I first began making my “Pastor Gary’s Video Notebook” videos in March 2020 when the coronavirus shutdown came to my community and my church. I had a number of goals for these videos at that time. It was a time when we didn’t know much about this virus that was already causing death and disability in other parts of the world and in other parts of our country.
The virus was spreading; people were dying; store shelves were emptying; workplaces were being closed; we were being forced to learn new technologies in order to maintain some semblance of work and community life. We were all trying to cope with fear for our present health and with anxiety and uncertainty about the future of our economic and social well-being.
We all needed comfort and assurance from God. And so, most of my early videos dealt with that comfort in one way or another.
Now, here we are 22 months since my first video. This is my 116th video for “Pastor Gary’s Video Notebook.” We know a lot more about this coronavirus. We have several vaccines that work pretty well to limit the death and devastation of the virus. And the more people who will get vaccinated, the better they’ll work.
We’ve also become much better at using all sorts of digital technologies that make it possible for us to work and communicate and stay in touch with one another. Before all this started, I had no idea how to make and live stream videos, how to edit and post them on different platforms so that more people could find them. Now, as you can see, I know how to do that.
And yet, this on-going experience of death and disability, of economic and social loss, this experience of dramatic and disorienting change to the way we live our lives—all of this has injected a tremendous amount of distress and sorrow, suffering and loss, anger and weariness into our lives. We’re tired, frustrated, and anxious. And so, we still need reassurance. We still need hope. We still need comforting.
One of the great Advent passages speaks to that need, because, of course, we’re not the first generation of folks to need this comfort and hope. Here’s the passage.
1 “Comfort, comfort my people,”
says your God.
2 “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.
Tell her that her sad days are gone
and her sins are pardoned.
Yes, the Lord has punished her twice over
for all her sins.” (NLT)
“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.” God speaks to his people here through the prophet. “My people” is what God calls the ones to whom he is speaking. That’s where comfort starts. We don’t have to cope with these fears, frustrations, and uncertainties of our lives alone. God wants to wrap his arms around us and say, “My people.”
Can you hear the invitation of Jesus? “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NIV) Jesus invites you to become one of those whom God calls “my people.”
But understand, this is not an exclusive invitation. And the “people of God” is not an exclusive social club. It’s open to everyone. You don’t get invited into the people of God because you are somehow special, better than other people. You don’t receive the invitation to become one of God’s people because you deserve it. Because you don’t! You get this invitation because you need it. The only people who receive this invitation to God’s comfort are people who are needy, who are undeserving but who are helpless on their own. The only people who receive this invitation to receive God’s comfort are desperately broken people.
If that’s not you, then, I’m sorry, no invitation for you. But then, of course, you don’t need God or his comfort, so there’s no problem. Right? You can close out this video at this point, because I’m not going to say anything else that would be of interest to you.
But to you broken and need one’s like me who are still watching, I repeat Jesus’ invitation to come to him. I repeat Isaiah’s promise of comfort for you through the coming Messiah. Remember what I said in my previous Advent video (#115). This season of Advent has historically been seen by the Church as a season for looking ahead to the second coming of Christ.
Yes, Jesus Christ has come to inaugurate the kingdom of God’s comfort and redemption, his kingdom of healing and grace. It has begun, but we still look ahead to the day when he will bring it to completion. We have the beginnings of his comfort today. We have the promise of the fulfillment of that comfort in the time to come. We live in it, while we also hope for it, all at the same time.
In the meantime, he has given us a Companion to comfort us. Here’s Jesus’ promise: “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever.” (John 14:16 KJV) The Holy Spirit is that living, immediate presence of God’s comfort and help in our lives in these challenging and troubled times, really in all challenging and troubled times.
Let me encourage you to use this Advent season to live more and more into the comforting presence of our God, that comfort that he opened for us through Christ’s first coming—through Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension—that comfort that God supplies to us through the presence and ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives today, that comfort that we will experience in all its fullness at the second coming of Christ when he will make everything new.
I want to encourage you to focus your attention on entering more and more fully into this comfort from our God in these weeks leading up to Christmas. And one key step to doing that is suggested to us in the passage I read from Isaiah 40 a moment ago. From verse 2: “Tell [them] [their] sins are pardoned.” This is the first great comfort that opens the way to all the other necessary comforts from God. Your sins are pardoned in Christ.
Make that a truth you keep constantly before you in these days. Everything that has separated you from the comforts of God has been pardoned and removed through Christ. So, lay your life open before God. Your sins, your failings, everything you are ashamed of. Hide nothing from him. Lay it all out without fear. Hold nothing back. Christ has removed it all. There is now nothing that can separate you from the comforts of our God. Reflect on that this Advent season. And find peace in it.
© 2021 Gary A. Chorpenning; all rights reserved.