Scripture Text: Isaiah 40: 1-5
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.”
“Comfort, O Comfort my people.” That sounds nice. It sounds warm and inviting, something that we can just sort of fold ourselves into and relax and let God take care of us. Well, maybe. But then what happens? What we do with our lives after that? The truth is, as much as we like to imagine a warm and fuzzy God that heaps everything we desire and everything we need to make our lives easy and comfortable on us, that’s not exactly the way it always is. Here, comfort is not solace; here comfort is transformation. God is promising something new. These words begin with God’s initiative–to bring the exiles home. Sure, it will mean ending their suffering and making their lives better. But it is more. It means that they will become something new–a new creation. The former things have passed away. God is not in the habit of rebuilding or “fixing” the way it is easy for us to imagine could happen. God is the Creator, the great I AM, the one who brings newness and life.
So, God prepares a highway through the wilderness. Now, don’t think that there wasn’t already a road there. In the year 539 BCE, Cyrus of Persia conquered the Babylonians. Now he tended to be sort of a benign and tolerant ruler and so he allowed those who had been previously exiled from Jerusalem the chance to return home. So the people are beginning to return home, but to a home that was nothing like it was before. If you can imagine, these waves upon waves of people on this highway that leads toward Jerusalem—a Jerusalem that now lies in ruins without the Temple that used to be in the center of its life. This highway, a highway through the desert that, typical of the ancient world, was originally built to accommodate royal processions. Everything was done to make the highway smooth and clear. The road was there, already made straight and smooth for the royals to travel. And so the exiles, returning to “who knows what?” were on this road.
But, wait, look, over here. God also promises a highway, smoothed and cleared of mountains and deep, treacherous valleys that would impede the journey. God promises a holy highway built for a grand procession led by the Almighty God. It’s still a road that you have to travel, but, rather than leading you to the ruins of the life you once knew, THIS road leads you Home. And as we travel this road, God is creating and creating and creating the whole time, unfolding our life before us as long as we keep our eyes open to see what God is doing. This is the way that the Glory of the Lord shall be revealed.
This is the road that Advent shows us. It’s not one that takes us to the place that we’ve always known. Advent shows us the newness that God is offering. In the Advent season, we remember those generations upon generations that waited for a Savior. We also prepare ourselves to remember once again how Christ came and comes. But there’s another part of Advent that we miss. It is this road, this road that we’re on that leads us to finally see things in a different light. There is a Maori proverb that says “turn your face to the sun and the shadows will fall behind you.” “Comfort, O Comfort my people.” The Light is changing and you, even you, even now, are being made new. “Then the Glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together.”
Learn to see and then you’ll know there is no end to the new worlds of our vision. (Carlos Castaneda)
FOR TODAY: What newness has God created in your life? During this Advent, what newness can you find on the road?
Grace and Peace,
One thought on “Comfort, O Comfort My People”
It is hard for some to see that Advent is about change and not about tradition and maintaining the status quo. The change called for by the coming of Christ is a work in progress. It is a call to suit up and get with it.