Comfort: An Advent 1 Meditation

Comfort oh comfort my people.

I have a love/hate relationship with being comfortable.

Comfort allows us to heal when we are broken or tired or worn out. But we can be too comfortable?

Are you comfortable? Are you easy in your skin? Are you resting well? Is the bed right? Why do we call the comforter a comforter? You know, that thing that goes on the bed to keep you warm. Are we only supposed to be comfortable in bed, and so that is the only thing that we can call the comforter in our homes?

Where is the great comforter? The one who wipes our tears away and promises that all oppression will cease. And can we really relate the Messiah to a thick blanket that goes on the bed?

So, where do you find comfort? Holding hands with a loved one? Cozying up with a warm blanket in front of the fire? At a concert listening to your favorite band play your favorite song? Sitting in a pew while the celebrant recites the liturgy of grace and Eucharist?

I’d imagine that most of you don’t really find it at the last one. Even if you grew up in the church, do you feel that Jesus our Messiah gives you comfort? Even those who are around you, as members of the church, do they give you comfort? Or do you have to put on your church mask, pulling it out of the collection of the masks that you continue to collect?

O God, comfort the afflicted, those who cannot find rest or peace. And God, afflict the comfortable.

We can become so comfortable that we disregard the struggles and worries of others. If our lives are comfortable, we can get to a point where we will not be able to see the needs and hurts and pains of others.

Why can’t they snap out of it? Pull yourself up, by your bootstraps, aren’t you strong enough for that? Be stronger. Then you will be able to be comfortable.

That’s the message that our culture tries to tell others.

It’s a lie.

One cannot simply snap out of it. Those who are privileged and comfortable have no place of reference for the systemic brokenness that prevents the oppressed from rising above oppression.

This is not intended to be an affront to those who are comfortable. Well maybe a little bit. This is intended to open eyes to the possibility that handing someone a Bible and telling them to believe it, and accept it, then walking away is just the exactly wrong thing to do as a witness for Christ.

Those who hand bibles out on street corners do not spend the time and energy necessary to build the relationships that are needed to help others find comfort and strength.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is the Church.

And so, maybe we do need to go to the street corners. And stand there, with the drug dealers and the commercial sex workers. Not criticizing their sin and declaring that the only way out is conforming to our way of life. Rather, standing there, learning and building trust. Forming a relationship with them, and loving them, as the image of God.

It’s called living the Gospel. And maybe, you don’t know where that street corner is. Maybe there is somewhere else, where you can shove yourself out of your comfort zone, and grow.

Stop being so comfortable. When you are too comfortable, you get fat. Fat on the spiritual junk food of self righteousness and milk of surface level theology.

Instead of growing spiritually fat on those things, go out. Force yourself to be uncomfortable. Only then will you grow. Only then will you be part of the Gospel people. The Kingdom of God was not made to be kept closed up inside a brick box with a pointy roof. The Kingdom of God is out there. And in our love for others, and in our sharing of meals and seats and relationships with others, the Kingdom of God becomes more and more real.

So if you need comfort, if you are hungry for more, even if you don’t know what it is more of, seek it. Go to someone who can help you find comfort. Not cheap comfort. Not comfort for one night only. Instead, the ultimate comforter is Christ our Lord. That is where real comfort is. But cuddling up with a hard heavy book that is difficult to understand may not be what you are looking for. I pray a person, one who can offer help and healing through Christ, will be open to giving comfort. Even if you don’t agree on politics or economics. Even in brokenness, even in the midst of despair, you can be a gateway for others to receive the love of Christ. As it is felt, real, present, and open. The good news of the coming messiah is that we don’t have to have all the answers before we love each other. As we learn how to love each other, we learn more and more about loving God.

Eventually they will be flipped, we love God and so we learn more about loving others. But first, to feel and know God’s love, to learn how God loves you as formed in God’s own image, we learn through the love and friendship from others.

The Gospel was not proclaimed to make us all comfortable. Indeed, the Gospel itself is quite unsettling. The Gospel was proclaimed to declare the coming of God, and the presence of the Kingdom of God. Here. Now.

Go. Be unsettled. And if you are in great need of Comfort, know that the Comforter wants to share peace with you. A peace that surpasses all understanding. It will be then that you will find rest.

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