Excerpted from How Will We Welcome the Prince of Peace? An Advent Guide for Lectionary Year A from the NC Council of Churches.
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.” Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it, but it shall be for God’s people; no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray. No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there. And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Isaiah 35:1-20 _______________________________________________________________________________
Rejoice, again I say rejoice! These words from Paul make me smile and cringe at the same time. I smile because of the glory that rings forth when someone is free to rejoice. Your belly is full of love and your spirit light of grief. Your eyes can glow from the peace within, knowing that everything is in order, for that is the reason why rejoicing happens. There is peace.
While that may be true, Paul’s command to rejoice comes from knowing that everything is in order through a relationship with God, despite not having peace within, peace around the world, or peace in relationships.
In our world, where hurricanes destroy homes, war tears apart families, crime disintegrates neighborhoods – where do we find peace?
Further, our social structure and social categories beckon us, no, encourages us to spew hate on each other, whether it is for your race, economic level, social status, sports team, or political affiliation – we are full of reasons for why hate is sanctioned, condoned, and even warranted. Right? Not at all. Spewing hate on any level is not OK, according to the word of God. We learn through God’s word that there is protection for those who are marginalized and respond with weak hands or feeble knees.
Isaiah 35:4 tells us that, “…to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.”
And it is this reason why Paul employs us to rejoice. Rejoice despite the hurricanes, despite the broken families, despite the crime – rejoice despite the hate that is spewed for reasons that are not warranted or fair, rejoice. And when you rejoice, remember you do not have to fear, for there is a God who comes with vengeance, and He will open the eyes of the blind and unstop the ears of the deaf.
During this Advent season, we can remember to rejoice in what is to come, the peace that comes with justice; while we also rejoice for the peace we can have now within ourselves, for we know that there is a God who watches. And as we strive to bring heaven to earth, we can peacefully work with each other.
And as Isaiah promises, the future holds singing, everlasting joy, and gladness.