Sunday, November 27, 2011

Advent 2011 - First Sunday

Sunday, November 27 – Isaiah 40:1-5

Those of you who attend Faith Fellowship have a calendar of daily scripture readings for Advent. I'll be posting a short devotional on the scripture reading for each day and I hope you my sisters will share your thoughts in response.
As women in America, we often become scattered in December, trying to create the perfect holiday experience for our circle of loved ones. It’s a joy to be able to join together and focus on Jesus, who came and “made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14).
I have read and heard some scriptures countless times, to the point that I am numb to them. Sometimes I am refreshed by reading the New Living Translation (NLT), a very sound, newer translation that words things just differently enough to make me pause and reflect. So for this blog I will be using the NLT.

Isaiah 40:1-5
New Living Translation (NLT)

 1 “Comfort, comfort my people,”
      says your God.
 2 “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.
   Tell her that her sad days are gone
      and her sins are pardoned.
   Yes, the Lord has punished her twice over
      for all her sins.”
 3 Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting,
“Clear the way through the wilderness for the Lord!
 Make a straight highway through the wasteland
for our God!
 4 Fill in the valleys,
and level the mountains and hills.
 Straighten the curves,
and smooth out the rough places.
 5 Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
The Lord has spoken!”

I can’t read this scripture without having the glorious music of Handel’s Messiah ringing through my mind. And every time, I am comforted and renewed.
But to pause and think anew… “Comfort, comfort my people.” Comfort! Comfort my people. Says your God.
Please stop for a moment and let God speak comfort into your heart and mind.
Speak tenderly.
Revel in the comfort and tenderness of God. As nurturers, we are in the “business” of administering comfort and tenderness. I do not often allow the LORD to comfort me, to speak tenderly to me. May I make room in my spirit for the comfort the LORD is offering me.
I’m going to resist the temptation to get scholarly and do research and talk about background and context, which you know I love, and try to keep these meditations short. But we do know that these words were written perhaps 2,700 years ago to a people, Israel, who were scattered in darkness. We also know that these same words are written to us today. There is a reason they are read every year at this time. For thousands of years, wise people have agreed that these words refer to the coming of the Messiah, the Christ, the anointed one.
In the gospels, this passage from Isaiah is used to describe the ministry of John the Baptist. (John 1:23, Matt. 3:3, Luke 3:4-6, Mark 1:1-4)
Pardon for sins has come through Jesus. Eternal comfort that starts right now has come through Jesus. He is wanting us to clear the way, make the highway straight, remove the obstacles that are keeping us from seeing his coming, from seeing the glory of the LORD revealed.
I’m so glad I’m on this journey of seeing it together with you!
Questions to ponder:
I usually think of God or of some person, such as John the Baptist, clearing the way. In “Messiah,” the text reads “every valley shall be exalted, and the rough places plain,” etc. It is just going to happen, right? It shall be, right?! But reading this today, I’m thinking in terms of the obstacles I have placed in the way of Christ revealing his glory my life, or the obstacles life has thrown up. When John the Baptist came with this message, it was a call to repentance, to making our hearts ready for Christ. What do you think?
What does it mean to you to see the glory of the Lord revealed?
What does this passage say to you about the character of God?
Tomorrow’s passage: Isaiah 52:7-10.

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