Summary: Preparing our hearts for the wonder of Christmas
WHAG December 18th, 2016
Scripture: Isaiah 40:3-5
You’ve probably noticed that we are doing the Christmas season a little different this year. We are celebrating the Advent Wreath, focusing more on prayer and meditation during the service, and trying to focus more on the real reason for the season.
For years, around the time of my birthday on Dec 3rd, I’d look ahead to the Christmas season and say, “This year- I’m going to focus on the real reason for the season. I’m not going to buy into the commercialism, the stress, the shopping, or the busyness. I’m going to focus on Jesus’ coming to this earth.
Then life smacks you in the face with a cold rag. If you work in Emergency care the Christmas season gets very busy, a lot of sleepless nights and tragic situations. On top of that, there is a natural increase in the demands of ministry and by the time Christmas Eve rolls around I just wanted it to be over and done with.
So I wanted to do something a little different this year.
One of the wisest sayings I’ve ever heard, in so many words the bible does address in several places is this saying-
Your focus determines your reality. (repeat).
What you focus on, is what you will become. This is the reason that God set so many seasons and feasts in the Old Testament- to remind us what is important in life. When you read your bibles and you get to books like the second part of Exodus and then Leviticus through Deuteronomy it really seems tedious to read all those laws and regulations and you start to wonder why Moses was so detailed in his descriptions.
It was because our Father God knows the human heart- how easily it is for the enemy to take our eyes off God and cloud our vision with the worries and pursuits of our existence here on earth.
In section of the bible we are going to read this morning in the book of Isaiah- this is what has happened to the people the prophet is addressing. For the 26 chapters preceding the verses we will read in a few moments, it’s been all about God’s wrath and coming judgement, which leads to the eventual exile of Israel into Babylon.
And for 26 chapters and several decades, they ignored the prophet’s warnings and finally the judgment has now come.
Put yourself in their place- It is very conceivable that the people were living in regret now- “If we had only listened, we’d be in our own nation, living under our own roofs, serving our own kings. Instead, here we are, little better than slaves in a foreign land where we are considered second class citizens”
Therefore, God instructs Isaiah to change the focus of his message. I found a great way to explain what is going on using the Preacher’s Homiletical reference.
The section we are about to read relate to the restoration of the Jews from their captivity in Babylon. In essence, they are the Gospel of the Old Testament. This is their value to us.
To quickly summarize it, the ideas contained in the first five verses of this chapter are—That a glorious change awaits the exiles, consisting of a new and generous manifestation of Jehovah’s presence, for which His people are exhorted to prepare.
The prophet is commanded to speak words of comfort to those captives from Jerusalem—to assure them that her warfare, her time of slavery, is about to end; that her sins are pardoned, abundantly expiated by her sufferings; that her God is coming to deliver her from the oppressor; and that she must prepare the way for His coming, as heralds ride before a conquering king.
This is the context of what we are about to read this morning, and with that in mind, let’s read Isaiah 40: 3-5
3 A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the LORD;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God. b
4 Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
5 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
A few questions to get us thinking about these verses-
Have you or do you have a similar reaction to the holiday season as I did in the past? Is it more of a burden for you, or is it as God intended- a time of spiritual refreshing.
Maybe you’re like Israel- You’ve messed up big time. Maybe you’ve messed up big time a few times in your life. . You feel like your parts of your life have been stolen from you, like someone has exiled you from the life you thought you had and now you’re in the wilderness