A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the LORD blows on it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.
Go on up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good news;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good news;
lift it up, fear not;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Behold your God!”
Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
behold, his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.
The mortality rate for human beings remains steady at the alarming rate of 100%. “All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people are grass” (Isaiah 40:6–7). Our mortal flesh is fragile. It passes away like grass: here for only a brief season before it withers away. While this may seem like a morbid reflection for Advent, this is, in fact, the beginning of Wisdom. “Teach us to number our days,” the Psalmist prays, “that we may gain wisdom of heart” (Psalm 90:12).
God did not want us to live in the Garden forever as fallen human beings. Mortality is one more of God’s mysterious blessings. The horizon of our life encourages us to take life seriously, to live it with purpose. It gives our actions gravity and meaning. It makes life poignant: my beautiful two-year old daughter, sitting on my lap as I write this, with her golden curls and mischievous smile, will blossom into a lovely young woman but will eventually fade like the rest of us.
But, withering and fading are not the last word! “Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might,” Isaiah cries, before he changes the imagery. “He will feed his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms, he will carry them in his bosom” (Isaiah 40:10–11). We are fragile flesh destined to pass away, yet we are also sheep whom God will feed, gather, and carry close to his heart.
How does this make sense!? Only in the mystery of Christmas. Only in Jesus Christ, the eternal Word of God become our fragile flesh, who through his human fragility gives us the gift of eternal life.
Dr. Jared Ortiz is an associate professor of religion at Hope College.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.