“Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God.” – Isaiah 40:1
This coming Sunday’s first reading is a familiar one in the Advent season, and one that I’ve preached on before. But I’ve been hearing it with fresh ears after receiving notice from Delta airlines over Thanksgiving weekend that I needed to fly 8013 more miles before the end of the year to reclaim my “platinum status” for 2024…. And that currently I was booked for only 6602. Aaagghhh. How could I not have known this before the end of November? When and where and how was I going to find another 1400 miles during this busy season riddled with weather delays and all forms of travel craziness?
I called my dear friend Autumn who I was planning to visit mid-month in Texas and told her of my plight.
“Why do you care about platinum status?” she asked.
“You don’t understand,” I moaned.
“What do you get for it?”
“Well, it means that most of the time, I get bumped up into Comfort Class and I get six extra inches of knee space and I don’t have to worry about my suitcase coming with me because you get to board early and there is still overhead bin space.”
“So what are you going to do?”
“Well, basically, I need to figure out how to fit another two trips into five days this month that aren’t already spoken for.”
“For six inches of knee space?”
“AND my suitcase!”
“Clearly you have lost your mind.”
Clearly, she did not understand the problem. We are talking about Comfort Class here.
I called Delta and they were “experiencing an unusually high call volume.” Yeah right.
So I had to call my sister. She listened very patiently and commiserated with me. She was very understanding… and then let me know she had to get off the phone because she had real problems she was dealing with that needed attention. Sigh.
Another day. Another Delta call. Still “experiencing unusually high call volume.” This was getting urgent.
Finally I reached Scott, my Dominican colleague who for years was on the weekly mission preaching circuit. He understood what was at stake immediately. After two hours of fiddling around under the hood of the complicated Delta mileage machine, he announced,
“You are going to have rearrange your return flight from Texas to fly to Chicago instead. Spend the night at the priory and then fly back the next morning via Detroit.”
“Isn’t there another way?”
“Have you figured out one?”
I called back Autumn and told her my new plan.
“Have you lost your mind?” she reiterated.
Clearly, she needed me to explain one more time: “Comfort, comfort, my people, says God!”
“Oh Good Lord, you need to go take Isaiah back to prayer and get your head on straight.”
So I have. And I need to admit that though I like to think of myself eschewing excess and living simply, I can get trapped in consumerism and the lure of status as much as the next person. For me, the fact that my yoga pants have a small hole in the knee or that my computer bag is held together by several safety pins is not a problem, but apparently six inches of knee space is. We all have that one thing we are inordinately attached to.
And that is something that this Sunday’s first reaching from Isaiah does challenge us on. After speaking about the comfort God wants to offer the people—a homecoming after they’ve been lost for so long—Isaiah talks about a kind of preparation they will need to engage in that involves lowering mountains and filling valleys so that God can come quickly and take the people back to where they belong. I’ve heard Isaiah referred to as the “Shakespeare of the Hebrew Bible” and there are many possible ways to interpret his poetic language here, but he seems to be referring to work we will need to do in our lives to remove any obstacles that would hinder or slow God’s coming. This needs to happen at a personal level, but also a societal one—the creation of a more level playing field in which we simplify our lives for the joy of all being able to “see together” God’s glorious arrival.
To hear the preaching on Isaiah’s challenge that I’ll be offering this coming Sunday at St. Thomas More Parish in Decatur, please click here (See December 10).
(PS. Next week, be on the lookout for my second podcast in the Waking Up Goliath series—an interview with Bishop David Toups of Beaumont, TX. To be released on December 15th at anngarrido.com/leaders and on Spotify)