The Highway

This Sunday, the Third Sunday in Advent, is often known as the Sunday of Joy.  Perhaps you have noticed that in most congregations, the Advent wreath has a rose-colored candle for this week instead of the usual blue.  And the themes of our First Reading from Isaiah 35 are definitely joyous ones:  a desert in bloom, a people healed, a highway broad enough for all. 

This is one instance where a little Biblical imagination is in order.  Today, when we think of highway, we often think of this:

People zooming by in their isolation, intent on their destination–and sometimes enraged, or distracted by their technology.  Think about it for a moment.  We travel at speeds unimaginable in eras past, in vehicles that cost more than many on our planet could ever dream to make in a year (or a lifetime?), on million-dollar roads of smooth black asphalt.  With accurate signage.  With highway patrols to keep us safe.  And countless ways for others to rescue us in the event of an accident.

In Isaiah’s time, a highway was a true gift to the people.  A wide dirt path for foot travel is basically what we are talking about.  No patrols, no protection.  Maybe some rocks or other natural markers for signs.  Yet Isaiah’s is a vision of restoration and hope, a vision of camaraderie and exhileration.  Swarms of people, from all walks of life, all ages, all abilities, coming together instead of dashing to separate from the pack.  So here is another image from our modern day:

When YOU think of God’s highway, what do YOU imagine? 

God of joy, as you have promised:  strengthen the weak hands, make firm the feeble knees.  In celebrating the birth of your Son, may sorrow and sighing flee away… forever.  Amen.

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