Advent: Born to Set the People Free

Isaiah 64:1-9

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
so that the mountains would quake at your presence—
as when fire kindles brushwood
and the fire causes water to boil—
to make your name known to your adversaries,
so that the nations might tremble at your presence!
When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect,
you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
From ages past no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who works for those who wait for him.
You meet those who gladly do right,
those who remember you in your ways.
But you were angry, and we sinned;
because you hid yourself we transgressed.
We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
There is no one who calls on your name,
or attempts to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.
Yet, O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord,
and do not remember iniquity for ever.
Now consider, we are all your people.

On my way home, I travel through a low spot.  At this low spot along my way, the road drops down in elevation, winds through a few hills, and eventually passes over a large creek.  

Often, by the time I’ve reached that spot on the road, especially on a weekday, afternoon commute back home from classes at McAfee, I’m usually on the phone with my husband. And as we’re catching up on the happenings of our days, syncing up on pick-up details for our kids’ swim practices and after school clubs, and deciding on dinner plans for that night, I am often abruptly reminded that this low spot on the road back home is a dead zone for cellular reception. 

As I drive along my way, deep in hands-free conversation, and my car descends the hills and approaches the pass over the creek below…abrupt silence interrupts my call.  

All the sudden, in the middle of this detail about swim practice or that detail about the crock pot meal simmering at home on the countertop … a lingering pause falls over my conversation.  

As my car passes over the creek and begins to climb the opposite hill, it dawns on me that a peculiar hush has fallen over the chatter of my conversation… and I realize that some time has passed.  

And in hopes that the link hasn’t been entirely lost, I call out over the Bluetooth connection, trying to establish if contact has been maintained, and I say… “Are you still there?”  


As I reflected on this text, it occurred to me, that perhaps, in their own way and in conversation with God, the prophetic author of this text could have also been asking the very same question:  

“Are you still there?”  

At the time this text was written, God’s people were traveling through a low spot of their own.  

After living through the harsh and winding path of exile, passing into a new day, and returning home following King Cyrus’s decree in 539 CE…the Judean people were facing an uphill climb.  

As they made their way home, they may very well have carried on a conversation communicating the harsh details of their historical, cultural, and contextual reality: Israel remained under an Empire’s control, and earlier prophecies for their sovereignty had failed.  

Perhaps Isaiah 64:1-9 holds conversation with us, God’s people, from a dead zone of its own… 

From a low spot where God’s people in Israel struggled to maintain contact with God.

From a low spot when God’s people hoped that their call hadn’t entirely been lost.

And from a low spot of relational interaction where time has passed in perceived, and perhaps, real silence.  

And on their way home, after the Judean people had journeyed—climbing, descending, fighting, and struggling—to understand and live through the details of their grueling commute along the road of exile, filled with one low spot after the next…maybe, in this text from Isaiah, God’s people were reaching out in hopes of connecting to God, and asking, “Are you still there?” 


Advent is a journey that leads back home to the hope, peace, joy and love that God gifted to creation through the power of the holy spirit, and the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas Day.  

Isaiah 64:1-9 reminds all of us that as we live into Advent’s four weeks of anticipation and expectation—filled to overflowing with holiday hustle and bustle—dead zones and low spots of loneliness, grief, struggle, and strife, will be a part of our journey back home. This reminder may leave meany of us feeling disconnected and wondering, crying out from the deep places in our hearts to God, and saying,  

“Are you still there?” 


On my way home, the low spot doesn’t last too long.  

Really, if I wait just a few moments longer, oftentimes, at the top of the next hill, I receive an affirmative answer to my question… “Are you still there?” 

 “Yes, I’m still here,” my husband, Norm, says, letting me know we’re still connected as I continue to make my way home.   


This Advent season, I hope your low spot doesn’t last too long, and I hope that you will wait just a few weeks longer, as you call out to God, asking, “Are you still there?” 

Because at the top of the next hill, this Christmas, God will be there to connect to you…  

through the love-filled, infant cry of our dear Savior’s voice and the joyful, peaceful sigh of his mother, Mary,  

God is waiting to answer you, and all of creation, as God welcomes each one of us home, saying,  

 “Yes, I’m still here.” 

Andrea Corso Johnson

Andrea Johnson is a third-year student at McAfee, pursuing a Master of Divinity degree with a certificate in Faith-Based Social Transformation. Andrea will graduate this December 2023. Last year, Andrea was the winner of the John R. Claypool Excellence in Preaching Award and was a CBFGA Lancaster Scholar.  This year, Andrea was the Suzii Paynter March Advocacy Fellow for Public Education with CBF Global and was the McAfee School of Theology faculty nominee for the 2023 Baptist Women in Ministry Addie Davis Excellence in Preaching Award.  Andrea’s work was published in June 2022 by Feminist Studies in Religion and June 2023 in Baptist News Global. Andrea has ministered in several churches, most recently having served as Pastor for Families at First Baptist Church, Decatur, GA.  Andrea and her husband, Norm, have two wonderful children, Aaron, and Leah, and three friendly cats, Cookie, Sheba, and Fox. In her spare time, Andrea enjoys traveling to beautiful places, laughing with loved ones, spending as much time as possible outdoors, and making time to enjoy life at her own pace.