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. 

-Isaiah 35: 1-10

Have you ever had a moment or more than just a moment; but a season in life when you wondered if your joy and hope would ever return?  Maybe loneliness, depression, grief, or anxiety gripped your life or the life of those around you…  

Have you ever felt hopeless, stranded, stuck or in a ditch?  Ever feel like there is no way out?

Anything about any of this sound familiar?  

If so, then this part of Isaiah is for you!  

The Prophet shouts out:

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad!  The desert shall bloom and rejoice!  Weak hands will be strengthened! If your heart isn’t strong, it will be made so!  God is coming!  If you are blind, you’ll be able to see, if you can’t walk, you will soon be running all over the place!  Those who have harassed, bothered, mocked you or tried to destroy your life will be banished!  You will be in a safe place–called the highway of God, the Holy Way!

Well, that’s my paraphrase of this passage.  I hear in it joy, promise and a future filled with the promises of God for goodness.  Not simplistic promises, but difficult promises when stacked up against the terrors of life that come into all of our lives at one point or another.  

Maybe resting in God’s Word this week will help you when you feel despairing, or maybe it is the Word you need to bring to someone or someplace this is despairing.  Either way, this is God’s Word, it is good and it is for everyone.  It’s a prophetic Word because it is so startling with its joy and with its hope in the midst of destruction, pain and terror.  

Today is the Sunday for joy in Advent, but for sure some of us are struggling this season with joy.  The lights of Christmas are out and twinkling, carolers are singing, presents are being wrapped–but as we all know, many people and many communities absolutely do not experience joy in this season.  Many people and many communities are dealing with fear these days.  And that struggle can be overwhelming.  

We are called to bring the Good News as the heirs to Isaiah’s prophesy and the one embodied in the hope of the Christ Child.  Here’s one way our Synod community is preparing itself to do just that this Advent.  

And yet, we are reminded that in the struggle we are not alone, God is present!  God is working for our good, our renewal, and yes, even our joy.  God is always looking out for us, acting on our behalf and making a way in the dry deserts of life.  God is interested in the Creation and in its healing on every single level.  That’s the Good News we seek to believe in during this season.

Rev. Jim Reisner at our Westminster Presbyterian Church sums many of these things up in his 90-second sermon for this Sunday:

Our Young Adult Volunteer from our Mayfield Presbyterian Church, Olivia Orth, tells a story on her blog this week about how she found her hope again on a day she felt lonely and was asking the question: “Why Am I Here?”  Take a read through her powerful testimony.  

God is working a way.  That’s the candle in the darkness, that’s the light in the tree, that’s the hope in the Christ Child soon to meet us once again on Christmas Day.  And we have prophets in our midst who show us the way, heirs to the promise of Isaiah so many years ago.

I am continuing to hold each of you in my prayers in this season of holy waiting, and yes, holy discomfort and joy!  May your responses to God’s goodness be as prophetic as possible in our world of great need.


About Rev. Shannan Vance-Ocampo

Shannan grew up between the Jersey Shore and Philadelphia and have also lived at various points in Ohio, Illinois, New Jersey and upstate New York. Internationally, I have lived in Scotland, Greece and Colombia. My family is transnational, my husband is an immigrant and we divide our time between the United States and Colombia. You can learn more about Shannan at:

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