Advent Pilgrimage – Week 3

•December 15, 2022 • Leave a Comment

This year I am sharing some Advent Reflections online. The theme is Pilgrimage.

I have to confess that I wrote these a few years ago, and have no idea what the inspiration I used was. My apologies if I have inadvertently plagiarised anyone else’s work, but the setting is definitely mine.

God’s Sacred Highway

Isaiah 35:1-10

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 traveller, 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.

If you prefer the text version:

You know that feeling when you’ve cleared something or sorted a mess…  When a patch of weeds has been cleared and the ground dug over, or an untidy cupboard has been sorted, anywhere when order has been created when once there was chaos and disorder – that is what God promises in our lives and in the world.

There is very much an emphasis on regeneration and recycling.  Seeing places and what is one persons rubbish becoming transformed into something good and useful.  There is now a whole new economy in environmental goods and services.

The vision of future blessings continues – this time built around a road, ‘God’s sacred highway’.  It leads through a transformed desert, to a place of joy and gladness.  Where once there were stones, scorching sand, and dryness, there will be bubbling springs and pools.  Grass, reeds and papyrus will flourish.  Crocuses will blossom – existence is transformed.

We do not live in a desert, but there are times when we feel that our lives are desert places – dry and unproductive…  We may long to see something blossoming there.

“God is coming to your rescue” – nothing else can save us – God can.  But this is a prophecy of hope.  God is with us now where we are, but things may not yet be changed from a wilderness.  Ground needs to lie fallow – uncultivated and empty – to restore it’s fertility.

Barrenness is hard, but it can be a time of restoration and re-focussing.  And a time is coming – a time of safety and ease, when we can travel home with God, following the path that Jesus has cleared for us to him.  Destruction will be replaced by re-creation.  In thirsty places there will be refreshment; in scary places there will be no predators; there will be growth and beauty, healing and joy, for those who follow God’s path.

God of mercy and love, we long to see your ways.  We pray for your renewing, your restoration, your refreshment in our lives and in our world – for we trust you – when life is easy, and when life is difficult.  Help us always to walk your path.


Advent Pilgrimage – Week 2

•December 7, 2022 • Leave a Comment

This year I am sharing some Advent Reflections online. The theme is Pilgrimage. I have to confess that I wrote this a few years ago, and have no idea what the inspiration I used was, my apologies if I have inadvertently plagiarised anyone else’s work, but the setting is definitely mine.

This week The Peaceful Kingdom

Isaiah 11:1-10

A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse,
   and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
   the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
   the spirit of counsel and might,
   the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
   or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
   and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
   and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
   and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
   the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
   and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
   their young shall lie down together;
   and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
   and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy
   on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
   as the waters cover the sea.

On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.

If you prefer the written version:

If you were in charge of this country, what would you want to see happen?  What changes would you make?

This is what Isaiah said the new king would be like.  A king of wisdom, with skill to rule, judging fairly, with honesty/integrity, obedient, powerful.    This is a beautiful picture of the eternal peaceful kingdom, where everyone and all creatures will happily and safely live alongside one another.  A day is coming when the nations will gather together and recognize the new king.  All creation will one day be at peace.  However unalike all will get along.  Fear will have no place – danger will be past.  There will be peace with one another, with the whole creation, and with God.

But this peace won’t just happen, but will come when the new member of David’s line comes, who will be filled with the Spirit of God.

Christians have identified this figure as Jesus – the Messiah, sent by God to be our saviour – the one who can make the impossible possible, the only one who can bring justice, harmony and peace.  God’s himself living with his people.

Jesus is the hope of the world.  It is him – in his love, wisdom and power – that the earth will be blessed – and again the promise that one day the earth will be filled with people who know and honour the Lord.   

This is the hope of Advent: a world renewed, changed; a kingdom of security and justice.

But they are a hope also for today, for those who love God.  For those of us who are human who struggle with relationships; for those of us who look in great sadness at the world, and mourn for its brokenness and unhappiness.

Jesus makes these things possible, and in his advent life, we have to live it out today.  We can live in peace and in justice – in God’s love – in the spirit of his wisdom – as we pray ‘Come Lord Jesus’.

Lord, we would like to see our world renewed into a place of peace and harmony.  Renew us by your life-giving Spirit, so that we can be agents of peace, justice and love where we are, and so be part of your great purpose for the whole creation.  Amen 

Advent Pilgrimage Week 1

•December 1, 2022 • Leave a Comment

This year I am sharing some Advent Reflections online. The theme is Pilgrimage. I have to confess that I wrote this a few years ago, and have no idea what the inspiration I used was, my apologies if I have inadvertently plagiarised anyone else’s work, but the setting is definitely mine.

Pilgrimage to Jerusalem

Isaiah 2: 1-5

The Future House of God

The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

In days to come
   the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
   and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
   Many peoples shall come and say,
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
   to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
   and that we may walk in his paths.’
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
   and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
   and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
   and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
   neither shall they learn war any more.

Judgement Pronounced on Arrogance

O house of Jacob,
   come, let us walk
   in the light of the Lord!

This is the spoken recording

Or if you prefer the written version:

Going to a place where we can be close to God.

Before Jesus were born, the Jewish people had been waiting for a very long time – years and years and years – for God to send a special leader who would set them free from being ruled by other nations.

They waited and waited – and then God did something – he sent an angel to give Mary some good news.  We do not know what God will do – all we can do is wait.


We are going on a journey.  ‘Imagine you are on a special journey, and on the way you begin to meet up with people of all different places.  You notice that they are wearing different clothes than you, and some are speaking different languages.  But as you walk along, you realise that you are all walking to the same place.’

Imagine your first glimpse of this special place.  It is still a long way to go, but you can see it towering above all the other mountains.  How are you feeling?

People around you are beginning to talk to one another, saying, ‘Lets go to the mountain of the Lord God of Jacob and worship in his temple.  The Lord will teach us his law from Jerusalem, and we will obey him.’

You keep moving forward, climbing the steep hill.  It’s hard work, but before long you reach the top.  Look around.  How do you feel now you have reached this destination?

‘On this first week in Advent, as we begin our journey towards Christmas, Isaiah points to a day when all nations will come together to listen to God.  But we know that even when God sent his very own son, Jesus, into the world, still the people did not listen.  Jesus promised that one day he would come again and at that time nations would never again go to war.

In Advent we remember when Jesus first came to the earth, and we look forward to when Jesus will come again.

Isa tells us to look ahead – on a journey of hope – for God’s promises are not empty.  Waiting for the coming saviour – who will come, not just at Christmas, but one day will finally come again and bring in the era of justice and peace.

We are asked to look beyond where we are, to be people of vision, and to look out to the world around us.

Yes the world is still war-torn, distressed, broken – and greedy too.  Yet that is the world into which Jesus came.  That is the world for which we pray, and in which we must live as Christ’s disciples.  Where we must play our part in making peace.

God of hope, give us this Advent a faith that looks inwards to the deepest longings of our own hearts, upwards to the heavenly city and out to the whole world.  Hold before our eyes this vision of hope as we joyfully wait for the coming of the Saviour.  Amen

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