1Comfort, 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.
Mark’s Gospel does not begin with angels whispering in Mary’s ear. There are no shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night, no wise men following a star, no animals around a manger, no poetic imagery of the Word becoming flesh and blood. The good news of Jesus Christ begins in the wilderness with a prophet named John the Baptist.
The Baptist fulfills the prophecy of today’s reading from Isaiah, "See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”
I know our reading from Isaiah very well not from study, but from reading it over and over again! One of the courses at seminary was a 1-hour elective called: “Oral Reading.” I like to read, why not out loud – what’s the difference? There’s a difference! The teacher was an adjunct faculty member who was a Shakespearean actor and drama coach.
The course consisted of a text read in front of class. If you were too soft spoken the professor might remark the reader really didn’t understand what he or she was reading, so maybe it would be better if they would just sit down and try again next week. After suffering though his critique, to this day, crying babies don’t bother me. I hear them as hymns of hope.
In Isaiah we learn God's people are called to be heralds of good tidings. Another word for herald is evangelist. As evangelists of good tidings—Advent is a time to share hope. God's message to Isaiah didn't ignore reality. Israel had been crushed. God sent a new prophetic word to the scattered remnants.
It was a simple, heartfelt, instinctual response of a parent to an injured child: "Comfort, comfort, my people, speak tenderly, you have served your term your penalty has been paid." God says much the same thing a parent says when young children hurt in some way:
"You'll be all right."
"I'm here, I've got you."
These are the messages heralds are instructed to give in Isaiah:
"Speak tenderly to my people."
"Prepare a way for the Lord."
Gracious God, as leaders in the Western Iowa Synod, during these remaining days of Advent, help us comfort others and tenderly share the hope that is born in Jesus Christ. Amen
Who in your community would welcome a tender word of hope and invitation during Advent?
Pr. Jeffery Alvestad, Interim Pastor
St. Paul’s/Northboro and Emmanuel/Shenandoah, Iowa Lutheran Churches