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Summary: Encourage and empower believers to be strong because God has given them life and a highway to heaven.

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NIV Isaiah 35:1 The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, 2 it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God. 3 Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; 4 say to those with fearful hearts, "Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you." 5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. 6 Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. 7 The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow. 8 And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it. 9 No lion will be there, nor will any ferocious beast get up on it; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, 10 and the ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

Introduction: We did it. We found the perfect tree. We cut down a live tree this year to be our Christmas tree. My wife was busy, so I said I would set up the tree while she was gone shopping with the children. When I got it home and put it into the stand I noticed the worst thing possible: the trunk was crooked. No matter how much pressure and whatever angle I chose the tree was obviously crooked. AS I pushed and pulled, my hand slipped and my elbow smashed a hole in the drywall. After wrestling with the treeI gave up. I thought maybe if I strung the lights just right it would look acceptable. As I am holding the lights, I plug them in one by one to make sure they work. When I plugged the first string of lights into the socket they short out bursting the bulb that I am holding in my hand. My finger is now bleeding from the cut. I bandage up the singed and cut finger and place the rest of the lights and ornaments on the tree. Just as I finish my wife comes in with the kids, sits down on the couch and simply begins to sob. The tree is just plain ugly. - Crooked tree - Busted Lights –– Bleeding finger – Crying child and wife. This is what Christmas is all about? If you feel a little disenchanted with Christmas celebrating this year, you are not alone. The Lord has given us some encouragme3nt through Isaiah to help us celebrate Christmas in this world of sin! Be strong and courageous! Your God Comes! He comes to give life to his people. He comes to make a highway for his people.

In the first half of the book of Isaiah, God’s Words about the future of His people, the overriding theme is one of judgment of the Assyrians for their wicked sins as well as judgment of the Israelites for turning their back on God by calling on other Gods for help and ignoring the words of their Savior-God. Now in chapter 35, the second half of Isaiah starts. A radical change is seen in the second half of His prophecy – rejoicing, blessings, mercy, grace and life for God’s people. To picture this radical change among God’s people, Isaiah uses the picture of a desert. A desert has some plants and animals, but it is not a hot bed for life. The desert is a harsh place to live. The sun scorches the land until it cracks. The night sky freezes the land because of the little plant life that can survive. The desert is a harsh and barren place to live, if something can survive at all. Isaiah says look again at the desert. The desert is bursting forth with life! The smell of Cedar trees fills the desert, like it was Lebanon. The huge branches of oak trees cover the desert with cool shade during the day. Acres of roses and crocus cover the desert floor with color. How is this possible? God has given the beauty of nature to the desert. True enough the desert does bloom with some types of cactus, but mighty oak trees, cedar woods and sweet smelling roses? The desert would have unnatural beauty in this radical change! How is this possible? The Lord, God Almighty is how this is possible. Isiah just says it will be given to it. All the this beauty and lush life would be given to the desert.


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