in Babylon.
In 587 BCE Jerusalem fell to Babylon and a large portion of Jerusalem’s population went into exile. Chapter 40 in Isaiah through to about chapter 66 are all about this time of exile. As a result what we hear are not words of warning because the worst case scenario has happened. Now the people of Israel are in need of words of comfort and hope for a new future.
Passages from Isaiah often dominate our advent readings. This is partly because Isaiah is often referred to by the Gospel writers when demonstrating that what was promised is coming into being through Jesus. But also because Isaiah often holds in tension this idea that we live in between- in the already and the not yet. But that does not mean we remain stagnant. Advent is about waiting but it is not about doing nothing. Isaiah reminds us that embracing hope has implications for our lives now. Christine Yoder a professor at Columbia Seminary says, “The prophet reminds us that Advent is as much about what we watch for as how we wait” and it is in the how that we are granted peace.
In John’s message even the geography has a role. The baptism occurs in the Jordan River, a river famous in the Old Testament as the boundary marker for the promised land. We know from the story in Exodus that God’s people wandered in the wilderness for forty years until at last they reached the Jordan River. When they entered these waters, they knew their waiting was over and that God’s promises to them during their wandering was about to be fulfilled. Essentially, the basic Advent theme sounding out this week is that the time of promise is drawing to a close and the time of fulfilment is drawing near. For the wandering Israelites the fulfilled promise was that of crossing the Jordan, for the exiled Israelites it was returning to the banks of the Jordan, for the searching Israelites it is the announcements declared at the Jordan river.
  One of my favourite carols is “Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming” or “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen”. There’s that word “Lo” again. Like John this hymn blends Old Testament words with a New Testament message. This carol first appeared in a German hymnal in 1582. The song originally had 19 verses and in fact those carol loving Germans bumped it up to 23 verses in 1599. You will note our version only has 4 verses. But knowing that at one time the song had 23 verses is important because over the last 415 years this hymn has been tweaked, changed, and theologically redacted. Many purists struggle with it because it not only blends Old and New Testament words but blends a lot of theological myths as well. For example, it says that Isaiah foretold of a rose. There is no mention of a rose anywhere in Isaiah. Isaiah does however, mention the branch of Jesse. The German word for twig or branch is Reis and somewhere in the redacting it was translated as Ros, or rose. The version we will sing leads us to believe that the rose is Jesus but in the original 23 verse German version the rose was Mary. Throughout the medieval period mystic commentators often used a rose to represent Mary. We get a hint of that original image in our second verse but the English translation says that “with Mary we behold it,” when in fact the very early hymn said “From Mary we behold it.” We can thank the protestization of the hymn for this change. Michael Praetirous, son of a Lutheran minister, was the composer who changed the words so that the rose represented Jesus rather than Mary. Praetorius is also the one who is credited with giving us the beautiful harmony and the challenging, yet, beautiful tune.
It is a peaceful tune and the use of the word lo, harkens to the message from the angels rather than the words of warning in the Old Testament. However, as we wait in this Advent season we also prepare. Lo, have peace in your heart and comfort one another. For the time of promise, the time of waiting, the time of exile is coming to an end and the time of fulfilment, the time to experience God’s covenant is approaching. Much like a lush rose blooming at the end of a prickly stem. We arise from a time of struggle or pain or challenges and we have hope and peace in the fulfilled promise of Jesus Christ, alluded to in words of Isaiah, foretold by John, born of Mary, a flower whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air, dispels with glorious splendour our darkness everywhere, true saviour, king of glory.
Amen

Hymn:151 Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming

December 7, 2014
Preacher:

Passage:

Isaiah 40:1-11, Mark 1:1-8

Service Type:

Did you know that a very important anniversary passed us not too long ago. The internet turned 45 years old this year. It's true. On Oct. 29Th, 1969, the first link between a computer at UCLA and a computer at the Stanford Research Institute was realized at 10:30pm. It went something like this, a telephone connection between the folks at UCLA and Stanford was set up. UCLA's computer typed “L” and they asked over the phone, “Do you see the L?” “Yes, we see the L” came the response. Then they typed “O” and asked, “Do you see the O?”, “Yes, we see the O”. The UCLA computer was supposed to transmit a G but then the system crashed. As a result the first word ever transmitted across the internet was “LO”. The internet revolution had begun and 45 years later we send people messages over the world wide web, and our systems still crash. Webster's dictionary defines the word “Lo” as a word used to call attention to something or to show wonder or surprise. These two simple letters, “L and O” are used to declare and announce the arrival of a more important message. It can be a precursor to important words of greetings, like the Angels to the Shepherds, “Lo, I bring you tidings of good news and great joy” or words of warning. The prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah often used the word “Lo” to bring attention to their warnings. Like in Isaiah 59:9 “We wait for light, and lo! there is darkness.” Two simple letters can be the bearers of good or difficult news.
Although it is not written as such I imagine that John the Baptist used the word “Lo” a lot too. Like the prophets of the Old Testament he was trying to bring attention to words of repentance. The Gospel lesson for this week introduces us not only to the person of John the Baptist but it is also the very beginning of Mark, the Gospel for the majority of the New Testament readings throughout the coming year. Yes, the Gospels are all about Jesus, but before Jesus there was John. John, like the word lo, is not the important person but is the one who brings attention to the important message.
Before John there was Isaiah. In Mark's Gospel John the Baptist is essentially an Old Testament figure. His clothing is based on descriptions of Elijah. In fact, Mark believes that John IS Elijah, just as the prophet Malachi predicted. John serves as a link between these two testaments, between these two worlds. He behaves much like the prophets of old, hence why I suspect he used the term Lo, but he is also announcing new words of promise. There are many carols that reflect these two stages in the life of faith, the Old Testament words being used for a New Testament announcement. Our opening hymn, “Hark the glad sound”, includes references to words from Isaiah as well as “Angels from the realms of glory” , “It came upon a midnight clear” and “O little town of Bethlehem”. Isaiah's words are embedded into much of our Advent and Christmas language.
The Gospel passage today reflects that of Isaiah 40, our Old Testament lesson. The passage announces God's intention to visit, to be among, God's people and reminds those listening to be prepared. It is a resounding announcement that the time of promise is drawing to a close and the time of fulfilment is drawing near. The voice of God in Isaiah's text does not say, “Tell my people to get ready and when they have done so, I will come to them.” No, God says, “Prepare the way! I am coming to my people (whether they are read or not!)” Now, for Isaiah, the time of fulfilment was not in fact a coming of a messiah but rather the end of exile for the Israelites in Babylon.
In 587 BCE Jerusalem fell to Babylon and a large portion of Jerusalem's population went into exile. Chapter 40 in Isaiah through to about chapter 66 are all about this time of exile. As a result what we hear are not words of warning because the worst case scenario has happened. Now the people of Israel are in need of words of comfort and hope for a new future.
Passages from Isaiah often dominate our advent readings. This is partly because Isaiah is often referred to by the Gospel writers when demonstrating that what was promised is coming into being through Jesus. But also because Isaiah often holds in tension this idea that we live in between- in the already and the not yet. But that does not mean we remain stagnant. Advent is about waiting but it is not about doing nothing. Isaiah reminds us that embracing hope has implications for our lives now. Christine Yoder a professor at Columbia Seminary says, “The prophet reminds us that Advent is as much about what we watch for as how we wait” and it is in the how that we are granted peace.
In John's message even the geography has a role. The baptism occurs in the Jordan River, a river famous in the Old Testament as the boundary marker for the promised land. We know from the story in Exodus that God's people wandered in the wilderness for forty years until at last they reached the Jordan River. When they entered these waters, they knew their waiting was over and that God's promises to them during their wandering was about to be fulfilled. Essentially, the basic Advent theme sounding out this week is that the time of promise is drawing to a close and the time of fulfilment is drawing near. For the wandering Israelites the fulfilled promise was that of crossing the Jordan, for the exiled Israelites it was returning to the banks of the Jordan, for the searching Israelites it is the announcements declared at the Jordan river.
  One of my favourite carols is “Lo, How A Rose E'er Blooming” or “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen”. There's that word “Lo” again. Like John this hymn blends Old Testament words with a New Testament message. This carol first appeared in a German hymnal in 1582. The song originally had 19 verses and in fact those carol loving Germans bumped it up to 23 verses in 1599. You will note our version only has 4 verses. But knowing that at one time the song had 23 verses is important because over the last 415 years this hymn has been tweaked, changed, and theologically redacted. Many purists struggle with it because it not only blends Old and New Testament words but blends a lot of theological myths as well. For example, it says that Isaiah foretold of a rose. There is no mention of a rose anywhere in Isaiah. Isaiah does however, mention the branch of Jesse. The German word for twig or branch is Reis and somewhere in the redacting it was translated as Ros, or rose. The version we will sing leads us to believe that the rose is Jesus but in the original 23 verse German version the rose was Mary. Throughout the medieval period mystic commentators often used a rose to represent Mary. We get a hint of that original image in our second verse but the English translation says that “with Mary we behold it,” when in fact the very early hymn said “From Mary we behold it.” We can thank the protestization of the hymn for this change. Michael Praetirous, son of a Lutheran minister, was the composer who changed the words so that the rose represented Jesus rather than Mary. Praetorius is also the one who is credited with giving us the beautiful harmony and the challenging, yet, beautiful tune.
It is a peaceful tune and the use of the word lo, harkens to the message from the angels rather than the words of warning in the Old Testament. However, as we wait in this Advent season we also prepare. Lo, have peace in your heart and comfort one another. For the time of promise, the time of waiting, the time of exile is coming to an end and the time of fulfilment, the time to experience God's covenant is approaching. Much like a lush rose blooming at the end of a prickly stem. We arise from a time of struggle or pain or challenges and we have hope and peace in the fulfilled promise of Jesus Christ, alluded to in words of Isaiah, foretold by John, born of Mary, a flower whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air, dispels with glorious splendour our darkness everywhere, true saviour, king of glory.
Amen

Hymn:151 Lo, how a Rose e'er blooming

Bible Text: Isaiah 40:1-11, Mark 1:1-8 | Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

Did you know that a very important anniversary passed us not too long ago. The internet turned 45 years old this year. It’s true. On Oct. 29Th, 1969, the first link between a computer at UCLA and a computer at the Stanford Research Institute was realized at 10:30pm. It went something like this, a telephone connection between the folks at UCLA and Stanford was set up. UCLA’s computer typed “L” and they asked over the phone, “Do you see the L?” “Yes, we see the L” came the response. Then they typed “O” and asked, “Do you see the O?”, “Yes, we see the O”. The UCLA computer was supposed to transmit a G but then the system crashed. As a result the first word ever transmitted across the internet was “LO”. The internet revolution had begun and 45 years later we send people messages over the world wide web, and our systems still crash. Webster’s dictionary defines the word “Lo” as a word used to call attention to something or to show wonder or surprise. These two simple letters, “L and O” are used to declare and announce the arrival of a more important message. It can be a precursor to important words of greetings, like the Angels to the Shepherds, “Lo, I bring you tidings of good news and great joy” or words of warning. The prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah often used the word “Lo” to bring attention to their warnings. Like in Isaiah 59:9 “We wait for light, and lo! there is darkness.” Two simple letters can be the bearers of good or difficult news.
Although it is not written as such I imagine that John the Baptist used the word “Lo” a lot too. Like the prophets of the Old Testament he was trying to bring attention to words of repentance. The Gospel lesson for this week introduces us not only to the person of John the Baptist but it is also the very beginning of Mark, the Gospel for the majority of the New Testament readings throughout the coming year. Yes, the Gospels are all about Jesus, but before Jesus there was John. John, like the word lo, is not the important person but is the one who brings attention to the important message.
Before John there was Isaiah. In Mark’s Gospel John the Baptist is essentially an Old Testament figure. His clothing is based on descriptions of Elijah. In fact, Mark believes that John IS Elijah, just as the prophet Malachi predicted. John serves as a link between these two testaments, between these two worlds. He behaves much like the prophets of old, hence why I suspect he used the term Lo, but he is also announcing new words of promise. There are many carols that reflect these two stages in the life of faith, the Old Testament words being used for a New Testament announcement. Our opening hymn, “Hark the glad sound”, includes references to words from Isaiah as well as “Angels from the realms of glory” , “It came upon a midnight clear” and “O little town of Bethlehem”. Isaiah’s words are embedded into much of our Advent and Christmas language.
The Gospel passage today reflects that of Isaiah 40, our Old Testament lesson. The passage announces God’s intention to visit, to be among, God’s people and reminds those listening to be prepared. It is a resounding announcement that the time of promise is drawing to a close and the time of fulfilment is drawing near. The voice of God in Isaiah’s text does not say, “Tell my people to get ready and when they have done so, I will come to them.” No, God says, “Prepare the way! I am coming to my people (whether they are read or not!)” Now, for Isaiah, the time of fulfilment was not in fact a coming of a messiah but rather the end of exile for the Israelites in Babylon.
In 587 BCE Jerusalem fell to Babylon and a large portion of Jerusalem’s population went into exile. Chapter 40 in Isaiah through to about chapter 66 are all about this time of exile. As a result what we hear are not words of warning because the worst case scenario has happened. Now the people of Israel are in need of words of comfort and hope for a new future.
Passages from Isaiah often dominate our advent readings. This is partly because Isaiah is often referred to by the Gospel writers when demonstrating that what was promised is coming into being through Jesus. But also because Isaiah often holds in tension this idea that we live in between- in the already and the not yet. But that does not mean we remain stagnant. Advent is about waiting but it is not about doing nothing. Isaiah reminds us that embracing hope has implications for our lives now. Christine Yoder a professor at Columbia Seminary says, “The prophet reminds us that Advent is as much about what we watch for as how we wait” and it is in the how that we are granted peace.
In John’s message even the geography has a role. The baptism occurs in the Jordan River, a river famous in the Old Testament as the boundary marker for the promised land. We know from the story in Exodus that God’s people wandered in the wilderness for forty years until at last they reached the Jordan River. When they entered these waters, they knew their waiting was over and that God’s promises to them during their wandering was about to be fulfilled. Essentially, the basic Advent theme sounding out this week is that the time of promise is drawing to a close and the time of fulfilment is drawing near. For the wandering Israelites the fulfilled promise was that of crossing the Jordan, for the exiled Israelites it was returning to the banks of the Jordan, for the searching Israelites it is the announcements declared at the Jordan river.
  One of my favourite carols is “Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming” or “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen”. There’s that word “Lo” again. Like John this hymn blends Old Testament words with a New Testament message. This carol first appeared in a German hymnal in 1582. The song originally had 19 verses and in fact those carol loving Germans bumped it up to 23 verses in 1599. You will note our version only has 4 verses. But knowing that at one time the song had 23 verses is important because over the last 415 years this hymn has been tweaked, changed, and theologically redacted. Many purists struggle with it because it not only blends Old and New Testament words but blends a lot of theological myths as well. For example, it says that Isaiah foretold of a rose. There is no mention of a rose anywhere in Isaiah. Isaiah does however, mention the branch of Jesse. The German word for twig or branch is Reis and somewhere in the redacting it was translated as Ros, or rose. The version we will sing leads us to believe that the rose is Jesus but in the original 23 verse German version the rose was Mary. Throughout the medieval period mystic commentators often used a rose to represent Mary. We get a hint of that original image in our second verse but the English translation says that “with Mary we behold it,” when in fact the very early hymn said “From Mary we behold it.” We can thank the protestization of the hymn for this change. Michael Praetirous, son of a Lutheran minister, was the composer who changed the words so that the rose represented Jesus rather than Mary. Praetorius is also the one who is credited with giving us the beautiful harmony and the challenging, yet, beautiful tune.
It is a peaceful tune and the use of the word lo, harkens to the message from the angels rather than the words of warning in the Old Testament. However, as we wait in this Advent season we also prepare. Lo, have peace in your heart and comfort one another. For the time of promise, the time of waiting, the time of exile is coming to an end and the time of fulfilment, the time to experience God’s covenant is approaching. Much like a lush rose blooming at the end of a prickly stem. We arise from a time of struggle or pain or challenges and we have hope and peace in the fulfilled promise of Jesus Christ, alluded to in words of Isaiah, foretold by John, born of Mary, a flower whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air, dispels with glorious splendour our darkness everywhere, true saviour, king of glory.
Amen

Hymn:151 Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming