Saturday, December 3, 2016

Comfort, O Comfort

Isaiah 40:1-11
40Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. 2Speak 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.
3A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4Every 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.
5Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
 6A voice says, “Cry out!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. 7The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass
. 8The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.
9Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do lift up your voice not fear; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!”
10See, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.
 11He 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.

        I look at this familiar text and it brings up so many memories.  In the King James version it is “ Comfort ye, comfort ye” and that takes me to Handel’s Messiah .  And the memories come rushing back of listening to the record played on the hi fi that was a piece of furniture in our living room in West Chester Pennsylvania when I was growing up.  We played it every Christmas. And I have memories of going to church and hearing the community concert – the 49er’s  - and watching my dad sing bass.  Comfort ye!  Just hearing these words bring comfort of good memories from 50+ years go.  

       Now in Advent 2016 much has changed.  My Dad has been gone for over 20 years and my Mom for 15.  I may hear the music of the Messiah still – from my Iphone – not a record on the stereo. I do not have a church to go to where I will hear these words of Comfort sung.  It is all a reminder that  “The grass withers, the flowers fade”  or life is transient.

     These words were written for people who were in exile from home and it give a promise of returning home.  Not quite “I’ll be home for Christmas” but this image of the gentle care of God who : “ 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.”

     And so the voice read about in Isaiah  brings comfort as it speaks about the grace and care of God   This is in contrast to another voice that I often hear – it is  harsher and it tells me that I need to shape up, get my act together, and get over it. Whatever it is.  I wonder if others hear that voice during their wilderness times.

     I find a large measure of comfort on this Saturday morning of hearing a word that is saying “LISTEN” for that gentle voice in your wilderness.  It wants to bring you comfort and love as you wait for the new life to be born.  

Here is a blessing for today from Maxine Shonk that says it all much better than me.

May the God of COMFORT bless you.
May God's care for you ease all that is troubling to you and reassure you in times of adversity.
May you be encouraged by the whisper of God;s love for you in the center of your being
and may you rest securely in the arms of the One who will never let got of you.
may you extend the hand of comfort to those around you who are in need of that same reassurance.
may the God of COMFORT be with you.

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