Tuesday, December 10, 2013

“There are many things which a person can do alone, but being a Christian is not one of them.”

“Our government needs the church, because only those humble enough to admit they're sinners can bring democracy the tolerance it requires to survive” - Ronald Reagan the 40th President of the United States (1981–1989)

Scripture Text: (IS 40:1-11)
Comfort, give comfort to my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her
that her service is at an end,
her guilt is expiated;
Indeed, she has received from the hand of the LORD
double for all her sins.

A voice cries out:
In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!
Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill shall be made low;
The rugged land shall be made a plain,
the rough country, a broad valley.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together;
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

A voice says, “Cry out!”
I answer, “What shall I cry out?”
“All flesh is grass,
and all their glory like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower wilts,
when the breath of the LORD blows upon it.
So then, the people is the grass.
Though the grass withers and the flower wilts,
the word of our God stands forever.”

Go up onto a high mountain,
Zion, herald of glad tidings;
Cry out at the top of your voice,
Jerusalem, herald of good news!
Fear not to cry out
and say to the cities of Judah:
Here is your God!
Here comes with power
the Lord GOD,
who rules by his strong arm;
Here is his reward with him,
his recompense before him.
Like a shepherd he feeds his flock;
in his arms he gathers the lambs,
Carrying them in his bosom,
and leading the ewes with care.

Even when we enjoy many creature comforts, our need for deliverance is really never very far from us. We like to fool ourselves into believing we have created a zone of safety, but the trappings of material comfort offer little protection when things get really tough. They are like thin gauze when cold winds blow. The words “all flesh is grass” resonate strongly when the earth becomes like iron and the grass grows no more. What sustains us then?

The sustenance we draw from our stores of good things (even in sharing them with others) is ultimately not enough. Such comfort is only temporary and cannot meet our deeper needs. We need God. We are glad to hear that we belong to him, that he loves us, and that he comes to find us. Such faith, love, and hope make this world habitable and draw us toward the path of life with God that extends beyond what we can see, but which we know to be there.

In Isaiah’s prophecy, a voice cries out for dramatic preparations. The imagery of filling in valleys, bringing down mountains, and smoothing rugged land in an era before Caterpillar tractors seems daunting indeed. With technology of hand shovels and picks (or less), it would have required a group effort, to be sure. Notice the good news of what happens after this preparation: “Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” I think this is an important message to consider in our Advent journey: the glory of the Lord will be revealed in a community of faith. This is not a solitary event, but one which should be experienced with others.

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