By Garrett Vickrey
If you were to put the book of Isaiah to a musical score there would be a whole rest between chapters 39 and 40. If this sacred book were a piece of music. There would be a gaping silence as the work moved between these chapters. The lament of the brass instruments would fade into silence as the minor riff gave way to the nothingness of rest.
The silence of the rest would house the anxiety of the people in exile. The silence would give voice to their uncertainty as to what would happen to them.
Isaiah 40 would begin with a sustained note. A note of hope coming from nowhere. Middle C surprises. A hopeful note. Add in the 4th and the 5th and now a joyful chord returns to our ears. The anxious rest is broken by harmonic hope.
“Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God.
Out of silence and brokenness, perceived chaos, God is speaking. God is creating again out of nothing.
A way appears in the wilderness. A straight path home. Every valley shall be lifted up, every mountain made low.
The glory of God is being revealed. All this from rest.
From quiet. From nothing.
In that rest are the seeds of the next measure. Without silence music is indistinguishable. Time and tone team together to draw us into melody and harmony. Even in rest there is a dynamic at work we cannot fully understand until the next moment. But, if we trust the composer we have hope that the beauty of the score will be revealed. And it’s the anticipation of that revelation that is almost as exciting as the revelation itself.
Frederick Buechner writes, “The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment.”
For now we wait. And in the terrible hope of our joyous anxiety we wait knowing that the end of this season redefines the contour and even the chaos of the present.