I was born with a genetic disadvantage; I lack what is called “sense of direction.” It’s not that I cannot find my way around a map; I can’t seem to map my mind to remember the four directions. To cope in the years before GPS, I asked for directions frequently. I made friends with people who could find true north. I also married well; my husband can find his way to new spaces with ease. I think he has a map chip in his DNA.
Imagine the consolation this Advent text of Isaiah brings to those of us who are perpetually lost: “No traveler, not even fools, shall go astray.” Not even fools will get lost. This highway is not an aging interstate suffering from cloverleaf confusion. This is the Holy Way. Whimsy aside, this promise has the power to calm our fear of being lost. It offers the best medicine for Israel’s fear of being left behind.
And who walks on this Holy Way? God’s people. Only God’s people. Isaiah insists no one “unclean” will be allowed. Is God saying, “My way or no highway?” Yes. But this is not a pilgrimage of people who are perfectly spotless; this is a very human company of the forgiven. These are the ones who determine that God will be both their beginning and their end. If you, be you wise or foolish, choose this Way, you will not travel alone. You will not be lost or left behind. If God is your destination, if the One who is the Way has called you, this journey is home.
Holy One, help me find my way to your highway. Amen.
These readings convey that God’s coming, or the coming of the Messiah, will be profoundly transforma- tive. The promises of messianic possibility work against our exhaustion, our despair, and our sense of being subject to fate. The psalm provides a comprehensive summary of the miracles wrought by God in the past to make new life possible. Jesus’ life and ministry embodied these large expectations of Israel. The prophetic oracle, psalm, and Gospel reading all move toward the practicality of the epistle reading, which demands that we allow this claim of new human possibility to permeate all of life. Our life is directed to the reality of God, the very God whom we dis- cern in our present and to whom we entrust our future.
• Read Isaiah 35:1-10. Where in your life do you feel that you have gone astray? After you realize you are lost, how do you return to the way that is God?
• Read Luke 1:47-55. When have you spoken fearlessly about a situation in your life?
• Read James 5:7-10. For what do you thirst?
• Read Matthew 11:2-11. What characteristics draw you to a
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