Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Another Way of Looking At It

Oh that you would rend the heavens aand come down….” The cry of the prophet Isaiah is the cry of many of us today. That Christ would return and we could all go to heaven.

Yet we don’t know when that will be. Just sitting around and waiting for it to happen is not what Christ had in mind for us when He said, “Go therefore andmake disciples ofall nations….”

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, and many of us are still basking in its warm glow of family, friends, and food, what can we do now to carry out the mission Christ has given us?

I propose another way to look at this weekend, the first weekend in Advent 2011.

I think there are three reactions this first weekend after Thanksgiving brings.

Many people put up Christmas lights, their tree, and decorations this time of year. I won’t go into all the commercialism about Christmas in the stores – that’s been done in movies and TV shows and it’s become a cliché.

But many are now into the spirit of “full speed ahead” to Christmas. I’m included in that. I’ve produced my 2011 Classical Christmas show that will be broadcast very soon. I listen to Christmas music on my office computer. At home we have Christmas music on and we watch Christmas movies on Friday nights.
These are very visible and obvious things to do and will naturally draw attention. It can be a good way to tell people about Jesus as you have their attention.

Another reaction is the exact opposite. I know of people – good, Christian brothers and sisters – who are just as visible and obvious about not getting into the more public Christmas spirit at this time of year. And there’s nothing wrong with this – because it can bring glory to God and because doing this can also draw attention and the Gospel of Jesus Christ can be shared just as powerfully.

The third reaction is in the middle of the first two reactions. This is the reaction I most want to have. I really look forward to Christmas. Yet I also have to check myself so that I do not go overboard, trying to do all the Christmas things all at once.

I am eager. I pray to be patient – or at least as patient as possible – in my expectation of Christmas.
This third reaction reminds me of being eager yet patient for the coming – that is, the 2nd Coming – of Jesus Christ. How do I do that, though?

Where can I learn how to be eager yet patient?

By putting myself in some Old Testament Shoes.

1 Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence—2 as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil—to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence! 3 When you did awesome things that we did not look for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. (Isaiah 64:1-3)

700 years before Jesus was born, God’s people were also expecting the coming of Jesus. They didn’t know how long it would be until God sent His Messiah. Much was going on – foreign enemies threatening them and actually attacking them. Their internal situation was also in question with some chasing after false gods.

Isaiah spoke for God as a prophet and I suspect also spoke for many of the people in their eager and hard-to-be patient expectation of their redemption that would come from God.

The question on everyone’s mind was “God, where are you?” Not unlike today, I imagine.
We are asking this question because of all the problems in today’s world. Wars, famine, crimes, economic failures, lack of jobs, infidelity, immorality, and all the others sins that plague us today.

The prophet Isaiah and the people 700 years before Jesus was born faced the same sins. The prophet is looking for God. Then he looks into his own heart and the heart of his people – as should we.

6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. (Isaiah 64:6)

When we ask where God is amidst pain, danger, and sin, we should also ask ourselves who we are. Not because God is absent because we are sinners – that’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m saying that we need to understand ourselves and our sinful condition in order to understand where God is and what He is doing. We are directed to the mirror of the Law to recognize ourselves as well as to be prepared to recognize who God is.

8 But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. (Isaiah 64:8)

God formed Adam out of the clay of the ground. In a sense, we are all formed out of clay. And we have a Master Potter – God our heavenly Father. The people of God 700 years before Jesus’ birth were told this again and again. In the same way we have to be reminded that God is our Father and we are the work of His hands.

All the more so as we wait – in whatever way we wait – for both the first and 2nd coming of Jesus Christ.

Now let’s take off our Old Testament shoes and put on our Advent 2011 shoes.

It is so important to be in a Bible study because we all need to look for God where God is. We need to know God and how much He loves, cares, and saves us.

God is here in His Word. God is here in the Sacraments. Worship and Bible study are an excellent – if not the most excellent – way of preparing for Christmas and the 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ.

We also need to recognize who we are in Jesus Christ.

Because of our sin, we cannot come to God. We cannot save ourselves. We need help. That is why God sent Jesus Christ to be our Savior. In order to save us, Jesus had to be God. But in order to save us – we who are clay – Jesus also had to be clay. He had to be born of a woman. He had to live the perfect life in our place (because we could not). He died once and for all to take our sins away. He rose from the dead to seal our eternal life and ascended into heaven with the promise that he would return again to take us to heaven – that would be the 2nd Advent.

Meanwhile, we are again at the beginning of the Season of Advent. Many are going full-speed ahead to Christmas where they will celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and our salvation. Many are taking a more low-keyed approach to the holiday season and will have a different opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus at this time of year. And some of us will be in the middle of these two reactions.

Yet we are all eager for the coming of Christ. We are all trying to be patient in our expectation of the return of Christ. And we all – in our own ways and observances – can share the Good News of Jesus Christ who came and will come again.

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