A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every 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. 5 Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
These words were addressed to a dispirited people who lacked hope as they lived through a time filled with doubt, fear, and inertia; for they were refugees in a strange land, taken captive and forced there by a foreign power. In 587 BCE Jerusalem fell to Babylon, and a portion of Jerusalem’s population went into exile. Now, circa 540 BCE, on the other side of this experience, a new word comes – a word of comfort and hope for a new future. Once more the people would follow their God out of captivity to a Promised Land. Anyone who had doubted God’s devotion and love would see this and know that God had not only spoken a redeeming word but also had the power to fulfill it. They would learn that exile is not the last word but that there is an immediacy in God’s message. God, who is free and active in the present, is doing something new and different.
How do we hear these words today – in these days of unending wars, of uncertainty, of harshness in public discourse – when a culture of outrage confronts us on a daily basis? Isaiah’s message is a joyful refrain, one filled with hope. The exiles, and we who would hear this word with them, are invited to reimagine the world on the basis of this proclaimed, poetic vision, a world that is transformed from the wilderness of despondency and desolation into a future in which the power of God is at work, providing, protecting and guiding. “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed… for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Words of reassurance and hope so vibrant and so alive they are brought back to us again by all four of the Gospel writers as they tell of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Daily Prayer – Oh Lord, keep us mindful of your promises and your power in our lives and in our world. Guide us into a future with hope and help us to imagine a transformed world in which your love reigns supreme. Amen.