“Comfort my people,” says our God. “Comfort them! Encourage the people of Jerusalem. Tell them they have suffered long enough and their sins are now forgiven. I have punished them in full for all their sins.” Isaiah 40:1, 2 GNT
And so we’re in Advent, a season of hope, a new season. The countdown to Christmas has begun and, as we wait, we centre on the reason why we observe this special season; why at this time of suffering through Covid in our history, when we have all been deeply affected and long for relief, we can have fresh hope.
Nobody enjoys separation and abnormal living. We would love to be told: “Your suffering is ended. Remove your masks – the pandemic is over! Enjoy smiling again and show your faces to the world as you mingle freely with others once more.” Perhaps in some measure this was how the exiled Israelites had come to feel, away from the comfort of home and the values dear to their hearts.
God understood them and He understands us. Listen to the tenderness and compassion for His exiled people evident in His words to Isaiah; He wants Isaiah to build up their spirit and to reassure them that they are still His people; to remind them at this demoralizing time in their history that “He strengthens those who are weak and tired” (Isaiah 40:29) that “those who trust in the Lord for help will find their strength renewed” (Isaiah 40:31) when they are drained of hope. He wants them to refocus on Him and to stop focusing on their misery. He cares and has pronounced an end to it. They are forgiven and their spirits can soar with new hope.
God is unchanging in His love and mercy for His people and has a plan for their lives. In His wisdom He will bring relief when the lesson is learnt. His people can trust Him for this as surely as they trust that the rhythmic rising and setting of the sun will occur each day, and seasons changing on cue remind us of His care for the world and the dependability of His unchanging nature.
In this new season let’s symbolically drop our masks and consciously focus on God’s Word, which brings us comfort through the Hope that He brought to the world one starry night as He heralded in a new age of light and fulfilment. Each year, since then, the world has waited in hope to celebrate the season that Advent brings.
Let’s wait together in that hope this Advent.
Prayer: Loving Father, as we watch and wait to celebrate Jesus’ birth, remove our heaviness, soften our hearts and open our minds to experience the miracle of hope and to appreciate the comfort of new beginnings His coming means. Amen.