Updated: Dec 18, 2020
by Pastor Ingrid Skilbred
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 forever. 9 Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings;[a] lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,[b] 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
I was invited to reflect on peace with you in this second week of Advent. Often I have thought of peace as the absence of conflict or as a feeling of calm. However, these definitions of peace feel hallow in 2020. As my children go to all distance learning, as friends who work in our local hospital express exhaustion, and as leaders in our community make decisions that have to be changed two days later because of our community’s rising COVID-19 cases, it feels impossible to really feel calm or be in a space where conflict is absent.
So, what is peace, to a person of faith, in 2020?
I think our story from Isaiah encourages our imaginations as we look to answer this question.
Isaiah was speaking to God’s people of Judah. These people had been conquered by a foreign power, Jerusalem, their capital city, and their Temple had been destroyed, and they were forced to move to unknown countries.
Every aspect of their lives had changed.
Isaiah’s audience were people who were living with different rules, often separated from family and friends, and who did things differently in order to survive.
Peace in exile could not be the absence of conflict or a feeling of calm. Instead, I think Isaiah invited the people of Judah to find peace in knowing who they were and knowing who God was.
Today, I think Isaiah is inviting you and me to find peace in knowing who we are and who God still is.
We, like the people of Judah, are people. Sometimes we struggle. Sometimes we turn away from God and turn away from the needs of our neighbors. Sometimes our choices lead us to unfamiliar places. Sometimes we are the flower of the field and sometimes we are the grass withering away. This is who we are.
But God knows who we are and God continues to be with us. God speaks tenderly to us in our struggle. God chases after us when we turn away. God invites us to turn around to see our neighbor’s needs. God hangs in there with us as we navigate unfamiliar places. God “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.”
Perhaps peace in 2020 is deeply knowing who we are.
Perhaps peace in 2020 is deeply knowing who God is.
You are not God. You are a beloved child of God. God is with you. Peace