Summary: A sermon about the incarnation, the promise of God with Us
This sermon was written for an ecumenical service at a Retirement Community for Seniors. It is a revision of another of my advent sermons titled "Love in Advent".
Sermon for Suites by the Lake – Advent – “A Child is Born” - November 24, 2007
Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
An unusual survey was done a few years ago, Participants in the survey were asked this question.......what 3 word sentence would you most wish to hear or have said to you ? The top three answers were 1. I love you.....2. I forgive you.......3. Supper is ready. How does that relate to Advent? Listen and I’ll tell you.
Today we celebrate Advent or the four weeks before Christmas. Advent in the Christian year is a time of anticipation, a time of yearning. There are at least two parallel traditions in the church.
One of those traditions focuses on these four themes on each of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas: hope, joy, peace and love. Another tradition focuses on these four themes: waiting, accepting, journeying and birthing.
Today we’re going to sort of blend the themes together since Advent is just beginning in the next few weeks and this is our one Advent service for the season. I want to think about hope. What it is, what it means and how hope involves waiting, accepting, journeying and birthing.
Read Isaiah 9:6-7
What do you wish for? When you stop to think about it…what are you hoping for? Hope is a powerful thing. It is a transforming thing. Without hope, life is indeed pale and it’s sufferings really do seem pointless and arbitrary.
Our Scripture today needs to be understood first of all in the light of the way the first hearers of this prophesy would have heard it.
Very briefly, like a great many ancient peoples who were not in a place of power, the Jews to whom this passage was written were accustomed to loss, to grief, to frustration, to domination by foreign powers…But also they were accustomed to trying and yet failing to align themselves, to befriend themselves to God.
They had a clear notion of God who had revealed Himself through Moses as the One who ever lives, who Is…The great I Am. As a nation they had learned the character of God as kind and patient, loving and generous, and also that He was a jealous God.
They also knew that His jealously was rooted in His love, the same way a husband or wife’s jealousy is rooted in the profound commitment they have made to each other.
But in their humanity and in their choice to repeatedly, as a nation, turn from God, they found themselves feeling very, very far away from God. I think we perhaps all know what that feels like.
We sometimes choose to indulge ourselves in hurtful activities to fill what feels like a great emptiness or a great boredom in our souls. And in that choice we find in ourselves a distancing from God. An absenting of ourselves from the peace we know, the love we feel, the embrace of God that we cherish.
So it is to an oppressed people that these words were written. To a frustrated lot who were tempted at times to throw in the towel…to give up the notion of waiting and yearning and instead to settle into a sad and desolate depression.
So what was the message of Isaiah to the people. It sure wasn’t “Don’t worry, be happy!” Do any of you find that type of saying pretty vacant? I sure do. It wasn’t: “Just keep doing what your doing and maybe things will work out for ya”.
Actually, the message of Isaiah was pretty much right out of left field. You see Isaiah knew from personal experience that Israel needed to be delivered from their oppression.
He also knew that for generations the Jews were waiting… waiting for a deliverer…hoping that there would be a Messiah sent from God and specifically believing that the Messiah would be, for Israel, the One who would come as God’s mighty delivering hand against the historic enemies of Israel – Egypt, The Assyrians.
Violently overthrowing violent oppressors, bringing death to those who had brought death to the Jews, vanquishing the enemies, the oppressors of God’s people…in other words they awaited a sovereign, righteous deliverer.