December 24, 2016
Artwork by Françoise Zavala
Marker on Paper, Desert Christmas
Rev. 22:12-17, 21 · Luke 1:67-80
1 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.Selah
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
6 The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.Selah
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.Selah
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.”
5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
6 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;
7 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.
8 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.
9 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.
10 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.
Christmas in the Desert
It is the most wonderful time of the year. We know this because in 1963, Andy Williams sung these words with such pure enthusiasm and class that we have been sentenced to endless repeats of this song while we shop, drive, or put on Spotify’s “Palm Springs Christmas” playlist. We love Christmas every year because it means we get to spend a decent chunk of time not working, seeing family and friends, eating delicious food, buying things for others and finally opening up boxes and boxes of things that are sometimes very close to what we would have bought for ourselves! These things can make for a wonderful time of the year, but they can also be somewhat of a let down, especially in difficult seasons of our lives or when family, relationships or other life situations are sources of frustration and even despair. But there are other songs we might take time to listen to during this Advent season, including one from the book of Isaiah:
“The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom…and rejoice with joy and singing… the tongue of the speechless [will] sing for joy… 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.” This is a song that people have been singing since long before 1963. It is also a song that will be sung in the future. The singers are those that have been redeemed by the LORD, those who have been unable to sing. Even the natural world itself will join in on singing this song of hope and joy. Advent has been about waiting for the birth of Jesus Christ the Messiah. We wait, along with the suffering world, for God to heal and restore human beings and the land we are so deeply connected to. If we ever feel that “the Christmas season” is not completely wonderful, perhaps that is part of the point. There are still dry deserts waiting to bloom and sing. But on Christmas Day we move from waiting to celebration, remembering that Christ was born, and that he walked among us, calling us to join him and learn from him how to love God and each other and how to take care of God’s world. And we do this together as members of Christ’s body while we await God’s completion of our work, when we along with the desert will sing with everlasting joy.
Ask God to show you what He has been doing in your heart during the Advent Season.
What is He preparing in you?
In what sense has He prepared more room in your heart to receive more from Him?
What new levels of joy does He have prepared for you in the Christmas celebrations?