Forest Lake Talks

December 12 Advent Devotional

December 12, 2020

“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.” Isaiah 40:1-2

Sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving every year, I pull out a trusty old double CD that lives in my car and start listening. It is the full recording of Handel’s Messiah – conducted by composer and conductor John Rutter and performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Cambridge Singers. It is glorious. Most of us are familiar with selections from the Messiah – especially the portions we often hear in Advent and Lent and (of course) the Hallelujah Chorus. But have you ever listened to the whole thing (spoiler – it’s long)? It is structured in three parts, with the first part chronicling certain Old Testament prophesies about the Messiah, Jesus’s birth, and the person of Jesus; the second part describing the lead up to his death and resurrection, which culminates in the Hallelujah Chorus; and the third part envisioning the world to come. All of the words were taken from the King James Bible and the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.

How to start with this Messiah, this Jesus? This majestic, sweeping claim of the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace? Of all the places to go in Scripture to begin to describe who Jesus was and what he came to do, it starts with “Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.” These are the very first words sung in the entire Messiah. You are mine, says God. Take comfort, says God. This Jesus—he will challenge you, change your life, pay the penalties for you that you cannot pay yourself. You are not alone. Take comfort.

The first part of the Messiah opens with assurances of comfort and ends with an invitation. The last selection of the first part is Matthew 11: 28-30: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heard, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” This has been a hard year. What heavy burdens are you carrying? What is wearying to you? If you’re like me, it might be a long list. But Jesus bids us come—this promised child, this child of humble birth heralded by angels, worshiped by kings, and announced first to lowly shepherds. The first step is to come. Take comfort. Come to Jesus.

Prayer: Dear God, We are carrying heavy burdens and are weary. This Advent, help us see clearly the comfort and rest that you promise for us and to lean into those life-giving promises in word, thought, and deed. Restore our souls, help us know your love and provision so that we may share the fruits of your love, provision, and comfort with all we meet. In the name of Jesus our Lord and Savior, we pray. Amen.

Submitted by: Elizabeth Black

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