It was vv. 6-8 that caught my attention.
6 A voice said, "Shout!" I asked, "What should I shout?" "Shout that people are like the grass. Their beauty fades as quickly as the flowers in a field. 7 The grass withers and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the LORD. And so it is with people. 8 The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever."
I was thinking about hope. Isa 40 is a text intended to reignite hope in the hearts of the Jews living through Babylonian exile (and I tend to think that chapter 40 is addressed to those still in the Land and not to the exiles, but that's neither here nor there for now).
We humans are frail creatures - like grass. And sometimes circumstances are such that we even struggle to hope. Sometimes it can feel as if darkness if our only companion. That's part of our fragility - we can be broken not only physically but also psychologically. Can we speak of hope in such a situation?
We can speak of hope in an objective and in a subjective sense. If someone feels hope then we might speak of subjective hope. Objective hope refers to the reality of a situation irrespective of how people feel about it.
Now the prophet contrasts the weakness of humanity (like grass) with the stability of God's word (it endures forever). And objective hope is grounded on God's word of promise. There is hope because God promises to redeem. That is the case whether or not anyone knows it; whether or not anyone believes it. In the end we have hope because God ... And any Christian hope that we feel is only genuine Christian hope to the extent that it is founded on that word of promise.
But there is a rest to be found here. Feeling hope is important - and Isa 40:1-11 set out to inspire just such hope - but in the end there is nothing that we can do to eradicate our objective hope because that depends on God and not on us. Nobody is in a genuinely hopeless situation.
Now - and this is a tentative experimental thought - even our subjective hope must be dependant on God. As frail creatures our ability to have have faith, hope, love, and joy is fractured. But in Christ God even enacts our side of the equation. Christ lives a human life on our behalf. He has faith, hope, love, and joy. The Christian life is a life in which the Holy Spirit gradually enables us to participate in Christ's faith in God, his hope in the divine promises, his love of Yahweh and of his creatures, and his joy in the divine glory.
If that is so then even our felt-hope is grounded in God's promise of redeem creation and in Christ's faithful human response to that promise. May the Spirit grant us all a taste of that hope this Advent.