Rector's Reflections - 30 November

Rector’s Reflections 

Thursday 30th November 2023

Preparing for Advent

Yesterday, we looked at how we choose to respond to God’s offer of love. Central to idea of love is the idea of giving someone support and comfort , and this in turns brings to mind the opening words of of Handel’s Messiah

In case you don’t know or can’t quite remember, The Messiah  opens with a quotation from the Book of Isaiah, chapter 40 :  “Comfort ye, comfort my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned : for she hath received  of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain : and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”

When these words  of hope were first uttered,  they probably referred to members of the Jewish community who were in exile in Babylon. The prophet was telling his fellow Jews that however bad things seemed, God had not given up on them. They would return, “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed”. 

In terms of historical events,  many of the Jewish exiles did indeed return, and the city of Jerusalem was indeed rebuilt, together with the Temple- although this programme of rebuilding took much longer than some people  hoped. However, there were those who felt that God had still further blessings in store, and that at some date in the future, “the glory of Lord” would be revealed in all its fulness.

Many Christians have seen the birth and ministry of Jesus as the ultimate fulfilment of the prophecy in chapter 40 of the Book of Isaiah. The words of this prophecy help to set the scene for Christmas, and this is  possibly why they were chosen as the opening words of Handel’s Messiah.  For many Christians, the birth of Jesus was not some chance event : it was God’s way of fulfilling his promises to bless every nation in the world, including the Jewish nation. 

As far as God is concerned, the birth of Jesus is intended to provide a very real source of comfort – to us as individuals, and to our world. I wonder where we might be in particular need of God’s comfort this Christmas time?

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