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December 21st

Day 21

Isaiah 62:10-12

Go through, go through the gates,
prepare the way for the people;
build up, build up the highway,
clear it of stones,
lift up an ensign over the peoples.
The Lord has proclaimed
to the end of the earth:
Say to daughter Zion,
'See, your salvation comes;
his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.'
They shall be called, 'The Holy People,
The Redeemed of the Lord';
and you shall be called, 'Sought Out,
A City Not Forsaken.'

The restoration of Jerusalem

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done... every
time we pray these words we express a wish for something which has not yet been fully realised
and is not within our direct control. We express fervent desire and determined praise, but the
subjunctive mood reflects the uncertainty inherent in longing.

Praise does not rest entirely on experience of what God has done. Throughout the Old Testament,
particularly in the psalms and the prophets, it rests also on what the Lord has promised to do and
on what is known about him through the promise, as well as through past acts of deliverance.

Isaiah proclaims the approaching restoration of Jerusalem. The signs are clear but it has not yet
happened. God will lead his people back to the city and will establish them there. This colourful
scene appears to take place before the prophet's eyes. But he has just prompted sentinels
posted on the city walls (he probably means the prophets) to take no rest in reminding the Lord of
his promise, and to give the Lord no rest until he has done it and has made the city renowned
throughout the earth (verses 6&7). It has not yet taken place, but it is like the imminent birth of a
child or a wave that is about to crash upon the seashore.

Like Isaiah's proclamation, Christian prayer in Advent looks ahead to the saviour's coming. The
promise has been heard but the saviour is not yet in sight. We live in hope and pray with
conviction, reminding God not to delay, determined to pray as if the expectation had been met
already, praising God for what he will do, as though he had done it already.

O Lord, you promise to lead the people back into a desolate city. You lead us through the trials of
life, supporting us where we can act, spurring us on in prayer where control is out of our hands.
May the promise of salvation be so real to us this Advent that your leading and our hope become
as tangible as a procession through the city gates. Amen

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