{Comfort Ye My People” December 10, 2023

{Comfort Ye My People” December 10, 2023

Posted by on Dec 28, 2023 in Sermon archives

{Comfort Ye My People”

Isaiah 40:1-11

Psalm 85[:1-2, 8-13

2 Peter 3:8-15

Mark 1:1-8

Undoubtedly, at this time of year we are going to hear portions of the masterpiece by George Frederick Handel called The Messiah. Now, The Messiah is classified as an oratorio, which can be defined as a large-scale musical work for orchestra and voices, typically a narrative on a religious theme. Which pretty much sums it up. If you’ve ever taking the time to listen and to study this great work in its entirety, then chances are you were impressed that one man could have composed this entire piece all by himself. But truth be known, Handel did have some help. The text of this piece, also called the libretto, was supplied by a man named Charles Jennens. The libretto by Jennens is drawn from the Bible: mostly from the Old Testament of the King James Bible, but with several psalms taken from the Book of Common Prayer. Regarding the text, Jennens commented: “…the Subject excels every other Subject. The Subject is Messiah”

You have to wonder why Mr. Jennens didn’t immediately go to the writings describing the birth of Christ. I mean, these are the stories that we love to tell, but instead, Jennens  constrained himself to the many prophetic scriptures that foretold the coming  of the Christ child. Also known as the Messiah, and to my way of thinking it was a stroke of genius.

 

You will find that a goodly portion of this text or libretto comes from the book of Isaiah.  Our reading today from Isaiah 40 is a good example.

You know, when most folks think of Handel’s Messiah they immediately think of the big chorus numbers, particularly the Hallelujah Chorus. I have some fond memories of singing this piece enlarge choirs over the years. But The Messiah Is far more then its choruses. It is also filled with compositions written for solo voice, also known as an Aria. The words we read from Isaiah 40 were used in one such Aria. It is a beautiful piece sung by a single tenor voice and every time I read this I think of that  . I even considered getting together with Susan so that I might sing this piece for you, but I know all too well how awkward it can be when you want to laugh but you can’t, especially in church, so I guess I’ll have to forgo my one big chance at singing opera in front of my peers.  You can be thankful for that, by the way. But if you get a chance to listen to it someday, I would encourage it. Like I said, it is a beautiful number with a haunting melody singing the words of the Lord through the prophet Isaiah saying: “comfort ye. Comfort ye my people. Says your God, Says your God.”

And you know, it dawned on me after reading this scripture and hearing this Aria  go  through my head a couple 100 times that this is perhaps  one of the attributes that we don’t often think of when we consider our relationship with the son of God and the son of man. He is our rock and our Redeemer. He is the way and the truth and the light, but how often do we think of Jesus as being a source of comfort?

Sure, we could reference the many times that Jesus told his disciples not to be afraid.

And we could quote the countless times he wished peace upon them- and therefore , to us as well. “My peace I bring you, my peace I give to you,” comes to mind.

So think about it; at those times when Christ touches us and is a real presence in our lives, no matter how small or inconsequential, think about it. How does that make us feel? Are we filled with fear and dread or is there a warmth that touches our hearts? When we think of Jesus Christ do we think of an entity that has come to judge us or to shame us; or do we instead find a genuine sense of peace in the knowing that we are loved unconditionally, that we are loved by one who is eternal. Comfort ye. Comfort ye, my people, says your God; says your God.

I recently had a conversation with a fellow about that whole “love your enemies” thing. We both agreed that this is one of the toughest, if not the toughest, commands of Christ to strive for. I had to chuckle when he said to me, “You know, These people would  be a whole lot easier to love if they were a bit more likable,” and I found myself agreeing with him. But at the same time, I found myself saying, “yeah, well now you know how Jesus feels. The big difference, of course, is that he continues to love us anyway.” To know that truth, to speak that truth, this to me is a real comfort. You could say that the love of Christ it’s not designed to make us comfortable, but when things are a mess and painful and upside down and inside out, I can testify, there is no greater love than the love of Jesus Christ. And that is a comfort indeed.

Now, I would be shirking my  duty if I didn’t mention John the Baptist on this, the second Sunday of Advent.

I say this because John the baptizer was a key player in getting the world ready for the arrival of God in the flesh: Emmanuel. We oftentimes get all hung up on John’s lifestyle and somewhat unorthodox sense of fashion. But make no mistake, John’s urgent call to repentance was not just a good idea whose time had come, but it was absolutely necessary that the people might come to accept the gospel that Jesus would preach. John will always be an essential part of the legacy that we cling to.

I’d like to close with a prayer that I have been packing around for years, And so don’t know who to give the credit for its creation. I do know, however, that there is true comfort in a life lived in the presence of Jesus Christ.

Pray with me now- “On the second Sunday of Advent we seek a comforting word, a word that assures us that God has not abandoned us. John the Baptizer is not often thought of as a comforting, tender voice – but he really is. A call to repentance IS a comforting and tender word because it is full of hope, full of the possibility of change and new life. Repenting is not about beating ourselves up about our past – it is turning our faces to the future, turning over a new leaf, stepping out in a new direction. A Call to repentance IS a comforting, tender word because it lets us know that the future can always be different than either the present or the past.

And while we wait – God also waits. Sometimes we get impatient. Sometimes we get in a hurry. We want God to hurry up and come, we want God to set things right – RIGHT NOW! Get with it God – punish the bad guys, reward the good guys.

Fix it NOW!

But God waits.

Waits for our repentance.

Waits for us to turn.

Waits for us to wake up.

Waits, waits, waits.

And then God comes.

God picks us up and holds us to the holy bosom.

And we hear the eternal timepiece of God’s grace.

Tick, tick, ticking out the rhythm of God’s love.”

Amen and Shalom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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