Advent 1: Peace – Rusty Foerger

Comfort Comes in Person

Recently Ali, the father of the Syrian family we sponsored, found out that there was another explosion in his hometown of Aleppo. Sadly, this isn’t news any more. What made this explosion newsworthy was the fact that his father and uncle were caught up in it: his dad lost an eye among other injuries, and Ali’s uncle lost both his legs!

These life-altering events would never have made themselves known to me were it not for their connection to Ali, who, since the end of July, lives in Millwoods, thousands of kilometres from Syria. The consequences of this misery would never have touched me other than by being safely sanitized in a seven second sound bite of a new cycle. If this happened to any of my relatives, it would be news for the rest of their disabled lives to everyone I know.

Ali’s loss – or rather – his mounting losses, just keep tallying up. On top of this is Ali’s distance from feeling useful to care for his family, scattered as they are among the pockets of his ravaged homeland. Meanwhile here, we celebrate Christmas as if there was peace all over the Earth.

Therefore, in such a time as this, how might we hear these ancient words spoken to the prophet Isaiah to a displaced people some 700 years before Jesus would live them in the flesh?

“Comfort, comfort my people… Speak tenderly to her; tell her the war is over;
tell her I’ve pardoned her crimes, and that I’ll repay her double in grace for all her sins.”

It’s outrageous in so many ways; it’s almost beyond the capacity to grasp. A person who has lost too much may be just as likely to respond with apathy as with joy. How can a person who has lost so much hear good news with anticipation?

The answer comes centuries later when Jesus was born. He came to restore our ability to hear because, I suspect, we aren’t able to really hear this message until and unless comfort comes in person. It was true then, and it is true today.

We have needed Jesus to come to each one of us in person – for it is in person that we can know His comfort. Therefore:

May you hear Him speak tenderly
And know your war with Him is over;
May you feel His pardon
And receive His outrageous grace;
May you know the Comfort of His Peace
And be the Comfort in Person for others.

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