Our time of waiting for Christmas is half over; this is reason for rejoicing for some, for terror for others who are not ready. In Catholic churches throughout the world, the rose candle of the Advent wreath is lit, signaling the time is drawing near. But what does that mean? The Israelites were waiting for the coming of the Messiah. What are we waiting for?
Our passage from Isaiah, while occurring in first Isaiah, is set at a later time when people are in exile, dreaming of returning to Jerusalem. All creation will rejoice at that time. “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.” (35:1-2a)
The passage goes on to describe a time when the blind shall see, the lame walk and the deaf hear. “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy.” (5-6a)
Whenever I read this passage, I am reminded how the Messianic age is both present and to come. We have come so far since Jesus’ time. Now people who would have been considered blind back then, see, thanks to corrective lenses. Cataracts are removed, extending the ability to see as we age. Hearing aids help the deaf to hear and there is even talk of science finding a way to regrow hair cells in the ear and restore hearing. And not only does hip and knee replacement surgery allow the lame to walk, prosthetic devices allow those who have lost limbs to walk. All signs of the Messianic era. All reasons to rejoice.
Yet, as wonderful as this is, it is but a glimpse of what is in store for us in the time to come, or so promises the prophet.
It’s less than two weeks till Christmas, but if you think of it in terms of the time the Israelites wandered in the desert until reaching the Promised Land, they still had twenty years to go, a long time by most people’s standards. And they didn’t know their time was half over. If you think of it in terms of the time the Hebrew people spent waiting for the Messiah to come, that’s a long time. Even longer for Jews who are still waiting for the Messiah. If I think of it in terms of my life span, then I’m over halfway through my time on this earth. Is this a reason to rejoice?
If I truly believe in what my church teaches, then every year that I draw closer to the end of my life, I should be happier. Faith says, rejoice, even as my eye-sight fails and my bones weaken for I am drawing closer to my God.
In reflecting back on my life, it would seem that now is truly a time for rejoicing. When I was younger there were so many reasons to worry. Tears were often my companion as I struggled to come to know and accept myself. But now I’m beyond that struggle. I have achieved some semblance of peace with myself that is a reason for joy. Struggles with growing older, pale in comparison to the struggles of my youth.
And so it is a time for rejoicing as we draw closer to our final home. “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (10)
Where are you in your life cycle? Is it a time of rejoicing? What are you waiting for?
Wishing you the joy that comes from faith!