As the song goes, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Yet as we look around in nature, it doesn’t necessarily seem the most wonderful. Winter and cold seem to be the time of death. The leaves have fallen off the trees. The flowers have withered and died. Even many animals hibernate during the winter months, because they are not suitable for life. It seems that heat brings life, but coldness brings death.
Winter, however, is not the only time that brings death. Drought brings death. Prolonged periods of no rain kills the grass, trees, and produce. Gardens are destroyed and trees begin to die. Although we hope for rain it continues to stay away.
As the winter continues, as the drought continues, and as death continues, it causes us to lose hope. Hope is such a precious commodity. With hope, we can endure even the harshest conditions, and believe that the future is always brighter than the past. But when we lose hope, it’s like a drought infested desert or a winter that never ends; only death will come.
Many will remember the scene from Lewis’s famous Chronicles of Narnia series when Lucy first enters the wardrobe and finds herself in Narnia. When she first arrives she is startled by the fact that there is snow everywhere. Where she comes from, in England, it is summer, but as she soon finds out in Narnia it is winter, and it has been winter for a long time. Mr. Tumnus can’t even remember how long it has been winter in Narnia; ever since the White Witch came to power and Aslan appears to have left. There’s no hope because of the White Witch’s power. Everyone knows that Aslan is the true King of Narnia, the creator and rightful ruler, and if Aslan were ever to return things would be different. But Aslan has been gone for so long, many are starting to wonder if he will ever return. As Mr. And Mrs. Beaver describe it, “it is winter here, but never Christmas.” The cold and death will continue and no one will ever experience the joy of Christmas morning.
In chapters 34-35, Isaiah is describing the emotions inside Israel as the Assyrian army approaches. The Assyrian army was a devastating force, moving rapidly across the landscape, destroying and conquering any nation in their path.Their goal was world domination, and up to this point no one was able to stand up to them. Israel was trying to decide what to do. Their own army had been weakened, but even in their height they had never faced anything as strong and destructive as the Assyrians. The Assyrians were like Sherman’s march to the sea; nothing could stop them and it was total destruction no matter where they went. When Isaiah speaks, he speaks to a people without hope. Isaiah describes it as a wilderness, a desert wasteland, a place of jackals and chaos, a place where the people are those without hope, the blind, the deaf, the hungry, the lame. It is a hopeless situation
We can feel the hopelessness that Isaiah describes because we’ve been there. We’ve been in the room when the doctor says its cancer. We’ve answered the phone when the person from HR says there are no positions available. We’ve heard the collection agency call seeking funds. We’ve experienced the panic of wild fires raging, of school buses crashing, and of terrorists attacking. We know God promises to make all things new, and bring good and not evil. But honestly, God has been so long in coming, the winter seems to always drag on, the rain never seems to come to quench the dry ground, and there seems to be no way home.
Yet Isaiah says in chapter 35 the desert shall rejoice, the dry ground shall become glad, the blind will receive sight, and the lame will leap for joy. Just when you thought there was no hope, God is going to break in and do a new thing. A highway will be there, and it will be called the Holy Way. It will be a place of safety so that the redeemed can return to Zion. The presence of God will be there. God will live and reign with the people. Even the deserts will rejoice because the place of dryness and death will become a place of newness and life. There is hope! No matter what you face. No matter what circumstances you encounter. No matter how bad things become, the true King is coming to reign on the throne and will make all things new.
There’s a beautiful scene in the middle chapters of the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – while it is still winter but never Christmas. Peter, Susan, and Lucy along with Mr. and Mrs. Beaver are traveling to safety when they hear the sound of a sled behind them. Fearing it is the White Which, they run for their lives. But at the last moment they realize, it is not the White Witch, but Father Christmas. For years, because of the evil of the Witch, it has always been winter, but not Christmas. But now, the Witch’s power is being undone. The evil of those days is ending. Christmas has arrived. And after giving them gifts, Father Christmas gives them the best news of all “Aslan is on the move.” The rightful king is coming back to reign and rule the Kingdom.
Today I bring you good news. Let the deserts rejoice and the wilderness be glad – because God is on the move. The time of death, evil, and pain is ending. Even if you can’t see it now, the power of the evil one is being undone. God is on the move. Christmas is here, and the true and rightful king is coming to reign and rule on the throne in his Kingdom.
Behold, I make all things new.