Monday, 18 November 2019
Christmas in the Wilderness
The wilderness can take you by surprise. All around you swirls the holly, jolly, noisy, busy Christmas (aka stressful) Holiday Season. But not for you. You feel like the eye of this tornado, strangely quiet. Alone.
Perhaps it’s been a year of losses. Like one friend of mine, you may have experienced an explosive divorce that ruptured your marriage, and spattered every other part of your life. Your world is still rocking. And just when you feel like you’re beginning to get back on your feet, another aftershock hits. That too? you think. Was nothing spared?
Or perhaps it’s been a year of struggle–finances, health, family, the usual suspects. Maybe a year of fierce temptation. Or just a year of sin upon sin upon sin upon…
This Christmas you’re not swept up in the busyness of the holidays, you’re numb. You keep trying to go through the motions. Maybe if you bake cookies or get out to see some lights, you’ll feel something. But as the crowds swirl past you in a frenzy of holiday-ing, all you feel is isolated–quarantined like some kind of virus that has threatened the season’s pumped up immune system.
For you Christmas is a wilderness.
A Voice In the Wilderness
In the wilderness we don’t need Jingle Bells or Deck the Halls, we need a voice that cries in the wilderness. We need the voice of God.
But what will he say to us? We’re broken and victimized, but we’re also aggressors and perpetrators. Will he tell us to get our act together? Will he put us on eternal probation? Toss us some band-aids and then leave us to figure it out?
No. He will speak tenderly to us.
“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.” Isaiah 40:1-2
God speaks salvation to us in the wilderness. He speaks comfort for our sorrows, pardon for our sins, peace to our external and internal conflicts. God wants his people hear his voice in the wilderness.
So he commands the prophet, “Comfort! Speak tenderly! Cry (loud voice) to her!”
God tells us salvation is present tense. He spells out the message. Not “your warfare will be ended,” but “your warfare is ended.” Not “your iniquity will be pardoned” but “your iniquity is pardoned.”
All this is well and good. It begins to pierce our numbness. But wouldn’t it be better if God didn’t just speak through a prophet? Couldn’t he speak to you and me directly?
Even better, what if he came and delivered his message in person?
I’m Coming to Your Wilderness
It’s as if Isaiah–or God– hears my thoughts. The next thing the wilderness voice cries is Get ready! Our God is coming!
Get ready for God to come? Wow. There’s a lot to be done. This place is a mess! I guess I’ve been too depressed to clean or even make the bed. And look at that sink full of dishes…
And so I start on my list of self-improvement projects. Outside and inside I try to deal with the mess, because I think he doesn’t want to get his hands dirty. After all he’s a great King, so I guess I need to clean up his kingdom before his arrival.
But the truth is, God wants us to prepare so we can see. He wants us to see his glory. He wants all flesh to see it together.
That’s why he told them–and tells us–to get ready. Not so he can see us–that we’ve finally got our act together.
But so we can see him.
Behold Your God
Are you ready for Christmas? If you’re in the wilderness, probably not. But God is ready, and that’s what matters.
A herald is sent. His voice is loud. His message is clear. It’s the announcement of great good news:
“Behold your God!” Isaiah 40:9d
Behold him? He’s here? Where? Where do I have to go to see him? Nowhere. He came to you. Read and see:
- Behold the Baby–born in the wilderness of sin and death. He came to experience our humanity. He came to live and learn and suffer, so that whatever we go through, he understands.
- Behold the Son–struggling in the wilderness of hunger and temptation. He came to be weak and tempted and fight the devil and win, so that when we are tempted, he can be our victor.
- Behold the Man–bloody and beaten and finally executed for things he didn’t do. He came to lay down his life for us in the wilderness, so that he can live with us in our own wilderness times.
Rejoice, dear sisters, even in your wilderness. It’s there you will behold him. He has come.
This post was first published on Dec 14, 2016.