(Advent 3A) The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus 2it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. 3Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. 4Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.” 5Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6then 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; 7the 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. 8A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it, but it shall be for God’s people; no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray. 9No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there.10And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (Isaiah 35: 1-10)
So, this is probably the Scripture that conjures up that somewhat unreachable and perhaps inaccessible utopian paradise. But it’s not inaccessible. The whole idea is that it WILL come to be. And Advent reminds us to look for that day, to imagine it into being. It is a tension in which we live every day of our lives. We want it, we imagine it, and, on a good day, we believe it will happen. And then we turn on the TV. But it is a holy tension, a liminality, if you will, betwixt and between the turmoil and grit of our lives and the promise that we believe.
This is Creation’s repentance. It is Creation turning around and going a different direction. We’re familiar with that. When we talk of our own, it is uncomfortable to launch off into another direction, to begin to travel where GPS is not available and to a place with a story that we are writing as we go. But here we are told that the desert will bloom. The desert—that mass of dry sand that blows in our eyes and clouds our views, the place where we cannot map where we go, the land where water is scarce and sustenance is hard to find—will bloom! The desert will turn and become something new. Blindness will become sight; deafness will become music; the lame will leap and the mute will sing. The waters will flow with thirst-quenching sound and the lost way will become a clear path. Creation will become something new.
So, if Creation can do that, why can’t we? Why can’t we let go of our fears and our preconceptions? Why can’t we become something new? Why can’t we rejoice and bloom? No more excuses. No more delay. This is not some far-removed vision of a pile of sand with a flower. This is what we have been given. And Advent calls us to begin to see its potential. Advent calls us to begin to see our own potential. Have you ever thought that perhaps our faith journey is not about finding God at all but rather finding ourselves? God is here. Whether we feel God or not, God is here. But us? How much faith do you have in yourself? God has faith in you. God created you to do this, to turn, to change, to repent, to bloom. So for what are you waiting? After all, the desert is beginning to bloom.
Here is the God I want to believe in: a Father who, from the beginning of Creation, has stretched out his arms in merciful blessing, never forcing himself on anyone, but always waiting; never letting his arms drop down in despair, but always hoping that his children will return so that he can speak words of love to them and let his tired arms rest on their shoulders. His only desire is to bless. (Henri J.M. Nouwen)
FOR TODAY: How are you being called to bloom?
Grace and Peace,