Summary: This is an advent sermon.
I. God’s Comfort.
“I think my water broke!”
“Your what did what?” I replied.
“I think my water broke!”
“Not now. We’re at church.”
“No, this is it. We gotta go to the hospital.”
“Uh, okay. Let me ask mom to take Victoria.”
We were off to the hospital. It wasn’t supposed to be for six more weeks. We stayed overnight in the hospital. Tammy slept on a comfortable hospital bed. I slept on springs that had little more than a sheet on it. It didn’t seem to matter though because number two was on the way. Late the next afternoon, Joseph Robert Bishop sprang into the world.
What an exciting day. Something didn’t seem right though. “Mr. & Mrs. Bishop, we are a little concerned about the condition of Joseph’s lungs.” What does that mean?
They put our six-pound little guy under what looked like a salad cover. I went home to sleep. I awoke to the piercing sound of the phone ringing at 2:00 in the morning. “Hello.” “They’re taking Joey to Research Hospital. He needs treatment there that they can’t offer here,” said the groggy voice on the other end. “Huh? Treatment for what?” I shot back. “His lungs aren’t developed enough.”
For nearly two weeks, we trekked daily to Research Hospital to visit our newest family member. Friends, family and well-wishers came to visit. I was scared, to say the least. My mom comforted me. I realized that it had been 28 years since her firstborn lay in a hospital for 52 days before he passed on. Now she put her arm around me and comforted me. She stormed the gates of Heaven for her first grandson. My dad offered his quiet strength as we watched Joey lay there, eating through a feeding tube, hooked up to a respirator. The comfort that my parents offered was priceless. It helped through those days.
There is nothing like the gentle touch of someone when we have just gone through a difficult time.
Turn to Isaiah 40. Keep your Bible open as we work through this.
1 Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the LORD’s hand
double for all her sins.
Isaiah had just delivered the bad news of judgment in chapter 39. The people were facing 70 years of captivity in Babylon. Many who would be carried to Babylon would never again see their homeland. Many more would be born in captivity, having never seen the “old country.”
Now he looks forward to the end of the judgment. After that time, they would be disoriented and bewildered. There would be a sense of not being sure what to do.
The anger of God would subside, because the price of the sin would be paid. Now God is commanding that comfort be brought. Last week we talked about God turning his face from the people because of their sin. Now Isaiah foresees a time when God turns his face back to his people. God sees the pain they will have. We think of Nehemiah’s task of rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. After hearing the walls of Jerusalem were in ruin, we are told in Nehemiah 1:4, “When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.” The pain would be deep. There would be people who wanted to give up. In Nehemiah 4:10 we read, as the wall building project was underway, “Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, ‘The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.’” Now that sounds like people who need to be comforted. We are commanded to offer comfort to God’s people. We’ll come back to this a little later.
II. Prepare the way for the Lord.
Have you ever had to prepare for the arrival of someone? There were a few occasions when I was younger that my dad would invite someone over to the house after the Sunday evening service, without clearing with the management first. “You did what? You invited who over?” would be my mom’s response. So in an effort to adequately prepare for the guests we would break world land speed records to get home before the guests who had already left.
Or do you remember the first time that special someone came over to the house? You were probably racing around rearranging things, throwing the G. I. Joe’s or Barbie’s in the closet. You would say things like, “Now don’t embarrass me mom and dad.”
I recall the time Tammy and I decided to get married. She wanted me to ask her dad. Now I am about the biggest chicken you’ll ever meet. We drove from Kansas City to eastern Indiana to visit her grandparents. Her parents and sister were driving up from Florida. She said I could ask her dad then. I did all those things you do to work up you courage.