Daily Worship

The darkest hour

Jane Denniston December 10, 2023 3 2
Image credit: Unsplash
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Isaiah 40: 1-5, 11 (NRSVA)


Comfort, O comfort my people,
    says your God.

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
    and cry to her
that she has served her term,
    that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
    double for all her sins.

A voice cries out:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
    make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Every valley shall be lifted up,
    and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
    and the rough places a plain.

Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
    and all people shall see it together,
    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’



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.

Anyone who aspires to be a writer is told to avoid a cliché ‘like the plague’. A cliché is the enemy of good writing. It is like a worn out overcoat — it covers the subject but is threadbare and dull. However, a cliché is often a big truth in a small package — that is probably why it became a cliché in the first place — so I have a soft spot for clichés and this week we may see a few of them! The cliché that sprang to mind when I read today’s passage is, ‘the darkest hour is the hour before dawn.’ There have been times in my life – not many, thankfully - when I have reached a point of utter hopelessness and despair that whatever situation I was facing was not going to improve, that as I gazed into the future there was no chink of light to relieve the darkness. But time and again, at the point when I felt at my very bleakest, something would happen to give birth to hope afresh. Just at the point when the last straw would break the camel’s back, there is reprieve.

This is the import of today’s passage. Set in the post-exilic era it is a song of praise for God’s rescue. It rings with the joy of freedom, and all the obstacles in life smoothed away by the hand of the Lord, as the sea smooths wrinkles from the sand. The last straw, in this case, is a straw of comfort. And what comforting images are portrayed here! Not just love and care, but the love and care of a mother or a shepherd. The love and care of a stronger being for a weaker. The love and care which allows us to say, ‘It’s all in your hands now’, and release our cares into God’s hands.




God of comfort,

you are with us in our darkest moments

and we praise you.


God our comfort,

you hold us as a shepherd cradles a lamb,

as a mother holds her baby,

and we praise you.


God who comforts

help us to feel you near us

when life seems dark.

Help us to know you care

when you seem far away.

Help us to believe

that darkness doesn’t last for ever

and the dawn of salvation will come

and we will praise you. Amen