The following is a reflection on Isaiah 40:1-11, the Hebrew Bible Lesson appointed for December 3rd, 2011, the second Sunday of Advent, Year B according to the New Revised Common Lectionary. On this site there is also
• a reflection on the Gospel Lesson for the same day, and
• a version of the Prayers of the People for Advent 2B.
Israel had sinned, and sinned mightily. God had saved them from Pharaoh’s hand, given them their own land (complete with milk and honey), and had claimed Israel as his very own.
And they had turned their back on him. They had forgotten the Lord their God. They had sinned against God and their neighbor. For their insolence, God had used the Babylonians to crush them, destroy Jerusalem, and carry the survivors off to Babylon to serve as slaves.
They had been slaves to Pharaoh, now they were slaves to Nebuchadnezzar. So many years had passed, and really, nothing had changed.
In fact, years before they had been in Babel, building a tower—and now they had circled right back.
And yet…the time for punishment was over. It was time for something else…something like…comfort.
Who can’t read the words from Isaiah 40 without the sound of a luxurious tenor singing these words in your head? G. F. Handel knew how to paint with notes, and “Comfort Ye” is the very picture of comfort.
Imagine being a slave in Babylon, knowing that your homeland has been destroyed, your family crushed, and your people’s history and identity nearly blotted out…and hearing that song.
The time for mourning and defeat it over, it’s time for comfort.
Who needs to hear this song today? Who is hungry, cast down, trampled upon, jailed, forsaken, and lost?
Who has lost their way and is on a one-way train whose route is a single loop? Who is going, going, going—but really going no where at all?
This song needs to be the song of the church. It needs to be the song of all the faithful people of God to all those who need to have their parched hope quenched.
It is time to sing, unafraid. The God who brings comfort has claimed us as his own.