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.’
Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
and righteousness will look down from the sky.
The Lord will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him,
and will make a path for his steps.
“Comfort my people, says your God.” These are the words of the prophet Isaiah to the people of Israel in exile. Comfort is what we offer those in mourning. Comfort is for those who have felt the deep pain of the loss of someone or something dear. Israel’s exile was a kind of prolonged mourning for the loss of their beloved homeland. The Psalms tell us of people laying by the waters of Babylon and just weeping. Zion wasn’t just a place, it was the place that God had promised them. It was how God showed he cared about them.
Then a voice cries out. This isn’t a falsely happy shout. This is a deep, tearful longing from the gut of someone who has suffered. Salvation is coming, and there is no mistaking it this time. Everyone, all nations, all peoples, will see it. This is a word of comfort for those who suffer and word of warning for those oppress. Israel can return home.
Many of us know of the deep suffering of our world. We may be suffering. We see in the news and in our own community how much of the world lives in exile from the justice and peace God desires. During Advent, Isaiah speaks this word of comfort to us. In the birth of Jesus, God tells us that the time of suffering is coming to an end. Our reading from Psalm 85 paints a portrait of this salvation. The image of Love and faithfulness meeting, and righteousness and peace kissing speaks of a true shalom, a holistic, complete peace that is coming. It is not the thin peace of violence, but the penetrating peace of the Savior who suffers with and for us.
Yet we are called to prepare. Righteousness is to go before him to make this path, this highway for our Lord. We prepare the way of the Lord by turning our hearts to God in repentance and living out God’s justice. This Advent, hear the Lord speak peace and comfort to you.
We light the candle of Peace this week to remind us that even through the suffering and pain of our world, Jesus is our true peace, our shalom.
Let us pray:
Lord, even as we weep for the suffering of our world, help us to sow seeds of your kingdom of peace, to prepare the way of your salvation as your glory is revealed for all people to see. Amen