An Advent Journey, 2013: Looking for the Light – Day Seven

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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 theLord,
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 theLord 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.
Isaiah 40:1-11 –  NRSV

It’s a persistent image, this picture of Jesus as shepherd. It threads its way throughout the scriptures. And yet, in the reality of day-to-day living, shepherds were the least desirable of any of the citizens of 1st century Palestine. They stank of sheep, they wandered the hillsides for days, even weeks at a time, they slept out of doors, they talked to animals more often than they did to people.

And yet.

The picture of God as Shepherd of Israel is a dominant one, especially in the prophets. And Jesus himself adopts and adapts this language in John 10, referring to himself as both the gate to the sheepfold and the shepherd himself. “I am the good shepherd,” he said. “My sheep know my voice. . . ”

Somehow, it all fits beautifully with Isaiah’s word picture, here at the end of the opening verses of chapter 40. Such a rich juxtaposition – the King who comes in might, and the shepherd who gently carries the young and tends to their mothers.

I think this is deliberately meant to be a both/and kind of section, not an either/or. The Creator of the Universe, the Risen and Ascended Lord, the majestic Holy Spirit – this God of ours is powerful and great.

But this God of ours is also willing to harness all that power, to draw it all together and funnel it into the very human body of Jesus of Nazareth. The One who is gentle and humble, caring and protective, our Good Shepherd.

There are days, Lord, when I need a little gentleness, I long to be gathered up into your arms and carried in your bosom. Thank you for being willing to do those ‘smaller’ things, those gentler things, those things we need so much.

* As an added Advent bonus, I heartily recommend you click on this link and meander over to SheLoves fine post on Random Acts of Advent Kindness. I’m going to try and do this as often as possible and I encourage you all to check it out for yourselves.

A second bonus today is this lovely recording of Handel’s setting for this reading from Isaiah.

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Comments

  1. A lovely, lovely post, Diana. What a comforting scripture Isaiah has given. Assurance. Rest. Feeding his flock. Comfort. Jesus the Shepherd. Appreciated your thoughts. And Barbara Bonney in the video is so lovely, not only a lyric-soprano but she doesn’t “over-emote” yet forms her words carefully that it’s possible to lip-read and hear the “real” words. So much of modern music seems to blur the words and phrases until they’re hard to understand. Blessings on you today, and every day, Diana.

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