2 Corinthians 1:3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 5 For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. 6 Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. 7 We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us. [NLT]
This passage is remarkable for the number of times some form of the word “comfort” is used in just five verses. Certainly that’s repeated for emphasis. The need for comfort is more frequent that we realize and that need doesn’t always look the same. Sometimes what comfort looks like turns out to be a surprise too.We know “God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort” but when faced with a heart in need it “takes one to know one.”
Comfort is the presence of one needy heart’s response in humility to the need of another. It may take the more familiar form of shared scars of experience, love, grace, compassion, Scripture and prayer…OR sometimes it may just take a plate of cookies
Let your heart respond…”when they are troubled…give them the same comfort God has given us.” Comfort is not meant to be the solution. Comfort is the revelation of Jesus from one heart to another and He’s the solution.
Jesus was a revolutionary, who did not become an extremist, since he did not offer an ideology, but Himself.” Henri Nouwen from The Wounded Healer
II Corinthians 13:11 Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All God’s people here send their greetings.14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. Luke 2:11
II Corinthians 11:21-23 Since you admire the egomaniacs of the pulpit so much (remember, this is your old friend, the fool, talking), let me try my hand at it. Do they brag of being Hebrews, Israelites, the pure race of Abraham? I’m their match. Are they servants of Christ? I can go them one better. (I can’t believe I’m saying these things. It’s crazy to talk this way! But I started, and I’m going to finish.)[MSG]
The familiar Christmas song Do You Hear What I Hear came to mind when I read Paul’s challenge to the Corinthians.He felt foolish having to justify his credibility to them after his perseverance in teaching them the truth of the Gospel.He felt frustration over their attraction to what they saw and heard from those “egomaniacs in the pulpit.”Paul’s own plea to the Corinthians could have been these very words…
Do you see what I see?
Do you hear what I hear?
Do you know what I know?
God has used the Apostle’s frustration and the lyrics of this contemporary  Christmas song as a reminder of the servants who’ve been part of God’s preparation for me.They persevered week after week in their own preparation to teach me the reality of living a life of faith only to discover how easily I could be distracted from what they were trying to help me see, hear, know and remember. I know they’ve all walked the same path as that Apostle, faithful and sometimes frustrated.
My Christmas gift to those servants this year is that they be remembered.Only a couple will receive a note in the mail but there are others who’s names I’ve long forgotten and lost touch with.Their gift will be given with the unique delivery system only God can provide.I promise you I will remember to thank them all for being an “old friend” foolish enough to believe this gift would ever come:
I see what you see –
I hear what you hear – I know what you know – Listen to what I say!
The Advent has come!
“The Child, the Child sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light.”
“I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the mashiach [Messiah], and though he may tarry, still I await him every day.” [Click here to read Rambam’s 13 Principles of Jewish Faith then click the word(show) to view.]
We know the desire of Israel’s heart was that Messiah would come as a powerful and conquering King.Remember that? They were tired of war but who would choose a helpless baby to win a battle?Answer: God himself.I hope you’ll click on the link above and read all 13 Principles.They are powerful and beautiful.I think they will surprise you as they did me. Moses’ and the prophets are still our truth.The big change for us is the tense in that twelfth principle has changed for us from “will” to “has.” That one “small” variation is what we’re celebrating in this season of preparation.
Now we are in the “New” Testament and Paul tells us we are still at war.We fight a war against strongholds, arguments and pretensions that keep people separate from the knowledge of God. We fight hoping to capture their minds and hearts forever. This is the reason we remember and celebrate this season: God’s own gift “has” come with the power to assure our confidence in Him and ensure the certainty of His promise to us that insures our success. Today Scripture is the final word for us.
“II Corinthians 10:3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
II Corinthians 8:1 And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.
Paul’s words about gifts brought this “gifting” process to mind: * Choosing, * Presenting, * Receiving.
* Choosing: God chose a part of himself, Jesus Christ, to be his gift to us and for our celebration.
* Presenting: God chose to present himself to us in a surprise package for an unusual reason. A baby is a far more intimate gift than the might be expected from the supreme ruler of the universe.God chose intimacy not intimidation and possibilities not preconceived ideas as his preparation for us to receive.
* Receiving: God chose and presented his gift. Now all that’s left is opening that surprise package filled with growth, change, nurture, grace and His own will for us to give ourselves back to him.The gift has been successfully delivered.Open it and follow the example of the church at Macedonia to keep the gift going. “They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.”
II Corinthians 7:13b In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you. 14 I had boasted to him about you, and you have not embarrassed me. But just as everything we said to you was true, so our boasting about you to Titus has proved to be true as well. 15 And his affection for you is all the greater when he remembers that you were all obedient, receiving him with fear and trembling. 16 I am glad I can have complete confidence in you.
Paul’s phrase about Titus, “… His spirit has been refreshed” has become this part of my Advent journey.Long ago the Sovereign God first chose to create new life from dust and a rib…and here’s the key to remember: God was there with those new people, when their spirits were refreshed he shared that intimacy in his own Spirit.When that relationship was ruined he could justly have chosen to end the poison of sin right then and there, but for the second time he chose life for them.
They would live with the consequences of that poison – their own brokenness and separation from God, but they were not abandoned.The people he loved had been caught in an unnatural separation but God would continue to offer to refresh their spirits through the instruction and opportunity of the law and prophets until…“The Advent.”
Jesus Christ, Son of God was born!For a third, and final, time “The Advent” is God’s choice for new life. This time his choice is an eternal one for us; a relationship that will save, restore and refresh our spirit with his Spirit for the rest of time.Paul’s words describe the refreshed spirit of Titus but they read like God’s own words of encouragement for our choice this Advent journey.“And his affection for you is all the greater when he remembers that you were all obedient, receiving him with fear and trembling.”
I Corinthians 7:8 Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— 9 yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. 10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 11 See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.
Paul’s reference to sorrow caused by his letter has been my Advent preparation trigger.I read his words as if they were God’s words.Sorrow began in that place of creation where those first two people lost their perfect status as companions of God.Life would go on…and on…and on…and that lack of perfection would continue to be a source of sorrow, so God wrote a letter to his people on tablets of stone.That “letter” clearly showed the solution to worldly sorrow but their damaged mindset was still the problem.They “thought” the answer to their loss of perfection, and the sorrow it caused, was to be more committed to trying harder.
Fast forward from God’s letter to that “first season” we now call Advent.God was going to show his creation a new message: Jesus Christ, Son of God born as the antidote to the poison of man’s damaged mindset. Jesus Christ, Son of God born as the image of restored perfection and new life. Jesus Christ, Son of God born to overcome the futility of worldly sorrow and reveal the power of Godly sorrow. “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret…” Jesus Christ, Son of God, born to be our Christmas Joy.