"Dear Pilgrim, Take Hope" -- an Advent reflection

I wrote a brief reflection for an Advent Reader that Regent College produced and thought I'd share it here. I offer it as an encouragement for our souls in this wearying season of work, shopping, noise, friendship, deadlines, disappointments, worship, anxieties, expectations, laughter, and preparation for Christ's coming.

DEAR PILGRIM, TAKE HOPEA Reflection on Isaiah 35:1-10

I don't know if my pecan trees are old and tired or young and tired.

I live in a neighborhood where pecan trees rise eighty to hundred feet high into the burning Texas sky, towering reddish-brown canopies, silent bearers of a buttery fruit. But this year they've turned strange. All summer long they've been falling apart, losing limbs, with a kind of wild fever. Thick, scaly branches rip away and crack the air with an unnerving screeching sound, then plummet with a whoosh and whirl of leaves and a ka-whoomp onto the ground. All down my block, day and night, branches crash on top of cars and roofs and lawns. A great whine of chainsaws follows soon after.

Good things that should be strong and enduring are falling apart: trees, marriages, Olympic athletes, childhood dreams, homes in New Orleans, old books, friendships, a beautiful pair of shoes, the human heart. Seeing so much brokenness makes me sad and even despair.

But the words of Isaiah interrupt my downward spiral. Hang in there, dear pilgrim. Brokenness will not have the last word.

The Lord speaks:

Strengthen weakened hands
Make firm feeble knees
Say to those who are fearful-hearted:
"Be strong! Do not fear!"

Blind, deaf, lame, and dumb—of body and heart—will be made whole. Wastelands will blossom. The hot sands will become a cool oasis. Wrongs will be made right. And the redeemed of our beautiful King will come dancing home with halos of everlasting joy.

There is a tiredness in the earth, I suppose, that has nothing to do with age. It is a tiredness of living in a world where things fall apart, break down. Yet the prophet calls out to us: Dear pilgrim, take hope.

Gladness and joy shall overtake thee
Sorrows and sighing shall flee away!
(PAINTING: Jim Janknegt's Annunciation, "Joyful Mystery")


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