Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill made low;
the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. (Isaiah 40:4)
When I was in college, Christmas break was the greatest time of the year. From early November until that great and glorious day sometime in mid-December when my roommate and I packed up the car and headed for home, it was all I dreamed of. Just ten more days. Just two more finals. Just one more paper to turn in. Then, home, sweet, glorious home!
Home meant mom’s cooking rather than dining hall meals.
Home meant sleeping in my own, comfy bed instead of that institutional mat on a board provided by the housing department of Oswego State University.
Home meant walks by the river, maybe a little skiing, and not having to go to class, write papers, and study for exams. Add to that Christmas and it truly was the most magical time of the year.
Isaiah is speaking to a people who also long for home. They have spent a generation in exile in Babylon, eating Babylonian food, sleeping in Babylonian beds, and walking along Babylonian rivers. They wanted to go home. And Isaiah is promising the time is coming soon.
God does not leave God’s people in exile. The journey across the wilderness will be difficult, but God is making a way. Soon, the people will be on their way home.
Sometimes, the world around us can seem like a foreign land. We see the violence and hate. We see the suffering of some while others enjoy excessive riches. We see division and entrenchment rather than people working together to solve real problems. Is this home?
The promise of God’s kingdom is a world at peace where we love one another and treat others with kindness and compassion. This is the gift we celebrate at Christmas. This is the promise of Jesus Christ. This is our true home and God is blazing a path to it, if only we are willing to make the journey.