Reflection on Isaiah 35:1-10, Advent 3 – A New World

Blooming Desert

“Isaiah 35 is a powerful poetic word of comfort for the mourning Judahite exiles, who lost their temple, land, and sovereignty. Their suffering is manifested in “weak hands” (verse 3), “feeble knees” (verse 3), a “fearful heart” (verse 4), obscured vision (verse 5), hindered hearing (verse 5), broken bodies (verse 6), and silent tongues (verse 6). The literary “body” constructed in Isaiah 35 has been utterly overwhelmed by despair and weariness. Their capacities needed to move through this world have been diminished. The exiles feel God’s sorrow in their very bodies.

–From “Working Preacher”, 2016

“In this week’s Old Testament passage, the prophet Isaiah envisions a new world. The wilderness — the dry and barren land where the Israelites once wandered — is reborn into paradise. Eden returns, as crocuses bloom, forests proliferate, and a new highway, a “Holy Way,” is forged in desert sands. God promises that those who have been in exile “shall return,” and that “everlasting joy shall be upon their heads.”

“Such a vision can be hard to conjure when the world around us is so broken. We know and experience suffering all around us, often within our deepest selves. Seasons of spiritual dryness keep us from sensing God’s presence. It can be difficult to believe that God is already remaking the world into a place where “sorrow and sighing flee.”

“In Jesus’s own time, people were just as wary of utopian visions. John the Baptist surely knew the words of Isaiah, but his faith must have been tested — sitting as he was in a prison cell and hearing about the works of Jesus.

“In this week’s Gospel, John sends word to ask Jesus if he is “the one who is to come.” “Are you the Messiah we have hoped for,” John is asking, the one who will restore the world from a place of rampant suffering to a place of joy?

“Jesus does not answer John directly. Instead, he tells John that there is healing — the blind can see and the deaf can hear — and that, indeed, death itself is on its way out. “The dead are raised,” Jesus says, “and the poor have good news.”

“Into a world of lament, Jesus has come, living among us, and bearing the suffering with us. This is, in fact, the essence of Christmas.

“The incarnation means that God in Jesus descends into the wilderness of this world — a place of sighs and sorrows — and inaugurates a new creation where the desert of death can begin to team with new life. Jesus paves the way — the Holy Way — with every act of healing, each word of kindness. He is indeed “the one to come,” and he is already here.

From Summerlee Staten

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