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.
Deep into Advent we are faced with this text about a reclamation project.
We are familiar with land reclamation. It occurs when the eternal battle between the sea and the coast is settled in favour of the land and new tracts of often fertile ground appear. Alternatively, the context is as in the reading when previously arid and infertile stretches are through irrigation or change of climate gradually able to support life.
Yet the passage also speaks about the reclamation of people. This too we are familiar with as we reflect on the many groups which work to empower weak and vulnerable people. Age, infirmity, and anxiety are addressed here with the promise that God’s coming will be heralded with the reversal of fortunes.
The way of holiness is the path of discipleship. It is a path which attracts people still, safe and secure, it is for the redeemed, that is those who know their need of God and travel in that knowledge.
You specialise in reclaimed lives,
in making us fruitful,
Help us to walk with you
on the path of discipleship
For the sake of Jesus
our pilgrim brother,
The Rev’d Richard Church is the Deputy General Secretary (Discipleship) of the URC.