And All the Merry-Hearted Sigh
The earth dries up and withers… The earth lies polluted under its inhabitants; for they have broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore…the wine dries up, the vine languishes, and all the merry-hearted sigh. – Isaiah 24:4-7 (NRSV)
Not everyone can drink safely. Alcohol is deadly for some people. So not everyone responds well to the use of wine as an image of earthly well-being.
Still, for as long as humans have cultivated grapes and drunk wine, imagination has made the metaphorical link: fat grapes heavy on the vine, free-flowing wine in ample supply, merry-hearted people singing – all’s right with the world.
So when a poet speaks instead of withering vines, shriveling grapes, and wine in short supply, we stop in our tracks. When erstwhile-flushed consumers sigh, when all they do is sigh, our blood runs cold.
The trouble is moral before it is ecological: breathtaking human fecklessness has sickened everything. Our arrogance, greed, and violence have us in a death spiral. All creation is swept into the vortex with us. There is no wine.
In Advent, we kneel in this devastated wasteland of our own making and thirst and thirst for want of wine until we finally feel how much we need a savior; until our hoarse sighs turn heaven towards us with the gift of a joy-maker who knows we have no wine and comes earthward anyway.
He will soon be arriving to our sagging feast. When he appears, he will take immense jars of countless bitter tears and turn them into song. He will draw out wondrous drink and re-start the wedding. It will be safe for all, and he will consume it with us, merry-hearted. He will make us well, the earth well, and all manner of thing, well.
Marantha! Come, Lord Jesus!
About the Author
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.