Advent 2

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Readings:

Sermon: 

My name is Laura Handy and I’m Team Vicar in the Saltway Team in and around Droitwich.

I wonder what comes to mind on hearing the word ‘wilderness’ – perhaps vast open spaces, barrenness or maybe terrain that is difficult to navigate, or maybe it’s the wild animals, ever changing sounds around you or harsh weather or perhaps it is the idea of hunger or thirst or maybe fear or discomfort.

In contrast I wonder what comes to mind in relation to the word comfort. Perhaps gentler images, warmer feelings, tactile surroundings. Maybe it is a familiar place, or reassuring company or smells or tastes or perhaps a particular object or action.

Our readings for today from both Isaiah 40 and Mark draw us to the wilderness. We meet the people of Israel who have for many years known the reality of wilderness living – whether in slavery or so-called freedom. Isaiah is written to a people in the wilderness. They continue their journey of learning to trust God and being shaped as a nation that look to him.

We see a picture of what it is to cry out to God and see God’s word through Isaiah a picture painted of what it looks like to know comfort. The passage contains familiar words that we see in Mark’s gospel in the mouth of John the Baptist. In Isaiah we do not see a call for people to make their way to God, but to know that the Lord is coming to them. A picture is painted of glory, or might, of strength, of provision and indeed of comfort. The image of the shepherd comes into view with lambs gathered, carried and gently led with a mother’s care.

There are times when we find ourselves in our own wilderness and it may be that for us and perhaps for many around us that this year has had a wilderness nature to it in different ways. Throughout our lives we find ourselves longing for comfort and during this year many of the things, routines, places and people that we draw comfort from haven’t been able to be the same. Many of us will also have found ourselves unable to give the comfort that we have wanted to to others in the ways that we have felt the desire to.

Perhaps some of us and certainly many in our communities have felt like God has been distant and perhaps our journey as God’s people, our prayers, our worship or our reading of Scripture have had felt difficult or dry. Our experience of course may have been very different.  

When God’s people heard Isaiah’s words it would have felt so far from their reality. They were all too aware of the number of times they had got it wrong and had failed to trust in God. In the wilderness it is hard to imagine that a different day will come or that comfort will be known. It would have been hard to imagine that God would come to them, it that place, in the state that they were in, with their doubts and fears and needs. But that is exactly what God was promising.

God was coming - in the wilderness. They would know comfort right where they were.

We have begun our Advent journey after a year that has felt unlike any other. From the wilderness John the Baptist tells us to get ready, to ‘prepare the way,’ because God is coming. In the barrenness John points to the promise held in Isaiah and urges people to see that the time had come and that comfort was coming.

Advent is about taking hold of the promise again that the Lord comes to us, right in the middle of our wilderness. It is about God’s faithfulness, even when we are struggling or failing short of being faithful to God.

And so we approach what will be a different kind of Christmas. We wont gather in many of the familiar ways and places. We will each be doing are part to love our neighbour by making difficult sacrifices to keep ourselves and each other safe. Some will perhaps feel a sense of wilderness.

The Church of England has chosen the theme of Comfort and Joy for this festive season. Comfort isn’t fluffy or weak, but is about what it is to be strengthened, built up, to be helped to look to a better day. In the coming of Jesus we celebrate that God made a highway and came to meet us. That despite everything the God of comfort found us exactly where we are and can bring a comfort and a joy that is real and draws us to trust in him as we look forwards.

As God’s people we can take the words from Isaiah and Mark and take up the mantle as those who are ‘heralds of good tidings,’ who can proclaim to others ‘do not fear,’ and know that our God is indeed here. Whether we are in our own homes or gathered together this Advent we choose to wait – not a passive waiting resigned to our present reality – but a hope-filled waiting knowing that once more we can welcome the one who comes to bring comfort and joy.

God comes near as the God of the whole universe, or all of creation, but is also the one who knows everything about our particular wilderness journey. His comfort and the joy he can bring in and through Jesus is deeply personal and transforming.

For all those in need of comfort let’s hear again that the Lord is coming, prepare the way.

Questions:

  • Do you need comfort? Perhaps spend some time in quiet prayer and reflection knowing that God is with you.
  • Who in your life do you long to know God’s comfort and joy? Take a few moments to name them before God, knowing that he knows and loves them.
  • How can you be one who brings comfort to others with kindness, hope-filled words and love?

 


Page last updated: 27th November 2020 12:05 PM
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