“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.  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.  A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.  And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together.  For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” Isaiah 40:1-5

What brings you comfort during Advent?  In our culture some may find a fleeting moment of comfort when all their ‘preparations’ for Christmas are finally accomplished.  When that last batch of cookies is baked, that last gift is purchased and that last detail for the family gathering has been completed.  What is truly important is the message that the voice in the desert was calling out, “Prepare the way for the LORD.”  Do you still recall what filled your Holiday plate five years ago?  Do you recall what your favorite gift was ten years ago?  Do you remember who was born two thousand years ago that the Prophet Isaiah was writing about?  That is our focus during this Advent season.

The child that I am holding in my arms in the attached photo is a little girl named Suzette and at that time in 2002 she lived several miles west of Torbeck in Southwest Haiti in a one-room house made of sticks that is standing just behind us.  If she is still alive today I can tell you with much assurance that she still has the red bear that she is holding.  This simple small gift was sent to her from Lindie Nord’s class of students in Sioux Falls, SD.  Suzette didn’t have a toy box in her house, probably just a space in a drawer where her two outfits were kept, and the red bear; a most precious gift.

Some have called me a ‘nagger’ and accused me dumping a load of Lutheran ‘guilt’ in my devotions but if there is one message that reaches you today may it be this; first and foremost, celebrate Christmas for the real reason for which God brought His Son to this earth.  Reinforce that message with your friends and family this year and if you can, help prepare the way for children like Suzette to also go and tell the real reason of Christmas with the people along her pathway.  I close today with the words to the hymn ‘Comfort, Comfort, Ye My People’ what was written by Johann Olearius, 1671.

“Comfort, comfort, ye My people, speak ye peace, thus saith our God; comfort those who sit in darkness, mourning 'neath their sorrows' load.  Speak ye to Jerusalem of the peace that waits for them; tell her that her sins I cover and her warfare now is over.  Yea, her sins our God will pardon, blotting out each dark misdeed; all that well deserved His anger He no more will see or heed.  She hath suffered many a day, now her griefs have passed away;
God will change her pining sadness into ever-springing gladness.  Hark, the Herald's voice is crying in the desert far and near, bidding all men to repentance since the Kingdom now is here.  Oh, that warning cry obey!  Now prepare for God a way; let the valleys rise to meet Him and the hills bow down to greet Him.  Make ye straight what long was crooked, make the rougher places plain; let your hearts be true and humble, as befits His holy reign.  For the glory of the Lord now o'er earth is shed abroad, and all flesh shall see the token that His Word is never broken.”

Dear Heavenly Father, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown.  Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.  Amen.

May God be with you…Jay