There are memorable speeches that have moved nations and marked significant world events. Who can possible forget Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech back one day in August, 1963 in Washington DC? You don’t have to have lived during that time to know that his speech, “I Have A Dream”, was a prophetic word at a time when our nation was at its dimmest in terms of racial inequality. And King offers light in the words of Isaiah…
“I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together”.
His dream like Isaiah’s, lines out a vision for a discouraged people in rocky political terrain. He showed the nation a way to walk in the light of a God who loves all people with every skin color imaginable, and we have not looked back.
Being a prophet is not easy work, not now in our lifetime or back in the 8th BCE when the prophet Isaiah lived. Isaiah of Jerusalem, rooted in the Zion tradition, celebrated God as the king of heaven and earth and Jerusalem is where God declares the royal dwelling for the Davidic kings to follow. The major problem was that this ‘royal dwelling’, Jerusalem, that Isaiah was trying to ‘sell’ was a chaotic slum, besieged from one conquest after another; the city was in turmoil. It was grim. And God was not happy.
God gets weary of bearing the burden of the people’s pagan festival’s and tells them so. (1:14) The prophet pleads with the people to come clean, to wash themselves and remove their evil. (1:16) God even wants to reason with them, to “argue it out” but to no avail. (1:18) Then, the unthinkable happens; God says that God will pour out wrath on the people; that God will smelt away your dross as with lye. (1:25) This is anything but pretty and comforting. One could say that perhaps it was the darkest of times.
And yet Isaiah, the prophet of unwavering hope speaks out; he intercedes between God and the people as prophets often do. He offers a different vision for the people, a vision of peace, hope and light.
In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it.
Many peoples shall come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!
Isaiah shares his vision for a new world order, a new existence for the people of God. Jerusalem shall be lifted as high as Mount Sinai and all nations will stream to it. Lot’s of people will say, ‘let’s go to God’s house’ because they know that they will receive blessing and the word of the Lord in that place. Swords will be pounded into ploughshares and nations will not fight and war will end. Wouldn’t that be something!
He is asking the people to believe the impossible! That’s what our faith is about! The impossible made possible. That in the middle of the disillusionment, the chaos, the horrors of sin, that when their world seems the darkest, peace can be realized, intimate relationships, healed, and light will come. Oh that we had a prophet like Isaiah or King today.
Transformation and to Live in Light
Isaiah issues a grand invitation on behalf of God, “O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!” (2:5), it’s a vision of transformation yes, but it also is an invitation to live a certain way, “let us walk in the light of the Lord”. Not just for one day but for a lifetime. One step at a time into the valleys and up the mountainsides, one foot in front of the other in light, in God’s light.
It may seem to you and it certainly does to me that this congregation has been besieged with so much loss in the past six months. That, we just pick ourselves up and we are hit with another significant loss and that’s not to mention the world events that are less than uplifting. All of this could have a disastrous effect upon our collective psyche and our individual souls if we let ourselves sit in darkness.
But we cannot, we have to walk hand in hand and listen to Isaiah’s command. Let us always remember that we are a people of the light and must walk in the light, and towards the light of the Lord.
There is power when you walk in God’s light. When you walk in the light of God you can see and express your deepest human sadness and longings. You can convey your genuine and very real dreams for your life and for those around you. Walking in God’s light enables you to dream a world like Dr. King dreamed, like Isaiah dreamed and to envision a future that will lift up all people in hope and peace and most of all make real for you the ultimate promise of God’s grace.
Warmth, strength, and energy emanates from God’s light. It is your warmth on a cold winter’s day, it is your strength when the anvils of life are just too heavy, it is your energy when your batteries are depleted. The light beckons you, even when it is just a pindot and in a darkened room.
Living in the light means that when the world is at its ugliest, most hateful and war torn we can see the tiniest shred of light that the world is good just like God spoke it in the beginning.
Walter Brueggemann, theologian and Biblical scholar describes Advent as “an abrupt disruption in our ‘ordinary time’…it’s an utterly new year, new time, new life. Everything begins again.” For us church goers we know that Advent is the beginning of the new church year. What a peculiar time to begin again. When it’s the darkest time of the year we lift our eyes beyond our challenges and afflictions and affirm God’s light to come, Jesus the Christ. And this is the light that we walk towards and into.
This is the healing invitation of Advent. To watch and to dream, to observe and to wait, to walk and prepare the way for when the light dawns a Savior will be born. We will no longer have to sit in darkness or hurt because healing begins, and a light shines.