Comfort, O Comfort My People

Isaiah is writing a letter of hope today.  He is writing to a people who have lost everything as a warring nation has come in and taken them to a foreign land.  Taken from their homes and their ways of life to live as outsiders in a foreign land for 60 years.  The survivors have lost everything they’ve ever known and those born in exile have never know the peace and prosperity that comes from being native to where they live.  For 60 years they’ve served foreign masters. What would Isaiah say to the exiles?

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.

[audio http://www.buzzsprout.com/33052/331346-comfort-o-comfort-my-people.mp3]

If Isaiah were writing a letter of hope today, what would Isaiah say to a Syrian refugee?  What would Isaiah say to a homeless veteran?  What would Isaiah say to a black woman feeling the sting of institutional racism?  What would Isaiah say to a white man denied a position thanks to Affirmative Action?  What word of hope would Isaiah say today?

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.

Isaiah’s words of hope are more than just feel good hope, the kind of hope that says I don’t have to worry because it’s too hard, the kind of hope that ignores reality in favor of feeling good.  What Isaiah is writing is s the real kind of hope that says it is going to be hard but even so, God is with you, even when things are hard, even when things are scary.

I think every generation has had its concerns over the future.  I think back to my grandmother becoming a young mother on a farm at the beginning of the depression in 1930.  And then my dad as a young teenager hearing the world coming apart in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters of WWII.  I can remember in grade school in the 1960s hitting the hallways for our nuclear attack drills.  And today we face any number of challenges that make us wonder about the future.  ISIS.  Mass shootings.  Terrorism.

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.

Sometimes we need to worst of times to recognize the best of God.  When all is going well we’re in serious danger of thinking too much of ourselves.  When all is well it is easy to think we’ve managed to do things right and so we are receiving our just reward.

It is usually when things go badly that we turn to God.  Turning to God in the bad times is a good thing but Advent reminds us that as we prepare to celebrate God coming to us in Jesus, our celebration must actually center around the one who came to save us.

When things are going well it can feel like our celebrations are centered around lights, trees, food and shopping.  All worthy kinds of things to enjoy.  I got some lights up this past week and I’m enjoying them.   But we run the danger of getting focused on these things as being Christmas when it is Christ that is actually Christmas.  Easy to forget when all is well but when things are not going well the lights, trees, food and shopping won’t bring us much in the way of hope.  Christ will.  Christ will bring us hope.

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.

And then in v3, A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

What does this mean, prepare the way of the Lord?  One way to look at it is like this.  We may be drawn to those who speak of gloom and doom.  I’m not sure about the psychology of it all but we seem to be drawn to the negative.  The question we must ask then is what actually feeds our souls?  Where do we spend our time?  Watching and commenting about bad news or reading God’s word in the Bible and praying for comfort from God?  I don’t think it is much of a stretch to say that hope is not found in the television or print media but fortunately for us it is no stretch to say that hope is indeed found in God’s word in the Bible.  Isaiah nails this pretty well in v8: The grass withers, the flower fades;    but the word of our God will stand forever.

It is also no stretch to say that hope is indeed found in prayer.  Our conversations with God, our hopes, our dreams, our brokenness, our heartbreak all lifted up in prayer.  Our prayers are another way we connect with God and we embed hope in our hearts.  Prayers aren’t a magic thing to make everything go our way but are our way to connect with and ever present God.

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.

As we prepare for the arrival of the Christ child, as we get ready for the miracle of the Incarnation, God coming to earth in Christ Jesus, as we look forward to Christmas it is a good time to connect, perhaps reconnect with God in prayer and in God’s word.  A prayer of hope and a word of hope.

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.

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