Comfort, Comfort My People

Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

Isaiah 40:1-40:5 | December 27 -

December 27
Comfort, Comfort My People | Isaiah 40:1-40:5
Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

 

The good news of Christmas is for those who are tired of seeing bad news everywhere, especially in themselves. It’s become very popular in the last ten or fifteen years for historians to write “What if?” books. It’s called counter-factual history. What if the Allies had not won the Battle of Midway? What if Robert E. Lee had not lost those orders in the Civil War? What if?

Consider this “What if?”: imagine it’s September 11, 2001. You remember that day, I’m sure. Two planes crash into the Twin Towers in New York City. A third plane smashes into the Pentagon. A fourth goes down in rural Pennsylvania. Now imagine that after 9/11 there is a 9/12, with terrorist strikes in Philadelphia, Charlotte, Atlanta. Then there’s a 9/13 that hits Cleveland, Detroit, Nashville. Then a 9/14 and a 9/15. Day after day, there are attacks all across the country: Chicago, St. Louis, New Orleans, Minneapolis, Denver, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

In time, radicals with machine guns line the streets. Houses are emptied. Folks are loaded on planes and boats and sent off to somewhere in the Middle Eastern desert. There we sit in a strange place, far from home, taken away from everything we know and love. Now you may think that’s unlikely—or too terrifying to imagine. Well, that sort of thing did happen and still happens.

Just to make that scenario even more poignant, imagine that as you sit there being forcibly removed from your home and relocated, an exile in a strange land under the thumb of an oppressive regime, you knew in the midst of this grief, deep in your heart, that this catastrophe was not the result of failure in the intelligence community. It could not ultimately be blamed on the military. It was not the fault of the president. You knew—we knew—deep down that it was our fault. Our sins put us there. Perhaps it was our corporate sins as a nation: slavery, Jim Crow, and abortion. Maybe it was personal sins like greed, lust, and rage. We were rolling our eyes at God’s law and thumbing our nose at His majesty. Imagine that everyone from every trustworthy pulpit in this new land was telling us that this was our fault.

We’d learn to carry on in Arabia—hopeless, grief-stricken and despondent, knowing that our sin had brought us very low, that we were a nothing people, and that we ultimately had no one to blame in the midst of our grief but ourselves. Sin had destroyed us. We had destroyed ourselves. All of our privileges and blessings were squandered.

We can praise God that this is not our reality this morning—but if it were, what would good news sound like? Isaiah 40 is what it would sound like:

1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
      and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
      that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
      double for all her sins.
3 A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
      make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be lifted up,
      and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
      and the rough places a plain.
5 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
      and all flesh shall see it together,
      for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
(Isaiah 40:1-5)
The good news of Christmas is for those who are tired of seeing bad news everywhere, especially the bad news in themselves.

An Old Testament History Review

I always try to keep some dates in mind. They may be helpful for you. If you want to get in the ballpark of basic Old Testament chronology, you can roughly think: Abraham, 2000 B.C.; Moses and the Exodus, 1500 B.C.; and David, 1000 B.C. So 2000, 1500, 1000.

Saul was the first king, followed by David and Solomon. After Solomon, Israel divided (in 930 B.C.) into two kingdoms: Israel in the north, and Judah in the south. From roughly 810 to 750 B.C. (a couple of generations) the two kingdoms enjoyed relative peace and prosperity. In fact, Hosea and Amos (two of the minor prophets) ministered in this time. They were sent in part to rebuke the people, and to awaken them from their complacency. Things were good—almost too good.

Isaiah was commissioned at the end of this time period. You may remember when Isaiah 6 says:

1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up…
(Isaiah 6:1a)

His commission came in the year King Uzziah died (around 750 B.C.). As Isaiah began his ministry, the big superpower on the block was Assyria. You hear a lot about Syria in the news today. Well, the Assyrian Empire included parts of what we now see as Syria and northeast Iraq. The empire was quickly gaining in power and reach. They were moving across, sweeping down, and taking over every country in their path.

Judah could see what was coming, so they had a foreign policy decision to make. Were they going to be pro-Assyrian or anti-Assyrian? Obviously, you know that’s nothing like foreign policy in our day, but that’s what they were dealing with there. Should they side with the conquering superpower, or should they stand on their own and oppose those who were against God and His Word? Judah’s king, King Ahaz (who succeeded Jotham, who followed Uzziah), was a wicked king. He decided to cast his lot in with Assyria. Part of what went into his thinking was this rivalry that Judah (in the south) had with Israel (in the north). Ahaz thought, “Well, maybe if we cozy up to the Assyrians, they won’t conquer us, but they’ll take out our rivals here to the north.” Judah’s way out of impending doom was to rely on power politics. They looked to Assyria, who was really no friend at all. Other times they looked to Egypt, and the prophets would ask, “Why are you leaning on that splintered reed?” They were looking for other nations to provide their support and defense. Judah wanted to make alliances. That was their way out of the problem.

When Ahaz died, Hezekiah became king of Judah. He instituted a new foreign policy. Again, this is not to determine any foreign policy in our day. I do think a fair application would be whatever any particular nation must do: are we, as God’s people, looking first and foremost to God, or is our first instinct in the midst of trouble to think, “Well, there ought to be insurance, a president, a Congress, an army, or somebody to save me”?

Hezekiah was a good king. He instituted a new foreign policy. He said, “No, we are not going to give into the Assyrians.” You may recall how Assyria swept down through Israel (in 722 B.C.) and took over the northern kingdom, but didn’t quite make it down to Jerusalem. In 701 B.C., God intervened and killed 185,000 Assyrian men overnight. They decided to leave. You can even find this on a famous archeological monument called Sennacherib’s Prism. You can read as Sennacherib, the leader of Assyria, writes about all of the different people that he conquered. He even describes that the king of Judah, Hezekiah, was there, trapped as a bird in a cage. But he never goes on to talk about his conquering of those people, because he didn’t.

Why? Well, unlike Ahaz, Hezekiah sought the Lord’s help. Isaiah 37:21 says:

Because you have prayed to me concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria…
(Isaiah 37:21b)

God goes on to tell Hezekiah how He will save him from the superpower because he prayed, humbling himself.

Why do I go into all of this detail? I go into this detail, because the Assyrian threat forms the backdrop for the first 39 chapters in the book of Isaiah. Isaiah wants the people of God to know that God can be trusted even when the enemies are on the doorstep. Don’t throw in your lot with your enemies. Trust in God. Pray to Him. Obey Him. Follow Him. Listen to Him. He can be trusted. Don’t put your trust in chariots or horses, but trust in the name of the Lord our God.

Hezekiah did. If you turn back one chapter to Isaiah 39:5:

5 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD of hosts: Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the LORD. 7 And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” 8 Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my days.”
 (Isaiah 39:5-8)

It’s sort of a strange, but understandable, reaction from Hezekiah. “You saved us from the Assyrians. Things will be good for me!” But Isaiah says, “Though you’re safe now, you won’t be for much longer.”

“Comfort, Comfort My People”

Chapter 40 is a turn of the page. Isaiah moves from speaking about the contemporary situation relative to Assyria to taking a prophetic look 100 years into the future, when Babylon would be the superpower. They would conquer Judah and send the Jews in captivity to Babylon for 70 years. So Isaiah 40 is now transitioning. It’s looking into the future, and what the Lord will speak to His people when they will be in captivity, years after this prophetic word. Though they’ve been saved now because of Hezekiah’s faith and humility, as the Lord sees them continuing on their path of disobedience, the Babylonians will eventually conquer them. They will be put into exile and will be strangers in a strange land.

Isaiah speaks into this historical situation in chapter 40. Notice the word that stands out: that first word, ‘comfort’. It’s repeated twice. They couldn’t just click on their mouse and make things italic, underlined, or bold when they were writing and the scribe was copying these things on the scroll. When they wanted to emphasize something, they repeated it. You often see this with names: “Absalom, Absalom!” Or Jesus on the cross: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” When Isaiah received his commission, he saw the Lord high and lifted up, and said, “Holy, holy, holy!” That’s the only time you have something repeated thrice (that’s a good word, thrice!). Here you have “comfort, comfort”. That’s the message He wants them to hear, looking into the future, when (as exiles in Babylon) they’re punished for their sin.

‘Comfort’ is a word that we all like. It’s a word that takes different shapes for each of us. Where do you find comfort? In this context, you see the rest of it, about sin, and we’ll get there. But if someone said, “I want today to be a really comfortable day for you. I want this next week to be filled with comfort,” what would you immediately think of?

I would think of going on a long walk or run—or playing kickball with Jason. I’d think of the soundtrack from The Mission (if any of you have ever seen that movie). I’d put headphones on or go on my phone and put that up, and just think. I love that song. I love to sit early in the morning in my comfortable chair downstairs and read my Bible or a book. I love to sit down late at night and eat some of my wife’s chocolate chip cookies and drink a big glass of milk (2 percent—maybe even whole!) just to take the edge of the day.

Where do you find your comfort? I bet you can think of it. There’s a spot in your house, or some vacation spot you’ve been to—in a city, by a lake, or in the woods. For some of you, it’s in a deer blind. I don’t understand that, but that could be comfort for you. Maybe there’s a song, a pet, a pair of slippers, a meal, a hobby, or a victory over Alabama—whatever it is that you find comfort in.

What’s the comfort that Isaiah predicted? It’s much better, deeper, and richer than all of that. He says two things. Number one:

2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare  is ended…
(Isaiah 40:2a)

You could translate ‘warfare’ as ‘hardship’, ‘difficulty’, or ‘ordeal’. There are only a few people in this congregation that would be able to tell the rest of us what it was like when they found out that World War II had ended. It must have been amazing to hear the news, especially for people who had loved ones overseas, people who were coming home, people who were subject to rations, or people in Europe who wondered about nighttime air raids. Or think of a POW in a camp somewhere hearing that the camp had been liberated and he’d be set free.

So Isaiah speaks to these people. The Lord speaks tenderly to the people, almost as you would if any of you had to wake up your kids on Christmas—and if you had to, let me know your secret. You’d gently say, “Wake up. It’s time.” Picture the Lord saying to the exiles, “Wake up. Yes, now. We’re going home. It’s over. The warfare is over. The ordeal is over. The exile is over. What good news!”

And not only that, but second (and related):

…that her iniquity is pardoned…
(Isaiah 40:2b)

We’re not just talking about them making a mistake or having a bad day. We’re talking about centuries of disobedience that had been mounting and mounting, so that the Lord, in His justice, had to finally say, “You are removed from this Promised Land. Your sins have been mounting for centuries.”

Do you see the parallel between the exile to Babylon and the removal from the Garden of Eden? The Promised Land was to be like a new kind of Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve sinned, the Lord said, “You can’t dwell in My holy presence anymore, because you’re unholy. You need to leave, and I’m going to bar the doors with an angel with a sword.” “Then I gave you a Promised Land. Now you have to leave that, after centuries of disobedience.” “This good news says that’s pardoned. I commute your sentence! I will not count generation after generation of rebellion against you!”

And do you notice how the message was delivered?

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem…
(Isaiah 40:2a)

It’s like how you might go up to a child in her bedroom who has been there for a time out, and you’re not angry anymore. You walk up the stairs and tenderly say, “Come. No, come here. Sit on my lap. It’s okay. I love you. I’ve always loved you. Enough—it’s time to come downstairs.” Do you hear the voice of God forgiving you tenderly? I think some of us know the Bible says that we’re forgiven in Christ if we believe that He died on the cross, but we still picture God folding His arms, glancing over His shoulder, maybe rolling His eyes a bit every time we sin, and saying, “Oh… fine. It’s okay. Never mind.” He’s allowing us to continue—sort of against Himself. “Alright, fine. You’re forgiven. All right! What did I say? I’m merciful. I’ve got to forgive. You know, seventy times seven. A thousand generations? What was I thinking? Alright, alright, alright. You’re forgiven. It’s enough. Fine.”

Do you hear God speaking tenderly to you? “My son, My daughter, it’s paid for. It’s time to come home. It’s time to get out of your room, come downstairs, and be with Me.” He speaks tenderly to Jerusalem. Notice this covenant language right off the bat in verse 1. He doesn’t just say, “Announce comfort indiscriminately upon the world!” No, that would be some kind of good news, but that’s not what it says:

1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
(Isaiah 4o:1)

“I’m not just blanketing a kind of generic good times for everyone. I’m saying, ‘I’ve got a message for My people, because I’m your God. I’ve come with good news of great joy.’”

Why was this possible? Why could Isaiah announce this comfort? The answer is at the end of verse 2:

…she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.
(Isaiah 40:2c)

You may trip up and say, “Whoa, wait a minute! She had to receive double for all her sins? That doesn’t sound like God! He forgave them, but He made them pay?” This was simply what the Law required. Exodus 22:4:

If the stolen beast is found alive in his possession, whether it is an ox or a donkey or a sheep, he shall pay double.
(Exodus 22:4)

Verse 7:

“If a man gives to his neighbor money or goods to keep safe, and it is stolen from the man’s house, then, if the thief is found, he shall pay double.
(Exodus 22:7)

Verse 9:

For every breach of trust, whether it is for an ox, for a donkey, for a sheep, for a cloak, or for any kind of lost thing, of which one says, ‘This is it,’ the case of both parties shall come before God. The one whom God condemns shall pay double to his neighbor.
(Exodus 22:9)

This was enshrined in their covenant document, the law of Moses. A thief was to pay double. What the Lord is saying is: “I entrusted to you the possession of this Promised Land, the temple, and the tabernacle before it. I entrusted to you even My own presence, dwelling there among you. Yet you proved to be untrustworthy thieves, robbers, and brigands.” It was a flagrant breach of trust against the Lord. The proper restitution was double for their sins. This was not a “Here’s how you merit eternal life.” No, this was a judicial consequence for their covenantal disobedience in the Promised Land. But it was over and paid for. That’s the good news.

I hope you can immediately see what better gospel news we have. The same God announces to us, “Comfort, comfort! Your sins have been more than paid for! It’s not because I forced you into exile in Babylon, removed you from your homes, or meted out My anger upon you, but because I had a substitute for you. Your sins have been paid for.” We must continue to come back to this, because some of us think that we are forgiven by the absence of justice—that God said, “You know what, I don’t care about sin anymore.” No, you are saved by the satisfaction of justice. You can imagine that as these exiles return home and Isaiah announces, “You received it. You paid it. You made double restitution just as the law called for,” they perhaps have some confidence. “Alright. We’ve done our penance. We did our part. We’re going home after 70 years.” But what if you can’t do enough penance? What if your part is never enough? That’s what you need for eternal life. So God provides a substitute.

The promise here is not only for the exiles in Babylon, but is meant to be understood as a promise yet to come. That’s how these prophecies work. They start in this immediate circle, and then they spin out so that even people initially hearing the prophetic word would think, “Well, that sounds like good news, but it sounds like something even more is going on.”

If somebody was to prophecy to us, “Your long struggle with terrorism will be over. There will be peace and safety in your day. Every valley shall be lifted up, every mountain shall be made low, and the glory of the Lord shall fill the whole earth. All the nations will come streaming before Him,” you’d think, “That sounds like something right now, but there’s also something even bigger there than I think we can imagine.” They were looking forward not just to deliverance from Babylon, but perhaps someone else to deliver them from sin altogether.

The good news for us is that sin’s power has been conquered, its penalty removed, and its price has been paid for. What’s your only comfort in life and in death? That you are not your own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to your faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all of your sins with His precious blood, and has set you free from the power of the devil.

Almost every single funeral I’ve ever done or have been a part of—this is something about growing up in the Dutch Reformed tradition, I suppose—has had Question and Answer #1 from the Heidelberg Catechism. Why? Hopefully it’s not just because it’s a great tradition and we like these words, but because when you get to the end of your life, and you remember someone’s life who has just ended, hopefully you come to the end of yourself and realize what will provide real comfort here.

People talk: “Well, Grandma’s looking’ down on us.” “Uncle so-and-so’s gonna cheer on the Spartans.” We have vague spiritual generalities about what may happen that provide a sense of comfort. That’s not what the Bible means by comfort. The Bible means, “Here’s your comfort: if you live or die, you belong to Jesus. If you live or die, you have your sins forgiven because of Jesus. They’re fully paid for. Warfare has ceased. Your iniquity is pardoned in Jesus.”

The Gospel in Isaiah 40

Isaiah 40 is the gospel for Isaiah’s day, for the first century, and for our century. When the gospel is declared there’s always a proclamation of good news—“Comfort, comfort”—and then a summons to respond—“What do we do now in light of this good news?” It’s not, “What do we do to earn this good news?”, but, “Here’s good news. Now what?”

You see the ‘now-what’ in verses 3-5.

“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord…
(Isaiah 4o:3b)

There’s One coming. I want you to make a royal highway for this divine King, Who is on His way. That’s the imagery here. We’d say, “Turn off every stoplight. Widen every road. Fill in every pothole. Approve every Department of Transportation Appropriation Bill.” It’s not quite as poetic, and it would be hard for Handel to fit that all in to the Messiah. But that’s what they’re saying: “Lift up the valleys. Put down the hills. Make a level plain, a straight path. Prepare the way, for the King is coming.”

Okay, that’s poetic. How are they to prepare? Did He expect them to go out with a pick-axe and a shovel and start digging and filling in things? No. Turn over to Isaiah 57:14. This is what He meant by, “Prepare the way”:

14 And it shall be said,
“Build up, build up, prepare the way,
      remove every obstruction from my people’s way.”
15 For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
      who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I dwell in the high and holy place,
      and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly,
      and to revive the heart of the contrite.
(Isaiah 57:14-5)

Penitence was their preparation. Repentance was their response.

This should sound familiar. Centuries later, when a richer, deeper fulfillment of this prophecy was being realized, we meet a man named John who was preparing the way for God in the flesh. Luke 3 tells us that he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He quotes Isaiah 4o:3-5:

4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord…
(Luke 3:4a)
7 He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruits in keeping with repentance.
(Luke 3:7-8a)
10 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” 11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” 14 Soldiers [oppressive Roman soldiers] also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”
(Luke 3:10-14)

John is doing the very thing that Isaiah 40 and 57 would have him do: prepare the way for the Lord. How do we prepare for His coming? Well, this God who is high and lifted up, this Lord whose name is holy, comes to dwell with whom? It doesn’t say the rich, powerful, mighty, successful, and impressive. He comes to dwell with those who are lowly, contrite, and broken. If you came in here this morning crushed down by what’s going on in your body, your health, your family, your head, and your heart, and you feel about this big, God’s looking to meet you there. If you came in here strutting, feeling pretty good and pretty confident, there’s some preparation that needs to take place for this good news to really sink in. When John comes on the scene, he says, “I’m preparing the way for the One that Isaiah predicted. I come with a baptism of repentance. Here’s what I want you to do.” People just lined up. “What do we do?” “Stop cheating people.” “What about me? What do I do?” “Be content with your wages.” “What do I do?” “Stop being such a bully to everybody. Stop being so greedy. Stop looking so selfish. Stop looking at your cellphone all the time. Stop making everything about you.”

I said at the beginning that the good news of Christmas is for those who are tired of seeing bad news everywhere, especially in themselves. You see how they were confused in the first century. “Yes, the King is coming. Yes, it requires great humility. Humility for whom? Well, for the people who are oppressing us.” “What about you?” John says. “Where do you need to repent? How do you feel about your sins?” What about you, University Reformed Church? Do you or I have iniquities that need to be pardoned?

People come to know Christ in all sorts of different ways. You can tell your stories. It was Mom or Dad, or it was a church service, or it was a tract, or it was reading the Bible, or it was somebody talking to you in your dorm. There are all sorts of ways. Some of you may still be on that path. Some of you are really just hearing about Jesus for the first time. There’s no one precise way that this always works.

Some people come to Christ very dramatically; for others, it’s very ordinary. For some, it’s through very intense, intellectual difficulties; for others, it’s very relational. Some people come filled with emotion; for other’s it’s rather plain.

But one thing is constant. If what happened to you or is happening to you is a real conversion, this will be true: you are deeply sorry for your sin, and you turn to Christ for forgiveness. People have spiritual experiences. People feel bad. People have a sense of awe. People like to be in nature, at the beach, or in the woods. You can have all sorts of experiences, and God can use all sorts of things, but this thing will be true for anyone truly born again. There was a time, a moment, and a continuing life where you say, “God, I’m sorry I’m a sinner. Jesus, with You, I’ll be okay. With You, there is grace.” Are you ready for the comfort of the gospel?

Listen, when I say, ‘ready,’ I don’t want you to hear, “Okay, I’ve got to clean up my life. I’ve got to make sure that I feel so bad, and then God will really love me.” That’s not what I mean by ‘ready’. What I mean is that when you hear about God’s love, mercy, and comfort—when you hear about God—are you struck to the core of your being, knowing that if it’s true that that’s what God’s like and that’s what He announces to you, then you’ve got to do an about face? The prodigal son knew the warmth of the father’s embrace because he left the pig sty and ran home.

There’s an old saying that the work of the preacher is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. In a nutshell, that’s what preaching is. There are people here every Sunday who are too comfortable and need to be afflicted a little bit. The hard thing is that there’s also people who are really afflicted and need some comfort. Perhaps there are some here who have asked Jesus into their hearts, and have prayed a prayer. Though you say, “Yes, I’m a sinner, and yes, I need Jesus,” you would do well to consider if there’s a real hatred for, turning from, and forsaking of that sin. It’s one thing to weep over consequences. It’s another thing to weep before Christ. It’s one thing to have plenteous regrets. It’s another thing to have true, Spirit-wrought repentance. You may weep. Do you weep anymore?

This isn’t, “You’d better be really miserable. Merry Christmas, sinners!” Christmas is only Merry Christmas if you need good news. What does the world need to hear? “Merry Christmas? A baby! Whoo!” People will say, “Aww, that’s cute. The nativity scenes are cute. The presents and food are a lot of work, but it’s a nice holiday.” No, it’s good news for sinners.

…you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
(Matthew 1:21b)

It’s good news for those who are contrite, who have been brought low, who are empty enough to be filled, and who are broken enough to be healed.

No doubt, with all of these people here this morning, there’s lots of stuff going on in your life that nobody even knows about. All I want to say to you in conclusion is: don’t neglect what the Spirit may be doing in your life now—maybe even this morning, as this word has been preached and these songs have been sung. Don’t go home and bury it all in food, preparations, family, and all the rest. There is a great danger when we gather that we would be stirred, but not really changed. Do not neglect the day of salvation if today is that day. Perhaps you thought, “Well, it’s Christmas season. I should go to church.” Maybe you even thought, “You know, we’ve just got one service. There’s not an evening service! We’ve got an hour and 20 minutes. Let’s just try to get this over and get back to all the fun stuff. We’ve got Christmas and New Year’s. Just an hour and 20 minutes. Okay, kids? Let’s make it through.”

I understand that. But if the Spirit is doing something in you to prepare the way for the Lord, you don’t want to miss that. I don’t need to turn on the fog machine or turn the lights down real low. It’s the Spirit that will do that work. If He is, run to Jesus. Fly to Jesus. Fall on your face before Jesus, the coming, conquering, and comforting King. Prepare the way for the Lord. The good news of Christmas is for those who are tired of seeing bad news everywhere, especially in themselves. Make penitence your preparation and repentance your response to this good news.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing…

(Isaac Watts)