It is he who has ransomed us from the desert of our sins and death, and opened the gates to Paradise to us again.
“Those whom the Lord has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; they will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee” (Is, 35:10).
During this time leading up to Christmas which is known as Advent, we read a good deal of the prophecies about the coming of the Messiah from the prophet Isaiah. These are some of the most beautiful readings in all of the Old Testament. They are filled with the exuberant promise of peace and joy that only the Messiah, our redeemer, can bring.
This 35th chapter of Isaiah begins with the image of a desert, parched and empty. It is a good symbol of the condition of our world which has become desiccated by sin and is a place of suffering. But in that same sentence, Isaiah tells us that with the coming of the Messiah, this desert will exalt and that the steppe will rejoice and bloom with abundant flowers, symbols of both fertility and beauty. When the glory of God comes, it will turn this place that is now overwhelmed with suffering and death into a place of abundant life, and joyful song.
In the meantime, while we wander in this desert that is, in part, a desert of our own making, we know ourselves to be feeble and weak. But Isaiah, inspired by the Spirit says, “Say to those whose hearts are frightened, ‘Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you” (v.4). We are called to be strong in our faith in God, even as we are lost in this desert, for he promises that our “blind eyes will be opened and our deaf ears will be unstopped”. Where we are now paralyzed in our habits of sin, we will then be healed and we will “leap like a dear” and our “mute tongues will sing for joy” (vs. 5&6),
The promised Messiah, has the power to turn the deserts of our inner lives, and of the world, into “pools of cool water” and what used to be the “haunt of jackals” will be turned into “a highway called the holy way where no one unclean may pass over it, nor fools go astray on it” (vs. 7&8). This is the image of the promised world to come and this prophecy has been fulfilled in Jesus. It is he who has ransomed us from the desert of our sins and death, and opened the gates to Paradise to us again.
This is the “reason for the season.” It is not the lights, not the Christmas jingles, or the frenetic scramble for presents to put under glowing Christmas trees. Each Christmas season we are, once again, given the opportunity to prepare our own hearts, minds, and souls to welcome Jesus, the Messiah, into our own lives again, to say yes, like Mary did, to his invitation and his challenge to commit our lives again to walk toward that holy highway, with the helps of his generous grace.SKM: below-content placeholder