Comfort, O Comfort

Readings: Psalm 126; Isaiah 40:1-11; Romans 8:22-25

“Comfort, O comfort my people”, says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term…” Isaiah 40:1-2

Comfort who? Cry out about what and to whom? The basic concept for comfort in both the Old and New Testaments is encouragement, whether by word or presence in time of need. Synonymous words for comfort are console, help, give relief, cheer up, exhort, and fear not. Of course, I am called to comfort my neighbor who has placed his wife in a nursing home and the friend who needs support after surgery. But does this passage call me to more?

How can I bring comfort to the exiles of today – those fleeing oppression in Syria, Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan, or those who feel separated from their church? Is prayer or a financial contribution enough or do I need to cry out? How do I cry out to prepare a way for God’s coming in 2015? Can I challenge people to resist the extreme commercialism of Christmas that makes a mockery of the true meaning of Jesus’ coming among us? Can I stop procrastinating in replacing my worn bumper sticker “Live simply that others might simply live?” Can I sign petitions that call for an end to unjust war or to the death penalty? Can I encourage people to learn the positions of presidential candidates and encourage them to make their choice based on a deeper understanding of Jesus’ exhortation in the Judgment of the Nations (Matthew 26:31-46).

I am reminded of the quote that has been attributed to many people – “Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Can my small voice bring comfort and hope? Should my small voice challenge? How can my small voice say “here is your God?” Advent invites me to look at these questions anew and to be not afraid of what I see.

Come, Shepherd Jesus. Comfort and guide us.

Offered by Ann Fowler, spiritual director, hearer and speaker of the Good News.

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Johnna

I am a Christian educator and writer.I have worked in churches, denominational offices, and seminaries. I have a PhD in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, with a focus on Practical Theology and educating in faith. In 2010, my book, "How the Other Half Lives: the challenges facing clergy spouses and partners," was published by Pilgrim Press. I believe that words can build doorways that lead to encounters with God through the Spirit.

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