Today is the first Sunday of Advent, that season of waiting in hope for the coming of the Messiah.
Even though I did a daily series on Handel's Messiah last year, I'm still meditating on Handel's Messiah this year. Friday night, Andy took the boys to a movie and I listened all the way through Part 1, and came away refreshed and renewed. Strengthened to face things that need to be faced.
Just like always.
I never, ever get tired of these words and this music.
This is true mostly because the text of Messiah is right out of Scripture, and the Word of God never stops speaking. It's fresh all the time.
This year I'd planned to choose four words connected to Messiah, and publish a meditation for each week of Advent. This week's post was already written and ready to roll. I thought the word for this week was "comfort."
Then I went to church.
We started singing.
And the word I heard was: "Receive."
Receive, receive, receive, receive, receive.
But isn't this the season of giving? Shouldn't I think about sharing?
These are the first words of Handel's Messiah:
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplish'd, that her iniquity is pardoned. (Isaiah 40:1-2)
God has provided the gift of comfort, and He wants me to receive it.
What I've found in my own life is that, once I receive the comfort of God, I've got plenty to share. I want to share. Sharing is not the problem.
The problem I have is saying to God, "Oh, I'm fine! Other people have it so much worse! Don't worry about my little issues. They're no big deal"
Or, "Well, I wish you could comfort me, but we've tried everything we know to do, and there's this one thing that just won't budge, so let's overlook it and move on."
I don't want to face up to the pain that's there. I deny. I minimize. I doubt the power of God to work in my life.
I reject the comfort.
And then, when it comes time to share, I don't have much to give. Some platitudes. Some advice. A pat on the head. Counterfeit comfort.
We have to receive the real deal, if we want to give it away to others.
And that means that we stop trying to control the suffering. We let ourselves feel the pain. We trust God to go with us into the darkness, bringing the light and comfort we need.
Then, just like the Word says, we comfort others with the comfort we have received. (2 Corinthians 1:4)
So I guess that's why I heard "receive" today.
I thought I had my other words picked out too, but after today, I think I'll just keep listening.
Who knows what we will hear?