Beginnings of a New Thing

Do you ever have moments where you find life is interrupted?  These interruptions are life.  We are surrounded by them.  Turn on the evening news, or open the newspaper?  Let us consider our own lives?  Brokenness.  Despite the vows, somewhere the marriage changed?  You visit the Doctor hoping for something definitive only to be sent home waiting for test results.  Will this job ever end?  What are some of the interruptions in our lives? 

There is much curiosity with today’s text.  Listen to what immediately precedes today’s reading. 

‘And the streams of Edom shall be turned into pitch,and her soil into sulfur;her land shall become burning pitch.  Night and day it shall not be quenched;its smoke shall go up forever.

From generation to generation it shall lie waste;no one shall pass through it forever and ever.

But the hawk and the hedgehog shall possess it;the owl and the raven shall live in it.

He shall stretch the line of confusion over it,and the plummet of chaos over its nobles.  They shall name it No Kingdom There,and all its princes shall be nothing.  Thorns shall grow over its strongholds,nettles and thistles in its fortresses.  It shall be the haunt of jackals…”

                        

No Kingdom there…thorns, thistles, and jackles…  all of life becomes this—deserts and barren.  This is the warnings and judgment that the prophet Isaiah has been sharing from the beginning.  From the land of milk and honey, God’s promise, to this.  Life as it was has been interrupted. 

But today’s interruption is different.  It is out of place.  It doesn’t fit.  In the midst of despair, we find:

Is. 35:1                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 singing…

The God who cares about the desert, the barren places—is the same God that cares about us.  In our deserts—God shows up.  When all seems hopeless and desolate, we are not without hope.  The desert shall rejoice.    

And not to ignore how God enters… He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense…”  This is right after do not fear—vengeance, terrible recompense—and my knees tremble, but this vengeance, God’s interruption is to save.”   In the desert is life. 

Really, this is magnificent.  And this is Advent.  In one hand, we look back and remember God’s promise. If we squint, we look back and remember a garden.  And looking back, we then look forward and with hope, we find a new creation.  We find restoration.  That in this section of warnings…the times it seems God is so far away, God enters with a vengeance…to save.  And God’s saving purpose is joy. 

The desert shall rejoice.  It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing.  And our reading today concludes, “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return And the ransomed of the LORD shall come to Zion with singing, everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;  they shall obtain joy and gladness…”

Waiting places…God enters.  And there is joy. 

Where do you see the beginnings of God’s promises around you?  May we enter into a time of prayer discerning new beginnings.  Ushers will be handing out flowers that you may write on as an expression of your prayer for new beginnings that you can then bring forward to hang on the tree. 

“The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom” (Isa. 35:1-2, TNIV).

The first sign of new life, a tiny green sprout, is cause for celebration in the spring. In and of itself, a sprout might be unimpressive, except that we know it’s a sign of what’s coming. With water and sunshine and time, even the tiniest seed grows. Then we can see and smell and touch everything that sprout was meant to be: the full plant in complete flower.

Waiting can be easier when we know what’s coming and what to expect. But knowing those things can also make waiting harder because we can get impatient. Or we can be caught by surprise: what finally appears is even more amazing that what we thought we knew was coming.

Look at the sprout. Now look at the full plant. Smell the flowers. Could you ever have expected this?

We are waiting for a new thing; from a sprout, the full flower. Maybe it will be even more than we expect.[1]

 


[1] Reformed Worship, Erica Schemper, Sept. 2013 issue, Advent Prayer Stations. Advent Week 3.

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