“Comfort, oh comfort my people,”
says your God.
“Speak softly and tenderly to Jerusalem,
but also make it very clear
That she has served her sentence,
that her sin is taken care of—forgiven!
She’s been punished enough and more than enough,
and now it’s over and done with.”
Thunder in the desert!
“Prepare for God’s arrival!
Make the road straight and smooth,
a highway fit for our God.
Fill in the valleys,
level off the hills,
Smooth out the ruts,
clear out the rocks.
Then God’s bright glory will shine
and everyone will see it.
Yes. Just as God has said.” (Is 40)
The Advent beat goes on. Bold promises of God coming to save God’s people greet us daily as we open the Advent scriptures.
I want to shout, “When?” When is God really going to come to clean up all the messes in the world? We see poverty, hunger, disease, human trafficking, oppression and economic exploitation, refugees, and migrants, wars and rumors of war. God has had thousands of years to clean up these messes. What gives? Why does it take the all-powerful God so long to fill the valleys and level off the hills?
I think I have a clue. Yesterday, watching a video lecture from Robert Hazen of George Mason University, The Origins and Evolution of the Earth, I heard some explanations about deep time. Our beloved Appalachian Mountains used to be as tall as the Himalayas. Over time they have been leveled and the valleys have been filled; however, Professor Hazen applied a hip pocket formula which concluded that it takes hundreds of millions of years to do so.
Imagine the people listening to Isaiah. Without bulldozers and earth movers, it would take them a long, long time to fill the valleys and level the hills. Picks and shovels make for slow work! Even with bulldozers and earth movers, it would take us a long time to level mountains.
Creation along with us is groaning its way toward the Omega Point when all valleys will be filled and all hills leveled. God is working in and through creation as it evolves. Mountains are leveled by the repeated friction of small streams following gravity into the valley.
Today is an historic day. On this day in 1941, Thomas Merton entered the monastery to continue his long journey toward union with God. Today is Human Rights Day, a fitting day to celebrate the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela who freed South Africa from apartheid. Interestingly enough, Merton was in the monastery for 27 years and Mandela was in prison for 27 years. The journey toward justice and peace and the Kin-dom is a long and arduous one but, as my Buddhist fiends say, “All the way to Nirvana is nirvana.”
Nirvana is Mother Teresa cleaning us a dying person in a gutter in Calcutta. Nirvana is the word of kindness spoken to someone in need. Nirvana is providing small financial assistance to a food program for children in Haiti. Nirvana is writing your congress person in support of just immigration reform. Nirvana is having the courage in a red state to speak up for affordable health care.
Nirvana—all the small steps we take, gradually levels the mountains and fills in the valleys. I hope my 50 mile journey today to learn about the new Georgia ethics law and my responsibilities on the local county board of elections will be one small step toward assuring integrity in the electoral process. Often, I wonder why I said “Yes” when asked to serve on the board. It is one small way that I can assure people that their vote will count. I say this not to brag but to challenge you to think of the small ways in which you can help level mountains and fill in valleys. When we take these small steps, we are comforting God’s people.