A reflection for Advent from the fortieth chapter of the Prophet Isaiah
The Word of the Lord endures forever. Even though we wither like the grass, God goes ever unchanging on, ruler and Lord of all. And in the unending faithfulness of God, he is ever working to reconcile us to himself and to each other. The season of Advent is about us becoming reconciled to God, it is about waiting on the moment that God himself entered human history and called us back to his heart as a shepherd leads his flock. In the time of the Second Temple, John the Baptist was making this very call, telling people to turn back to God and be made ready for his coming – Make straight a pathway for our God.
John’s words evoke another time spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, a time when the Temple had been destroyed and the people of Judah had been taken into captivity by the neo-Babylonian empire. Imagine yourself there. It is very much like the time of the Exodus – it is a time in the wilderness, a time that will apparently never end.
But then, IMAGINE, a voice calls out: “Make straight a pathway, for your God is coming!” You are told that you have suffered long enough for your sins. And God speaks to his prophet, “Speak tenderly to my people, be comforting – be comforted O my people, your time of suffering is ended.”
And then, as if by a miracle, your line of vision is cleared – the low valleys are lifted up, and the high mountains are flattened, and the rough places are smoothed over, and your cloudiness, and despair, and hopelessness give way to clarity. You, and all those who have lived under the shadow of foreign domination, in captivity in a foreign land, for you, the horizon clears and you behold the glory of the Lord. You can return to your beloved Jerusalem. It matters not that it is in ruins, for you have beheld the Glory of God.
IMAGINE, God calls you out of your place of darkness, out of your captivity. Get up he says, get up to the high mountain. Return to Jerusalem and call out to the cities of Judah, call out to all the nations: “Behold, your God!” Shout, shout for joy that God has reconciled his people to himself, and to each other.
IMGAGINE, God calls to you and his people who have wandered in the wilderness of captivity, that he will lead you, not into battle, not into hardship, but will lead you like a shepherd, and he will nestle all the nations against his bosom, like a shepherd leads his sheep.
Now, IMAGINE, lo these many years later, a voice calls out to you – you who are captive in your own wilderness; you whose vision is clouded by high mountains and dark valleys; you whose way is made difficult to navigate by rough pathways. IMAGINE, a voice calls out to you: “Be comforted, my people, be comforted my friend. Make straight a pathway in you heart for me and I will make the low valleys of your despair rise and the high mountains of you fear recede. The rough pathway that you cannot walk will be made smooth… Be comforted and make me a pathway, and at the horizon you will see me, you will behold your God.
IMAGINE, from that horizon, God will reach out to you, and draw you unto himself and lift you up to a high mountain from which you can call to others “Behold your God” and witness to his gentleness and care.
My friends. You do not have to imagine. It is so.
To read last year's Advent reflection, click here.
Text copyright 2008 by the Rev. Daniel F. Graves. This text may not be reproduced or redistributed, either in whole or part, by any means, without the express, written permission of the author.