Advent is a time of preparation–we prepare for the new beginning with the coming of the Word Made Flesh (the word “Advent” means “beginning” or “coming”). As we prepare, we spend time with God, renewing our focus, hearing God’s word, and turning toward God’s way. Here on the blog, each Thursday in Advent will feature a devotion written about one of the Isaiah texts we are considering in worship. We encourage you to use these devotions as a way to deepen your own spiritual experience during Advent, as well as to deepen your experience of worship during this holy season.
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” A voice says, “Cry out!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.
Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!” See, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.
Prepare the way of the Lord…create a highway that runs straight…uneven, rough ground will become a level plain…
Where are you preparing the way of the Lord? What are you doing to prepare for the glory of God to be revealed in your wilderness?
Once, during Lent (another season with a lot of wildnerness), I gave up caffeine. I lived in Chicago at the time, and I walked almost everywhere, so I passed probably a dozen Starbucks every day, and I started referring to Starbucks as my “personal wilderness.” I meant it as a youthful joke, but at the same time it was very real–there was a place in my life where I was more interested in things other than God, and it was anyplace that had coffee, but I had committed to journey through that wilderness. It seems (and maybe even is) shallow now, but it offers us a way in to thinking about this idea of preparing the way of the Lord in the wilderness. What is your personal wilderness? How can you make space for God in that wilderness, getting ready for God to do something new and unexpected?
God is indeed doing a new thing–the prophet declares that the people who are in exile are to be comforted, those who grieve and those who still remember their violent past are to have hope. The herald brings good tidings–God’s mighty arm brings not war and hurt and violence and hate, but feeding, gathering, carrying, gentleness. Peace is the order of the day, at last–a new thing, coming through the wilderness…are we prepared?
God, so often our own efforts are nothing more than fading flowers or grass that withers and blows away. But still you call us to turn again to you, and you entrust the preparation for your coming to our hands. May your Spirit blow through us this Advent season, clearing away the dust that has gathered in our wilderness, guiding our hearts to make a way for you to enter this world yet again. Reveal your glory, O Lord, that we may all see you together, and follow your way in all we do. We pray this in the name of the One you sent to show us your Way. Amen.