A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
(Isaiah 40:3-5, NIV)
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert.
The burning sand will become a pool,
the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.
(Isaiah 35:6-7, NIV)
I spotted Jesus a couple of weeks ago while I was driving, but I didn’t realize it until yesterday when I was reading these passages from Isaiah. They’re often read in Advent, when we talk not only about Jesus’ first arrival as a baby, but also of his final arrival and all the arrivals in-between. The Gospel writers point to passages like these from Isaiah when they tell the story of John the Baptist, who was tasked with being the “voice in the wilderness.” He prepared the way for Jesus by preparing people’s hearts to receive a messiah who’d look very different from the one they were expecting. He was a highway builder… and in a way, we’re following in John’s footsteps – we’re still building that highway, knowing that one day it will be finished so that God can finally arrive.
Isaiah paints a beautiful picture: A highway is being built. That highway won’t just go through the nice neighborhoods and the scenic byways… it’ll go through the deserts and the wilderness, the wild and untamed places of the world. The valley that was once too deep to cross will now be crossable. The mountain that was once too high to pass will finally be passable. More than just crossable and passable, these wild places will be made beautiful and accessible to all.
A couple of weeks ago I was making a trip west into the central part of Slovakia, and I got to drive on a new section of the highway that spans the country from east to west. They’ve been working on this highway for around 20 years, and it’s still not complete. At some points you’ll be driving 80 mph, and then suddenly you’re dumped off the divided highway onto a winding two-lane road through village, forests and sheep pastures. This new highway section alone probably saves 10 minutes of driving. Plus, it makes the drive much easier on people like our Kaitlyn, who struggle with carsickness!
Twenty-plus years to complete?? Yep. Slovakia’s a small country, but it’s still a wild country – alpine mountains, thick woods, deep valleys and gorges. The highway has required many miles of bridges and tunnels, and untold hundreds of people have devoted their careers to designing and building this highway that will link the East of Slovakia to the West.
Now any analogy breaks down – this one loses steam when you start talking about “taming” wild places. But I still spotted Jesus as I drove along that highway. Because I’d say we still have some deep valleys in the human experience – places you’d think the light of God’s love can’t reach. The depths of human hatred, the valleys of fear and despair… And we still have some mountains, obstacles so tall that they seem insurmountable – poverty, selfishness and violence. These things have been around for centuries, and it seems like they’ll never go away.
But the fact remains, if a highway can be built across a place like Slovakia, a highway can be built most anywhere on solid earth. Similarly, if God can build a highway through some of the darkest parts of human history (as God already has), then God can certainly build a highway through troubled times like ours.
The question is not, “is it even possible for God to come?” No, the real question remains, “How ready is our world for God to arrive?”
Where have you spotted Jesus this week?