Peace be still!

Monday in the second week of Advent, Year B
07 December 2020

Reading: Isaiah 40:1-11

Scripture: “A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. ‘” (Isaiah 40:3)

Reflection: A voice cries out;

“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
    make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” (Isaiah 40:3)

(The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:     “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight”…Mark 1:3)

In all the years I have read these verses of scripture or heard them expounded on in sermons, I have never, until now, paid serious attention to the subtle yet significant ways in which punctuation and word placement highlight narrative and hence interpretative differences, between that recorded in Isaiah prophecy and Gospel accounts – like Mark’s.

Space will not allow for a fulsome treatment of this very interesting detail. But, in a year that has known its fair share, and then some, of natural disasters and tragedies, from an ongoing pandemic, hurricanes and floods, added to which are the manufactured ones, experienced within a socio-political milieu, seemingly on the brink of implosion, whether the voice is of someone speaking of or in the wilderness, common to both texts, is the notion of barrenness, that does not support life. It is into this emptiness that God’s life-transforming Word comes and…all heaven, breaks loose! This is a Word that anticipates life beyond death; mourning is turned into dancing (Psalm 30:11) and, with it, the possibility of a future upheld by Peace that transcends our most profound thinking (Philippians 4:7). 

Looking back from where we have come since the start of this year, it is an undeniable fact that pain, deprivation, fear, uncertainty and anxiety have been constant companions along the way. The fact that you are reading these reflections, however, bears eloquent testimony to the willingness of God, as in the days of Isaiah (Mark), to make Himself known…to come to us in our varied experiences of wilderness and, coming, He whispers…Peace be still!

The challenge for you and me in these wilderness days then, as we read scripture, meditate and pray, is to recall that there has never been a time when God has not acted to save His people. There has never been a time when, caught in the barrenness of desolation, God’s people did not experience the strength of His arm, lifting them from the mire of desolation and placing them once again upon the road that leads home to His heart. This time is no different! 

So, as you pause to meditate on these words from scripture, amidst doubt, despair and the starkness from which there seems no escape, I pray you will make room for the interior stillness that will enable you to hear God’s whisper of Peace even as you believe in your heart that having done it before, He can…He will do it again.

Meditation: “When Peace like a river attendeth my way…whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say it is well; it is well with my soul.” (Horatio Spafford, 1873)

Prayer: God of our weary years and silent tears, whose presence makes of the desolate wilderness a valley of springs, grant that in knowing you as Immanuel, we may run and not grow weary…walk and not faint. Grant that as we open to the experience heavenly Peace, we may face the future with renewed hope, for Your name’s sake. Amen.