Advent 3A: Strength for the Journey

Photo by Biegun Wschodni: Blooming saffrons in the mountains

Photo by Biegun Wschodni on Unsplash.

1 The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus 2 it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. 3 Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. 4 Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.”

Isaiah 35:1-4

Every year, without fail, as the culture ramps up for the frenzy of Christmas, there’s a disruption. A break in the regularly scheduled activities.

It’s bad news in the form of a voicemail, text, or email: “Your loved one had a fall and is in the ICU. It doesn’t look good.”

When that news comes, it can take a moment (or a day or a week) to get your bearings. Wait a minute – how can this be happening? Why now?

In the northern hemisphere, the “most wonderful time of the year” is also synonymous with winter, a season of death and dying, dormancy and decay.

It’s a time that’s hard on bodies, and for the frail and elderly, it can be a time when living, moving, and breathing is simply too much to bear.

This is why the Advent text from Isaiah is so important. Isaiah imagines wilderness being transformed from death and dryness to blossoms and abundance.

Like Mary, we wonder: How can this be?

Isaiah vows that when those who have been in the wilderness see the glory and majesty of God, weak hands are strengthened, and feeble knees are made firm. “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God” (Isaiah 11:4).

These words, promised by Isaiah, delivered to Mary and Joseph, and now proclaimed in your communities, are a sign to all people.

We may not be there yet, but we with the saving help of our God, we will be. Do not fear! Here is your God.


On this second week of Advent, reflect on:

  • How is God present in the dry places of your life?
  • In what ways do you see the root of Jesse standing as a signal to the peoples?
  • Who in your community needs God’s transforming power?

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!