Reflection by John Rohde Schwehn, Associate Pastor
Comfort. On this second Sunday of Advent, be comforted by the words of the prophet. “Comfort my people,” God commands his servant, Isaiah. Isaiah is up to the task, and notice how he does it. He does not offer cold comfort, empty comfort, generalized comfort. Instead, God’s comforting words begin by naming honestly and directly what the challenges are.
Injustice and persecution would have been acutely felt by these people who had been conquered and exiled from their homeland. So the comfort that God offers is the promise of a world where the powerful are brought down and the poor are lifted up. It’s a world that is flat as the Dakota prairies, a space where everyone can actually see one another’s humanity again.
In exile, the fragility of human life was heightened. People feared dying in a foreign land, away from home. As the prophet points out, life is as delicate and temporary as blades of grass and flowers in a field. One day it’s here, the next day it’s gone. So the comfort God offers is the promise that one thing – the Word of God – is forever. God’s mercy, God’s grace, God’s salvation – this will never go away.
Finally, we are called sheep. We are the flock in the arms of our loving shepherd, carried in the bosom of God’s tender love. In a year that has seen so much pointless death, so much caustic division, so much tension in our communities, there must be comfort. There must be balm. The challenges today are no more severe or terrifying than they were for Isaiah’s people in the 5th century BCE. This comfort is ours. It is about to be born again.
As you light two candles tonight, name two things that have brought you comfort through this disorienting, difficult year. Do you find comfort in family? Relationships? Food? Something else?
Pray: Shine the comforting brightness of your love on us this week, O God. Bring comfort to the sick and the afflicted. Bring comfort to the confused and the confounded, to the powerful and the powerless. Give us all the assurance of your pardon, love, and mercy. Keep us forever in your Word. Amen.