Many years ago, I had a vision of this very scripture. The mountain of the Lord, all nations streaming toward this one glorious house of God, an abiding peace reigned where once there had been war. I might not have given much thought to the images had it not been for one amazing reality. At the time, I had never read the Bible. I had never read these very words from the prophet Isaiah and yet, in my mind’s eye, I saw the images so beautifully crafted in Isaiah’s writing. Everything, including the meaning behind the images, was so very clear.
Now, I’m not much of an artist, but I made a poor stab at capturing on paper what some divine sight had already drawn in my mind. The images were rough at best but I remember capturing this stream of nations flowing to the heart of a mountain like a great river. I could sense God’s presence in those heights drawing people from all these troubled nations together, causing them to lay aside their swords and to pick up the tools of production, growth, and peace. It was really quite beautiful but I quickly chalked it up to dream. Perhaps, it was. Perhaps, it is.
We all long for war to be replaced by peace and spears to be exchanged for pruning hooks. We long for the day when one nation will not lift a hand against another. We especially long for a day where there will be no war and peace will reign supreme. Another dream perhaps but one few of us would wish to deny as impossible. In God’s future, “the holiest ground becomes the highest ground – above all other elevations will be the place of awe.” A Baptist pastor wrote those last beautiful words. What they say to me is what they may say to you too: we all have a yearning for a creation made in the image of God’s hope for us. What we have in this moment is a creation struggling to find a foothold at the edge of this peaceful stream leading to the heights of God’s eternal reign. We may hope for peace but, right now, we face endless wars, internal disruptions, and disharmony. In such a climate, lighting one small candle to represent hope seems strangely insignificant.
In preparation for Thanksgiving and the start of Advent, two telling news comments caught my attention. Every year, our US government makes an effort to provide for service men and women worldwide a Thanksgiving feast and so it was reported yesterday some 50,000 troops in Afghanistan were enjoying a special Thanksgiving meal away from home. The number of troops still stationed in Afghanistan is staggering but what was so much more alarming was the reporter’s after comment – we have been a presence in Afghanistan for 13 years. Thirteen years of conflict that defies the way to peace yet, which we still feel uneasy about calling a war.
The other extraordinary moment reported not only on the news but also, by our preacher, Pieter Nijssen at the Thanksgiving Eve service Wednesday night was this astonishing fact. This year, the first day of Hanukah fell on our traditional Thanksgiving Day. This won’t happen again for more than 77,700 plus years. Are we left to feel that peace in our lifetime is as impossible as anyone of us witnessing a repeat of the two celebrations falling again on the same day?
For those listening to Isaiah, his words of hope may have seemed as impossible as you or I ever witnessing the concurrence of Hanukah and Thanksgiving. Peace may have seemed as illusive to the people of Israel in Isaiah day as it often seems to us in this day. And yet, called to preach hope, to predict peace, to prophesy a day when swords would become plowshares and spears, pruning hooks, Isaiah persisted. He pointed to another day, a day when the Messiah would come and today, we point to that same hope. God will prevail; in the end God’s way, peace everlasting, will win out over the way of war. It can not any other way for to lose hope, to allow the candle to burn out would be to give in to human selfishness and to forget divine intention. At the moment, we are conceived, at the dawn of human existence, God set in place a plan. When it will occur and how may seem like as illusive to us as the end of any one of the wars in which our world is caught up, as illusive and unimaginable as another day of shared celebration between Jews and Christians. We may not be able to see the reward but we hope in the promise, it will happen. “…Nation shall not life sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. …Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!” Amen.
 Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 1, Paul Simpson Duke, 3.