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7 December 2014
posted by Canon Dakin on 08-12-2014

There were some familiar phrases in the first reading this morning - they were picked out and set to music by Handel in The Messiah.  Isaiah was writing with the imagination- and exaggeration - of a poet.  What he was writing about was real enough.  In the year 568 the Assyrians destroyed Jerusalem and took the notables off into exile in Babylon.  Fifty years later the Persians knocked the Assyrians off their perch and enabled the exiles to return. Isaiah is describing their joyful journey home, made possible, he believed, by God’s providence - the Persians were merely tools in God’s hands just as the Assyrians had been God’s means of chastising the Jews for their infidelity. ‘Here is the Lord’, he says. ‘Comingwith power”.  Here is a work of restoration by God.  Now the Christians. Lookingback on all that had happened in the Old Testament, drew parallels with what took place in the New.  So in Lent we dwell on the story of the Israelites being rescued from slavery in Egypt by their crossing of the Red Sea and view that story astypifying the way that we cross the waters of baptism to freedom from slavery to sin. Now in Advent the story we hear from the Old Testament is that of God’s bringing his people home from exile and restoring them to the home he had first planned for them - and this is seen as foreshadowing the coming of Our Lord to unblock for us the way to heaven from which we had been exiled. The way is plain and straight. We still have to walk it.  ‘Comfort ye. comfort ye, my people’ are the words set by Handel in a famous aria.  You don’t really comfort a child by constantly carrying him. He will just grow weak if you do.  Fortify means to make strong.   Com-fort means to strengthen by being with, by accompanying and encouraging a person, to walk by his or her side. So God comforts us by being with us on our journey. God is not only with us - God is within us giving us the interior strength that we need.  Another name for the Eucharist is Viaticum - food for the journey.  Advent is a time of consolation and encouragement - God is coming to be with us on our journey.

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