Advent Devotional | Christmas Day | Year C | December 25th, 2015Read More
Comfort, O comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that she has served her term,
that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.
A voice cries out:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’
A voice says, ‘Cry out!’
And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’
All people are grass,
their constancy is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades;
but the word of our God will stand for ever.
Get you up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good tidings;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,
lift it up, do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah,
‘Here is your God!’
See, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead the mother sheep.
"Comfort, comfort now my people; tell of peace!" So says our God.
"Comfort those who sit in darkness mourning under sorrow's load.
To my people now proclaim that my pardon waits for them!
Tell them that their sins I cover, and their warfare now is over."
These are the opening words to Johannes Olearius' beloved hymn, "Comfort, Comfort Now My People." It speaks to the comfort intended by the author of what we call Second Isaiah (we think the book of Isaiah was written in at least three different stages by different authors). This section of the book of Isaiah was written to the Israelites during the Babylonian captivity. Today's passage was meant to give comfort to a people who had been taken away from their homes, their families, their ways of life. Isaiah 40 tried to encourage the Israelites to keep the faith amidst times of darkness and deep theological crisis. Had God forgotten them? Had God every really loved them in the first place? How could God let these atrocities happen to them?
"God still loves you. God hasn't forgotten you. God has heard your cry and comfort is on the way."
This is the message of Isaiah 40:1-11.
For many, the holidays are a time of joy and mirth. For others, the holidays can be difficult - especially those who suffer from depression or have lost loved ones in the recent years (just to name a few).
Perhaps you need comfort right now. Know that it is on the way.
Perhaps you know someone who needs comfort right now. Know that God frequently calls people just like you to be the vehicles of such comfort in a weary world.
Prayer of the Day:
God of Comfort,
be with me in the sorrow I have
and help me to be present with others in theirs as well.
Help me to trust in the comfort proclaimed by your prophet,
and to know that pain, grief, and tears will come to an end,
and the joy we will know in your Son, Jesus Christ, will reign forever. Amen.
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” ’
Traditionally, the second Sunday in Advent is when we light the candle for "peace." I've always found it strangely ironic that the Sunday that we focus on peace is the Sunday that the Revised Common Lectionary has us listening to a voice of one crying out in the wilderness. This doesn't sound very peace to me!
Peace is something that I truly believe most of us want. We want peace in our lives. We want peace in the Middle East. We want peace in our marriages, in our families, in our communities. The Church is called to be a peaceful voice in the midst of a world infected with violence.
Sometimes, to get to peace, we have to listen to voices that are difficult to hear. John is one of those voices. Born by the Holy Spirit by his father Zechariah and his mother Elizabeth, John knew that the world needed to prepare for Jesus' arrival. So too do we need to prepare ourselves for the peace to which Jesus calls us. To prepare ourselves for peace, we must first repent of our sins and, in doing so, understand our deep need for it.
John the Baptist echoes the words of the prophet Isaiah when he says that "every valley shall be filled and every mountain made low." The people who often seek violence to get what they want tend to be the people "on the mountains," the people with the most power to lose by sharing it with others. Do we who are on mountains have what it takes to be made low? That is a question that those of us in power need to ask of ourselves. Churches, although we might like to think otherwise, are in positions of power and we must ask ourselves this question before we ask it of anyone else.
Speaking up like John the Baptist takes courage and wisdom. I would hope that our congregations are also institutions of courage and wisdom that can help prepare the way of the Lord. What are our congregations doing so that the work of the Lord might thrive? What are the institutions in the community in which you live doing so that those "in the valleys" might live with the same quality of life as "those on the mountains."
What is this voice crying out in the wilderness saying to you as we continue this Advent journey? Food for thought as we begin the second week of preparing for the coming of the Christ-child.
Prayer for the Day:
God of Every Mountain and Every Valley,
help me this day to prepare the way for your coming.
Make the rough ways in my life smooth
as I seek to be your disciple in a world that needs your work so desperately.
Forgive me of my sins that I might, with your help, overcome them
and do the work that you are calling me to do. Amen