Truly, O people in Zion, inhabitants of Jerusalem, you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when he hears it, he will answer you. 20Though the Lord may give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. 21And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’
23 He will give rain for the seed with which you sow the ground, and grain, the produce of the ground, which will be rich and plenteous. On that day your cattle will graze in broad pastures; 24and the oxen and donkeys that till the ground will eat silage, which has been winnowed with shovel and fork. 25On every lofty mountain and every high hill there will be brooks running with water—on a day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall. 26Moreover, the light of the moon will be like the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold, like the light of seven days, on the day when the Lord binds up the injuries of his people, and heals the wounds inflicted by his blow. - Isaiah 30:19-21, 23-26
The Advent journey is four weeks long but those four weeks are a mixture of busyness and meditation. The readings especially give us things to consider and guides for Advent living not just through December but throughout the year. It's just that at Advent we focus more on those guides.
Isaiah the prophet is one whose words we read fairly frequently through Advent. Isaiah spoke to Israelites in exile; his words not only gave reasons for why this was happening but also hope and encouragement for them to live righteous lives so. He was reminding them that God had not forgotten them and that if they led those righteous lives, God would rescue them from captivity.
The Babylonian Captivity was not really slavery. The upper and ruling classes were removed from Israel and taken to Babylon. There they were not treated as slaves but were allowed to practice their religion and their crafts even as they mourned for the lives that they had been forced to leave behind. Isaiah's prophecies spoke to their dreams and memories of green pastures, fat flocks and herds, and once again being God's chosen people. All they had to do was keep the faith and follow God's laws and teachings. God would be their guide, letting them know which way to go.
Two things the Advent journey is supposed to help us learn: which way to go, and practice in listening for God's voice and direction in our ears. It's sometimes hard to remember, what with all the baking, shopping, wrapping, decorating, and celebrating to be done between now and Christmas. But we can't lose sight of the road we walk as Christians.
It's all well and good to say we're preparing for the day we're taken to heaven to be with God, Jesus, and all the saints, both canonized and not, yet God keeps reminding us that we are responsible for making the kingdom here and now, not there and then. This is why the Advent journey is so important. We need to be reminded that it isn't all about us-- it's about caring for others. Those who are hungry will stay hungry until and unless we do something about it. Those who are homeless, ill in mind or body, imprisoned, living in fear, hopeless, or trying hard to find the way. We ourselves may find that we are in one of those categories and aren't sure what to do.
Isaiah has a message for us: "Though the Lord may give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. 21And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’
Listen for God. Isaiah's lesson is for us today as it was for the Israelites. It is the way, and we need to walk in it.