Summary: When we talk about Advent, we must begin by talking not about Jesus at first, but about the world he came to. Jesus came into a broken world, to live life with us, among the ruins.
Life Among the Ruins
Wildwind Community Church
December 5, 2010
Isaiah 11:1–5 (TM)
1 A green Shoot will sprout from Jesse’s stump, from his roots a budding Branch. 2 The life-giving Spirit of GOD will hover over him, the Spirit that brings wisdom and understanding, The Spirit that gives direction and builds strength, the Spirit that instills knowledge and 3 Fear-of-GOD. Fear-of-GOD will be all his joy and delight. He won’t judge by appearances, won’t decide on the basis of hearsay. 4 He’ll judge the needy by what is right, render decisions on earth’s poor with justice. His words will bring everyone to awed attention. A mere breath from his lips will topple the wicked. 5 Each morning he’ll pull on sturdy work clothes and boots, and build righteousness and faithfulness in the land.
I love this passage. It speaks of the coming of Jesus and what he will do. But it’s not exactly what Jesus did is it? Did his words bring everyone to awed attention? Several hundred people, maybe. Did a mere breath from his lips topple the wicked? Hardly. At least that’s certainly not how it seems to me when I think of the crucifixion. No wonder the Jews missed Jesus as the Messiah. What this passage proclaims the Messiah would be and do, and what Jesus actually was and did, seem pretty far apart. So those of us who believe in who Jesus was and is are left to believe that part of this prophecy is, as yet, unfulfilled. Part of it still lies beyond us in a future time.
My friend Eileen Button’s first book is coming out this summer, from Thomas Nelson Publishers. The title is The Waiting Place. That’s here, you know. The waiting place is here, where salvation has been assured, where deliverance has been promised, where we are told that redemption is certain – and yet? Yet we wait. We wait in the in between, the what-might-be, and the who knows what. We live life among the ruins. The world is full of promise. There is so much good, so much beauty, and people who are so noble that it gives you the chills. And yet – yet we know of the pain all too well. Children die and parents have to let go. We lose our heroes one by agonizing one. Our bodies, once strong and sure, lose their agility, break down, begin to betray us. We spend the first half our lives madly accumulating things – money, competence, children, status, power, influence, achievements – and the second half of our lives learning to let them go. This is the waiting place, and we live our lives among the ruins of a world with so much promise, that nevertheless cannot meet the deepest longings of our hearts.
That’s the truth. That’s the bottom line about the world into which Jesus came. That’s the truth about the world B.C. (before Christ) and A.D. (since Jesus died). We’re STILL in the waiting place. I don’t think it is appropriate to go into advent and focus right away on Jesus. After all,
John 1:9-11 (NIV)
9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.
11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
I think when we talk about Advent, we start talking not about Jesus, but about the world that he came to. The Waiting Place.
Let me ask you something. Do you think God was in the world BEFORE Jesus came? When Jesus was born and got to a certain age, do you think he looked around and said, “Wow, what a hellhole this place is – I had no idea”? Or do you think Jesus came, in human form, to a place where he had already been?
Genesis 3:8 (NIV)
8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
Emmanuel means “God with us,” doesn’t it? And this passage invites us to suppose that before “God with us” was with us, he was already God with us.
Genesis 2:7 (NIV)
7 the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
This passage invites us to consider that the very air we breathe comes from, and began with, the Spirit of God. The same Biblical word that means Spirit means breath, so God breathed into man the breath, or the spirit, of life, and that is when we sprung to life. And of course we live in a world that has been fashioned by God and where God dwells.