In this season of Advent we look back to remember the first coming of the Lord; and we look forward, to remind ourselves to be prepared now for his second coming.
In Isaiah 40:1-11, God had a very dark message for his people – which at that time, around 750 years before Jesus was born, meant the people of Judah and its capital, Jerusalem. In spite of many warnings they had ignored him, and had given the honour and respect that is due to the Creator to made-up gods instead. Finally he told them that because of their treachery, they were going to be conquered by a foreign power, and disgraced before the world. But in this chapter, he tells them that a time will come when a messenger will announce that they can stop mourning, because their time of disgrace will be about to end. Not only will they be restored to their home, but God himself will come to visit them. The messenger will call out to them that they need to get ready for the royal visit; but they needn’t be afraid, God will come to them in glory, he’ll bring gifts for the people, and he will care for them gently, the way a shepherd cares for his most vulnerable sheep.
God’s promise was fulfilled when John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness (Mark 1:1-8), teaching that people needed to change their ways, and get ready for the coming of the Lord; but also that God’s forgiveness was available to anyone who made that heart-felt change. And soon afterwards, God came to his people, born in human flesh, the baby Jesus, whose brief life, teaching, and ignominious death is recorded in the gospels; but that wasn’t the end of the story, and not all of God’s promises have been fulfilled yet. We live now in the in-between, after the coming of the Lord, but before he appears in glory, to be seen and recognised by everyone.
We may think that God is slow – why doesn’t he clean up the mess the world is in? 2 Peter 3:8-15 says God is giving us time to turn to him in repentance and trust.
- Katie Peken