The Book of Consolation

The Book of Consolation

The section of the Book of Isaiah, beginning with chapter 40, from which so much of our Advent and Christmas inspiration comes, is called by many the Book of Consolation. After prophesying judgment and punishment in the first section of this prophetic book, in chapter 40, comfort becomes the message, as Isaiah speaks about the people’s approaching return from a long period of exile. The first words of the 40th chapter sing these words, “Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.” Shortly after, the people are encouraged, “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord.”

The poetry of Isaiah speaks to the challenge and suffering of the human experience, as well as the presence and provision of God in the midst of our circumstances. As we Christians have always known and proclaimed, there is good news at hand. There is also the need to prepare for the presence and activity of God among us.

These words seem extraordinarily appropriate to our moment, as we come to the end of a rather extraordinary year, 2020. Can we hear God’s words of comfort? Can we heed the command to prepare ourselves for the way of the Lord? I am so looking forward to this season of Advent and Christmas, all the while knowing that it will be challenging and unusual. We are working hard to make this season as meaningful as possible for all of you.

Right now, we are still planning to have an in-person option for most of our worship opportunities, but we also are aware that we are in the midst of a surge in the virus. Plans may change. I learned last night that the bishop of New Jersey encouraged all Episcopalian churches in the state to temporarily end in-person worship. Stay tuned.

Our Christmas Pageant will be on December 13 and our Christmas Cantata will be on December 20. We have decided to make these virtual only services. They have been taped and edited and will be shown on our Zoom worship. The experience in the sanctuary would be less rewarding than at home on Zoom. On December 21 at 7:30, Sue Smith, Andreea Fegan, and I will lead a beautiful “Blue Christmas” service which also will be Zoom only. Sue has been organizing this service and it is already bringing tears to my eyes and hope in my heart. Please join us. Christmas Eve, at this point, is still virtual and in-person. We are now offering three choices—3:00, 5:00, and 9:00. The services will be identical. To attend in-person, you must make a reservation by email or phone. Do so soon, if you plan to come.

The beauty of this time of year is linked to the length of the darkness. The days are short and the darkness reintroduces us to the mysterious and the unknown dimensions which are part of the human experience. In these depths of darkness, the light, soft and gentle, takes on new significance. It reassures us in profound ways, beyond our rational understanding. It’s why this season is experienced as holy. It evokes something powerful within us. It puts us in touch with our essence. Our essence is love. We come from love, we live in love, and return to love. Christmas communicates this deep truth in transforming ways. Prepare for the season. Prepare for Christ’s coming. See you in church!

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