December 11, 2016
Matthew 11:2-11
James 5:7-10
Isaiah 35:1-10


Easter in Advent
Advent 3

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Cathy Venkatesh
The third Sunday of Advent is traditionally one that emphasizes joy. Our readings invite us into the joy of new life with God and to examine our hearts to discover what may be keeping us from fully embracing that joy. Ultimately, in this season (as in all seasons) we are called to live into the hope of the resurrection.

Isaiah 35:1-10
Although today’s oracle appears in the section scholars generally call First Isaiah (Chapters 1-39), its content suggests that it was originally part of Second Isaiah (Chapters 40-55), which dates to the 6th century BCE. In Second Isaiah, an unknown prophetic voice (only First Isaiah may be attributed to the prophet of that name) offers consolation to Israelites living in captivity in Babylon in light of their coming liberation under Cyrus of Persia. In today’s reading, a vision of rejoicing exiles returning safely to Zion bears some similarities to the opening verses of Second Isaiah in chapter 40. A highway is made in a desert wilderness, and the wilderness is itself freed from the captivity of drought, just as the people are freed from the captivity of Babylon and the captivity of failing bodies. The commands “Strengthen the weak hands” and “Say to those of a fearful heart” may come from the heavenly council that appears in Isaiah 6 and again in Isaiah 40. The highway through the desert describes the land that separated Babylon and Judah, and is reminiscent of both the Exodus experience and the special roads Babylonians made for the festive processions of their own gods. The weak knees and fearful hearts must be strengthened for the joyous journey ahead. God’s approach with vengeance and terrible recompense in verse 4 is good news to those who hear this oracle -- God’s vengeance will be against their oppressors, not them. Their ransom (verse 10) has been paid, and they will soon return home singing -- possibly the songs of their homeland they were too grief-stricken to sing in captivity (Psalm 137)....

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