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On the Highway to Holy Way!

No, I didn’t get the lyrics to that AC/DC song wrong! The title is from the original Isaiah LP, 35:8-10. Isaiah constantly made the Iron Age’s Billboard charts. His greatest hits are played as our Advent texts:

“A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it, but it shall be for God’s people; no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray. No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there. And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”

During my study leave just before Thanksgiving, I attended the Society of Biblical Literature and the American Academy of Religion national meetings in San Diego. While there I visited Chicano Park. Have you ever been? It’s just below the highway that goes from San Diego to Coronado Island in Barrio Logan. It is home to the country’s largest outdoor collection of murals. Barrio Logan developed as a Mexican-American settlement at the turn of the 20th century, but was galvanized as a community in the 1960s when Interstate 5 was constructed through and hoisted above it. The community lost over 5,000 homes and businesses. And after being told they would get a park as a consolation prize, it was discovered in 1970 that what was going to be their park was being prepared for— wait for it. . . a parking lot! 

Fed up, the Chicano community of Barrio Logan took over the construction prep and reclaimed the land, and prepared the land for planting instead of more asphalt. Organized people power won out against systems of development predicated on exclusion. The now famous murals there depict collective struggle from the Mexican Revolution from which the first inhabitants of Barrio Logan fled to the United Farm Workers’ struggles for dignity in the 1960s to more modern motifs. These struggles for human dignity informed the struggle of the community of Barrio Logan. 

Judeans in exile also drew inspiration from struggles. Isaiah’s second album, has a hit that begins, “A voice cries out: ‘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. (Isa. 40:3-5). 

Preparing the way of the LORD doesn’t consist of a forced eminent domain, without taking into consideration the needs and circumstances of others, but rather community working together to ensure that all have the right of passage, making the road by walking. Valleys ought to be lifted up, not paved over. In God’s Kindom, creating a highway doesn’t mean others are relegated to the low way. Advent is about the preparation of holy space, where all will soon have a place where sorrow and sighing fade away, and only joy and gladness are behind all the horns and lights on a road which unites and doesn’t divide. So as we enter into the season of Advent, let us reflect on how we prepare space and are preparing the way, on the road, in parking lots, and in our neighborhoods. And here’s to some more good Advent Hits this year! Amen. 

–Pastor Marvin