by Alena Bugrova with legal reuse rights
Every valley shall be lifted up,
every mountain and hill made low,
then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together!
Isaiah 40:1-5; 9
1 Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.
2 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.
3 A voice cries out:
"In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 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.
5 Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken."
9 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!"
Advent / Isaiah
Scriptures on the first Sunday of Advent announced the end of the world as it always had been. I love starting a new year a month before the one on January 1st! During the season of Advent we wait and hope together for the infant Jesus. We wait and hope together. Today's first reading tells us we will experience God's glory together, too.
Last week's Old Testament reading came from Third Isaiah, God's spokesperson featured in chapters 56 - 56, who's sometimes known as the post-exilic Isaiah. Back in Jerusalem and Judah after being exiled to Babylon, God's people engaged in rebuilding social, economic, and religious structures and infrastructure. In some ways they'd returned home to the land of promise, but so much had been destroyed and devastated, they'd need to do a whole lot before they again could live in safety, comfort, and shalom, before they'd recapture a sense of belonging, a feeling "we're home now."
This week for the second Sunday of Advent we hear from the opening of Second Isaiah (chapters 40 - 55), who ministered with inspired poetry during the Babylonian exile. We know today's First Reading, "Comfort ye… every valley" from Handel's Messiah. In today's scripture, Isaiah announces God's arrival—or more accurately, God with them in a way people could see and appreciate because God never had left. God then calls the people (Zion) to announce God no longer being hidden. In exactly the same way, God calls us to proclaim and testify to God's presence in the world today.
The Road Home
In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Isaiah 40:3
Exiles in the culturally and politically strange Babylon wanted to go home, though you may remember Jeremiah telling them to settle down and contribute to Babylon's greater good—the original "Bloom Where You Are Planted" that's written down in Jeremiah 29:4-7.
The road second Isaiah sings about is not for the exiles' return home; maybe surprisingly, the highway is for God's journey.
For most of us in this mobile, peripatetic society and culture (maybe you've heard of digital nomads?), homecoming is a street, a path, an avenue, and not a static location, even if our GPS thinks it can locate us on specific coordinates. Isaiah continues with talk about the earth moving and major civil engineering enterprises: 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. All that sounds easier to walk on and drive on than we'd expected or known in the past, and probably quicker, too.
• How do you capture (or recapture) a sense of belonging, that feeling "I'm home now?"
• Is home for you a perspective or a location, or is home both a viewpoint and a place?
• Do you have a particular attachment to a childhood home or homes, to the city or town where you grew up, to a grandparent's house, or to a vacation spot you enjoyed when you were growing up?
• Do you ever go back to your place of roots, desire to go back, or do you consider that chapter thankfully closed? Or maybe wistfully finished?