By LeAnn Hampton.
In a perfect world, Advent is a time for us to slow down and contemplate the mystery of God’s great love coming to be with us in the presence of Jesus. Do you live in that perfect world? We don’t. Advent at the Hampton house this past week meant complicated schedules, lots of deadlines, a house only half-decorated for the season and at least one of us (me) feeling frazzled.
Yet, in the messiness of this life, God’s message comes through the Hebrew Scriptures: “Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God” (Isaiah 40:1). There is our truth — God showing up for us at the time we need it most. Historically this message of comfort was given to people living in exile and experiencing feelings of loss, despair and hopelessness. The same God who comforted those people is the one who comforts us today.
How do we experience God’s comfort? When the crises of life happen, just reading God’s words, “Comfort, O comfort my people,” might be helpful, but we often need a tangible, flesh- and-blood kind of comfort. Last spring, when my husband, Jeff, was unexpectedly diagnosed with a very rare sinus cancer, our lives changed abruptly. I felt like someone had sucked the air out of the room as the doctor calmly shared the diagnosis. Not knowing what to expect or where to turn, we started asking questions and were surprised by the ways God sent us comfort. The doctors were first by assuring us that although this cancer was rare and unusual for us, treating cancer was part of their everyday lives. We could trust them to manage Jeff’s care. Comfort came in the form of friends bringing food at the end of weary days of treatment or sending us restaurant gift cards, knowing some days our lives were too hectic to be bothered by cooking. Friends and family shared hugs, support, cards, emails, prayers and other messages of concern. With each expression of kindness, God’s promise of comfort was tangible.
At Advent, we remember and celebrate God’s greatest gift of comfort — the presence of Christ coming to this weary, frazzled world, reminding us we are never alone in the messiness of life. As we worship together, thank God for comforting you and ask God to give you opportunities to comfort someone else.