Prepare to Listen. Light the first two purple candles and pray: Lord, I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvellous for me.
Prayerfully Read Isaiah 40:1-5
Comfort, 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.’
Comfort ye, sings the tenor voice in the first solo in Handel’s Messiah. Handle stresses these two words with long drawn out musical notes. The tenor sings comfort ye twice then adds two more words, comfort ye my people, also sung twice before getting to more of Isaiah’s message.
Handel was right to belabor these words. Comforting others is an important task for God’s messenger. In Isaiah’s day God’s people were in urgent need of comfort. They’d experienced the devastation of the Babylonian armies and then a long exile in Babylon before returning to their homeland that was still in ruins. Comfort was needed. Not the comfort of: ‘I’m so sorry for you.’ But comfort, as Brueggemann maintains, that is “a powerful intervention that creates new possibilities” . It’s the comfort Paul described to the church in Corinth. God “consoles [or comforts] us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God” (2 Cor 1:3-4).
It’s not clear in the Isaiah passage who is being called to comfort God’s people. It is clear in Paul’s teaching. We, the church, the people of God; we’re the ones called to comfort in a way that is “a powerful intervention that creates new possibilities.” And if ever our world, our nation, our churches need this kind of comfort, it’s today in this year of covid-19.
What would it mean for you to comfort another in a way that creates new possibilities?
Respond to Jesus
God of all comfort, comfort those today who most need it and use me to bring them your comfort that makes possible new ways of living. Amen.
Go live obediently in the world as one who comforts as God comforts.
 Brueggemann, W. Isaiah 40-66. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox press, 1980, p. 16).
I am convinced that reading the Christian Bible is essential for our Christian spiritual nourishment. I speak from experience, over 60 years of experience. I also believe we'll never get bored reading the Bible over and over. Each time I read it, I learn something new. Read with me during Advent and learn to wait for Christ with heart and mind alert for his coming. The readings draw on my background of study and teaching the Bible for over 30 years.