A friend shared this great app called “Pray as you Go” which I listen to every morning during my commute to the office. It’s between 10-12 minutes of reflection on Scripture (and all of the voices are speaking with an English or Scottish accent which I love!) and is very centering. One day this week the Scripture was the first 11 verses from Isaiah 40 which starts out “Comfort, or comfort my people”. The text makes up one of the familiar songs from Handel’s Messiah. It covers a lot of valuable theological ground in a few short verses. The Israelites have paid the price for their great sins against God and now the time has come for comfort and restoration. And a promise (or reminder) of who their God is that they had turned away from earlier.
One of the things that I believe makes Scripture the “Living Word” is I heard something this time I had not really paid attention to before. And for pastors and leaders of the church, if you are like me, you might find this part extremely comforting.
“Here is your God!”
10 See, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead the mother sheep.Isaiah 40:9:b-11 (NRSV)
Towards the end of this passage Isaiah is describing God and it is an interesting combination of images of strength and gentleness. The last sentence reminds me of Jesus. God will come like a shepherd and will not only gather the little lambs into his arms, but he will also lead the mother sheep gently. I think that us pastors are like mother sheep sometimes, trying to keep the flock inline. Looking after our babies. Working together with other mother sheep to do the same. But this Great Shepherd is coming to immediately care for the young ones we are trying to lead but also gently leads and cares for us. Yes Lord. Please lead and care for us, too. The tired lambs and the very tired mother sheep.
As Advent presses on and we continue to rehearse the stories and rituals of preparing for the birth of the Messiah, we sometimes get so caught up in the rehearsing, we forget what we are actually rehearsing for. Who we are preparing for. Who we are longing to welcome into our lives and world. Isaiah paints a picture and reminds us this Coming Promise is a Great Shepherd. Who comes with strength. And with gentleness. Come, Emmanuel. Come Lord Jesus. Some of us mother sheep who have been leading others this year, desperately need to be gently led.