Today is Thursday the 6 December, the feast of St Nicholas, in the first week of Advent.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo sing: ‘Uthando Olungaka’:  ‘Who will separate us from the love of God?’ That’s a good thought to enter into prayer with, to begin my prayer today: to rest easy in the love of God, to know that I am safe in that love which nothing and noone can take away from me.

Today’s reading is from the Prophet Isaiah.

The picture of a city given in today’s reading is complex and interesting. It is presented in at least three stages. Let’s take them one by one. Firstly, we hear from the inhabitants of a strong city. Its walls are high, its gateways strong. They have nothing to fear. Can you imagine what it’s like to live in a city like that?

Surprisingly, though, these people do not stay cocooned in their safety. They open the gates, so that all sorts of other people can come flooding in. Picture yourself among them, greeting and being greeted.

At the end of the passage, the mood darkens. The city has become proud, rejecting the poor and needy. So God acts on their behalf, and the proud city is laid waste. Where does your imagination take you now? Are you with the proud inhabitants, lamenting their fate? Or are you on the side of the helpless, rejoicing in the city’s downfall?

As you hear Isaiah’s words again, notice where your attention come to rest.

Isaiah speaks of a city long ago. Talk to God about anything that resonates with your experience in the picture that he paints.