Tuesday of Advent 3 – 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 have an anxious heart,
    “Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
    will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
    He will come and save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
    and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness,
    and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
    and the thirsty ground springs of water;
in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down,
    the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

And a highway shall be there,
    and it shall be called the Way of Holiness;
the unclean shall not pass over it.
    It shall belong to those who walk on the way;
    even if they are fools, they shall not 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.
10 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return
    and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
    they shall obtain gladness and joy,
    and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Talley had been limited to her nursing home for many years. She had once been something of a force to contend with, by all estimations of her. She had been one of the drivers behind the founding of the first parish that I served. But by the time I arrived, her once erect frame had been bent by age, her eyes dimmed, and her mind emptied of memories and reason.

At first, I did not even know that she existed. When I arrive at the parish the records were almost non-existent and there was no accurate list of shut-in members. But Kay remembered her. Kay had served beside this older woman for years. So, we worked together, had some folks volunteer to help, and we started to bring Talley to church again. I don’t know how much she cognitively got out those last visits to worship. But I saw her smile when she walked in. She was with people who cared about her. She was home.

Isaiah wrote for God’s beleaguered people of long-ago words of hope and encouragement. Some of them were far from home, others grieved the loss of family and friends, some were enslaved, and others exiled. But these promises are not just for them. They are for us too. I presided at Talley’s funeral a few years after I arrived. We laid her to rest with members of her family while others stood round that tomb and grieved. Her weak hands and frail knees bother her no more. The deserted places of her mind are no longer dry and empty. She fears no foe, no wild beast, or any other problem. Christ her Lord has kept these promises to her. Everlasting joy is upon her head. She has obtained gladness and joy. Sighing and sorrow have fled away.

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