Advent 3 Midweek (Isaiah 40:1-8)

Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR
Advent 3 Midweek – December 20, 2017
Text: Isaiah 40:1-8
Who doesn’t like to feel comfortable?  It sure is nice to not be annoyed, or hungry, or sleepy.  Your favorite chair, your favorite room in the house, your favorite food and the people around you. That’s what we’re all hoping Christmas will be like—even though for some of us we know that’s not going to be the case.
Often times, we believe that God promises like will be comfortable.  When things are good, we bless the Lord because He is good.  But when suffering is appointed for us—especially when health and finance problems pile up—we start question God’s motives.  “Can’t I just get a break?” we complain.
Perhaps the answer from God is “No, you can’t yet.  I still have more to teach you.  Take up your cross daily and follow Jesus.”[1]  That’s because God doesn’t promise that we will be comfortable in this life, but that we will be comforted.  But in order to know that comfort, we must also know hard service.
1Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 2Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” (Isaiah 40:1–2)
What sort of comfort is our God speaking to us?  Is it a financial windfall at just the right time?  Is it a miraculous recovery after illness?  Maybe the return and reconciliation of an estranged family member?  While all of these things are a relief, they are only symptoms of the bigger cause of our hardships.  When God seeks to comfort His people, He doesn’t scratch at the surface, but instead He goes to the root of all our tears—sin.
It is because of a broken relationship with God that our lives are so filled with misery.  It’s the sin of people around us—evil, insensitive, hurtful things that people say and do—which tear apart our dreams for a peaceful, fulfilled life.  It’s parents who act like babies and drive their children to counseling, bosses who unjustly favor your vindictive coworker over you, pastors who mistreat their flocks, elected officials who vote against the needs of their constituents.
Oh, how we love to be the victim and point the finger.  But there is no favoritism with God, and each of us must confess how our own sins bring trouble.  It was us who answered their hurtful words with still more, it was us who lost our temper and acted rashly, it was us who squandered our employer’s time with idle conversation, and it was us who started spending too much time with a special friend because things were hard at home.  The Word of God shows not just other people’s sins, but that we have lived as if God did not matter and as if we mattered most.  We have not honored our Lord’s Name, our worship and prayers have faltered.  Our love has been cold for God and for our neighbor.
That’s when we are ready for words of comfort.  In the light of our confession, God speaks tenderly to His faith-filled people (identified here as Jerusalem): “Your hard service is ended.  Your iniquity is pardoned.  In place of the justly-deserved anger of God and being abandoned by Him, you have received a double portion of blessing so that God even says, “You are my beloved child.  I will never leave you or forsake you.”[2]
From the Lord’s nail-pierced hands, you have received grace upon grace.  You have received a comfort that brings new light to our temporal life.
It is a comfort that you can’t but share with those in your life.
[1] Luke 9:23
[2] Isaiah 64:8-9; Joshua 1:5

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