Sermon, Advent 1 – Service of 9 Words
Sunday December 2, 2012.
Prisoners of Hope
Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10 I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the warhorses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River[a] to the ends of the earth. 11 As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.
12 Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.
I can’t really imagine what it would be like to be a prisoner. To have your life completely controlled by others; to have your eating, drinking, sleeping, exercise monitored…. not in a spirit of care and safety, but from that of control and punishment. To have a deep longing for contact with your loved ones – and yet know that you will never have it while in this prison. Disconnection from those you love would surely be the hardest thing about being a prisoner.
For a little while in my younger days I used to accompany a Lutheran Woman into Yatala Women’s prison. She was the chaplain and I was assisting her with my guitar playing. Those prisoners needed some outside contact. They longed for someone to bring good news from outside their prison cell life. They needed to taste freedom again; taste joy again to keep living their prison experience.
You and I may not know what it is like to be a prisoner in one of Australia’s gaols or in some underground room in Beirut, but we have our own prison to deal with.
The prison we deal with daily is largely self-made. We do get help from others too, but largely we build these prison walls ourselves. It is the prison whose walls separate us from our Creator and his new creation begun already in Jesus. These walls we construct rob us of freedom, joy and growing in love for our God and other people. They kill hope.
The prisons we make? Fear. Fear of self – our weaknesses, our pain, our wounds and what these may bring out in us. Fear of our addictions, our aging, our future. Fear of others – what they are saying about us, what they would say if they really knew us and our troubles. Fear of these last times and the Evil One and the seeming destruction of our world. Fear is a major prison we construct and others help us construct daily.
Idols – things and people we trust for our well-being more that the One who created us and gave us life – both at birth and in baptism – birth into the new creation that has been begin by Jesus in his birth, his death, his resurrection to life beyond death.
Unresolved anger. Unforgiveness toward others or from others.
Self –righteousness: living as if God is only on about us being “good” and believing then that we are good enough and others are not. And so it goes….prison – self made…
The Word of the Lord speaks into your prison now…
The prophet Zechariah enters our prison and brings a taste of the outside – a taste of freedom and of joy that comes from freedom.
Rejoice greatly, woman, man, young person, child of the Lord! let yourself go – shout, people of God’s family! See, your servant king Jesus coming to you, at peace, right with, freely living with the Creator again – back in the garden, in his new city, his new heaven and earth….Bringing a gift – THE gift – freedom in Christ – the way of self-giving loveSee him – human, normal, everyday, flesh and blood – on average transport – a donkey colt.
He is visiting you in your prison this Advent. He is telling of peace to all those captive to self, to fear and the rest. He is ruling your life already begun in God’s new creation – not to control you but to love you and make you more fully alive and fully human than you think possible – even this side of death and before we fully know what it is to be fully free and fully alive with our Creator free from pain and sorrow.
Jesus rules in the darkest places. He loves in the darkest prison cell of the soul. He is not locking you in the cell, he is bringing new light into it and chipping down the walls daily as you die to prison life and let the new life break in.
So, man, woman, young person, child, worker, homemaker, partner, farmer, friend, professional, tradey – Christian: because of the blood of Jesus the incarnate – “in the flesh” Son of God and his life for yours, you are no longer incarcerated prisoners without hope and light but now you are free. Now you are His. Now you are still prisoners – or at least still daily dealing with falling back into the old prison ways, but now you have the gift – hope within any prison – we are prisoners, not to fear or idolatry or self-righteousness or anger but prisoners of hope!
Hope springs eternal in us who have already passed from death to life in God’s new garden of life in Christ. We know the Humble man present with us – who has and always is breaking down the walls we make for ourselves. We know by faith, that Zechariah’s word rang true and we live in the both the end times and the beginning new day of the new king – and with him we are free – free indeed.
And he whispers in our ears – “a better time is coming”. A new day has already dawned but will come in full light, and when it does come in full, there will just be no hint of this prison making going on any more. In the new heaven and the new earth with its beautiful garden, abundant life and light streets surrounding the throne of the Lamb the taste of freedom and love and joy that we live in now will be magnified a million times and the joy and the freedom and love we now experience will seem like mere shadow of what we will know then.
Hope, friend. Grab this hope. Be surprised by this hope! Let him open the door on your cell. Let him give you a taste of his freedom this Advent – freedom to love, to be loved, to know others and be known; freedom and joy to live in whatever prison walls are yours – for what you know, feel and understand now is only half of what is to come…..
The new king says: “I announce that I will restore twice as much to you”.