Summary: A sermon on Isaiah’s beautiful vision of hope for the people of his own day and for us today.
Sermon for Advent I Yr A, 28/11/2004
Based on Isa 2:1-5
By Rev Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, &
Chaplain of The Good Samaritan Society’s
South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta
It is hard to believe that today we begin a new church year once again, time flies! I don’t know about you, but over the years I have come to love the season of Advent. I love it not only because it is an exciting season—we adults all love to watch the excitement, especially among the children as they wait rather impatiently for Christmas to come. I also love Advent because it is a season of the church year that cuts a gigantic swath! The scripture passages during Advent, in addition to keeping our feet grounded in the here-and-now, move us into a fast-forward kind of way to the conclusion of all history, and the coming of God’s realm in all of its marvellous fullness. In short, Advent is a season that invites us to think seriously about the meaning of time and how we use it. Time is a precious gift from God, which gives us the opportunity to live as people of hope, peace, joy and love.
The compilers of the lectionary throw us a curveball during Advent. The portions from the Hebrew Scriptures are foretelling the coming of a Messiah who has not yet appeared. The New Testament passages, on the other hand, not only presuppose a first coming but look forward to a second. As Martin Buber has pointed out, the biggest single difference between Jews and Christians is that while we are both messianic faiths, when it comes to cataloguing how Messiahs come and go, we have very different timetables. 1
Today’s first lesson from the prophet Isaiah is one of the most hope-filled passages of the Bible. Indeed, maybe we should have stood up when it was read like we do for the Gospel lesson, for, in my humble opinion, this Isaiah passage is full of Gospel-hope!
It is written by one of Israel’s most upbeat and inspired prophets. Although we don’t know much about Isaiah, according to his call in chapter six, we have reason to believe that he was a court prophet, since his call was in the Jerusalem temple. He lived in the eighth century before Christ, and was a contemporary of the prophets Amos, Hosea, and Micah. There may have been some connection with Micah, since Isaiah 2:2-4 of today’s passage are almost identical to Micah 4:1-4.
The situation at the time Isaiah wrote this prophetic oracle of hope was a rather sombre one. After the superpower Assyria had successfully invaded and occupied the Northern kingdom of Israel, Judah the Southern kingdom feels very vulnerable and threatened by the Assyrians. There appears to have been some in Judah who were advising that Judah form an alliance with Egypt to ensure their political and military security against the Assyrians. However, Isaiah is opposed to such an alliance with Egypt. He advised Judah remain on its own and rely solely upon the LORD God, who would protect and preserve the chosen people if they remained faithful to him by keeping the covenant. In the midst of anxiety and despair, Isaiah preached a vision of a much brighter, more hopeful future.