Comfort, Comfort Now My People- an Advent devotional for Dec. 7, 2017

This Advent season I am going to reflect on a hymn or carol daily as part of my spiritual practices. I am not sure where all these reflections will take me, but in conversation with my spiritual director, I am going to leave room for both “the head stuff” and “the heart stuff.” Some days might be more of one or another. I invite you to join me, as together we make space to listen, and be present, to sense what God might be up to. 

My morning started rather unusually. We have gone from the 60 degree high on Sunday to a windchill this morning below zero. That wasn’t the odd part. On top of a dentist appointment first thing in the morning, came the downside of the low temperatures. When I got back into my car, the low tire pressure warning light came on. Bummer! Thankfully, my dentist’s office isn’t far from a good friend and parishioner who owns an auto-shop. Ed took great care of me, and got my tires all fixed up to make the drive into work.

I start with this small example of daily life, because sometimes we can lose sight of these things in the midst of the ordinary or super busy. As I drove, the words and melody of “Comfort, Comfort Now My People” came to mind. It’s a beautiful melody and Advent hymn that can be traced as far back as the 1500 and 1600s.

“Comfort, comfort now my people; tell of peace!” So says our God. 
Comfort those who sit in darkness mourning under sorrow’s load.
To God’s people now proclaim that God’s pardon waits for them!
Tell them that their war is over; God will reign in peace forever. 

The comfort of knowing all will be well, even though it’s fairly cold out today, warms me with the reassurance of friends and neighbors who help each other out, like Ed did for me this morning. I am also finding comfort this morning because of a conversation I had with a confirmand at confirmation last night. We had a good chat about some of the things that we do each day, (like eat breakfast, for example), and wondering about how God might be present during that. It was a fun vocational conversation, that even helped me think about the small things during the day that sometimes I take for granted.

For the herald’s voice is crying in the desert far and near,
calling us to true repentance, since the reign of God is here.
Oh, that warning cry obey! Now prepare for God a way. 
Valleys, rise to greet the Savior; hills, bow down in humble favor. 

A reminder of God’s peace and comfort that sits in my office this time of year.

Those of you who do not live in Nebraska might not realize that this area of Nebraska is not flat at all. There are lots of rolling hills and fields. If you don’t believe me, you should join me on my commute every morning like today where it’s up and down, and there is a need to accelerate as you climb. Sure, they aren’t Washington type hills or mountains (like where I grew up), but there is indeed elevation change which adds some fun to the drive, especially on potentially cold, windy, and even a bit icy mornings.

As I drove this morning, there was a calm in the wind. The sun is out in full. As I climbed the hills and descended into the valleys, there was a sense of peace. (Or, maybe that was just the heater working and warming me up after being outside checking on my tires.) I am going to believe it was mostly the sense of peace though.

Straight shall be what long was crooked, and the rougher places plain.
Let your hearts be true and humble, as befits God’s holy reign.
For the glory of the Lord, now on earth is shed abroad,
and all flesh shall see the token that God’s word is never broken. 

I’m sure you have mornings like the one I have had, where things may have not gone quite as planned. Even so, if you allow yourself the space to breathe, I am going to guess that most of those mornings, it all turns out okay. When I think about that for myself, I’m kind of humbled and grateful. A lot could have gone wrong, but it didn’t. I give thanks for that.

“For the glory of the Lord…” Some mornings like today, I feel God a little more active and present than others. I’m thankful for that, and for the gifts of peace, and calls for comfort. May your day be one filled with peace, and in the moments where things may not be going as well as you might have hoped or imagined, I hope that you are able to find some joy and satisfaction in the moment as odd or unexpected as it might be or might feel.


Credit/Reference: Johann G. Olearius, “Comfort, Comfort Now My People,” tr. Catherine Winkworth, Trente quatre pseaumes de David, (Geneva, 1551), found in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2006), 256.

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