Advent Week 3: Finding Joy after the Wilderness
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus 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.
Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. 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.” Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it, but it shall be for God’s people; no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray. No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there. And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Sermon Starter 1:
In our communities and around the world, there are many people around us who are feeling hopelessness and sadness. Perhaps there are those who are feeling this way in our midst. In this text, Isaiah reminds us of the power of God to transform the harshest setting and bring about a joy that is deep and lasting. In a vision, Isaiah saw how God brings life to a place where there is nothingness, and joy where there is hopelessness. The desert was brought to bloom and the wilderness became a paradise. Isaiah saw the power of God to transform — the transformational power to offer hope and the transformational power to bring joy, even when feelings of hopelessness arise. Today we are reminded that God’s power transforms the brokenness of people and reminds us that no matter what we face, we are not alone. Today we are encouraged to await the season of joy that will come. In the midst of our sadness and hopelessness, we are not alone, and God is with us. As people of God, we have faith in the transformational power of God and look forward to the season of joy.
Sermon Starter 2:
This passage takes place in the wilderness. The word for ‘wilderness’ (midbar) points to a place or experience of wandering. The wilderness theme is rich in the Bible. It is often tied in with the notion that a person or group of people is traveling the spiritual path towards sanctification. It may be a physical place, but it has a divine purpose. Have you found yourself wandering through the wilderness? One may encounter new experiences in the journey through the wilderness. There are trials and challenges in this journey. But through it, one confronts his or her fears, grows in faith, and is able to meet God in a more powerful way. Isaiah reminds us that there is divine purpose to our wilderness. During this Advent season do you feel yourself wandering in the wilderness? Consider that God is leading you through a spiritual path. What challenges and fears are you confronting during this time? To where does God lead you through the wilderness?