Part I: “Starting Over” (Scripture: Isaiah 11:1-2)
Sometimes people must begin again,
Undertaking a fresh start,
Like new growth from a fallen tree,
Not just a tweak of personality,
But a totally transformed heart.
So it was in Isaiah’s time.
They had tried king after king,
To fix their country’s ills;
But none was able to bring,
The blessing only God fulfills.
For some kings were powerful,
But not terribly smart,
Others were incredibly cunning,
But God’s will played too small a part.
And even those who wanted to do right,
Lacked the power to save,
Let alone having ability,
To change how people behave.
So the people in Isaiah’s time,
Went on their way still sinning;
The only solution possible
Was a totally new beginning.
Then God promised an offspring of Jesse,
The father of David’s line,
A new king greater than David,
Whose power and wisdom combine
To bring God’s kingdom of peace.
Not just a powerful king,
But one in whom justice would rise;
And not just a smart king,
But one who was spiritually wise.
Of course, no descendant of David
Measured up to this;
Nor any other politician
Promising worldly bliss.
A new beginning
Requires someone unique
Like a baby born in a manger,
Whom lowly shepherds might seek.
For the kingdom of God is not built
By weapons of power or might,
But by the bearer of God’s eternal love,
Bringing God’s compassion to light.
And he reigns not by destroying his enemies,
But healing the hurts that divide.
Giving all of us, worthy and unworthy,
The peace only God can provide.
Part 2: “The Pathway to God” (Isaiah 40:1-5)
How do you get to God?
What barriers must be broken?
What stirrings, yearnings in our hearts
Must somehow be awoken?
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
Make straight God’s road,
Let every valley be filled,
Let every mountain erode.”
Is this so I can get to God,
Or so God can get to me?
Is the barrier perhaps a prison
From which God must set me free?
Originally Isaiah foresaw
The return of exiles to their land,
A way back home from Babylon
Across the desert sand.
But preparing a way for the Lord
Involves so much more,
It’s not just a road through the desert
It’s God clearing a path to your door.
But for God to do this
Some barriers must be removed,
The pathway to our hearts
Must be seriously improved.
Pride must be taken down,
Racism brought to naught,
Self-centered greed must go away
And love for all be taught.
The grieving must be comforted,
Guilt must be washed away,
The lowly must be lifted up,
And all of us taught how to pray.
Then God’s glory will be shown
For all the world to see,
And at last our world will finally become
The place God meant it to be.
Part 3: “Telling Others” (Isaiah 52:7-10)
When you’ve gotten some really good news
It is hard to keep it to yourself;
It is not something you tuck away
In the corner of some dusty shelf.
It’s something you can hardly contain,
Your excitement is hard to restrain,
You want everyone to know,
For in the telling your excitement will grow.
So it is with good news from God.
It’s something we are all meant to share;
It’s not something just to be felt,
It’s something we’re meant to declare.
When God brought the Israelites home
From their Babylonian exile,
The people rejoiced
In their newly freed lifestyle.
But God does not rescue people,
Only for the sake of the few,
But that people of all nations might learn
That God’s love is lasting and true.
So Isaiah tells the people good news,
Hoping they will not want to refuse
The opportunity to share it with others.
In a larger family of sisters and brothers.
And this, of course, applies to our church.
In a world of violence and strife,
God is offering us a new life;
Healing the hurts of the past,
And giving us hope that will last
That is not something to keep to ourselves,
It is something we are meant to share,
That the depths of God’s grace and compassion
Might be felt by people everywhere.
It’s something to share in our actions
In our many daily decisions,
In the way we talk to each other,
And the way we share God’s provisions.
So go tell it on the mountain,
Over the hills and everywhere,
That Jesus Christ is born,
To show us the depths of God’s care.
Part 4: “Celebrating with All Creation” (Isaiah 55:12-13)
When people do wrong, it is not just humans
Who suffer some kind of harm;
The whole creation is injured,
Forests, animals, crops on the farm.
Have you seen what happens in a war?
Or when oily birds wash up on the shore?
Nature suffers when people transgress,
Or turn their back on the poor and oppressed.
Thoughtless pollution damages rivers,
Deforestation gives trees the shivers;
Unbridled greed damages the air,
And causes even the fish to despair.
It is not just nations but nature,
That yearns for the coming of God’s king,
It’s not just people but trees
Who hope for the salvation he’ll bring.
So when Isaiah announces good news
Of God’s coming reign,
All creation breathes a sigh of relief,
And joins in the joyful refrain.
Sing the mountains and hills.
Burble the rivers and rills.
Sing the soprano birds
Rumble the bison herds.
In the end God promises
A new heaven and a new earth,
Not a disembodied existence,
But the dawn of creation’s rebirth.
So we pray for God’s kingdom to come
With people of all races and lands,
Looking for the day when we’ll all say hooray,
And the trees of the field will clap their hands.