1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
2 Speak 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.
3 A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.
5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
6 A voice says, “Cry!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
7 The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it; surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.
9 Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!”
10 Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.
11 He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.
We come to the beginning of the second week of Advent. In my own Advent journey I love to revisit the story of the first Advent. Last week we looked at how God came to honor his Promises...and the first of those was to answer the prayers of an old priest and his wife for a child to be born. Zechariah and Elizabeth begin the Advent story in the Gospel of Luke.
This next week I will focus some thoughts on Mary and Joseph as they begin to enter the story.
But, today, I'm thinking of something different. I am getting ready to travel to where our church meets. We are a fellowship of believers who meet in a School. We have had numbers of people come and tell me they enjoy the simplicity of fellowship together. Simplicity and worship...words that are not always put together.
Here's a question, and some thoughts: What if church were not available? What if our Advent meditations were done alone? Even more, what if the place that we met with God were in a prison cell?
One of the heroes of my faith in Christ Jesus is the Lutheran pastor and theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was an outspoken opponent of Adolph Hitler in the late 1930's. For that and some letters he had written he was arrested by the Nazis in 1943, and one week before Hitler's own suicide, he was martyred in a prison camp at the age of 39.
While in prison he exchanged letters with his fiance...hundreds of them. Some of them were about Advent.
"A prison cell where one watches and hopes and performs this or that ultimately insignificant task, and in which one is wholly dependent on the door's being open from outside, is a far from inappropriate metaphor for Advent."
Take a moment to think about that...it's a marvelous thought.
This one I also love:
"I used to be very fond of thinking up and buying presents, but now that we have nothing to give, the gift God gave us in the birth of Christ will seem all the more glorious; the emptier our hands, the better we understand what Luther meant by his dying words, "We are all beggars, it's true." The poorer our quarters, the more clearly we perceive that our hearts should be Christ's home on earth."
He found the communion of Christ in a prison cell...the same communion of Christ you and I can find every day of our lives; the same communion we can find in our church fellowships; the same communion we can find while all alone - IF only we understand that we indeed are beggars, and the door for us in Christ is open from the outside.