Uncle Pastor Ray Minniecon reflects on the celebration, welcome, Joy and Hope we have in the coming of the Light of the World.
EMMA WYNDHAM CHALMERS
On the sixteenth day of Advent 2022, Emma Wyndham Chalmers reflects on the joy we have in the good news of Jesus and the hope this brings us in the waiting.
Hope in the Waiting
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it 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.
Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
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.’
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
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;
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.
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 traveller, not even fools, shall go astray.
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.
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.
As I sit down at my desk to write on this year’s Advent theme of “The Good”, I am confronting the inevitability of death. Not my own, but that of someone whom I love very much. And not yet, but looming a bit closer in a recent diagnosis. I have not long left their hospital bedside where, among other things, we talked about plans for the upcoming funeral of another loved one. It has been a difficult time.
So when I come to the words of Isaiah 35, and the picture they paint of the joy that awaits God’s redeemed, perhaps this is why the words that stand out to me are words like wilderness, desert and parched land, feeble hands and fearful hearts. Perhaps this is why I am grateful for the reminder this passage brings that the promise of joy is for the ones who know sorrow and longing and struggle.
In the struggle for justice, in our advocacy and activism, we are naturally drawn to notice what is broken and in need of repair. The peoples oppressed, robbed of the opportunity to reach their God-given potential; the creation exploited, pushed beyond its limits; the unjust inheritance of generations to come, human and environmental crises not of their making. In this year’s season of advent, yes, we are preparing to celebrate the birth of Christ, this good news of great joy and a kingdom come. But after a few tough years on so many fronts aren’t we also keenly aware of our desperate need for its complete realisation?
And what a day that will be! The whole creation rejoicing; Zion’s choir in glorious song. The redeemed and the rescued overtaken with joy. The celebration of all that has been overcome.
But what I see in Isaiah 35 is joy that we can know even in the waiting. This is joy that doesn’t gloss over or disregard our struggles and sorrow but is the redemption and restoration of these very things. We are not lifted out of the wilderness, but rather the wilderness is transformed and becomes the way of hope.
In this way, joy is not only our hope for the future but also our courage in whatever circumstances we now face. When we are tempted to hide our face from sorrow - be that our own or that of our neighbours - joy gives us the strength and resolve to look and see things differently.
My prayer, wherever we might find ourselves in this season, is that we would be people of prophetic joy. As we live out together Jesus' good news, seeking God's justice on earth, may we look upon the desert and know it to be the very place where streams will flow and flowers bloom.
Emma Wyndham Chalmers is Head of Advocacy for Tearfund. She is a passionate campaigner on issues of global poverty and climate change and the lead author of Tearfund’s recent climate research report They Shall Inherit the Earth.