Sunday is the second week of Advent as we anticipate and prepare for the coming of Jesus. We also continue to hear words from the Old Testament prophets who bring a call to change and words of hope to God’s people who haven’t gotten things right, but who continue to be God’s people in spite of this.
This week we’ll be taking a look at Isaiah 40. Two very familiar passages come from this lesson. The words to the Advent hymn “Comfort, Comfort Now My People” begin this chapter to people who have been in exile for a very long time, and need to hear words of comfort and hope rather than condemnation. Immediately following this we read, ”A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Words from the Old Testament for hope, the promise that God will soon be coming. These are the same words used by the author of Mark to describe John the Baptist in announcing the coming of Jesus.
The exile of the people of Judah was about 70 years. I wonder how often they asked, how much longer before this suffering ends? How much longer before we can return home? Will we ever be able to return home? These may not be our questions, but in the midst of struggle, we wonder how much longer before we see some relief, or how long before things get better? We want things fixed now!
This is when we need to hear words of hope and promise. We all need them from time to time. God doesn’t come in to fix all of our problems, but God is in this for the long haul with us. God and God’s word stands the test of time, long past the brief span of our lives. In the end, God always has the last word, a word of restoration and life. And this is a word of hope, for the people in exile and the people of 2019 and beyond.