10 Pass through, pass through the gates!
Prepare the way for the people.
Build up, build up the highway!
Remove the stones.
Raise a banner for the nations. (Read the rest of the chapter here!)
There is work to be done, and we are called to do it
I love this chapter. I found it by Googling “Bible Passages for Christmas Eve.” It’s so joyous, so regal: Perfect for the birth of the person we call our Lord and Savior. I also like how grounded it is, despite all it’s jubilation: There is work to be done to prepare for this party, and this chapter recognizes that fact.
I’d like to compare and contrast this chapter to another passage we haven’t yet read in this blog, but one you are probably familiar with if you’re a regular church-goer or Bible reader: the parable of the ten bridesmaids in Matthew 25:1-13. In it, there are five wise bridesmaids, who keep the oil for their lamps full while waiting for the bridegroom – who was very late – to arrive. The five foolish bridesmaids did not plan ahead. When they did not have enough oil for their lamps they had to go buy more, missing the entrance of the groom, and were unable to gain admittance to the party afterwards. The message: making sure you are prepared at all times for (the return of) God.
In Isaiah 62, just as in Matthew 25, we are anticipating the start of a large celebration. But this is not just passive waiting, in both passages we are called to do the work of preparation. And there is much to be done. In the Matthew 25 parable, that work is summed up in the keeping of the oil, but here, Isaiah is a little more elaborate: we must keep watch, as the bridesmaids did; but also pray – pray until God has no rest; we must prepare the way for the people, build up the highway, and raise a banner. There is also reference to harvesting grain and gathering grapes. Now, I’m not a literalist: I don’t think there is a highway waiting to be built that will literally bring God down to us. So, if it’s all a metaphor, what does it mean we need to do?
Spiritual Callings can be fulfilled in many ways
I think it means we need to be engaged in conscious and joyful work. We need to find our callings, and follow them. This is not career advice, necessarily, though good on you if you’re bringing home a paycheck in an area about which you’re passionate. But it can be through other ways, too. Take this blog, for instance: It’s something I was moved to do after witnessing too many self-professed Christians making excuses for Trump’s deplorable behavior towards women, espousing hateful Islamophobic rhetoric, and disowning children – literally abandoning them on the street – for coming out as gay. That is not what Christianity is, and I felt I needed to add my voice to those counteracting the worst examples of so-called Christian morality. Am I a full-time writer? I wish…maybe one day. Am I a theologically trained clergyman? Definitely not, and unless I win the lottery and can go to seminary school just for kicks, that’s never going to happen. But it is still a calling, it is still something I am committed to do.
Other people achieve this type of work by volunteering, some are activists, and others are just caring individuals who feel called to kindness and stewardship of those immediately surrounding them. So like I said, this conscious and joyful work may not be your main hustle, but I think it is something we all need to find time for in our lives. Finding a cause that is larger than ourselves creates new relationships with others, enriches us spiritually and socially, and reinforces the best parts of society through stewardship. This is the type of work that will metaphorically build the highway for the return of Jesus. So follow the advice of this chapter: keep watch through close observation: see what needs are out there, and what makes you passionate. Pray to God for guidance in these passions (it took me two years, a lot of self-doubt, and a lot of prayer to actually get around to starting this blog after my initial idea), then go forth, do the work, and raise that banner: proclaim it to the world. This is not to be boastful, but to let others know where you stand, and to rally them to your cause. In doing so, we have already become “a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of our God,” one of the Holy People, the Redeemed, and the Sought After, fully ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the promise of the second coming of our Savior, and the reward that is with him.