Advent: December 6

First Reading: Isaiah 40:1–11

Comfort, comfort my people,
   says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
   and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
   that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
   double for all her sins.

A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
   the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
   a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
   every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
   the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
   and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

A voice says, “Cry out.”
   And I said, “What shall I cry?”

“All people are like grass,
   and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
   because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
   Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
   but the word of our God endures forever.”

You who bring good news to Zion,
   go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem,
   lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
   say to the towns of Judah,
   “Here is your God!”
See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power,
   and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him,
   and his recompense accompanies him.
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
   He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
   he gently leads those that have young. (NIV)

The Impossible Mountain

I had a recent experience of going hiking with my lovely husband, Scott. We were having a weekend away in the mountains in Canmore, Alberta, and for Scott mountains mean hiking. We decided on a hike called Ha Ling Trail, which is a 4.9-mile trek (9.8-mile round trip). As we ascended the mountain, one switchback at a time and one steep step at a time, it became clear to me that this would be one of the most difficult things I have ever physically done. My legs were shaking, my breathing was laboured, and I assured Scott I would never let him forget that he made me do this on our weekend away. Climbing the mountain was near impossible.

In Isaiah 40:4, we read one of my favourite verses and sentiments in scripture: “Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.” Isaiah is touching on the very real truth that there are some in our world who are on the mountaintop and some who are in the valley. Being on the mountain is a place of privilege, of riches, and where life is potentially a lot easier. Being in the valley is a place of poverty, of oppression, and where life is potentially a lot more difficult. And yet this prophecy is about the great leveling operation that is the reality of the Kingdom of God. The sentiment is echoed in Mary’s song: “He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble” (Luke 1:52). Even the birth story of Jesus Christ is an example of this same idea, as God used a young unmarried woman, shepherds, and a baby to usher in the greatest gift the earth would ever receive.

Going from the socioeconomic valley to mountain peak is a near impossible journey alone. Yet as participants in the Kingdom of God, we are invited to participate in lowering the mountains and raising the valleys. At times that means calling out systems of oppression, and sometimes that means walking ourselves off the peak we have enjoyed. Thankfully, we serve the God of the impossible, who humbled himself to offer us a way out of whatever valley we find ourselves in.

Stephanie Fehr – EYELET Member