Isaiah had just issued the Jewish people a grave warning in chapter 34, the chapter before what we read today.
He had spoken of rivers boiling, corpses stinking, and the land becoming “the haunt of jackals,” an utter wasteland because of the exile to come. He foretold the capture and destruction of their land.
It sounded awful, but yet it came true.
And then this….this passage of promise.
Isaiah paints a picture of this wasteland, this desert, becoming lush and green and vibrant once again.
One mystic Hildegard of Bingen coined the term viriditas to describe what she called “the greening power of God.”
Viriditas emphasizes what Isaiah speaks about: the life-giving power of God in even the driest of places.
Walker and I saw the new Black Panther movie, and the antagonist is named Namor, which means no love. Namor is something…a God, a superhero, a hybrid…whatever he is, he draws his strength from the water. And to defeat him, the Wakandans draw him out to the desert.
We have bodies that rely on water to survive, too. When we’re in the desert and we go thirsty, there can be no life for us.
Even if we don’t live in an actual desert like Israel, most of us know that life can sometimes feel like that desert.
Life can feel dried up, burnt out, brown and lacking in the life it once had.
Sometimes that kind of wilderness is worse than even a physical desert wasteland.
We can easily cover up our dry places with Christmas lights and forced smiles. But this time of year often feels like the driest time for those going through wilderness experiences.
This Advent season we are called to look at the desolate places in the world, in our own communities, and in our own lives, and imagine a restored, where everything is transformed.
We are called to imagine a world where:
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.
No wasteland is too far gone for God to restore it.
No person or situation is so dead that God cannot find life in it.
That’s what we’re preparing for this Advent season… for the hope, the joy, and the love of God that is coming to transform this desert world.