As we continue the Advent journey getting us ready for Christmas, today we read Isaiah 40:1-11 and Mark 1:1-8.
For the people of Isaiah’s time, something new was about to happen and they would need to get ready.
Living as slaves, they had suffered in exile in Babylon for so long. They felt alone and forgotten about by God. All they ever wanted was to go back home.
And here, in these verses from Isaiah, we see God reaching out to comfort and console His people.
He is coming to rescue His people. ‘Say to the towns of Judah’, “Here is your God”! See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power”. (40:9,10) There is real comfort in the words of Isaiah.
When we are at our lowest ebb what we often need more than anything else, is comfort; it’s reassurance that we are not alone.
Comfort is not something which is offered when all else fails. Comfort is a positive offering, showing a willingness to get right to the heart of things, and being fully immersed in the pain and sorrow of the sufferer.
God is not offering His people a throw-away word of consolation which means little. Instead, He is expressing all they need to hear, that their God is standing with them in their struggle: with strength, with purpose, with absolute and total commitment. God is there!
And that is where He stands with us; right beside us, impossible to get closer to us or the situation we are in. This is an Advent message of comfort.
Isaiah sees God going ahead of His returning people. The Lord will act like a shepherd gathering up his tired flock and carrying them home. It is a wonderful picture. First though, they had to get themselves ready.
But this intervention was not to be limited to God’s people of Isaiah’s time; God’s comfort is ongoing. He offers an ongoing relationship with all.
God will come and stand in the midst of our humanity. He will not fail, no matter what. Here is a word of comfort indeed!
And in Mark’s account of the Gospel, we see God taking the initiative once more. He again reaches out to the world.
John the Baptist, echoing the words of Isaiah before him, asks the people to get ready to receive the Lord. “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him”. (Mark 1:3) God is coming. Get ready!
On this second Sunday of Advent, how ready do we feel we are to welcome Christ? because the news for us is that he is coming; God’s love in human form... should we not prepare the way for the Lord and make a straight path for him in our life?
God again reaches out to comfort those struggling. He reaches out to console those who feel life has no meaning or purpose. He reaches out to save those who feel lost and abandoned.
He reaches out to those who are already filled with life to give even more. He reaches out to each one of us to bless us. And just as God comforts, we in turn, are called to comfort others.
While Christmas is seen by many as being about practical preparations; presents, trees, decorations and things like that, we all know that it is about much more.
Let us make sure that we don’t let all the practical ‘getting ready’ stuff squeeze out the getting ready for the true meaning of it all, the wonder, the mystery, the insight, the life, the love, that is given in Christ, in all its totality, for you and for me.
Advent is a time to reflect. It is a time to think. It is a time to stop and listen. It is a time to look at our own values and priorities. So, let us make good use of Advent.
As Christmas approaches, let us each take time to get ready for something wonderful.
Let us pray,
Heavenly Father, it was, all those years ago that you sent your messenger John to prepare the hearts of the people for the coming of your Son. Help us today to hear clearly that same Good News.
Make us and all things new, that in the wilderness of our hearts we too may prepare a way over which Your Son may walk.
Help us, as your people, to take the message of Good News out to our world. May we show by our actions and witness, the real, living message of Christmas.
Amen, and as God sends us out to be messengers of this holy season of Advent, let us share the gifts of hope and reconciliation which have been placed in our hearts.