I’ve been making my way through the book of Isaiah. This morning’s reading was from chapter 6, where the prophet Isaiah receives his call to go to the people of Israel and proclaim God’s judgment of a people who have wandered away from God’s purposes for them. Isaiah asks how long God’s people will languish in a state of spiritual blindness, their senses dulled to right relationship with God and neighbor. God answers: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is utterly desolate; until the Lord sends everyone far away and vast is the emptiness in the midst of the land.”

Until vast is the emptiness.

In other words, until the Babylonians have laid waste to the kingdom of Israel (technically Judah then), sending its people into captivity.

Physical emptiness, or the barrenness of the land, is a sign of God’s judgment, at least in Isaiah’s case. An indication that Israel has turned its back on life with God to pursue other gods. But what about spiritual emptiness? The gaping hole in one’s soul that only God can fill has become a bit of an annoying cliche. (I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard it in sermons.) But the awareness that one is ultimately and existentially alone, and ultimately and existentially accountable for how one lives in the face of death, is a way to couch this emptiness that we tend to avoid as much as humanly possible until avoidance is no longer possible.

I don’t know: did God make us with this hole that longs to be filled, as the cliche often goes? Maybe.

Or, is this emptiness as much a a sign of our spiritual dislocation? A dulling of our senses for the things of God, things like truth, beauty and justice, and faith, hope and love?

Too often Advent can be a time when we ignore the emptiness. But what if we listened to it just for a moment? Where would it lead us? Certainly away from our cell phones and white noise on the radio. Maybe to One who will save us from ourselves and be with us in our ultimate and existential aloneness, in a way that only God can do. Maybe even to a child in a manger.

Here is Louis CK with some thoughts on “that forever empty thing”:

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