The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus 2 it shall blossom abundantly
and rejoice with joy and shouting.
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.
What a stark contrast between the dryness of desert and the rich fruitfulness of Lebanon, with its cedars and lush green. When we are in times of dryness and wilderness, sometimes we wonder if God is there. But just as God came into a vulnerable place through parents who were in their own wilderness, God meets us in our desert places and fills them with his fruitfulness and glory.
- Where are you experiencing dryness right now?
- What messages are you hearing from those around you regarding the meaning of this desert?
- What might God be saying and inviting you to?
Gracious God – We live in a culture addicted to productivity and admiring those who have it all together by the world’s standards. But Jesus came, humble and vulnerable and those who looked at him, saw Your glory and majesty. Help us to look for you during this Advent season and see your glory in unexpected places. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Isaiah 35: 3-4
3 Strengthen the weak hands
and make firm the feeble knees.
4 Say 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.”
Christ comes to those who are weak and fearful, bringing strength and courage in his name. We don’t need to hide our fear or fake our strength because Christ is our courage and Christ is our strength. In His ministry it was the sick he came to heal. We are invited to depend on him for our strength, our courage and our salvation.
- How is weakness or fear treated in your circles of family and friends?
- What emotions does the declaration, “Here is your God,” stir in you?
- Where do you need the presence of God to show up in your life right now?
Gracious God, you are our source of strength and courage, and we look to you. We confess the times we have tried to do it on our own and ended up, at least in our heart of hearts, in worse shape than when we started. Help us remember that all we need comes from you and you provide through Christ the things that we are unable to provide for ourselves. Give us the humility to acknowledge that you are God and we are not. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Isaiah 35: 5-7
5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf shall be opened;
6 then 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;
7 the 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.
This passage is filled with words of animation and life – from lost to found; dark to light, dry to overflowing. This is the end to which we as believers are looking forward, and it is the work of God that He is inviting us to participate in now, through the life of Christ within us.
- Where in your life are you reflecting the work of God toward completion?
- Where might God be inviting you to step in during this Advent season?
- Who in your life needs life, hope, and or relief? How can you pray for them today?
Gracious God, what a glorious future you describe to a people who are in exile. Thank you that you have promised this same future of life and wholeness – shalom – to us and invite us to live into this hope today as we interact with others who need your life. May we be a conduit of your streams in the desert. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Isaiah 35: 8-10
8 A 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.
9 No 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.
10 And 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.
Zion was known as the place where God dwells. In the words of this verse, there is an invitation to God’s people, a promise that they will come out of the anxiety and sadness and into the loving, comforting presence of God, through Jesus Christ.
- What is giving you joy during this season? What is causing you to mourn?
- How are you holding both of these emotions during this season in the presence of God?
- To where is God inviting you to return?
Gracious God, we invite you to come to us anew. We welcome you into our hearts and our worlds, the beauty and chaos, the hopes and disappointments, the peace and anxiety. Help us to be present with you that we might receive your gifts of grace and mercy that free us from the lonely exile we find ourselves in. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
46 And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked with favor on the lowly state of his servant.
Surely from now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name;
50 indeed, his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones
and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has come to the aid of his child Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
Mary’s beautiful song proclaims the coming of the One who will fulfill the promises that God made to His people. She is carrying the One who will carry the weight of the world to the cross, leading to redemption, shalom, and the righting of the world to the way God intended.
- As you remember the passage from Isaiah that we pondered this week, what similar themes do you see in Mary’s song of worship?
- Write a song of worship, thanking God for where you see the work of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in this Advent season.
Gracious God, Emmanuel, thank you that you have come and brought with you the glory of God, seen in the child, the teen mother, by the lowly and those looking for you. This season give us eyes to see you and hearts that desire to encounter you in new ways as we acknowledge who we are and who you are in truth and love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.