Sermon, Advent 3B, Sunday December 14, 2014.
After viewing the “Strange Miracles” media clip….
She said, “We decided it was never going to be”. For this couple what they had resigned themselves to was never baring a child and being parents.
Like a man watching his yacht sink after the storm – feeling hopeless, this couple had decided that what they longed to be, thought they could be, wanted to be would never come to be.
This Christmas, what are you still longing to be, wanting to become, aching to see happen in your family, in your own character, in your work place, in your church, in the depths of your soul?
This Christmas, what latent longing lies within that has been subbed out of your daily game for fear that bringing it back into play would be too hard, to big, too much, too much to expect, too much to believe?
The prophet cries out for God. Isaiah names the sad and sorry state of affairs in his country. He longs for God to act; to let justice roll on like a river and restore his people. But he watches the rich and the powerful prosper on the backs of the poor and powerless and no one seems to care or be able to do anything about it.
The people are corrupt – embracing all of the idolatry of which they have always been susceptible. They have given up on expecting, seeking, wanting a living relationship with their God. They live stopping their ears to the Word of God, heaping God’s holy judgement upon themselves and not even knowing it or caring about it.
Those that do seek the Lord, long for his appearing, and pursue his presence in their lives are just overwhelmed. The secularising tide it too strong. No one comes to worship anymore. They just don’t care about God…..
Isaiah names the real issue. You have trusted in your own wickedness and have said, ‘No one sees me’. Your own wisdom and knowledge mislead you when you say to yourself, ‘I am, and there is none beside me.’ (Isaiah 47:10)
Oh, if there was ever a word of God’s judgement on the essence of our 21st Century Western culture this is it! “I am, and there is none beside me”!
The woman in the video lived with a ruined place, a broken heart. She thought what she knew to be good and right would never happen. What about us?
You thought your would remain married for life. That did not happen. You thought you would achieve your school grades to get where you thought you were meant to go. That did not happen. You thought you would be as strong as an ox until you went home to be with the Lord. That has not happened. You thought you would enjoy retirement. But is has been really hard. You thought you would travel the world, but that did not work out. You thought you would have a rock-solid unwavering faith and trust in God, but that has not been the case often.
Are doing something wrong? Is our country, our church and my life not what it could be because we are being punished by God? In the long wait for what seems almost lost happening to me because God has abandoned me?
Maybe we should just try harder – try harder to be good and please God – pray with more enthusiasm, try really hard to read my bible more, try to trust him for things……then he might rip open the sky above me and drop down one gift to keep me going…
She said that they had learnt to live with their broken hearts. Is this you? Is this us as a church? Will this Christmas be just another shopping experience with jingle bells and Santa Claus and turkey for lunch because we have all learnt to lower our expectations, lower our eyes, preferring to believe that “I am, and there is none beside me”?
But then came that smile. She smiled when she said, “But it wasn’t”. When she reached bottom and cried out “This is just the way it was going to be”, she said, with that surging joy, “But it wasn’t!”
Friends, hear him speak of his Christmas gifts of joy now….
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a] to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, …..to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
All is not lost for that relationship, that health issue, that transition, that hope, that deep longing for joy in faith. He’s coming. He’s here. It does not have to be the way it is and it does not all depend on us! It depends on him and he is here. He is much more than what Christmas has become.
John, the baptiser announced it. “…among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” (John 1:27).
Let’s go for more that Jingle Bells and the other trappings Christmas has become. Let’s help them all receive more too.
Receive his Spirit. Receive his anointing. He is binding up your broken heart. He is freeing you from those ties that capture you. Light is breaking in on that question, that fear, that doubt, that worry, that hardship, that evil. The pain of grief is losing its edge and its grip. Friend, reach for the crown he is handing to you – the crown of a son and a daughter of the king. Adopted heirs of the king, we are. Belonging, love, family, place, strength together.
Put on his glad rags of peace, joy, hope, love and step out into this Christmas and new year coming.
He is untying your sandals and washing your feet so you can go. Go into your family, your workplace, your church, your community to proclaim what needs to be proclaimed.
God has not abandoned us. We are not being punished. Our wrongs are not shutting up heaven’s blessing. The sky is open. The Christ is here. Heaven and earth are together in him. We live in the two in him.
What is longed for is understood by him. He will find a way and it will be the best way for you as it was for this woman, for the prophet and for the baptiser.
He says, I am. I am the good shepherd. I am the gate to life. I am the doorway to everything good. I am bread of life Because he is “I am”, we are.