Today’s story is an important story in the faith lives of the Jewish people. It marks the end of the Jewish bible because it marks the return to the temple for worship. You know how we’ve been talking about the Jewish people being put into exile by the Babylonians? Well, the Babylonians learned the truth that you can be the big dog on the block all you want but someday a bigger dog is going to jump up on the porch.[audio http://www.buzzsprout.com/33052/333214-prophecy-fulfilled.mp3]
So the Babylonians, holding the people of Israel in captivity, meet a bigger dog known as the Persians. And the Babylonians come out on the short end of the encounter. So now, Cyrus, King of the Persians mentioned at the top of today’s reading, is in charge. And what does King Cyrus tell the people of Israel? “Away with you! Go home and rebuild your temple!”
This is particularly good news for the people of Israel. Going back to the days of Moses they struggled to have a place to worship and encounter God. The temple served that purpose. It was literally where you found God. God’s presence was behind the curtain in the place called the Holy of Holies. As a regular everyday run of the mill person you couldn’t actually look behind the curtain and see God but you could be in the same building. And come into the presence of God.
After about 60 years of exile they’re now they’re going back. Back to the place where they encounter God. It’s a good reminder to us to keep in mind those places and actions where we encounter God and to not take it for granted. You know how it is, when you do the same things day after day, week after week it can get repetitious and feel like blah, blah, blah.
And yet it is those things that we do day after day, week after week that become part of who we are. It is those things that we do day after day, week after week that give us assurance that even when our faith seems to have lost its way in the ups and downs of everyday life we know whose we are. We know who has claimed us and surrounds us.
Advent is a good time to remember the things that remind of whose presence we live in. Prayer. Bible reading. Worship, and all that is in worship. Reminders to us of the promise and hope that comes from God. God in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.