Advent 1A: Pilgrims Walk in the Light

Pilgrim walking up hill.
Pilgrim walking up hill.
Photo by Jorge Luis Ojeda Flota on Unsplash.

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 … O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!

Isaiah 2:3,5

In today’s secular age, the idea of a pilgrimage seems quaint, mildly therapeutic, even commendable. Travel is equated with gaining something, whether it’s mind-body equilibrium or a couple of selfies in recognizably “foreign” locales.

But how many of us equate travel with sacrifice? With leaving a part of yourself behind? Not many. The goal of travel is too often to fill my spirit, to collect stories, to take photographs that could be shared with loved ones once I’ve returned to the safety of home.

Yet in this reading (Isaiah 2:3,5) the prophet Isaiah imagines people from around the ancient world traveling to the holy mountain of God.

They are making a pilgrimage to learn from the God of Jacob and to walk in God’s paths.

How many of us wish we could travel to the source — the very heart — of the Word of the Lord and learn from it? It seems too easy to locate God’s teachings in a physical location, a single mountain.

And for those who have traveled to Jerusalem, the hill itself can seem underwhelming. This is Mount Zion? Why here and not somewhere else?

But as this passage reminds us, it is the Word that travels forth. God’s ways, paths, instructions go forth. It is the experience that changes us, that makes us different people. It’s not about the stamp on the passport. It’s not about the selfies in historic places. It’s about the Word that transforms our lives and brings us back home different than when we set out on the pilgrimage.

On this first week of Advent, reflect on:

  • How is God’s Word moving through you and out into the world?
  • Where is God’s light shining in your life?
  • How can God’s light illumine the paths that you and your community of faith follow?

The 2020 Festival of Homiletics will be focused on Preaching a New Earth: Climate and Creation. Come renew, refresh, and recharge your spirit in Atlanta May 18-22. Register today!