There are times when prose will not do. We have to venture into poetry or song to express ourselves. The most memorable parts of the Book of Isaiah are its great poems like that in chapter 40 which starts off with the words, “Comfort, comfort my people.” It was written in the time when many of the Israelites were exiled in Babylon, yet it does not lament their downtrodden situation but shouts out with confidence an announcement that God is going to lead them triumphantly back to Jerusalem. At the time of writing it had not yet happened, but the writer is so confident that God will act to save his people that he shouts out his praise ahead of time. It’s a triumphal song but with all the imagery of a conquering general there is added the image of a good and caring shepherd (verse11). God is the shepherd-king, ruling not despotically but with compassion and concern for all. This poem was written out of particular circumstances that prevailed at the time of writing, but it has often been used to express joy at the birth of Jesus seen as the Messiah. Our time of exile is ended. We no longer languish in captivity to sin, alienated from God and far from home. We have been freed. God has come in and through Jesus to release us from captivity to the anti-God forces that are at work in us and around us. When you make your resolve to change your ways, know that those confining powers that seem so powerful have already been defeated. You are not on your own. The power of God is at work to help you live the way of love to God and neighbour that God calls you to live. Advent focuses on God’s coming in Christ to the world. Can you celebrate it as God’s coming to you, God releasing you from exile to live in the homeland of God’s great love and power? Out of confidence in God, can we bring comfort to troubled and sorrowing people everywhere?
- How can we comfort those who grieve without being glib or shallow in doing so?
- How accurately does the image of exile describe the human condition?
- What freedoms do you have through your relationship with Jesus Christ?
- What’s the difference between grief counselling and bringing comfort based on faith?