Advent Devotional | 2nd Monday in Advent | Year C | December 7th, 2015

Isaiah 40:1-11

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.


Stephen Fearing

Stephen was born in 1988 in Cookeville, TN, where his parents met whilst attending Tennessee Tech. Shortly after, they moved to Dalton, Georgia where they put down roots and joined First Presbyterian Church, the faith family that taught Stephen that he was first and foremost a beloved child of God. It was this community that taught Stephen that it was OK to have questions and doubts and that nothing he could do could every possibly separate him from the love of God. In 1995, his sister, Sarah Kate, joined the family and Stephen began his journey as a life-long musician. Since then, he has found a love of music and has found this gift particularly fitting for his call to ministry. Among the instruments that he enjoys are piano, trumpet, guitar, and handbells. Stephen has always had a love of singing and congregation song. An avid member of the marching band, Stephen was the drum major of his high school's marching band. In 2006, Stephen began his tenure at Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC where he majored in Religion and minored in History. While attending PC, Stephen continued to explore his love of music by participating in the Wind Ensemble, Jazz Band, Jazz Combo, Jazz Trio, as well as playing in the PC Handbell ensemble and playing mandolin and banjo PC's very own bluegrass/rock group, Hosegrass, of which Stephen was a founding member (Hosegrass even released their own CD!). In 2010, Stephen moved from Clinton to Atlanta to attend Columbia Theological Seminary to pursue God's call on his life to be a pastor in the PC(USA). During this time, Stephen worked at Trinity Presbyterian Church, Silver Creek Presbyterian Church, Central Presbyterian Church, and Westminster Presbyterian Church. For three years, Stephen served as the Choir Director of Columbia Theological Seminary's choir and also served as the Interim Music Director at Westminster Presbyterian Church. In 2014, Stephen graduated from Columbia with a Masters of Divinity and a Masters of Arts in Practical Theology with an emphasis in liturgy, music, and worship. In July of 2014, Stephen was installed an ordained as Teaching Elder at Shelter Island Presbyterian Church in Shelter Island, NY. Later that year, Stephen married the love of his life, Tricia, and they share their home on Shelter Island with their Golden Doodle, Elsie, and their calico cat, Audrey. In addition to his work with the people who are Shelter Island Presbyterian Church, Stephen currently serves as a commission from Long Island Presbytery to the Synod of the Northeast and, beginning in January of 2016, will moderate the Synod's missions team.