We have a great version of the entire Messiah we love to listen to during the Advent and Christmas season.

In fact, we had to buy 2 CDs so both my husband and I could listen in our cars, lest an Advent fight erupt.

The very first words sung are these:

“Comfort … comfort ye, my people …”

They are from the prophet Isaiah, chapter 40, where Isaiah writes:

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed,

that her sin has been paid for …”

These words help me as I think about so many of my friends for whom this Christmas will be one of pain and sadness, rather than joy.

Friends whose marriages have died …

Friends helping their tiny children fight cancer …

Friends burying their parents on a cold, winter day …

Friends barely hanging onto faith ...

Friends for whom this last year has been sheer hell ...

I love how John Indermark puts it:

“For too many in this season of Advent, the future holds little hope or promise. The death of a loved one, estrangement within family, depression, illness: any or all of these issues can conspire to close off life from its possibilities. Before repentance can be sounded, comfort must be given. Comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.

That comfort also bears Advent’s word of preparation. It declares that hope is still possible. It affirms grace still awaits.”

May this Advent and Christmas season be one of deep comfort for those who struggle.

As the days grow darker and colder and the nights deeper, may we find ways to be the source of that comfort for others.

And may the message of hope and grace that Christmas brings be the source of the eternal comfort we all seek.