"Comfort, comfort my people! says your God. Speak compassionately to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her compulsory service has ended, that her penalty has been paid, that she has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins! A voice is crying out: "Clear the Lord's way in the desert! Make a level highway in the wilderness for our God!"
(Common English Bible)
Voices! It all started Thanksgiving Day. For some online listeners, it started the preceding week. Voices from the past ringing out those favorite Christmas melodies. You know...Elvis' "Blue Christmas," Bing's "White Christmas" and "Ave Maria," Nat King Cole, Burl Ives, Perry Como and Frank Sinatra, just to name a few. You never hear these voices on the radio anymore ... except at Christmastime. At our house, we listen to old voices like Jack Benny and George Burns on old radio broadcasts, and at this time of the year, we listen to their Christmas radio broadcasts. All of these voices bring those sweet Christmas melodies that remind us of simpler times, kinder times, times when the economy seemed better, people seemed nicer, and foods never seemed to make us fat. In fact, you could say that they bring us comfort and peace. They make us feel good inside and put our minds at ease, even if just for a short time.
As I read the prophetic Scriptures of Isaiah 40, I hear voices. Now before you decide that I've gone "'round the bend" or "off my rocker" for hearing voices, let me share some of those voices with you. In Isaiah 40, we hear The Voice ring out, "Comfort, O Comfort my people!" as God called for comfort for the people of Israel. "Speak tenderly to Jerusalem" the NRSV says, "and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid." In other words, the hard time of servitude is over. "A voice cries out, "prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness, make a straight highway for our God in the desert!" The same voice that called for comfort declares the purpose of the deliverer -the Messiah.
These same words were the words that Jesus read from the Isaiah scroll in the temple: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners..." These words brought God's message to Jerusalem was that God had not forgotten them. They had been tortured, enslaved, exiled, beaten down, made servants, attacked, and persecuted, but God had not forgotten them or the promise made to their ancestor Abraham. And how does God provide comfort? How does God provide deliverance to the oppressed? By sending the message to prepare the highway for the king - for God would be coming to rescue God's people. "Make straight a highway for our God!" Israel was desolate, a wilderness, a desert, but the good news from this voice was that God would save them! God would not send another king or human ruler to do the job. God would come. That was Good News to Israel.
Emmanuel - God with us - in the midst of suffering and the messy stuff of life. God has not abandoned us. Are you in a desert today? Are you feeling lost, forgotten, downtrodden, beaten up by life and the world? Hear the Good News today: God sees, God knows, God has not forgotten. Hear God's cry for you today, "Comfort my people!" "Good News" Isaiah proclaims! Can you imagine God's thunderous voice calling out on your behalf today?
Rev. Jan McCoy is the associate pastor of Covington First United Methodist Church in downtown Covington. She may be reached at email@example.com.