Summary: The new Church Year is a time for us to look forward to new opportunities of service in the Lord’s kingdom.
I guess I should apologize to you all. This is the point of the service where you are expecting to hear a sermon, and I don’t have one to give you. I mean, I figured "what’s one week?" You’ll survive without one, right? Besides, I already had one to do for Thanksgiving Day. And on top of all that, my faith is fine; I know where I’m going to spend eternity, so what’s the point in me putting in any work in the study of God’s Word?
Well, today we begin a new church year, and I do have a sermon ready for you fellow Christians. But how much importance do we place in the fact that God has closed the books on one year of service and opened up another one for us? Do we view it as a tremendous opportunity for another year of work in God’s harvest fields, or isn’t it easy to be tempted to become lazy and lethargic instead? After all, we know where we are going after we die, and besides, how much productive work can I, Joe Christian, really do? The one thing our sinful natures are good at doing is making excuses for why we don’t serve God better, why we don’t serve God more. You probably thought that my excuses for not having a sermon ready were pretty weak, but don’t we all have pretty lame reasons for why we haven’t served the Lord to the best of our abilities during this past year? And I guess I’d like you to view today, the First Sunday in Advent, not as a day marked on a Church Calendar that has little if anything practical to do with my life, but just the opposite: another year to give God the open invitation with our lives: "here am I, send me! send me!" So our theme for today as we enter into this new year is: Let us place ourselves in the Lord’s hand this year!
Our text for today was written by the well-known prophet Isaiah. The well-known prophet Isaiah. What do you know about the well-known prophet Isaiah? I mean, we hear his name for so many of our Old Testament readings, we know some of the most beautiful sections of the Old Testament were recorded by Isaiah ("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"...or what about his section..."he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed"). Isaiah is well-known to us, but not as much for what he did, rather for what he wrote. We think of Bible characters like Adam, Abraham, Samson...these are people that we remember Bible stories about. We remember the life and times of these people. But Isaiah??? I’m going to give you a really easy way to remember the life and times of Isaiah: he was a bold believer in God, who lived during times that are in many ways just like ours. In Isaiah’s time the people were wealthy. Just like us. Yes, I know the economy isn’t the best these days, but I don’t think I saw too many of us riding a bike and walking to church today. In Isaiah’s time, the country was strong, just like ours in. In Isaiah’s time, there was trouble brewing in the Middle East, just like today. And in Isaiah’s time, so many people didn’t have time for the Lord, just like in our day.
In Isaiah’s day, just like in our day, God appeared so weak. When was the last time God parted the waters of a sea? When was the last time God raised a person from the dead? Why doesn’t God do things like this anymore? Wouldn’t that encourage more people to take God seriously? That’s exactly what Isaiah was thinking when he wrote the words, "Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you! For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you."
I guess what we need to remember, when it seems as though God doesn’t do too many miraculous things anymore, that Isaiah is speaking in the past tense when he’s talking about God’s mighty acts, but he very well could be using the future tense. Advent is a time when we prepare our hearts for Christ’s first coming as a humble baby, as well as preparing ourselves for that second coming of Jesus in power and glory. As Isaiah says, God will come down again and make the world stand and take notice.