Isaiah 35:1-10The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, 2 it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God.3 Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; 4 say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.”5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. 6 Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. 7 The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.8 And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it. 9 No lion will be there, nor any ravenous beast; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, 10 and those the LORD has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
The dad in this video expressed the great problem we Christians have with Advent and Christmas –
being devoted to the tradition or routine of it all but not expectant of any real good news that might change us and our relationships for the better;
not really expecting the Prince of Peace to speak, do, act, deepen our faith and change our relationships for the better…
As we do it all diligently the way we are supposed to, somehow baby Jesus gets hidden! Somehow we get lazy.
It is very easy to hide baby Jesus or make him a mere ornament by our lack of expectation and trust that he is who he says he is and he has done the most radical thing the world has ever knows.
It is easy to not expect anything much of Jesus’ powerful word acting upon us as we dice with a community that has replaced the faith core of Christmas with consumer advertising and human centred good feelings.
But he really gets Advent….
The Dad in the video didn’t want Jesus to be a mere tradition or routine or consumer message or an unreal, untouchable, dead ornament – do you?
You see, advent means “arrival.” This season is all about getting ready for the arrival of Good news – new hope, new faith, new directions – Jesus.
This Christian man knows what the prophets and John the Baptiser knew.
The glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
The most important thing about anything – any season, any situation we find ourselves in, any relationship, any illness, any fear, and celebration, any achievement is seeking Christ.
Will we do this in the Advent and Christmas we share this time around – for real?
Will the way we celebrate the great mystery and ear piercing news that God has become us for us to lift us and empower us to love a dying world speak of him to this community, to our families, to travellers coming to our inn?
But he also understands something else – why God hides himself. As this Dad hides the baby Jesus from the manger scene and invited the kids to seek Jesus in a hidden place, so, we re-live the story of how God our heavenly Father his himself in the ordinary things of our human life;
How he calls in shepherds, star-gazers, and everyday people like a carpenter and his young wife to be, to find him.
We say to whoever is listening this Advent that God has ventured into our hostility and unbelief in a way that we never would have dreamed up –
he enters our experience in things that don’t seem to holy, powerful or pleasing.
We prefer our Saviours to be rich, big, famous, powerful in the world’s power, influential, pleasing to the eye…
But this Dad said, “He entered the world quietly”.
God enters into the world he created that is now fatally flawed.
Advent news is that he has arrived here. The King of love, the Prince of peace, the Saviour, the world changer is here in the mess and the fear;
He is with the world in the grief and tragedy of a young Aussie Cricketer shockingly struck down far too young, a beautiful young baptised and loved child of God who belongs here struggling for life with a family waiting on the Lord to bring her back, in the best efforts of his people to organise themselves and make decisions that help us partner with the Saviour as he continues to go about his mission to bring his love and hope to this community through us.
Because Jesus hides himself in our humanness, in our ordinary, in our prayers, singing, his holy Word, his gifts of grace….we then are called to seek him out in those things.
You are being called again this time around to “find the baby Jesus”
Expectation again builds among us. It is Advent. Christmas is coming.
Jesus is hiding himself in your ordinary.
Jesus is hiding himself so that seeking is required by those who have their imagination, their inquisitiveness, their need, their longing for light quenched again by the greatest gift anyone could ever receive –
the gift of undeserved love and favour from the one who has ever authority to condemn us for our obvious sin.
AND WHICH JESUS DO YOU SEEK? WHICH JESUS WILL WE HELP THEM FIND? Christmas consumer ornamental Jesus or the real one?
There was a woman named Charlotte who ran a Christian preschool.
She bought a plush Jesus toy. He was happy and smiling and all squishy; The way a cuddly toy should be. Some of the parents objected. They thought it was “inappropriate.”
Charlotte didn’t hesitate. She knew the question she needed to ask.
She asked “Which Jesus do you want your kids to know? The breakable Jesus on the high shelf who’s always looking down on them OR the Jesus who’s huggable and sits with them on the comfy couch, the one they can talk to, the one that comforts them when they’re hurt, the one they tell all their secrets.
Which Jesus are we actually expecting at Advent? The one who plays fun games with us and brings us life, or the one who sits on the shelf until it’s time to go back in the box?
Friends, let’s not leave Jesus on the shelf, out of reach, too precious to play with…. That would be hiding the radical life-giving news that God is Immanuel – with us, for us.
Let’s not put Jesus in the box of 21st century consumer Christmas paraphernalia either. We know him.
We need his voice in the ordinary that is us.
Expect him again. You can because he says so.
To us a Son has been given.
He will be present with all his gifts to give.
Set your heart on seeking the hidden Jesus who may be hidden in the ordinary and unexpected things but no less present.
His presence is balm for the damaged soul, light for the darkened mind, deep comfort and a return to hope in the tragedy hope for the despairing soul, closeness for the one feeling far away from God’s good gifts.
Expect him again this Advent.
Talk about the traditions/customs you enjoy at Christmas or how Christmas was done in your house growing up.
Reflect on what’s good about those customs and traditions.
Reflect on this great problem we have as followers of jesus to lose him in Christmas rather then find him! How do we lose him? What takes over the gospel of Jesus? What replace it? How do we let that happen?
Reflect on how we can celebrate the birth of the Saviour of all people in ways that help others see his good news for them? What might need to change. What could stay the same?
Read those beautiful words from Isaiah 40:1-11. make a list of the links you make to Jesus in these words that foretold his arrival. How does Jesus fulfill all these wonderful things in his life, suffering, death and rising? Share a few thoughts…
Reflect on this mystery of God the Almighty creator choosing to work in the ordinary human things – like a baby feeding in a shed, a young girl scared and in a strange place (Mary), a young man unsure of what the right thing to do would be (Joseph), the “outcast” kind of people responding in faith (Shepherds), strangers in a strange land looking for guidance in the stars (those Easter travellers).
Why do you think God chose to work in the ordinary people?
Why do you think he still chooses to work through the spoken word, the sacraments, the prayers of people, the acts of human service, one to another?
PRAYLord Jesus, speak to my friends and family this Advent and Christmas and use me and all we do as a family and as a church to tell them that you truly are in the world wanting the best for the world – ready to forgive, ready to call, ready to enlighten minds and inspire people’s hearts with very good news that bring everyday people real hope in any situation. Amen.