An Advent thought6 December 2020
We've just heard the readings for the second Sunday in Advent read from a church in Stirling, one from Isaiah 40 and the other from Mark chapter 1. They both contain references to a voice crying in the wilderness. But the punctuation is important.
Isaiah 40:3 - "A voice cries out: 'in the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord...'" This section of the book of Isaiah recalls the catastrophic Exile to Babylon after the southern kingdom of Judah was conquered in 587BCE. Though only exiled for around fifty years, the significance of conquest and exile was a turning point in the story of Israel. Here the image is of a voice urging the people to set about preparing the way for God's coming, by levelling the mountains and filling up the valleys. Everything that seemed to be an obstacle would need shifting. This would be no easy task. But much needed to be done if the people were to keep pace with God's plan. And for us in these troubled times - what would it take to prepare the way for God's coming? What is the message that a present-day prophet might deliver to the people around us in villages, towns and cities? The focus of those words in Isaiah 40 is that God will make a difference, God will put right what is wrong and unjust, God will lead the people forward into the future.
Mark 1:3 - "..the voice of one crying in the wilderness: prepare the way of the Lord." In our modern times, with so many churches recognising a decline in membership, it often feels as if we cannot find the way to proclaim what we believe. We feel as if we are a voice crying out and there's no-one listening. It's an uncomfortable feeling, passing so many church buildings that currently are not open - and wondering if people at large have noticed. But we have a message to give, of new life and new hope. We have to find ways of proclaiming the message in way that modern people can understand - and maybe that will involve levelling a few mountains and filling up a few valleys. The landscape of our future may be very different from what it was in the past - but God will lead us forward into the future.
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