Comfort, O comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that she has served her term,
that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.
All is quiet in the house on a sunny morning. Young adult son Peter sneaks in the front door, arms filled with presents, and his baby sister runs down the stairs. “Peter! Your home! She exclaims. Everyone is still asleep.” Peter replies, “I know how to wake them up.” Coffee begins brewing, parents awaken and the Folgers commercial closes with the family embracing and the narrator saying “Happy Holidays from Folgers”. Released back in 1985, while the hairstyles and clothes are a bit dated, the sentiment of this ad is timeless and it always takes me back to my parents’ living room on Christmas morning, where we’d sit eating egg casserole, drinking coffee and opening presents together.
For many, this Christmas, the memory of being home is all they will have, as work and time and money limitations keep them from being with loved ones. Memory is also all that the Israelites had. Captives in modern day Iraq, hundreds of miles away from home, the Israelites could no longer worship in their temple, the center of their devotion for so long. Their faith was challenged and their hearts were heavy with yearning for home. “By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion…How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137: 1, 4).
Have you ever felt like the Israelites did? Captive in a foreign land, yearning for home? Have you ever felt so far from God you couldn’t sing? Couldn’t say the Lord’s Prayer? Have you ever felt lost in life, without people and purpose to anchor you? Have you ever wondered if you’d ever find your way back home?
If so, Advent can be your guide. The flickering Advent candles, illuminate the shadows of the season’s darkness, more brilliantly with each passing week. Advent, this time of preparing our hearts to welcome Jesus, again and for the first time, is a journey. A journey that takes time. Particularly this year, it seems like time is one thing we don’t have. The retailers are quick to remind us that our late Thanksgiving left only three shopping weeks until Christmas! This Christmas rush robs us of the greatest gift of Advent, which is to slow down- to pause our lives-to hear the prophet’s words: Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid.
Pause, Hear these words, and then live them out. Receive God’s comfort. With courage, follow the light in the darkness and begin your journey towards God…and towards home.
Prayer: God of comfort and peace, thank you for never leaving me even when I feel so far away. Give me courage, during this Advent season, to walk towards your light even if I am not ready to go. Even if I am not sure exactly where I am going give me your peace, which passes understanding, knowing that I go with you. And with you, I am home. Thanks be God, Amen.
Pastor Jessica Gregory