Summary: One can never start too early to get ready for something really big.
Isaiah’s Audacious Hope
Rev. Brian Bill
Do you know that after today, there are only 21 more shopping days left until Christmas? Some people panic when they hear this but for me it means that I still have three weeks before I have to begin my shopping! Doesn’t it seem like a lot of stores start their sales earlier each year? Instead of waiting until Thanksgiving to kick off Christmas now we’re hearing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” right after Halloween. If this keeps up, Labor Day will launch the crush of the Christmas rush. How many of you went shopping on “Black Friday?” Retailers love this day because it helps them get in the “black” financially. Beth was at a store by 5:00 a.m. but returned before the sun was up because of long lines and short fuses.
Against our culture’s call to consume the clutter of Christmas, stands the simple yet profound season of Advent. This word means “coming” and refers to the coronation of a King. Traditionally it’s been a time for prayer, penitence and preparation to help believers slow down enough to savor the Savior’s birth. I see Advent as a spiritual journey that helps us focus on the greatest gift of all so that we can worship the Word made flesh with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. Special music and readings and candles and sermons will help us reflect and rejoice. As we experience the ancient/future dimension of this time of the year, it strikes me that one can never start too early when getting ready for something really big.
While we are not known to be a liturgical church, we’ll be using an Advent Wreath with four candles, said by some to represent the four centuries of waiting between Malachi and Matthew. We’ll light a different candle each week, shining the light on the themes of hope, peace, joy and love through different readings by families in our church. This will help create a sense of expectation so that we don’t just get caught up in the consumerism of our culture. Many of you will be having special meal times around an Advent Wreath in your home as well. Using rich reminders from Scriptures our aim is to keep the Christ of Christmas present in the midst of all the presents as we focus on his first “coming” to this world. We want His beauty to shine bright in the busyness of our lives. And that can only happen when we slow down.
Introduction to Isaiah
Allow me to make just a few points that will serve as an introduction to this book.
• Isaiah has been called the “fifth gospel” because it is filled with so much good news.
• While the book is brimming with glory and good news, it also contains some gloom as well. This is summed up in Isaiah 60:2: “See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and His glory appears over you.”
• Isaiah was written about 700 years before the time of Christ, a fact that should cause us to wonder and worship as we contemplate how specifically these prophecies were fulfilled in the person of Jesus. Isaiah would say that one can never start too early when getting ready for something really big.
• This book contains some of the most beautiful language ever written and was quoted by Jesus extensively. Since Isaiah was one of His favorite books, then we should consider what it has to say as well. Isaiah is called a “major” prophet for two reasons. First, his book is one of the longest and second his message is very meaty.
• Some have pointed out that the 66 chapters in Isaiah serve as a “miniature” Bible, since there are 66 books in the Bible. The first 39 chapters correspond to the “law” of the Old Testament; while the final 27 correspond to the “liberty” taught in the New Testament.
• While there are many themes to this wonderful book, I want to mention just three:
God is in control.
The Messiah is coming.
God always has a remnant that stays committed to Him.
Isaiah’s name means “Jehovah saves” and he ministered for more than fifty years during the reigns of four different kings. He was impacted when the northern kingdom of ten tribes, referred to as Israel, was destroyed and its inhabitants were led into captivity. Ministering in the south in the land of Judah during a time of cultural corruption (kind of sounds like our country today), part of his mission was to warn the people that the same thing would happen to them unless they repent. His opening words begin with a complaint in Isaiah 1:4: “Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt…” and yet he continued to offer words of hope throughout the book.