My wife and I were driving through the desert on our way to the Grand Canyon. We navigated the two-lane highways crisscrossing the barren expanse when, seemingly out of nowhere, a sandstorm engulfed us. Gale-force winds pounded the car from the side as sand blew so hard the wiper blades, snapping at full speed, could barely clear a patch of windshield.
We inched along, hoping to drive through it, guessing our direction at each dust-shrouded intersection. The storm was too much. With visibility reduced to near zero, we pulled alongside the road, truly in the middle of nowhere. With sand drifting at our tires and windows, we waited. How long, O Lord? Will this monsoon of sand last forever? How long until you deliver us?
The Israelites are ensnared in the wilderness as well. The winds and sandstorms of Babylonian oppression threaten to rob them of their faith and hope. Yet, within the storm a voice cries out, “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
Isaiah is steadfast. He reassures the people that God will not abandon them; God will come down the desert highway, guiding them like a shepherd, leading them safely to freedom.
For my wife and me, a prophet did not appear on the highway; a shepherd did not lead us to safety. We simply sat the storm out. The winds died down. The dust stopped its raging. The wipers wiped the windshield clean. And before us, we saw it: a highway stretched out straight through the desert, pointing to the mountains where our destination awaited. We followed the highway to safety. Yet so much wasteland remains in our world. Isaiah invites us to hold fast to our hope. A highway will appear. God will hear us. Wait. Wait with hope.
Help us trust, O God, that within our wilderness your path will appear. Amen.
Hopeful anticipation characterizes this week’s texts. God’s people have come to terms with their inability to save themselves. Isaiah 40 states that Jerusalem has “served her term” in bondage to sin; a new era is about to dawn. Psalm 85 continues the theme of old sins forgiven, emphasizing an urgent need for some fresh outbreak of God’s initiatives. Harmonious and responsible relationships are to dominate the hearts of the people. Thoughts of righteousness and peace also pervade the passage from 2 Peter 3. Yet the focus is clearly on Christ’s Second Advent. His coming will be sudden and unannounced; the new creation will then appear. The Gospel text focuses on the earthly ministry of Jesus as John the baptizer comes to sensitize all hearts to the advent of the One promised long ago.
• Read Isaiah 40:1-11. God’s word of comfort brings challenge as well: How are you preparing the way of the Lord?
• Read Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13. What glimpses of heaven in your daily life give you con dence in God’s steadfast love?
• Read 2 Peter 3:8-15a. How are you using this time of Advent waiting to move toward more faithful living?
• Read Mark 1:1-8. John identified himself as “messenger.” How would you identify your role in working toward the reign of Christ?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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