First Reading: Isaiah 35:1-6a

Desolation to Hope

What gives you hope when you feel down?

1 The wilderness and the dry land will be glad.
The desert will rejoice and blossom like a rose.
2 It will blossom abundantly,
and rejoice even with joy and singing.
Lebanonís glory Lebanon will be given to it,
the excellence of Carmel and Sharon.
They will see YHWHís glory,
the excellence of our God.
3 Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
4 Tell those who have a fearful heart, ďBe strong.
Donít be afraid.
Behold, your God will come with vengeance, Godís retribution.
He will come and save you.
5 Then the eyes of the blind will be opened,
and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.
6a Then the lame man will leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute will sing.

World English Bible

Although rooted in first Isaiah, these passages rang true beyond their historical underpinnings. The verses portray eschatological hope, yet assume a dire situation. Notice the contrasts. The barren wilderness would rejoice in springtime bloom. The beauty of natural wonders would be given to the most desolate environs. God would reveal himself in lowest places. And these areas would respond in worship. [35:1-2]

Like the wilderness, the poor and weak would feel the saving touch of God. Those beaten down would be strengthened with a new courage. The ill would be healed. The blind would see. [35:3-6a]

Both the place and the people seem to be in ruin. Yet God would return their glory. In the mind of Isaiah and his contemporaries, this glory would signal a return to past heights for the monarchy. For Jesus' peers, the glory would look ahead to the end of days.

No matter whether we look back or forward for the "ideal" time, let us remember Isaiah spoke of God's initiative, not our own. God's initiative found its zenith in the birth of Jesus. Like Isaiah's audience (or Matthew's), we, too, look forward to the time God visits his people.

What words give you hope when you are down? Why do these words encourage you?