Listen For Love: Comfort and Joy

Introduction

In the Christmas Rush, we are often disillusioned by making so many efforts to make it a special time, but sometimes we do not feel it. As we wait expectantly for Christmas, we need to continually remind ourselves of what it is all about: the great love of God expressed to us in Jesus Christ.

Isaiah gives us a picture of a loving God that should encourage us in the moments when the Christmas Rush gets to be too much. “He will feed his flock like a shepherd;  he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.” ( Isaiah 40:11)

For 39 chapters Isaiah has exposed the wickedness of Israel / Judah.  Judah was running quickly into captivity and there was no stopping it. Though they have suffered because of their sin, Isaiah doesn’t want them to believe that God has forsaken them nor forgotten them. So God has him give a message of comfort and peace if they will turn to Him. It is my hope that today we can find comfort, hope and peace in Isaiah’s words that lead up to the passage we just read.

God Wants Us To Hear His Words of Comfort

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 CSB

The prophet is instructed to speak words of comfort, tenderly, to let the people know that God desires to restore them. What is the noise that keeps us from hearing the comforting words of God? It could be the rush of the holiday season – if we could just make everything right then maybe we could finally relax and enjoy. Maybe it is the noise of the world around us that every day brings new news of terrible and destructive actions of others. Perhaps it is the spiritual struggles we have that are causing us to experience guilt or a sense of failure.This is the time for us to listen to God’s whisper of comfort. 

For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 23:4b CSB

God Wants us to See His Works of Comfort 

A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,   make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 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 Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” 

Isaiah 40:3-5, CSB

This was the promise God made to Judah that he would remove all of the obstacles that were standing in their way so that they could see His glory. They were to make a highway in the desert – a Glory Highway. The valleys lifted, the mountains made low, uneven ground leveled. God’s glory is going to be revealed – and nothing can stop that!

We face many obstacles in our own faith journey. As we look back in life we can see where God carried us, or where he took away an obstacle. He made a way where there was no way! 

He is our father in God’s sight, in whom Abraham believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls things into existence that do not exist.

Romans 4:17, CSB

The glory of the Lord will be seen – so keep trusting Him even when you may not be able to see the answer ahead of you!

God Wants us to Trust in his Eternal Comfort

A voice says, “Cry out!”  And I said, “What shall I cry?” All people are grass,    their constancy is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;   surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades;  but the word of our God will stand forever.

Isaiah 40:6-8, CSB

This is not Gods’ promise that Judah will avoid the consequences of sin. They will go into captivity – but they will also be preserved and allowed to rebuild the temple eventually.  Isaiah takes a long look and reminds them that life is short, but God is eternal. 

Peter quotes this passage to his readers – people who were scattered due to persecution and struggling with their faith. 

Since you have purified yourselves by your obedience to the truth, so that you show sincere brotherly love for each other, from a pure heart love one another constantly, because you have been born again—not of perishable seed but of imperishable — through the living and enduring word of God. For All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like a flower of the grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord endures forever. And this word is the gospel that was proclaimed to you.

1 Peter 1:22-25, CSB

Life is short – like flowers, grass, vapors. God’s Word will stand forever, so we are called to trust in Him for eternal matters. 

God Wants Us To Shout His Comforting Presence

Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength,  O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah,  “Here is your God!” See, the Lord God comes with might,  and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him,  and his recompense before him.

Isaiah 40:9-11, CSB

A prophetic message for all: Here is your God! This message is not to be whispered – it’s good news is too good!

Isaiah 40:9 (NET) Go up high on a mountain, O herald Zion. Shout out loudly, O herald Jerusalem! Shout, don’t be afraid! Say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!”

He comes with might, his arm rules for him, his reward is with him and his judgment is with him as well. God desires that we be loud about HIs presence and power so that all can trust in Him. This is getting back to the basics of what the holiday season is all about – hearing and following God more closely.  And that is when Isaiah paints this beautiful picture for us. 

“He will feed his flock like a shepherd;  he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.” ( Isaiah 40:11)

He will sustain us in our daily needs. (Give us this day our Daily Bread)

He will carry us next to his heart when we cannot go on our own.

He will lead us when we are weary and do not know the way.

Conclusion
God wants us to hear his words of comfort, see his works of comfort, trust his eternal comfort, and shout out his comforting presence. The comforting word of salvation is especially needed in our dying world. One of the carols we still sing is a traditional English Christmas carol, one of the oldest carols, dating back to the 16th century, the name of its author long unknown.

In Dickens’ A Christmas Carol this song was sung in the presence of Ebeneezer Scrooge, causing him to grab up a ruler “with such energy of action that the singer fled in terror”. 

The words are famliar.

God rest ye merry gentlemen, Let nothing you dismay

Remember Christ our Savior, Was born on Christmas Day

To save us all from Satan’s pow’r, When we were gone astray

Oh tidings of comfort and joy, Comfort and joy, Oh tidings of comfort and joy

In the Christmas Rush, let us turn to God for words of comfort and joy.