Third Sunday of Advent
There will be a highway
called the Holy Road.
No one rude or rebellious
is permitted on this road.
It’s for God’s people exclusively—
impossible to get lost on this road.
Not even fools can get lost on it.
No lions on this road,
no dangerous wild animals—
Nothing and no one dangerous or threatening.
Only the redeemed will walk on it.
The people God has ransomed
will come back on this road.
They’ll sing as they make their way home to Zion,
unfading halos of joy encircling their heads,
Welcomed home with gifts of joy and gladness
as all sorrows and sighs scurry into the night.
The promise of a highway to return home on after living as exiles in a conquering country occurs several times throughout the book of Isaiah. Pilgrims who have been living scattered and exiled can now go home and enter the Holy City. God has opened a way in the desert and provided a high road, a holy way, free from danger. Those coming home to the Lord from far places of doubt, disappointment, and displacement will return with gladness and joy.
As a privileged person living in a country where there is not a war on our soil, armed gangs on the roads, or the threat of being displaced due to my race or beliefs, it is difficult to understand the fear of fleeing from sorrow and the pure joy of finding a way home. However, this is not the case with neighboring countries and other peoples in this world. Please read on prayerfully.
Displaced persons are those that flee their home (and refugees their country) as a result of armed conflict, violence, human rights violations, persecution for race, religion or politics, and natural or human-made disasters.
Currently in the news, gang violence has spiraled out of control in strategic neighborhoods in Port-auPrince, Haiti as they instill fear with sexual violence.
The road home is not safe.
Decades of conflict has resulted in more than 2.2 million S. Sudanese fleeing to neighboring countries, creating a full-blown humanitarian emergency. Matthew, one of my Master’s students is from Nuba Mountain, and a survivor of four different bombings of his home and office in 2011 during a time when the regime in power oversaw the mass murder his people. Matthew stays in S. Sudan doing humanitarian work for his people while his family live as refugees in Uganda.
The road home is not safe.
More than 20 million people have had to leave their homes due to extreme weather events, such as abnormally heavy rainfall, prolonged droughts, or sea-level rise and cyclones. In California, tens of thousands are displaced and scattered after wildfires destroy their homes. With increase in housing, poverty and long-term homelessness, some see these displaced as climate migrants. The Dominican Republic is a hotspot for natural disasters, including droughts, earthquakes, flooding, hurricanes, and landslides that have affected up to a quarter of the population.
The road home is not safe.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
PRAY. Lord God, help us to remember those who tonight will go to sleep unfed and unwelcome, strangers in foreign lands, people who have fled for their lives and are far from their homes. We lift up to you those who are escaping persecution and conflict, natural disaster and homelessness. Bring them justice, safety, and home.
Dear Christ Child. Tenderly bless all vulnerable children who are journeying alone in this world. Comfort orphaned children whose parents have been taken from them by violence. Provide for refugee children who are far from home and don’t know where their families may be. Rescue trafficked children whose freedom and innocence have been betrayed. Protect all children who need your care, bringing them justice, safety and home.
ADVENT PRACTICE. With family or friends light three candles. Candle 1-Hope, Candle 2-Peace, Candle 3-Joy. Pray for the displaced to return home to the Lord, that they may obtain gladness and joy and that all sorrow and deep sighs will flee in the presence of the glory of the Lord.
HELP OTHERS GET ON THE ROAD HOME.
The people God has ransomed will come back on this road.
There are countless opportunities in every city to love, and serve. Connect with others who are providing “home” for those who have lost their way. Here are two organizations worthy of your gifts:
Our good friend and colleague, Karen Morrow, faithfully serves refugees in Forth Worth, Texas. Consider volunteering or sending a donation.
Fellowship Southwest is working on the Texas border. They are providing shelter and meals for thousands of desperate Venezuelans. Since 2014, over 7 million Venezuelans have uprooted their lives, leaving their homes, families, and country due to political persecution, civil unrest, and increased poverty. According to the Department of Homeland Security, more than 25% of Venezuela’s population has left their country.
Make safe roads home.
Strengthen the feeble hands,Isaiah 35:3-4
steady the knees that give way;
say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
he will come to save you.”
MAKE YOUR WAY HOME.
If you have felt displaced or discouraged, unable to connect with God, make it your Advent prayer to make your way home to the God who is making a way for you to return.
Build up, build up, prepare the road!Isaiah 57:14-15
Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people.”
For this is what the high and exalted One says—
he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
“I live in a high and holy place,
but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
and to revive the heart of the contrite.”