1st Sunday in Advent (29/11/2020)

First Sunday in Advent, 11/29/20, Kaiserslautern Ev. Lutheran Church, Germany, Pastor Joe Asher, LCMS, Office of International Mission- *IN NOMINE JESU*

Isaiah 64:1-9

64 Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down,
    that the mountains might quake at your presence—

 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!
When you did awesome things that we did not look for,
    you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
From of old no one has heard
    or perceived by the ear,
no eye has seen a God besides you,

    who acts for those who wait for him.
You meet him who joyfully works righteousness,
    those who remember you in your ways.
Behold, you were angry, and we sinned;
    in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved? 
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.
There is no one who calls upon your name,
    who rouses himself to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
    and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.

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.
Be not so terribly angry, O Lord,
    and remember not iniquity forever.
    Behold, please look, we are all your people.

Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.  

In today’s Old Testament reading, the great prophet Isaiah is pouring out his heart to the Lord.  There is a lot of emotion contained in this text as the prophet displays his need for the Lord in a very desperate time in Israel’s history.  To give you a re-cap on the situation, Isaiah lived about 700 years before the birth of Christ.  This man was God’s spokesman to a rebellious people who had devoted themselves to other gods and had done unspeakable wickedness and cruelty.  And through the prophet, God declared to the people that His righteous judgement was coming.  

And in history, we know that the Lord stopped the people’s sin with the Babylonian Army and captivity in 586 BC.

But at the writing of Isaiah 64, the crushing judgement of God upon sin was still in the future.  So here in our reading, in advance of the Jews’ captivity, Isaiah was wanting…

  • The Lord to show Himself

Asher/ p.2

  • The people to respond to God in repentance and faith
  • And most of all, the Lord to ease His righteous anger over the people’s sin, and to remember that the Jews were His chosen people!

But the great prophet sees the truth and recognizes that the people will not turn to the Lord.  And regardless of his repeated warnings, the Jews were going to have to endure the coming calamity.

So, Isaiah prays to the Lord in verse 1-

Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down,
    that the mountains might quake at your presence—

The prophet is saying, “Oh Lord, show Yourself!”

This appeal recalls Yahweh’s descent upon Mount Sinai, where the Lord pounded the summit with His cloud of glory, and fire, and the mountain trembled with His presence. (Exodus 19:16ff)  And there, God delivered to Moses the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 20)

But while Yahweh came in power to Sinai, He was also near to Israel…

  • Leading them through the wilderness
  • Providing for their every need
  • Loving them
  • Protecting them

In Isaiah’s desperate time, the great prophet wants the Lord to show Himself again.  He also wants rebellious Israel to see that their God is the living God Who has been their Shepherd and Redeemer since the beginning of time.  But from the Scriptural record, we know that in advance of the Babylonian captivity, the Lord only showed Himself through His Word and prophets.

I believe that we all can relate to Isaiah’s emotional call in verse 1 when we are going through desperate times.  We may be facing financial hardship, or we might be worried about a son or daughter, or we could be experiencing conflict at work or school.  We often want something more tangible that God’s Word on a page and a pastor in a pulpit.  We want God to show Himself.  We want direct from the Father Himself divine audible words of comfort.  We want supernatural action which takes away our pain and verifies God’s existence.  In other words, we want God to “show up.”

But God does not promise to show up in power at our request.  Even the great prophet Isaiah was denied his request. Instead, God responds to repentance and faith.  And our Lord always acts in accord with His Word and will.

God is in control.  He directs the universe and our lives.  And while we think we may need something, God in His omniscience… the fact that He is all-knowing… God in His omniscience sees the “Big Picture.”  And the Living God knows what we need and He knows when we need it.

Isaiah certainly understood this truth, and we can see this in verse 4 of our text-

From of old no one has heard
    or perceived by the ear,
no eye has seen a God besides you,
………… (next is the main point!)

who acts for those who wait for him.

Asher/ p.3

Now in our fallen human nature, because we are sinners and want to control every aspect of our lives, we don’t want to wait for anything.  We want rapid transit and smooth sailing.  We want same day package delivery.  We want fast food and instant coffee.  And when our sinful nature is at its most abhorrent, we see ourselves as incredibly important and we insist on being first in line.

But God is God and we are not God.  And sometimes in His authority God determines that we need to wait for things.  And sometimes God keeps us waiting.  Some examples are: 

  • We are all waiting for Christ’s Second Coming
  • We’re waiting for the of Christmas
  • The children are waiting for Christmas and birthdays
  • We wait for text replies
  • We wait for medical diagnoses
  • We wait for promotions and recognition

And during these waiting times, God often does His best work in us because it is at these times when we must depend on Him.

And this is what Christians need to understand: The Lord is worth waiting for.  He knows what He is doing, and He has a perfect plan for His people.  Everything God does is motivated by love.  We know this because God loved us so much He sent His Son Jesus to rescue us from sin, death, and hell by His cross and resurrection.  And we also know that God is motivated by love because Christ is coming again to receive us to Himself and take us home to heaven.

The Lord is worth waiting for.  So we wait for our God to come in His timing, and in His way.  

Now, this is easier said than done.  For as we wait, God may seem silent or far away from us.  But the certain truth is that God is never silent to His faithful people.  In holy Scripture, He has given us His Word and promises.  And we can depend on what our Lord promises.  

Our confidence while we wait is that God is in control.  He sees all the variables.  He knows what needs to happen.  He is not in a hurry.  And He is not in the least worried about what is in our past, present, or future.  As Christian believers, we are His people.  And in Jesus, the Father has- 

Ephesians 1:3-4- …blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as He chose us in Him (Jesus) before the foundation of the world.

And so in the blessing of God, we await what the Lord has prepared for us.  And in this Advent season, we anticipate Jesus’ appearing, which is His glorious Second Coming.  And this means that we prepare for our Lord’s return in repentance and faith.

Especially in this penitential season, we all need to take an honest look at ourselves and rightly assess our true standing before God.  And the truth is that we are more sinful than we think we are, but also the truth is that God is more gracious, and loving, and ready to forgive sin than we can imagine.

As sinners, all of us tend to see our sins of thoughts, words, and behavior in a rationalized and minimized way.  We think to ourselves- “Surely my words were justified in that situation!”  Or, “He started the conflict!”  Or, “So what if I take what I deserve.  Everybody does it!”  And then before the world we argue our case with the skill of a back-room lawyer, justifying our behavior so that all will see us as totally without fault.

Asher/ p.4

But God sees every sin.  Our thoughts and actions and everything that motivates us… our sinful pride is laid out before the Lord in the crystal clear light of day.  And God’s Word remains true, and it announces that “the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23)  And without Christ, we are condemned in our sin.

But the Good News is that Jesus is coming to a stable in Bethlehem, and His mission is to rescue all sinners by a cross on Calvary.  And our Lord, in the Holy Spirit’s power, calls us to repent of sin and return to Him in renewed faith.

And when we approach Jesus in repentance, He is more gracious, and loving, and ready to forgive than we can imagine.

In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

+Sola Deo Gloria+

KELC Prayers- Advent 1, 2020, November 29th.

Dear Heavenly Father, In this Advent season, as we remember the love of Christ which led Him to lay aside His glory to be born in a stable and die in our place on a cross, lead us to repentance and renewed faith.  Help us honestly take our sin seriously, and commit in your strength and power to turn from sin to following Christ all the more closely.  And when we despair of waiting for You, lead us to Your Word and promises so that our hope is renewed.

Lord in Your mercy……………………………………………………………………….. Hear our prayer.

Blessed Savior, in these times of conflict and disease, give Your Church the courage of faith.  When we are tempted to fear all the trouble we see, cast our eyes on You, our Strength and Redeemer.

Lord in Your mercy……………………………………………………………………………….Hear our prayer.

Divine Holy Spirit, we thank You that You always supply the power to live the Christian life.  Specifically we ask that You preserve and bless all Christian households, that husbands and wives would live in love and service to each other, that fathers and mothers would diligently bring up their children in nurture and admonition of the Lord, and that children would honor their parents and be well-equipped in both faith and life for service to all. 

Lord, in Your mercy……………………………………………………………………….. Hear our prayer.

Finally, Lord, in our families and among our friends and co-workers there are many who are in need of Your care.  For those who are sick, hospitalized, away on duty assignments, traveling during this Christmas season, unemployed, those seeking jobs such as our brother Sven, help all who are lonely, and for all other needs, we name our loved ones in our hearts before you now…

Lord in Your mercy………………………………………………………………………. Hear our prayer.

Into Your hands, O Lord, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in Your mercy through Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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