Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak,
Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not!
Today we begin the second week of advent. The reading from Isaiah provides a wonderful start to the week. The nature images in the reading are so vivid that is useful to pause and visualize them. Imagine flowers and fresh water emerging in what appears to be a vast waste land. Hear the birds sing and feel the hope and peace that replaces anxiety as water and new life appear.
As advent begins we clarify our focus on our true source of hope and peace. We remind ourselves that God’s ability to restore and renew exceeds our comprehension. It is so easy for me to slog through the dry sand of a wasteland in despair. Instead, these verses remind us to visualize restoration that God can bring. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to shape our vision, restore our hope, and grant us peace.
Notice that the reading calls for us to play a role in restoration as well. The peace that comes from our vision of God’s restorative power allows us to strengthen and heal others. God calls us to join in the recreation. The focus, however, remains on God’s provision and salvation. This draws our attention back again to the advent questions of where we place our hope and where we expect to find peace. I know that I often struggle between the extremes of frantic activity and passive inactivity, neither of which leads to peace.
The passage provides an image of humility rightly understood leading to peace. The awesome restoration power of God humbles us, but it does not immobilize us. On the contrary, it gives us confidence to take the small steps to do the loving tasks in front of us. In humility we know that our small attempts are just part of a much larger restoration project—but an important part.
As we reflect on peace this week in particular, we’re reminded of the importance that scripture place on overcoming fear. “Fear not” is such a common refrain in scripture, including the passage today. We’re to tell those around us who are frightened “fear not.” There are many scripture verses about overcoming fear. Do any of these verses in particular help you in overcoming fear or in encouraging others who may be afraid? One of my favorites is “perfect love casts out fear.” When fear threatens to discourage or immobilize me, I can sometimes move towards peace by shifting the focus to how to do something loving in that situation. The verses today remind us that our loving actions towards one another are just the tip of the iceberg. We encourage one another and love one another and wait expectantly for even greater healing and peace to be unleashed.
Come Lord Jesus, come...and grant us peace and restoration.
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