3 December Isaiah 35: 5–10
When you get off the train at Wigan North Western, there’s a sign on the wall telling you how to get to Wigan Wallgate, the town’s other station. ‘It’s easy’, the sign says, and it proceeds to explain the way. I mention this because I saw it one morning and found myself thinking if only life was like that, with a clear destination, and an easy way to get there.
Chapter 35 of Isaiah was written at a time when God’s people were . far from the home they loved. Exiled in Babylon, they were 400 miles east of Judah, and to return one would skirt around the northern . edge of the vast Syrian desert, travelling along the ‘fertile crescent’.
The prophet behind these verses offers the people stuck in Babylon a vision of a radically different way home – a highway that would cut straight across the desert. The journey along this ‘Holy Way’ would be so much quicker, so much easier. What a vision! What a wonderful way to bring the scattered people of God back home.
In reality, of course, the desert was hazardous – dry, baking hot, and… full of dangerous animals such as lions and jackals – which is why this super highway would need to be cool, marshy and free of beasts!
Life is not easy at times: how we long for a simple way through the . desert, to free us from worry and sadness, loneliness and self-doubt. But through the Advent darkness we await the coming of Emmanuel (God with us), and because of this, we are never alone. Even more…… than that, our King has walked before us: in his earthly life he too….. knew doubt, anxiety, loneliness and suffering. Now, he walks beside us as we journey on. Alleluia – God is with us.
Caring God, this Advent we bring before you all who are burdened by despair, worry and stress, including those affected by the cold, dark weather, and by the uncertainty and tension of our political life. We remember all who are far from home, and ask that you will bless those who are tired and struggling to cope.