On Sunday the Sunset pastor began a four-week series of Advent messages titled “What Is Advent?”  Advent means coming, and it refers to the coming of Jesus into the world at Christmas.  

 Sunday’s message was titled, “Advent Means Comfort,” from Isaiah 40:1-2:  “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem….”

 The world in ancient times, and the world today, needs God’s comfort. 

 We need it because we’ve all sinned, and our sin puts us in uncomfortable situations.  We all sometimes, because we’re human, get sick and tired, but our sin causes us to be extra sick—physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually—and extra tired because our sin over time tears us down. 

 Here’s an example.  In our county we have a lot of drug use and abuse.  If you’ve ever known anyone who’s addicted, you know that they are sick people.  At first, the devil tricks them with a good feeling, but the end of it is devastating.  The devil has always operated in this way—with a deception and then a kill. 

In ancient times, about 700 BC (Before Christ), God called the great prophet Isaiah to proclaim God’s will and God’s warnings to apostate Israel.  God had graciously brought his people out of slavery in Egypt, and into Canaan’s promised land, under the leadership of Moses and Joshua. 

 But when Joshua and his generation died, the people decided they could live their lives better without God’s guidance, and so it says that “In those days there was no king in Israel, and every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”  [Judges 21:25]

 Not even God was their king.  Chaos, disorder and assassination reigned under the rule of man, after they had thrown off the gracious rule of God. 

 Israel fell into idolatry, worshipping the gods of their world’s culture, Molech and Chemosh, which ordered the sacrificing of their offspring to these gods.  So they killed their children and offered them as burnt offerings in these violent, pagan religions.

 Israel also worshipped the Canaanite fertility gods Baal and Asherah with temple prostitution and many other acts of humanly-inspired, pagan religion.  These acts degraded the people and led them further away from the blessed peace of a relationship with the one true and living God. 

 In His great patience and mercy, God sent many prophets to his people, who urged them to repent of their wicked ways and come into God’s blessing. A remnant listened to God’s preachers, but the great majority did not heed the prophetic warnings.

 Finally God’s patience ran out, and judgment came through the invasion of the Babylonian army.  They burned Jerusalem to the ground, destroyed Solomon’s temple and took the people, including some good people such as Daniel, into captivity.

 But God always loved his wayward people, and when they turned back to Him in repentance and faith, he sent Isaiah to proclaim a blessing to them.  He tells Isaiah (v1) to “Comfort, comfort my people.” 

One job of a pastor is to proclaim the comfort of God’s presence and blessing to his repentant people who may not be feeling God’s presence because of their difficult circumstances. 

 Then, v2, “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem” (God’s people). Pastors should not always harangue and harass with condemnatory messages God’s repentant people.  Speak tenderly.  “Proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, and that her sin has been paid for….” 

 Judgment came, and Israel’s time of captivity would come to an end.  Palestine Hometown Pharmac

But these verses are also for us.  Isaiah 40 is all about Jesus, as we’ll see more next week.  Whenever we turn to God and away from sin in repentance and faith, Jesus is there to help us.

 There is comfort, healing, blessing and freedom from the power and condemnation of sin when we give our lives to Jesus.  Rejoice, and let us share this Good News!

 “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”  [Isaiah 9:2] 

 May the blessed light of the Christ child shine on you in this holy season—our prayer for you from your friends at Sunset Christian Church.