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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Isaiah 40:1–11

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.

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. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” 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.

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. 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.  (NRSV)

If you opened your daily devotional this morning—the first Sunday in December—expecting a joyful, pregnant Mary, riding to Bethlehem on a donkey, then I am afraid you are in for a disappointment.

If you thumbed to this page excited to read the tales of shepherds in their fields waking to the song of the angels, then I am sorry to let you down.

If you were ready again to hear the soft cry of the newborn Jesus—asleep in the hay surrounded by kings from the east, then I am sad to report he is nowhere to be found. Not yet.

Today we enter the season of Advent. The word advent means “coming” or “arrival.” Advent is the season in the church year when we prepare our hearts again to receive the promise of God made manifest at Christmas. The promise of God is this: God is going to unveil a new way of being. God is going to put on human flesh and come to earth to crown humanity with justice and beauty. God is going to bring heaven and earth just the tiniest bit closer—close enough that crying will cease, suffering will end, peace and goodwill will reign, and all will be at home with God.

During Advent we pause in humility and awe to ready our hearts to receive this mind-bending, earth-shaking reality. In the midst of a culture that is shouting at us to buy, spend, and do so quickly while the sale lasts, Advent calls us to slow down, wait, watch, and pray. During Advent, we slowly savor the promise of God’s love told to us through scripture, song, and sacrament. We buck the rushing culture, clear away the distractions, and listen for God.

It’s hard work and can feel uncomfortable at first. But if we do, if we slow down and listen, we might just hear the still small voice of God uttering the promise of never-ending love and calling us home again.

So in this holy season of Advent, when the world beckons us to rush and skip right to Christmas, be ready to say: not yet! We Christians have work to do first.

Almighty God,
who sent your prophets to calls us home and prepare the way for our salvation:
grant me grace to heed their call to wait, watch, and listen,
that I may hear your voice anew and greet with joy and gladness
the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Amen.

Written by Shawn Fiedler, Worship and Adult Education Coordinator

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