I intended to share with you today a version of my original song “Holiness Road” sung, with full rock band accompaniment, by the Rev. Christine Coy-Fohr, when she was a 16 year-old member of the youth group at First Presbyterian Church in Owensboro, KY. The lyrics are based on Isaiah 35:1-10, which appears in the lectionary (Year A) as the Old Testament lesson for the third Sunday in Advent (AKA “Gaudete {“Rejoice!”] Sunday”). Unfortunately, despite a diligent effort, I couldn’t find the old tape, which I (re)discovered fairly recently. I did locate a very badly done home recording of me croaking out the song with one of my acoustic guitars, complete with a phone ringing in the background near the end.  But it turns out not to matter anyway; I can’t upload MP3s to this blog. I don’t have the proper plug-in.

So, I’ll just settle for sharing the lyrics with you. But that’s in a bit. The search for the tape and the little feeling of loss I experienced when I couldn’t find the rare recording (which if I truly cherished, I would have put in a readily accessible place) reminded me of another personal loss associated with Advent, greater by several orders of magnitude than misplacing music.

I mean the death of my father one year ago tomorrow.

So I’m grateful for the text of Isaiah 35:1-10, that talks about the desert blossoming and people being renewed and rejoicing, as sorrow and sighing flee away. Here are the prophet’s stirring words:

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. 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.

My own version is a rollicking piece of rock, beginning with a riff rather like one I heard years ago on some Elton John song. It’s fun to play, as I did yesterday, even for the umpteenth time, and sorrow flees away.

Maybe if you feel sadness and have experienced loss, you too can be lifted up as you read:

I’m gonna sing and shout for joy, walkin’ down the holiness road! Nothin’ can my hope destroy, walkin’ down the holiness road!

Walkin’ that holiness road! Walkin’ that holiness road!

Lame man (or one) gonna leap and dance! Walkin’ down the holiness road! Blind man (or one) gonna see at last! Walkin’ down the holiness road!

Walkin’ that holiness road, etc…

God will lead his people, walkin’ down that holiness road! Guide and feed his people, walkin’ down that holiness road.

Walkin’ that, etc.…

God will not desert me, walkin’ that holiness road. No one there to hurt me, walkin’ that holiness road.

Walkin’ that, etc.…

Have a blessed and joyful Sunday and week!

© 2011 Tom Cheatham; “Holiness Road,” words and music © 1995 Tom Cheatham