(Advent 1A) The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 2In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. 3Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 4He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. 5O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord! (Isaiah 2: 1-5)
We like this vision of peace and tranquility, the days when wars will end and Shalom will finally be. This was probably written to a people that wanted that desperately. King after king after king had come with promises that life would be better, that they would somehow reclaim whatever had been lost. Each one came with promises of prosperity and security. After all, who doesn’t want that? Who wouldn’t want a life of ease and plenty? Who wouldn’t want a life of being “it”, being the people, being the ones to whom everyone looked for the way to life? But king after king had fallen short.
The truth is, this is not a shallow promise of reclaiming what was lost. This is an invitation to something new. This is the vision of the Great Gathering, the Great Awakening. Imagine it…a metaphorical (or maybe a real) streaming of all peoples and all nations to the mountain of the Lord. It is the Great Listening too, the pathway when we stop proclaiming our ways over others voices and begin to hear what each other is saying. The passage says nothing about elevating one people over another. The passage is not a calling for us to separate according to our perceived tribal loyalties. The passage doesn’t speak of making us into what we once were, as comfortable and non-threatening as that might have been. The passage instead envisions us all walking in the light of the Lord–together.
Advent is time to remember not who we were, not who we wish we would be again, but whose we are and who we are called to be. You know, throughout the Biblical story, God has torn down walls we have built and sent us forth—sent us on ahead to prepare the way. We do fine for a while. We journey as pilgrims to a new place and then we get somewhere that feels comfortable and we build a home. And then we build a wall and claim that the home is ours. And God tears it down and sends us forth. And we go and we journey and we stop and we build. And God tears it down and sends us forth. God could leave us where we think we should be, where we feel comfortable and safe. But we’d miss it. We’d miss that light of the Lord that is streaming up ahead. Let this Advent be our Great Gathering. Let this Advent be our Great Awakening. Let this Advent be our Great Listening.
If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other. (St. Teresa of Calcutta)
FOR TODAY: To what or to whom do you need to begin listening to prepare the Way toward the Light?