Isaiah 40: 1, 2
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.
Heidelberg Catechism Q. and A. 1
Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?
A. That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ . . .
By now, at 63 years of age, I have watched and waited at the bedside of first my father and then, ten years later, my mother as each by death passed from this life. They had both lived good, long lives and were faithful followers of Christ. Yet death for each was a battle, and those of us children present at their sides sought to comfort the beloved who was dying. The sustained grip of hand on hand, the caress of the forehead, the moistening of dried lips and mouth with cool water, the soft yet firmly spoken words of love—we were intent to comfort: you are dear to us, all will be well, we will be together yet again . . . . Then, as one by one they passed beyond our labor to comfort and we were left bereft and alone to witness the flash-freeze pallor of death, we sought comfort for ourselves.
Thus when God speaks comfort to his people through his prophet Isaiah, we are ready to identify ourselves with that people. We have seen hard service, our hearts have been rent by separation from our beloved, we have pocketed within our own souls the wages of deadly sin, so God knows, we need comfort.
As God commands comfort in verse one, so he promptly provides the means of delivering that comfort in verse two: speak tenderly, proclaim that hard service is completed, that sin has been paid for doubly, much more than enough. These are indeed sweet words for one who would be comforter.
But what is the basis in reality for such words? Here is where Christmas is in play. It is in Christ, the Ancient of Days become babe, that God himself has performed hard service for us, has paid off the wages of sin with the gift of his life, has given double grace in spite of all our sins, has gone ahead and opened a way for us through death to life everlasting—and we belong to him. On account of his mercy we by faith are his dear family, his children, his brothers and sisters—and he alone is our comfort, in life and in death.