As we approach the second Sunday of Advent, we continue to hear words of hope from the prophet Isaiah. These beautiful words would be repeated again as Mark begins to tell the good news of Jesus Christ with the story of John the Baptist and Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River.
40Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. 2Speak 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.
3A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4Every 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. 5Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” 6A voice says, “Cry out!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. 7The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people are grass. 8The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.
9Get 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!” 10See, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. 11He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep. (Isaiah 40:1-11)
• Someone once said the only thing permanent in this word is change. As those who live in the midst of an increasing changing world, what comfort do you get from knowing that “word of our God will stand forever.”
• The prophet declares that the Lord is coming with a mighty arm and then immediately follows with a description of those mighty arms feeding the flock, carrying them like a parent and leading like a mother sheep. What does it mean to you to think of God as both mighty and gentle? What images or experiences from your own life reflect an experience of something and someone both powerful and gentle?
• The voice commands someone to prepare a way for the Lord in the wilderness. For those of us who find ourselves wandering in the wilderness as we struggle with the many challenges of life, how can we prepare a way for God in the midst of the dry and barren areas of our lives?
(Picture from St Catherine's from my trip to Mt. Sinai)