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. (Isaiah 40:1-2, NRSV)
God of comfort, we live in a world that increasingly reveals its disconnection from you. We feel the deepening of the artificial divisions of nation, race, and religion as the Supreme Court in the United States allows a ban to go into effect that will prevent refugees and families from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen from entering the United States. Wars and the threat of new conflicts abound, and fears mount as countries like North Korea demonstrate their military might with ever-escalating missile tests. We cry out to you in our exile and ask, ‘How long, O Lord?’ Bring to us the comfort that you have promised. Be present with us in our pain and fear and worry. Cause us to see your face in the faces of our neighbors both near and far.
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.’ (Isaiah 40:3-5, NRSV)
God of glory, we long for the day of your revelation. Your children around the world continue to suffer in places like Syria, Yemen, South Sudan, Myanmar, and so many others. The earth cries out for justice as natural resources are abused and protected lands are exposed, like in the United States’ Bears Ears National Monument, which is set to lose 85% of its acreage in a policy change. The impact of pollution grows in places like Delhi, India, where toxic air quality levels have threatened the health of residents for weeks. Guide us in preparing the way for your coming. Give us hearts for service and wisdom to act with justice.
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!’ (Isaiah 40:9, NRSV)
God of hope, in this season of Advent, remind us of the glad tidings of great joy that come to us as a baby in a manger. Open our eyes to the good news of Christ’s presence in our lives and in the lives of all people, especially those who suffer and are in need. And give us hope in the glorious future of your coming kingdom, when your justice shall reign and your love shall transform the world.
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. (Isaiah 40:10-11, NRSV)