A couple of months ago, I went camping alone, totally isolated somewhere in the middle of Pennsylvania. Dirt roads, no signal, completely in the dark. I thought it would be a cool spiritual experience – it was not. Instead of the perfect night’s sleep I had hoped for, I laid awake for hours. The sound of every falling leaf reminded me that I was alone, causing my imagination to devise ridiculous scenarios of what I assumed was an inevitable demise at the hands of a bear, a murderer, or some other unlikely adversary. I was terrified, and as soon as morning came, I scrambled back to civilization.
Scripture talks about the wilderness a lot, and this is how I picture it: alienated from society, totally vulnerable, and constantly on edge. But you don’t necessarily need to travel very far for this kind of experience. For some of us, the wilderness is right here in our city, our homes, and our everyday lives. And regardless of where we find it, we all know that this is a world that’s deeply broken and in need of redemption.
Long before Christ was born, God spoke words of comfort to the Israelites through the ancient prophet Isaiah, assuring them that a messiah would one day come to rule and to serve them in a glorified world, where valleys rise high and mountains bow low. But they’d need to get ready – in the wilderness, they’d need to prepare the way for this coming Lord. Continue reading