Isaiah, the Advent Prophet. Isaiah’s words are used extensively in the liturgies leading up to Christmas. He, more than any other prophet, anticipates the coming Messiah and the fulfillment of God’s promise spoken to King David, “I will raise up your heir after you, and I will make his kingdom firm. It is he who shall build a house for my name. And I will make his royal throne firm forever. I will be a father to him and he shall be a son to me” (2 Sam 7:12b-13).
Most Cited on Advent Sundays. Over the twelve Sundays of Advent in the three year Sunday Lectionary cycle, the prophet Isaiah is proclaimed most often, seven times, all four Sundays in Year A (Is 2:1-5; 11:1-10; 35:1-6,10; 7:10-14) and the first three Sundays in Year B (Is 63:16-17,19; 64:2-7; 40:1-5,9-11; 61:1-2,10-11). In Year C the first readings are taken from four different Old Testament prophets, each which is cited only once: Jeremiah, Baruch, Zephaniah, and Micah. Isaiah’s voice rings out over the others. His is the prophetic voice of Advent.
Most Cited on Advent Weekdays. Isaiah is also most quoted on Advent weekdays. Of the seventeen daily Masses over the first three weeks, passages from Isaiah are proclaimed fourteen times, six times in the first week, five in the second, and three in the third. In the eight-day Octave immediately prior to Christmas, December 17-24, Isaiah is quoted only once on December 20, while the other first readings are chosen from a variety of sources.
The Immanuel Prophecies. The prophet Isaiah anticipates the coming of Immanuel, God with us, and the glorious day of the arrival of the ideal king, the one who would decisively change the course of history, rule with justice, and bring peace. The first prophecy describes the birth of Immanuel: “The virgin shall be with child, and shall name him Immanuel” (Is 7:14). The second prophecy describes his dominion: “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. His dominion is vast and forever peaceful” (Is 9:5-6a). The third prophecy describes the justice of his rule: “A shoot shall spout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord. He shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. Justice shall be the band around his waist” (Is 11:1-2,4,5).
Advent Themes. Isaiah is the voice of the key spiritual themes of Advent: preparation, conversion, renewal, hope, consolation, joy, justice, peace, harmony, fulfillment, deliverance, redemption, salvation, and the restoration of the rule of God.
About Father Michael Van Sloun
Father Michael Van Sloun is pastor of St. Bartholomew Catholic Church in Wayzata, Minn. As a former school principal, high school instructor and athletic coach, he has always been a teacher. He now teaches the faith as a homilist, Bible study leader, retreat director, pilgrimage guide and author of numerous articles.
© 2008, Rev. Michael A. Van Sloun
Used with permission.