Thursday's Thought for Sunday's Service
December 7, 2017
This week’s Thursday’s Thought for Sunday’s Service is based upon Isaiah 40:1-11:
“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will 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 like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” (Isaiah 40:1–11, NIV)
Making one’s way cross country on a superhighway, no matter the direction, often means straight and level roads for long stretches. This is not to say that speeding over the landscape isn’t full of variety and uniqueness. One certainly does encounter curves, hills and valleys, flatlands and forests, cities, and rural areas along the way… but I would contend that the nature of traveling on the superhighway verses getting there via some other route, reveals a desire, and tendency, to straighten and quicken our journey in getting from point “A” to “B.”
As we prepare during this four-week Advent season leading up to the celebration of the birth of our Lord at Christmas, we might consider how often we plan the quickest way between work and home, or between various stores fulfilling errands. This might suggest how we are always pushing… but to what end? Perhaps insight can be gained when changing pace, when taking a different road because we’ve never gone that way before. For example, how one might take time on a quiet, more leisurely night, to enjoy Christmas decorations, by driving around nearby neighborhoods, taking in all the color and light.
In this instance, one might be reminded of an elemental idea of light, maybe even leading to the thought described in today’s passage, “the glory of the Lord will be revealed.” This statement follows from a connecting description of preparing to move across the landscape with power and direction, “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.” This language suggests the same feeling I have when travelling on the superhighway… not so much however, for ordinary daily activity, trying to get ahead, to achieve… but more simply to just attend to something even more essential, closer to the heart. Like traveling over roads cutting through the hills, where the curves have been straightened out, where bridges make it easy to cross rivers and valleys, to spend Christmas with family and friends. A gathering which is often too brief perhaps, but one which speaks to the eternal, spiritual affairs of the heart, like how God in similar fashion makes his way toward us, clearing away the hills and valleys, coming close, bearing the gift of grace, within an eternal expression of love, exemplified by the birth of a baby in Bethlehem.
Rev. Richard Wagner