A Word of Comfort -- Advent Reflection on Isaiah 40

1 Comfort, comfort my people!
   says your God.
2 Speak compassionately to Jerusalem,
      and proclaim to her that her
      compulsory service has ended,
   that her penalty has been paid,
   that she has received
   from the LORD’s hand
   double for all her sins!

 3 A voice is crying out:
“Clear the LORD’s way in the desert!
   Make a level highway in the wilderness for our God!
4 Every valley will be raised up,
   and every mountain and hill
   will be flattened.
   Uneven ground will become level,
   and rough terrain a valley plain.
5 The LORD’s glory will appear,
   and all humanity will see it together;
   the LORD’s mouth
   has commanded it.”

 6 A voice was saying:
   “Call out!”
And another said,
   “What should I call out?”
All flesh is grass;
   all its loyalty is
   like the flowers of the field.
7 The grass dries up
   and the flower withers
   when the LORD’s breath blows on it.
   Surely the people are grass.
8 The grass dries up;
   the flower withers,
   but our God’s word
   will exist forever.

 9 Go up on a high mountain,
   messenger Zion!
Raise your voice and shout,
   messenger Jerusalem!
Raise it; don’t be afraid;
   say to the cities of Judah,
   “Here is your God!”
10 Here is the LORD God,
   coming with strength,
   with a triumphant arm,
   bringing his reward with him
   and his payment before him.
11 Like a shepherd, God will tend the flock;
   he will gather lambs in his arms
   and lift them onto his lap.
   He will gently guide
   the nursing ewes.

            (Isaiah 40:1-11 Common English Bible)

            This passage of scripture has inspired hymns are arias.  It gave a foundation to the good news of Jesus Christ (Mark 1:1-8).  It is a reminder to us, as we take the journey of Advent toward the celebration of the incarnation that God is faithful.  Flesh is like grass and like the grass it will wither and fade, but God’s Word will remain.  We all know the reality of fleeting friendships.  We’ve experienced times when those we thought we could count on disappeared when the situation got rough.  If we take the story of Jesus to the concluding chapters of his story we know that on the day of trial and death, with few exceptions those closest to him fled.  Life is like that, but God is faithful.  God is like the shepherd who tends the flock, gathering the lambs into his arms and guiding ever so gently the nursing ewes. 

            This word we hear from this prophetic voice is directed to the people of Judea who have been experiencing exile.  They have felt abandoned, and yet here is a call to get ready, to take up the task of preparing the way for the Lord God.  It is a calling for us in the interim to declare the goodness and the faithfulness of God to the world.  With this word, we may offer comfort to the neighborhood!   


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