Longing for Comfort
Lectionary Reading: Isaiah 40:1-11 (NRSV)
There have been times in my life that I have needed comfort from painful situations.
As a very small child, I remember getting an earache that seemed as if it was tearing a hole in my head. My mother prepared warm sweet oil and poured it into my ear and it alleviated my pain. She held me after applying it and the combination of pain relief, warmth, and her rocking sent me back into a deep, comforting sleep.
When I was a little older, I had a splitting sinus headache. I was already in bed and my father came and held my forehead with his strong hands in a way that gave some relief. He held me like that in silence until I fell asleep again.
As a young man, I experienced surgery extracting kidney stones. When I awoke, my wife Sheryl was there in the room and her presence was reassuring knowing that she was watching out for me. She later told me that right before surgery, the nurse brought something for her to sign. She began to read it over and the nurse seemed a little put out. Then Sheryl discovered that the papers indicated someone else's surgery! The nurse apologized profusely and didn't rush Sheryl when she returned with the appropriate chart. That story made me doubly glad that Sheryl was there for me.
Pain is easier to manage when we experience it within the bounds of others helping us to cope. Studies have shown that human touch actually speeds up the healing process. Seeing a loved one often causes the brain to release natural painkillers which helps with endurance.
How are we comforted by our faith? This Sunday's lectionary text immediately calls to mind for me Handel's Messiah. This important work declares the love of God for us through Jesus Christ. It opens with the Isaiah passage with a tenor soloist holding out an elongated "Comfort Ye." It is the desire of God for the prophet to bring comfort to a people in exile. This speaks to us of who God is. It speaks to us of what God comes to do in Jesus Christ. It is one of my favorite passages and it prepares us for Christmas.
Picture by Katy Tresedder via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.