Summary: Advent, first Sunday, kinda, sort of....We are righteous only because Jesus gives us righteousness. Also Isa 9:2-7.
A couple of years ago there was a school principal in West Virginia who banned Valentines day at his school –it was too disrupting. He refused all deliveries of candy and flowers, not even any of the faculty could give or receive cards or gifts. People could complain, but he made the rules…He was the Grinch Who Stole Valentines Day.
We traveled to Texas for Thanksgiving and again we endured the new rules by the TSA. Now you can bring limited amounts of liquids or gels on the plane, limited means a travel size – about three oz. They must be in a quart size zip lock bag. If you have the same amount in a larger zip lock, your out of luck – they will take it away - so I found out. My sister in law was told she could not bring a bottle of 12 oz of Gatorade through. So she poured the 12ozs of Gatorade into 4, 3 oz bottles. That was ok.
I sat by a lady on the plane who told me that she tried to ask the clerk at the gate a question, “I’m not ready for questions – you’ll have to wait” she looked around, she was the only one at the counter, the clerk wasn’t on the phone, typing, or working otherwise. She tried to ask again, but the clerk would not budge, “I’m not ready for questions”.
So she sat down, a moment later the clerk announced – “I’m now ready for questions”, the lady shot back…..“I’m not ready for your answers – you’ll have to wait”
We live in a time where we have silly rules imposed on us, by a controlling authority. There’s always a controlling authority, no matter how big or small the situation, and, you know, isn’t it just easier to follow the silly rules and move on with your day? The rules around us try you tell us what is wrong and what is right, what is correct and what is incorrect.
If I ever go into a Starbucks for coffee, I always ask for a medium coffee…and inevitably the coffee clerk condescendingly corrects me -
Tall, Grande, or Venti -I say, “no thanks, I’ll just have a medium”.
Our age is not unique, there always has been people who add rules to our lives. In the time of Jesus, the Pharisees where the controlling authority. They along with the Scribes determined what was right and wrong, correct and incorrect – by looking at Scripture, and by doing so, by living well, one could be righteous before God -A fairly important thing.
The Pharisees (the separated ones) were a religious political party in Jesus time. They were known for insisting the law be observed as the Scribe had interpreted it. (The Law also known as the Mosaic Law, given through Moses) The Scribes were members of the educated class
who studied the Scriptures, copied them and served as teachers.
One command from the mosaic law is Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. Now, there are not a lot of details there, are there? I mean, how do I know when I am keeping this commandment? I‘m glad you asked.
The Scribes and the Pharisees had an answer to how to keep all the commandments, two whole books of them. Scribal Law, or the Mishnah is 800 pages long. The Talmud or book of the Law is seventy two volumes. These are not the Mosaic Law , but are interpretations of the Mosaic Law. Every possible detail was worked out on every detail of the law. The Scribes and Pharisees knew this immense pile of information well, and applied it to their lives obsessively. They were able to fulfill every obligation of the law to a tee. The Scribes and the Pharisees could, but everyone else, pretty much could not.It was like a burden that weighed people down.It was like a spiritual darkness was placed upon everyone. The Word of God, fairly simply laid out was clouded with details, and in fact, people paid more attention to the interpretation of the Word, than to the Word of God itself.
Our first Scripture read this morning during the advent candle lighting from Isa 9:2. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
The people are living in a land of Spiritual Darkness, because the true meaning of the Word of God has been clouded by tiny things .
Years ago a man was hired by a pharmaceutical company to be an area salesman. He was smart, a quick thinker, people oriented – perfect for the job. He was given a territory, training and all he needed to get the job done. On his first day his manager called to see how his visits went