A “voice calling.” These words of Isaiah present the simplest description of the calling to divine ministry. We are but a “voice calling.”
Of course, the greater voice is not ours, but God’s. It is His Voice that graciously called all creation into existence. It is His Voice that called us to Himself. It is His Voice that, in a more specific way, called us to the Divine ministry. Our calling is simply to let the Voice re-echo in the voice of our proclamation–wherever that may be.
One of the most amazing things about the ministry of Jesus Christ is its amazing diversity. The Christian ministry is not just local congregations in “middle class” communities. Instead, the ministry of Jesus Christ is carried through the voice of organizations such as “Unlimited Potential” which hosts baseball workshops for youth using Christian Baseball Players. Their voice is used to share the news that Jesus loves them, too.
Other organizations such as “Developmental Services, International” are missionary support agencies sharing the comforting voice of God with those involved in the difficult cross-cultural mission stations throughout the world.
Yet, whoever and wherever we are, these diverse forms of ministry share one common element: the divine directive to be the “voice calling” where they are.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Isaiah’s prophecy in Chapter 40 is that it is ambiguous. We cannot be sure if Isaiah meant that the voice was calling people to prepare the way for the Lord “in the wilderness” or if the voice calling to prepare the way of the Lord was calling “in the wilderness.”
Though textual critics will continue to deal with an ever-evasive final answer to this issue, perhaps the issue is best left unresolved. God’s servants are, in effect, always calling out in the wilderness. Whether the wilderness is physical or not, one thing is sure. The context of ministry is always in a spiritual wilderness. Though the experiences, joys and sorrows may vary in duration and intensity, all of us share the burden of being God’s voice in an often barren wilderness.
It is because we, too, must go into the wilderness that we share the wilderness experience. Impatience, criticism, rejection, discredited reputations, uprooted lives, and personal, emotional and spiritual injury are never far behind. Indeed, so often it feels as if neither our hearers nor God hear our voice. Yet, our proclamation continues. We remain faithful. Our voice continues to call “in the wilderness.”
This voice “in the wilderness” has a purpose. That purpose is to call people to a life of fasting, of preparation, of repentance. As the hearers are in the barrenness of the wilderness, it follows that it is there they must prepare for the new life. Or, if they are too entangled in the things of this world, the voice beckoning them to go to the wilderness to prepare His way may be the voice that makes the greatest, eternal difference in their lives.
To those “voices”, like Isaiah, God in His most authoritative manner gives His command.
“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.” Isaiah 40:1-2 (NIV)
The message of Christmas is that we not only have Comfort in Jesus Christ. But we have a joyful mandate to voice that comfort to all of God’s people, wherever the wilderness or however hostile that wilderness—spiritual and/or physical—might be. The message which the voice bears is the simple, eternal message.
“Speak tenderly…her sin has been paid for…she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”
You are God’s paracletes to the peoples of the world. You are the voice calling them from the wilderness to the richness of God’s grace. Your voice is that which God is using to raise the valleys, lower the mountains, and smooth the rough places into a plain. The final result of this proclamation is to realize the fulfillment of God’s promise.
“And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” Isaiah 40:5 (NIV)
The Voice has spoken. His glory will be revealed and all mankind will see it together. The coming of Christ is the greatest revelation of God’s glory. The Apostle John’s voice declares,
“We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 (NIV)
That is the reason for our ministry. It is the reason for our joy this Christmas. Without you, there is no voice to call to those in the wilderness. Without you, there is no one in the wilderness to share the comfort of Jesus Christ. God’s Voice has called you to be His voice in the tradition of the prophets.
The Kerygmatic voice which the prophets spoke was one of grace, comfort, and forgiveness. It was a ministry not without sorrow, sacrifice, or scorn. But it was a ministry of joy.
On behalf of Ministry Health and those very special people who make this ministry possible– Rev. Kelly Bedard (proofreader–how could I do it without you, Kelly!), contributors (including Dr. Glenn Daman, Revs. John Crowe, Wayne Dobratz, Greg Morris, and General Superintendent John Simpson), advisors (Carol Bacon and the above), computer support technicians (“NB” and Ronald Grift), and the many encouragers whose comments and feedback direct and shape this ministry–I pray that the celebration of the Newborn King of Kings and the experience of seeing the “Glory revealed” before you will again touch your spirit and encourage your voice to keep calling—whatever the wilderness—”Prepare the way of the Lord.”
Blessed Christmas To All Of You!
Thomas F. Fischer, Editor Ministry Health
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