Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!”
See, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved. http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
You can be confident as Advent begins that God desires to meet you where you are, no matter what kind of shape (or shambles) your life is in. Begin Advent with the whole church by lighting a candle, perhaps on an Advent wreath if you have one. Imagine God sitting near you on the other side of the flame.
Then, as Isaiah does, tell God directly what you want to say. You might start off as Isaiah does by saying who God is for you. “You are our father, redeemer forever.” “You are the potter, and we are the clay, the work of your hands.” Imagine the strong, loving hands that shape your hair, your head, your muscles and limbs. Or you may have your own image for God—as friend, confidante, a whisper . . .
As you read Isaiah and speak to God, notice the intimacy in simply saying “You.” That one name—“You”—may be prayer enough.
You can also meander with Isaiah among your own complaints, questions, regrets, awe. As writer Kathleen Norris points out, the scriptures frequently change in an instant, just as our thoughts and emotions do. A lot or a little may fill your prayer.
The God you await this Advent is already waiting for you. How might you find the time, space, and watchfulness to help you meet?
—Mary Anne Reese is a lawyer, poet, and member of Bellarmine Chapel, a Jesuit parish in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Creator of the stars at night,
Your people’s everlasting Light,
O Christ, Redeemer of us all,
We pray you hear us when we call.
—Advent evening hymn from 8th Century