As it is written in the book of the prophet Isaiah:
“Someone is shouting in the desert:
‘Get the road ready for the Lord;
make a straight path for him to travel!
Every valley must be filled up,
every hill and mountain levelled off.
The winding roads must be made straight,
and the rough paths made smooth.
The whole human race will see God’s salvation!’”
These last two years have left people anxious, fatigued and exhausted. We have overcome outbreaks, followed by lockdown, only to find it repeated with more restrictions in place. While this is a whole community occurrence, the sense of isolation, loneliness, anxiety and uncertainty is individual. It is wandering in a directionless desert where the gritty reality takes us over hills of concern and valleys of dark days, where we thirst for meaningful engagement and warming connection rather than the cold distance of masked faces and withdrawn handshakes. The energy ebbs as rough paths of new variants emerge, causing some to stubble.
Whose voices have we heard shouting to us? Who is crying out in this strange wilderness? How can we, as God’s loving people, make the road ready?
For it is ‘God with us’ levelling mountains and filling valleys, so that highs and lows flow to a manageable path on which to navigate the way ahead. God calls to us, companions us, encourages us, and cradles us, so that the whole people of God see salvation. Our ecumenical community is still drawing on our common faith to bring balance, spiritual richness and caring love in action to the lives of those who are wilderness wandering.
This Advent season, may we hear Paul’s deep love for all in Philippians. May it remind us of the joyful friendship we share as God’s people that gives us strength to reach out to others. Let’s wander together in peace, love and joy, gathering the lost, lonely and anxious, as we draw to the Light of Love this Christmas.
I thank my God for you every time I think of you; and every time I pray for you all, I pray with joy because of the way in which you have helped me in the work of the gospel from the very first day until now. And so I am sure that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it on until it is finished on the Day of Christ Jesus.
You are always in my heart! And so it is only right for me to feel as I do about you. For you have all shared with me in this privilege that God has given me, both now that I am in prison and also while I was free to defend the gospel and establish it firmly. God is my witness that I tell the truth when I say that my deep feeling for you all comes from the heart of Christ Jesus himself. I pray that your love will keep on growing more and more, together with true knowledge and perfect judgment, so that you will be able to choose what is best. Then you will be free from all impurity and blame on the Day of Christ. Your lives will be filled with the truly good qualities which only Jesus Christ can produce, for the glory and praise of God.
We hear the voice shouting, God of love.
Where do we turn and what do we do?
Many struggle with the hill of fatigue;
Many ache in valleys of despair.
We stumble across pathways that come before us,
and fear we are missing your Way.
Draw us to your light of love.
Spirit, blow the dust from our eyes to see
and from our ears to hear
all those struggling in these strange times.
Quench our spiritual thirst
so that, refreshed with you as our companion,
We draw others into the shelter of your loving way.
With you, Warming Light, we see the space where all are welcomed.
Give us the strength of hope and certainty of trust in our path.
For you go before us. Amen