* This post is part of an Advent devotional, being posted daily during Advent 2014. For an intro to this series of posts, please read the initial post here.
Thursday: 11 December
Read: Isaiah 40:1-5
(Light two candles)
We are so often our own worst critics. As with the psalmist, we can honestly cry out in anguish that we know our sins and they are ever before us. How desperately we need this word from God! “Comfort, comfort my people. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for.” Comfort. Tenderness. Not characteristics that we typically associate with God. No matter how many times we hear about God’s love and even the number of times we sing about God’s love, we have a tendency to view God with fear that at any moment he will punish us. It’s as if we walking on egg shells around God.
Yet, here, in this passage, God’s compassion and gentleness are on display. He sends his prophet to tenderly declare words of comfort. God has paid for our sins – something we couldn’t do on our own – and God didn’t just meet the minimum costs of our sins. God has paid double for all our sins. It’s as if God wants us to know that even our most atrocious, shame-filled sins will not stand in the way of God’s love for us. This tender word is so difficult for us to hear. We are so accustomed to hiding our faults, berating ourselves for our failures, and comparing ourselves to others in order to find some way of validating ourselves. If for nothing else, we need this Advent season to remind us of God’s compassion and gentleness in the midst of our brokenness. When we are most vulnerable and most exposed, no longer able to guard ourselves from impending judgement and condemnation, God speaks to us not in anger and wrath, but with the overflowing love of a Father comforting his children.
How desperately we need this good news to be true! The Apostle John would later write, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send his son to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” And as Paul assured the early church in Rome: “He who did not spare his own son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Take comfort and be of courage, in Jesus Christ God has spoken the costly and tender word that has paid the price for our peace.
Come quickly, Lord Jesus, that the light of your life may bring the unshakeable peace that causes all of creation to flourish! Amen.