December 6, 2020
Pastor Gunnar Ledermann
1 Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.
3 A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
5 And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
6 A voice says, “Cry out.”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
“All people are like grass,
and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
7 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever.”
9 You who bring good news to Zion,
go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem,
lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
say to the towns of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
10 See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power,
and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.
11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.
The events of this past year were going to happen whether you knew about them or not. Perhaps you have wondered, “If I had only known what was going to happen this year, then I could have stocked up on toilet paper, hand sanitizer and disinfectant sprays, I could have studied harder so that I had a better foundation before moving to online learning, I could have saved up more money in anticipation of losing a job or taking a cut in hours, I could have spent more time with my loved one that I am now prohibited from seeing in person or maybe the post popular thought you have had…I could have moved to a secluded island.” I know I have thought what it would have been like if I had known what this year was going to be like so I could have done something to make it better.
The prophet Isaiah did not have to wonder what the future held. God revealed the future of Israel to the prophet Isaiah. Babylon would come and destroy Jerusalem, and God’s people would be taken into exile. It was a harsh reality, and one the people did not want to believe in. And it was the people’s lack of faith in God and his message through the prophet Isaiah that caused them to go into exile. They did not stop sinning. They did not turn to God for forgiveness. They deserved the punishment God allowed to happen. The people did hear what horrible events were coming, and they did not prepare for them. And, you and I would have been just like them.
You and I often ignore just how bad life is, which means we do nothing to change how bad our lives are. If someone had told you that there would be a worldwide pandemic at the beginning of the year that would cause economic, political and social unrest throughout the world, most of you would have scrolled right past that unbelievable message to get to the post of a cute layered winter outfit, the results of a basketball game or changed the channel to watch someone remodel a home or prepare an amazing meal with strange ingredients in only half an hour. When you hear bad news, you avoid it. You do not want to be uncomfortable; you want life to be good and feel good, but your life is not good. Jesus said in Matthew 15, 19 “For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” Inside of you is not good; inside of you is sin. It is uncomfortable and you do not want to admit just how often your own thoughts make you blush at how they are so selfish, hateful, lusting, jealous and lazy. This past year certainly has been difficult on the outside, but there have been worse years on the outside. The uncomfortable truth is that this past year was as bad as it gets because of what is inside of you, your sinful heart, opposed to God, whose future was death and hell.
It is for that uncomfortable reason, that your God gave these words to the prophet Isaiah to preach. He gave these words so that you would know there is comfort in your future, even when your present situation is so uncomfortable. God gave us these words through Isaiah, 1 “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.” Israel was not going to be lost after Babylon destroyed their nation and much more than that, God’s people were not going to be lost because of their sin. The same message of comfort preached to Israel was also preached by John the Baptist. We hear this description of John the Baptist in Mark 1, which is a quote from Isaiah 40, “‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” Then, Mark 1 goes on to say, 4 “And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” The comfort Isaiah and John the Baptist brought to the people was comfort for their hearts, for their souls, a comfort that got to the heart of why their lives and the world was such an uncomfortable place. They needed their sin removed, and the good news was that God was going to take it away from them forever.
You need the comfort of the forgiveness of your sins. Each time we meet together for worship, we begin with a confession of our sins. It is uncomfortable, but we admit that we are sinners who deserve God’s punishment because it is the truth and not admitting our sins would mean we have no need for our Savior. So, we admit our sins and ask God’s forgiveness, then the words are spoken with complete confidence, “Your sins are forgiven.” The rest of our worship is then spent comforting one another with the good news of Jesus’ forgiveness.
This season of Advent, when we focus on the promises of Jesus’ coming to be born to be our Savior, we repeat the words of Isaiah and John the Baptist to keep our hearts prepared for Jesus coming. The future you have in Jesus because he did come at Christmas and will come again at the end of the world is revealed in 2 Peter 3, 13 “But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. 14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.” Your future in heaven is certain because Jesus has saved you. He has made you spotless, blameless and at peace. He has a place ready for you in heaven. And he keeps you ready for heaven by strengthening your faith through his Word. Words like these from Isaiah 40 keep us ready for our future in heaven, 2 “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” Your life of sin has been punished through Jesus’ death on the cross. You are forgiven. One day, you will be done with your hard life in this world and will go on to the joys of heaven. All of the hardships you have face here will not compare to the blessings of living with God forever in heaven.
Comfort comes when your needs are met. Whether you would have known how this year was going to be or if all of the past events of the past year were a surprise, you still had to meet your needs over the past year. Whether proactively planning for your comfort or reacting to make yourself comfortable, you have needs that need to be met. The good news is that your greatest need of forgiveness has been met through Jesus. And with that need met, your heart has comfort that cannot be changed or taken from you. Isaiah wrote, 40:8 The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” God’s forgiveness, his love and grace for you will last forever. And with that need met, your heart is also filled with love for others. Paul wrote in, 2 Corinthians 5, 14 “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.” The love of Christ in your heart loves others. You have someone in your life that is not comfortable. You have someone whose needs are not being met. You have someone who does not know God’s unchanging message of forgiveness, love and eternal life in heaven through Jesus. When you get to go to someone you know and tell them with absolute confidence, “friend, all your needs are met.” That is true comfort.
The events of this past year were going to happen whether you knew about them or not. Certainly, it has been a difficult year. Yet, the good news that was preached by Isaiah, by John the Baptist and the Word of God shared among you and I is still true, 1 “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.” With confidence in God then this past year we decided to communicate our specific goals for bringing comfort to one another and to our community with the Growing Gifts effort. The goal of Growing Gifts is to put our congregation in a place where we can make sure this message continues to be spread. Isaiah wrote this about our God, 40:11 “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” We pray that with two pastors, two campuses, updated facilities, Children and Family focused ministries and faithfulness in discovering our personal gifts for ministry, we will get to continue saying this message to one another, comfort comes from the Lord, and it always will for Jesus’ sake. Amen.