Old Testament Lesson: Isaiah 64:1-9
O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence— as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil— to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him. You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways. But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed. We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity. Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people.
Epistle Lesson: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind—just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you—so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
I would like to begin this advent season by giving a little bit of background on this season, as it is often found in many churches that we neither like nor truly appreciate the meaning of Advent. This video that I just shared came from an organization called the Advent Conspiracy. It is an organization that has dedicated themselves to bringing the Advent and Christmas season back to its original purposes and that is to bring this season around the birth of a Savior, who came with the Missio Dei, or the Mission of God to recreate and to restore the creation that God had originally created. I wanted to share this video with you to simply tp begin getting us into the thought of looking towards Christmas, but yet at the same time, not yet are we there.
Advent comes from the Latin word: Adventus, which means a coming, approach, or arrival. This means that whatever it is that we are awaiting to come has not yet come, but yet we are getting prepared for their great arrival. I often like to think of when we have family coming into town. Some of us I presume may know what I am talking about as we may have had family coming from all over the area to spend Thanksgiving with us. I want us to think back though about a week ago. The Sunday prior to Thanksgiving for those of us who were expecting company. There was a bit of expectation in the air, maybe a little hysteria along with it as well as maybe the rooms weren’t quite ready or the shopping for the food had not yet been done. But there was preparation that was happening, but then alongside of it was this time of waiting. Waiting for the guests to arrive. Waiting is something that especially my generation, but I believe in general we as a people do not do very well. We are a part of this instant gratification era where if when I click on a link on the internet and it doesn’t automatically pop up, we begin to become frustrated. Or if we go to an amusement park, we must wait in terrible long lines and by the end of the day we aren’t so sure if we had a good day or not. If any of you decided to brave Friday morning this past Friday, I am sure you understand this word “wait”. So what is it that we wait for? We wait for of course anything that is important to us. We wait for tickets for a movie that we really want to see. We wait for a plane that we MUST catch so we showed up early for it and waited. We wait for the expected arrival of a new baby when the mother goes into labor. No matter what we are waiting for, there are characteristics that come along with waiting. We think about it continually, we are on the edge of our seat hoping that the next person to come through the door will bring us news, we are looking out our windows expecting and hoping to see the first arrival of a family member. To wait means to actively seek and hope. The key word here is actively. We can wait for the coming of Christ by actively being the people he has called us to be. By, as the advent conspiracy suggests: Worship fully, Spend Less, Give More, Love All. By seeking out God’s will for us through Scripture, Tradition, Experience and Reason. But the question is do we truly wait upon the Lord? Is it important enough for us to wait for. This season of Advent is about waiting for the Lord’s arrival in Christmas, but also a waiting for the return of our Lord. Both of our scripture lessons speaks to this waiting. The prophet Isaiah is so bold as to say that the Lord our God, who created us and made us works for those who wait for him. This claim from Isaiah is not so absurd if we truly take it into perspective. If we believe in God, and we believe he is omnipotent, or all knowing, then would we not certainly wait for God and God’s timing? And then Paul speaks to the Church of Corinth about another types of waiting. Those who are waiting for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. God provides for us the ability and the strength to wait, but we must meet God and be willing with our own free will to persevere and wait upon the Lord. If we are not waiting, then maybe we do not understand what it would be like without Christ? I want us to ponder for a moment this very question, What would it be like without Christ? (wait) Think about all the past sins in which we have committed, what if God did not come in flesh to offer atonement through Christ? Isaiah uses this beautiful, yet quite disgusting parallel of how because we have all become so sinful even our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. I was thinking about bringing in a dish cloth that had been used for a couple of months to pass around, but we did all of our laundry in preparing for our company this past weekend. But imagine with me, our righteous deeds are like a dish towel, used for months and months and never washed. Imagine that smell of rotting food. This is what our righteous deeds are like because of our sin and who we have become because of our sin. So I ask, do we really need a Messiah, a Christ, an anointed one from God, a savior? We did not make ourselves, nor then can we re-make ourselves into the very image of God without Christ. We cannot wash out that towel without Christ. Isaiah uses this imagery of a potter, one who molds the clay into shape. A potter who desire perfection, must be a potter who is patient. However as my wife has said to me so often as she works with clay as a potter, “the beautiful part of clay is that if it collapses while on the wheel, or dries out, or breaks in the kiln, or even if it smashes to ground after it has been fired…the potter can always use the clay that is broken, messed up, and recreate.” This is why we needed a Christ, this is why we wait upon our Lord in this season of Advent.
As I began to ponder on these two images: Clay that is being molded, and waiting, I believe they have something in common that is absolutely vital to understanding this season of advent. That is they birth feelings that are uncomfortable. Think about how the potter must mold clay, they do so by placing pressure on certain parts of the clay and the tension between the pressure from the potter and the clay is what forms and shapes the clay into its being. And we certainly already know that waiting is something that is uncomfortable or at least is not something that we often desire when we are longing for the arrival of something we yearn for. And so, as we enter into this season of advent, there may be periods of times that we may be uncomfortable, that we may want to just say the heck with it, let’s go and join the world in celebrating Christmas throughout the entire month of December and for that matter November and late October as well. But let us instead embrace the uncomfortable nature of waiting and being molded. Let us wait upon the Lord for it is clear and I believe quite obvious to all that we certainly are in need of Christ Jesus who without we would all certainly perish and die.