One of the texts which many Christians are led to through their lectionary this month contains a prophecy from Isaiah: 3
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas andCaiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, 6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” (Luke 3:1-6 ESV)
Isaiah’s words are poignant. He writes of valleys. He speaks of crooked paths. He tells of rough places.
We know exactly what Isaiah’s describing. Because it’s been front and center now for days.
Could there be a deeper valley than Newtown, CT?
Could there be a more crooked time than Friday, December 14?
Could there be a rougher place than the hearts of those broken by the Sandy Hook shootings?
There’s no glossing over it. There’s no smoothing off the rough edges. Isaiah provides us language to describe the nightmare we’ve living: valleys, crooked paths and rough places.
Yet Isaiah also engages our weary imaginations. He prompts us to remember that the way things are is not the way things will always be. He empowers us to imagine a different world.
A world where valleys are filled. A world where crooked paths are straightened. A world where rough places are leveled.
Isaiah’s saying that God and his people are at work, transforming the world as it is to the world as it should be.
So, let’s not lose hope. Newtown is not a new normal. God’s still at work. Laboring. Toiling. Sweating for the day when every child will be safe and every gun will be silenced.
And, let’s not stop working. Let’s carry on our partnership with God. Despite the fatigue and the fear, let’s keep standing for those who cannot speak for themselves. Let’s give ourselves to the dream of a world in which valleys are no more.