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Comfort - December 6, 2020

by Rev. Joan Kessler

Isaiah 40

I saw a sign this week that made me smile… it said Make Pasta, Not War. It was, I believe, reflective of the experience of spending more time at home this past year. Comfort has become a most precious commodity in this time of COVID. As people left their work and volunteer places and got reacquainted with their domestic dwellings, a simpler, more self-sustaining way of living began to emerge. Weekday clothing moved from business casual to just casual… joggers and leggings were the order the day and you could pull out a Zoom shirt when there was that important meeting to attend. People started eating differently too… remember back to the spring the shortage of flour as bread was baked… home-cooked meals found their place on the table… local, outdoor pursuits and the sale of related equipment sky-rocketed as people discovered new interests and places to pursue them. These experiences were and continue to be the upside of the pandemic… to be cozy, to find comfort, solace and peace as we wait out and hopefully avoid the virus and its spread.

But there has also been another phenomenon that is coming to light and people are putting words to and that is the experience of Decision Fatigue. You might know what I’m talking about. Our day-to-day movements, our bigger plans for the future involve so many decisions. Will I go to the grocery store? Should I go and do some Christmas shopping at the mall today? Should I eat out at a restaurant? From my own personal experience, Decision Fatigue has crept in these past few weeks as I wrestled with the decision of what to do about my Christmas plans…decisions and arrangements that would have been simply made a year ago now become increasingly complex and emotional. And then there’s that sense of judgment… from within and without that makes decision-making on many fronts an arduous and exhaustive undertaking. It’s hard to focus on one outcome when everything matters all at the same time.

We only need to watch the news to become armchair judge and juries. It’s so easy to look to other provinces and have all kinds of assessment and advice on what should have happened differently… but this does not help the situation. Judgment related to COVID is going to only further polarize us and that is indeed a very high price to pay. How do we have conversations about our decisions with a wider view to upholding public health and safety?

Our reading from Isaiah may be relatable to our current situation. We hear some words of encouragement coming from Isaiah, shared with the Israelites as they strive to make sense of being plundered by the Assyrians and forcibly removed from their homes in Judah and exiled to Babylon. The overriding message from the Message Giver is that they have paid a high price but they should not loose hope. This suffering is only temporary and Isaiah wants to assure them that the God of their Community has not forgotten about them. Comfort and Peace are here, close at hand, and in this meantime, settle in and prepare for the future that is promised.

Our lives see the mountain peaks and the low valleys… fulfillment and contentment can easily be replaced with disappointment and loss… that’s part of the journey we call life. The Isaiah poem we heard Jim read this morning challenges our experience, our understanding of the nature of God. The God of Isaiah is all about being present and active but God won’t work any magic on them… it is up to the Israelites to decide how they will live. How does this passage challenge our perception and experience of the nature of the Divine in our day-to-day, COVID places? For me, God is Love, God is Wanting The Best For Me… the Ground of My Being Is Not Letting Me Have My Own Way all the time… the Spirit is my Conscious and my Guide and my Inner Voice that informs the decisions I strive to make during this unique time in our collective history and keep my judgment in some sort of check. And God Is Love… I said that one already didn’t I… hmm… Advent is a perfect time for me to reminded of these things… but it is not heard or shared in isolation but to a community… we together heed the call of Isaiah to work together to make hard things a little bit easier…to bring the mountains down low and the raise the valleys up… I don’t know how to do that on my own… it will take helpers., but I have hope all good things are possible.

I long for the day when I hear announced that the pandemic is over… COVID-19 has been eradicated. What a day of joy and celebration that will be. I am thinking about it already…it’s going to happen…our period of exile to our homes, of special spaces and gatherings being cut off from us will come to an end. This week has me thinking about the future… looking to next summer, to next Christmas. But in this meantime, I consider the benefits experienced by being closer to home. Of new routines, burgeoning interests and hobbies… perhaps going forward our decisions about our work, our volunteer and leisure time will be a source of blessing to us… that how we get these things done will be more important than how much of these things we get done.

I hope for you going forward this week is that you find the comfort and peace Jesus spoke of, beside the hearth of our homes, our dwelling places… and may you encounter here the peace of the world that passes all understanding. If we must judge this week, may we do so with kindness and empathy, for ourselves and one another. May the roads we travel be made level and the rough places smoothed out as we go the way of Advent.

Amen and Amen.

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