Isaiah 63:7-9 (NRSV)
Verse 7I will recount the gracious deeds of the Lord, the praiseworthy acts of the Lord, because of all that the Lord has done for us, and the great favor to the house of Israel that he has shown them according to his mercy, according to the abundance of his steadfast love. Verse 8For he said, "Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely"; and he became their savior Verse 9in all their distress. It was no messenger or angel but his presence that saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.
Today's reading testifies to God's love, protection, and goodness active and fervent long before the birth of Christ. So deep was God's concern for Israel that sending an angel or messenger was not sufficient. Centuries — even millennia — before the Messiah, "it was . . . [God's] presence that saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old" (v. 9). Note "the days of old"; Isaiah is not foretelling Jesus here but recounting God's consistent redemptive presence with God's people from the beginning of creation.
Certainly, in the birth and ministry of Jesus God would dramatically and powerfully demonstrate this same saving love. But it would not be the first time. As the biblical story of God's people makes clear, God's covenant with them is an everlasting one, beginning with the Hebrew people, and continuing and affirmed in the coming of Jesus to reclaim and restore God's promises to all.
God, thank you for being so consistently loving. Thank you for the gift of Jesus, not to replace your earlier way of relating to humanity but to continue and bring to fulfillment your saving work. Amen.