From Comfort to Cry
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term. O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift [up your voice], do not fear. – Isaiah 40:1-2a, 9b (NRSV)
Our Advent worship themes at church go back and forth each year, swinging between the peace and beauty of the season and its radical reordering of an ugly and violent world. One year it was “Song of Resistance.” Another year: “All is calm. All is bright.”
That back-and-forth is in the story. Advent is both “be not afraid” and “God has scattered the proud.” It’s both a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and a nursing child playing over the hole of an asp. It’s both peace and power, comfort and cry. And I’m left swinging between them, not sure where to be when.
But the movement of this prophecy in Isaiah, gives a clue. It ends with Jerusalem literally screaming from the mountain tops about God’s night. But it begins with others speaking tenderly to the city.
The journey of Advent is not a swinging back and forth, but a purposeful proceeding from comfort to cry. Soon we will be calling for mountains to be brought down and the crooked to be made straight.
But in these early days of the season, let God draw near with a tender word, spoken just to you. Take a moment to rest in peace and beauty. There is lots of work to do. But take comfort, true comfort, in the closeness of the one who will sustain you in the days when you are a voice in the wilderness crying alone.
Speak tenderly, my Comforter.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.