Friday, 1 December 2017

Tis The Season

Lettering by my friend @rach_forsyth 

Read: Isaiah 40:1-5

I cannot think of a better placement for advent than at the end of November.  Often I stagger to the end of the month (or I am blown there, by bitter winds that care nothing for my umbrellas or my dignity) and I am utterly desperate for comfort.  Perhaps I am biased, in that I was even against the concept of November in the womb, making an exit the moment it was out of sight, but I really struggle to like it.

November seems to be an increasingly appropriate metaphor for what life in the world without advent is like: dark, hard, sad.

In October when Storm Ophelia dragged dust from the Sahara in its wake, burping it out over our skies in swathes of apocalyptic orange, Twitter responded with an unsurprising shrug: in a year of absurdity and brokenness and depravity, is anyone really surprised that the universe might be packing up and taking its ball home? Do we deserve anything less than this?

We reach the end of November ready for a season to be jolly, but often it feels like mourning is more appropriate.

Hallelujah, then, for advent.

Advent means: the arrival of a notable thing, or person. So what’s coming?

Isaiah cries out:

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and call out to her,
That her time of duress has been fulfilled,
That the punishment of her iniquity has been accepted,
That she has received from Yahweh’s hand exact payment for all her sins.”

To people walking in darkness, in despair, in mourning God speaks tenderly. He's talking to a people who deserve punishment, exile, alienation. But what he says is: "comfort!"

And what’s the comfort?

“Prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God...The glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together.”

The comfort is the LORD himself; he is on the way! He himself will be our comfort!

As I sit at my desk, looking back on a November that’s in some ways seemed about four years long, and reflecting on a world so laden with darkness and grief,  I am so grateful that God knows I am in need of comfort. Undeserving of it, but needing it nonetheless.

I am a broken person living in a broken world, and yet God says: comfort.  I am a sinful person living in a sinful world, and yet God says: comfort. The world is dark and cold, and so is my heart, and yet God says: comfort.  

“Comfort, comfort my people!”

This is the grace of God. To an undeserving world, and an undeserving girl, he says: comfort.

He says it, yes!

Comfort is his Word.

And his Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Advent is the coming of a notable person or thing: God’s Comfort, made flesh. He came to dwell among us: God's Word made flesh, come to comfort mourning hearts.

It’s my deep heart’s prayer that throughout advent we’ll know his comfort, and will find, even in a world that so often feels so very November, reason- in Him- to be jolly! Or more than that- joyful.

“Now may the Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.”
2 Thessalonians 2: 16&17

Carol:  Deck the Halls

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