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This paper considers the performance of digital communication systems transmitting messages over finite-state erasure channels with memory. Information bits are protected from channel erasures using error-correcting codes; successful receptions of codewords are acknowledged at the source through instantaneous feedback. The primary focus of this research is on delay-sensitive applications, codes with finite block lengths, and, necessarily, nonvanishing probabilities of decoding failure. The contribution of this paper is twofold. A methodology to compute the distribution of the time required to empty a buffer is introduced. Based on this distribution, the mean hitting time to an empty queue and delay-violation probabilities for specific thresholds can be computed explicitly. The proposed techniques apply to situations where the transmit buffer contains a predetermined number of information bits at the onset of the data transfer. Furthermore, as additional performance criteria, large deviation principles are obtained for the empirical mean service time and the average packet-transmission time associated with the communication process. This rigorous framework yields a pragmatic methodology to select code rate and block length for the communication unit as functions of the service requirements. Examples motivated by practical systems are provided to further illustrate the applicability of these techniques.