Kelsey Hochstetler lives in Berlin, Ohio with her husband, Jeff, and 1-year-old daughter, Mariella. When she’s not working at Mennonite Mission Network or changing diapers, she loves making music, food, and the occasional DIY project.
Comfort, O comfort my people,
says your God.
2 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.
3 A voice cries out:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 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.
5 Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’
6 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.
7 The grass withers, the flower fades,
when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers, the flower fades;
but the word of our God will stand for ever.
9 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!’
10 See, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
11 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
The snow falls gently on my shoulder as we approach the house, caroling. “Comfort, comfort, O my people, speak of peace now says our God.”
It’s a familiar scene, one that happens every year. We visit friends and neighbors, singing that song. As I’m bundled in my warm coat and cozy scarf, I can’t help but wonder if maybe I misunderstood Isaiah’s words of comfort.
Isaiah was originally writing this for a people in exile. It doesn’t take much to imagine a people in exile in today’s world. I imagine Syrian refugees or Native Americans removed from their land. I think of Black men, imprisoned at a disproportionate rate than other races. I see coal workers struggling to provide for their families in a changing climate or immigrants forced from their homes by violence and poverty.
Sometimes exile is closer than we think.
Just like in Isaiah 40:6, voices are urging us to cry out! To not let these people go unnoticed.
When I see injustice, I empathize with Isaiah’s nervous, “What should I say!?” Will I make a difference? Will I offend someone?
Before I can answer my own questions, I read the Lord’s simple response, “All people are like grass.” Like the grass on my cold, brown lawn, our short lives will soon come to an end. So too, will the violence, prejudice, and privilege of our world. That is our comfort.
With Jesus’ humble birth, God introduces a new kingdom. In this kind of kingdom, humility overcomes arrogance, life overcomes death, and love always overcomes hate.
But until that happens, we wait. (Some more impatiently than others!) As we wait this Advent season, let us not become complacent or lulled to sleep by false claims of comfort and contentment.
Instead, join me to wait actively. Write a letter of encouragement. Reach out to someone who is grieving. Get to know your neighbor, those who think and look like you, and especially those who do not. When we practice active waiting, we might just find that in our common humanity, our weaknesses are completed by the strengths of another. And as we lift each other up, “Every valley will be lifted up, and every mountain will be made low… the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all people will see it together.”