Text: Isaiah 35:1-10
Focus: Joy and Love
Function: Advent preparation
Intro: Well, praise God, it looks like we are promised a white Christmas. For me, a white Christmas is another part of my Advent.
This year, Advent has been especially meaningful for me. Maybe it was the task of trying to refocus myself and us on to something more positive, more community orientated after the election cycle so that we can continue the work of Jesus Christ.
All though you missed last Sunday’s worship, the delight of preparing it in the presence of the Lord kept me focused.
We started with how hope helps our Advent. We moved to Peace. And since last week we were to focus on how allowing the emotion of Joy affects our Advent, today we will focus on both Joy and the effect of doing Love. Doing Love.
Christmas Eve, we will focus on Jesus, the Light of the World.
Which leads me to today’s passage.
My morning devotional calendar breaks the book of Isaiah into 2 of its 3 sections. The book was not compiled chronologically, but by themes. I love that because it starts what I call “The Restoration Section” at the beginning of Advent and continues until the end of the calendar year.
But today’s passage comes from the judgment section. Some of the passages are very bleak.
But I noticed something this year while reading. I remember, it was mid October and I was seeking some real hope in my morning prayers and I read Chapters 34-36 on the same day.
In Chapter 34, Isaiah starts listing off just how bad Edom and Judah are going to get it. In Chapter 36, the sad story of the siege and destruction of Jerusalem begins.
And right in the middle of it is this chapter about the future restoration of Israel.
I still have verse 9 memorized in the King James because it picks up the exciting cadence of the joy that is there in the song: “Therefore..., the redeemed... of the Lord... Shall return…,”
There is a garden road blooming right in the middle of a desert to nurture and succor God’s people.
In the middle of all that tragedy, God, God the Holy Spirit, And since the Jews referred to the Holy Spirit in the feminine, I think we need to be more biblical and get used to the idea so, God Herself stops and reminds us of the path to holiness is right there in the presence of God Herself.
The scene described is an impossible scene of a desert blooming as the people whom God rescued are lead home to their peace, rest and security. In the middle of the journey, the desert blossom for those who are not sinners.
There is a contrast in the passage between “the sinners” and “the rescued.”
The popular Christmas song “Mary Did You Know” includes a line from this song written by the prophet Isaiah as well. I wish I had that kind of tenor voice as he gets to a crescendo and shouts out in the song: “The Lame will walk…, the Blind will see…,”
And, it is the next line from verse 5 that sort of places the whole thing in perspective for me when the Holy Spirit promises that “those who cannot speak will shout for joy!”
I think this one fits the most. This imagery is about how the we, the Church, the Kingdom of God that is still here on planet earth and not yet gone to heaven, have the power to create a garden in the middle of a desert when we continue the work of Jesus Christ.
I love Psalms 22:3, “Yet You are Holy, You are enthroned on the praises of Israel.”
We are called to reconnect with the Divine through worship.
Through our joy we rejoice in the presence of God and live in a divine community together.
That is the image that Isaiah creates here.
But there is more.
Now we apply the passage with the theme of Love.
Isaiah speaks of this great community of Love that is so powerful that its effect can create a garden in the desert.
He speaks of our Christian community who also strives to build a garden in the middle of a desert.
It is our motto. We do this in community. We do this together.
And remember, we do that (say it with me) “simply, peaceably and together.”
Now back to the passage, “The Blind will see...”
We do not have the physical power to make the blind see, but we do have the power to inform people about a different way of living.
We don’t have the power to open the ears of the physically deaf, but we do have the power to share good news instead of judgment, fear and hopelessness.
Christians are not greedy people. If one falls into the temptation of greed, it most likely sprouts from listening to all the reasons why we should be afraid and think only of ourselves instead of our community.
Remember the message from John the Baptist about repentance: Sincere repentance, the thing that separated the sinners from the people of God, was that the poorer people appeared to be the only ones who were willing to trust God enough to share.
And this idea, that those who cannot speak will Shout for Joy is important to this morning’s theme.
In the verse, the prophet tells us that the deaf will hear. But he does not say that the mute will speak. The idiomatic expression switches gears and instead of speaking about physical impairment, the Holy Spirit speaks about giving voice to the powerless.
This is something that we have the power to do!
To me, this is a prophecy about hope and the power of our love in the middle of a desert.
Yes, God Herself is the One who makes this road for the righteous, this road of celebration, this road of holiness, this road of redemption but it is with the people of God.
We get this Supernatural image in the prophecy of this holistic place that brings redemption to God’s people.
It might be an image of heaven. It might be an image of the millennial age when the Lion lays down with the Lamb, or...
...It might be an image of the power of the Church to create a new and better world.
It might be the hope of the Christmas story. The hope and revelation that God sees our need, to our weaknesses is no stranger and that we can respond this advent with the simple emotions of Joy, hope, peace and love as we allow the revelation that God did not forget humanity when God became Jesus the Nazarene.