We lean on Isaiah for wild, prophetic imagination in this season of Advent:
One day, not too long from now, a mountain will be established. It will be higher than all other mountains, it will soar above the hills and valleys, it will reach so tall that it will tickle the stars even while its roots are secured in the depths of the earth. And the mountain will be known as the house of God, the home of the Holy One.
All people and nations will set their sights on the mountain, and they will join together to pilgrimage there. Friends and strangers will meet at every crossroad and say, “Let us go to the mountain; let us enter the home of the Holy One where we shall learn God’s ways.”
So they will journey together, on that day that is not too long from now. And as they journey they will discover God’s ways already pouring down from the mountain, flowing as a clear stream through hills and across valleys, pooling like an oasis in the desert, flooding boundaries and collapsing walls that have stood between us. Along every edge of every pool and river and stream, peoples and nations will be bending their backs to the work of hammering plowshares out of swords so that they can furrow and plant the fields together.
adaptation of Isaiah 2:1-5
O Holy God, we sigh with longing to catch Isaiah’s vision of a new day, of a new realm. We sigh with fatigue and dejection, for we have forgotten how to dream. We sigh in a prayer of hope, trusting that your imagination has not dimmed since those days when you inspired Isaiah.
Out in the middle of the field, there is an old tree stump, the remnant of an ancient cedar tree long ago devastated by a lightening strike. The farmer cut the deadened tree down to a stump, but now plows and plants around it every season, waiting for that stump to rot away into the earth.
Out in the middle of the field, there is an old tree stump, the remnant of greatness now simply stuck in the mud. One day, not too long from now, from that same deadened stump in the middle of that same field, a green shoot will push through and begin to grow. A new shoot will emerge, and stretch, and swell, and mature, and branch out, until the fullness of this new shoot-that-has-become-a-tree can be seen for miles.
The farmer will shake his head and smile in resignation, and he will call the tree “New Life.” Children and squirrels alike will scamper across the field to climb in the tree’s branches; they will call the tree “Home.” Birds of the air — from the sparrow to the hawk — will hide in the tree, and they will call it “Shelter.” Men and women will come from afar to sit and lean back against the tree’s trunk while they listen to the world around them; they will name the tree “Wisdom.” Bear and fawn, lamb and lion will lie together among the tree’s roots, and they will call the tree “Peace.”
The tree itself will look at the life among its branches and under its brances and beyond its branches, and it will see all life without distinguishing which is greatest and which is least. But the tree will know and recognize that which gives life to life, and that which hinders life in life.
Out in the middle of the field, there is a tree, and the tree stands as a sign to all creation.
adaptation of Isaiah 11:1-10
We look to the trees to teach us how to stretch our arms wide in welcome and love. We look to the sparrows and the lilies to teach us how to trust fully in you. We pray for peace, Creator God. We pray for peace.
One day, not too long from now, a spring will bubble and overflow in the desert; a field of soft grass will grow in the concrete wasteland. One day, not too long from now, exquisite flowers will bloom on the garbage heap and bluebells will ring their praises from the street corners.
Tell those who are afraid that one day, not too long from now, the earth will no longer drown from floods or grow thirsty from droughts, but water will flow enough for all creation to live and be satisfied. On that day, all people will dance with all creation — children and elders, abled and disabled together will swing with joy, and songs will be sung in every language to the glory of God!
One day, not too long from now, the lost will be safe and the wandering will be found; predators will grow hungry in their search for prey, because all will be safely harbored in God’s embrace. Then as brothers and sisters we will remind one another, “Here is your God! Take courage and do not be afraid!”
adaptation on Isaiah 35:1-10
Come swiftly, O God! Be borne among us, O Christ.
How beautiful is the Word that signals hope: hope in the midst of loneliness, hope for the impossible overturning of oppression, hope that the limits of this life are not the limits of God.
How beautiful is the Word that brings peace: peace to the beggar at the gate, peace to the lepers cast out from their families, peace to the woman no one will touch, and peace to the soldier coming home from war.
How beautiful — how needed — is the Word that brings joy even amidst a dry desert, even amidst economic worries and job insecurities and broken hearts longing for love.
How beautiful is the Holy Word of love that is for all people: love for you, love for me, love for the estranged and love for the lovers, love so holy and so vast that its song echoes beyond the stars.
adaptation of Isaiah 52:7
How beautiful is the Word! How beautiful is our God!