“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.” (Isaiah 35:1-2)
Usually when I sit down to write, I allow the scripture passage to define the theme. But this day I am hoping the theme I want to speak to is supported by the passage. The day I sat down to write this – actually the morning of the day – I was asked by someone walking through the parking lot of where I work if I had some spare change so she could get something to eat. She prefaced her request by complimenting me on my wardrobe choice for the day. And normally I would pass that off as just a “prelude” to the request. But something told me she was sincere in her admiration. I have long resisted giving handouts to people on street corners, not because I am hard-hearted and do not feel their pain and need. But because it seems like such a mindless/soulless thing to just shove money at someone. That’s not to say I have not offered money and food offerings to those who stand at intersections with signs, but this was an opportunity to really connect with the person in need, so I took the opportunity. Gave her some money, and engaged in real conversation. It was good for me, and it was good for her I think.
Now, how does this connect with this scripture passage? Not easily or well. But closer than the other selections. The verses allude to a time when things will be much people for humanity, with the focus of course being for the chosen people of God. But the God that sent the Messiah is not likely to keep out those who are in need simply because they were not part of the line streaming down for Abraham and Isaac.
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.” (Verses 3 – 4)
One of the ways this person and I connected was her admiration for my necklace; that morning I had chosen to wear my small colored cross and the safety pin that stands trying to hold the world together when it seems like things are coming apart. I felt good explaining the safety pin part which explained in a small way why I gave her money for food and an orange from my lunch bag. The cross, I just let that speak for itself.
“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.” (Verses 5 – 7)
Abundance, fertile ground, healing, and needs met – these things will happen when God comes to the world. Now, this coming may be Christ’s return. Or it may be the coming of the Holy Infant that softens the spirit and opens the heart – as my heart and spirit did this morning. But what I can only do in part, God can do in full. But let us not wait until God’s fullness solves all the woes in the world! No, do not wait! Act now!
“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.” (Verses 8 – 9)
Now, who are these redeemed? As I said earlier, the God who sent Jesus as a baby is not going to force the need and the marginalized off of the “Holy Way”. And who decides who is “clean” and “unclean”? Is this judged by appearance only? No, not that way! God looks into the heart, and the spirit, and the soul. There is where “unclean” thought and attitudes that result in hatred etc reside. We cannot judge that inner place. We should not! And until that determination is made by the Lord, all are worthy and deserving of compassion.
“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.” ( Verse 10)
As children of God, we do what we can when we can for other children of God. Especially in this Advent season, let compassion bloom. And if compassion is not where you are, plant some and nurture it! Selah!