Third Sunday of Advent – December 11 2022

Posted on December 13, 2022, Pastor: Jean Wahlstrom

Sermons are preached within the context of a particular worship service, and are most meaningful when experienced in that way. We encourage you to view or listen to the entire worship service. 


December 11, 2022

Third Sunday of Advent 

Matthew 12:15-21
Isaiah 42:1-9

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Sermon Text:

Please pray with me.
Good and gracious God, your Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.
Come and open our hearts and minds to Your light that we might ‘see’ You in the midst of our Advent activities and a clear path enroute to Bethlehem – in 2022.  Come and meet us at our place of need this day. Amen

NOW AND NOT YET.  Clue: It’s about Advent Time!

Strange title for a sermon, eh?  Advent is one of my very favorite seasons of the Church Year.

I call it the season of being on “tiptoe” – looking forward – trying to see ahead with eagerness and anticipation.  Something’s ‘coming’ – the meaning of the word borrows from a Latin origin, arrival or appearance, to come.  It’s now used for these 4 weeks before the celebration of the Coming of the Christ – child.

It’s a time of preparation for the coming of Jesus, coming from heaven to earth, God coming to join us on earth, the ultimate revelation of God we see in Jesus as he lived here on earth.

It is the FIRST season, the beginning of our worship year, because it all starts – historically and theologically – in Advent.  The Christmas Story starts in the Hebrew Scriptures, especially in the prophecies that foretold the sacred story.  Today’s text from Matthew is only one of them.

Whenever I read the New Testament, and I read a quote from the early Scriptures, I ask myself = WHY?  Why have they included this particular text and why in this place?

For some reason the writers of Matthew thought it helpful, wise to include it here.
Let’s take a look at this together.

(BTW  Bibles in each pew at the end.  Those red books.  Someone hold one up.  WLA have made them available. You are welcome to use it and follow along if you’d like.  If you don’t have a bible for your own use, let me know and I will see that you get one.  We don’t worship the bible: we worship the God of the bible.  The bible is our book of faith; here we ‘see’ and get to know the Triune God.  AMEN?? Amen.)

Reading v. 15 = When Jesus became aware of THIS – what is ‘this’ referring to.

“Previously” – (v. 9 – 14) – Jesus has just healed the man with a withered hand on the Sabbath.  The Pharisees accuse him of violating the Sabbath Law ‘not to do any work’ – healing was considered the work of a rabbi – Jesus was a rabbi/teacher – so he cannot heal on the sabbath.  As a result, the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

Aha!  Now we know why Jesus departed.  He was no dummy!

There are crowds that followed him – the good news is out – and he cured them ALL.  Wow!

KEY – b. 17 – which tell us why this was included:

This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

v. 18 = Here is my servant, whom I have chosen,

my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased.

I will put MY Spirit upon him,

And he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.

 

ISAIAH 42: 1 – 9

Here it is affirmed that God’s work in the world is to be enacted by HUMAN AGENCY.

A person – my servant – my beloved, my chosen one.  Before this in Isaiah 40 – 41 it is GOD who acts, God’s resolve and direct action on behalf of Israel in the midst of Babylonian power.

Back to MATTHEW – telling the story of Jesus,

IT goes on to describe what he will be like. . .how he will not be like other leaders. . .

Compassionate – gentle – not demanding.  One might expect this Spirit-filled servant to be loud and proud about his chosen status with God, but instead he is characterized by his humility.  He’s someone who can see that a reed is bruised –that a person is feeling trampled—but he won’t let them break.  He’s someone who holds a person who feels like a tiny candle on the verge of going out, and he won’t let their light fade.  The servant’s quest for justice is characterized by GENTLENESS.  He sees the vulnerable and he won’t let them fall. Jesus’ kind of peace meets us in our weakest places, transforming injustice into justice, setting right was has been bruised, and he does this with the gentleness of his loving touch.”

End of v. 20 “until he brings justice to victory.”

v. 21 – And in his name the Gentiles/the nations/all people will hope. Promises fulfilled give us HOPE for the future!

This is GOOD NEWS, EH?  Amen?  It was the actions of Jesus that confirmed for the disciples that Jesus was the one prophesied in Isaiah.

Let me take you back to Matthew 11:2.  John the Baptist is in prison.  When he heard what the Messiah was doing – John sends his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you THE one who is to come, or are we to WAIT for another?”

v. 4 Jesus answers “ Go and tell John what you see and hear. The blind received their sight, the lame walks, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.”

The connection is made:  From Isaiah 35: 5  “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.”

Isaiah 42: 6 “I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.”

v. 9 “See the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth, I tell you of them.”

Wow!  As it says on the front of your bulletin “The promises of scriptures HAVE BEEN fulfilled, are BEING fulfilled, and WILL BE fulfilled.”   All this is NOW.   That should influence how we approach Christmas.  We celebrate Christmas because our salvation is a DONE DEAL, thanks to the events of EASTER.  We celebrate PENTECOST because the indwelling Holy Spirit, eternal life is also a DONE DEAL.  We keep learning about God as we follow the life of Christ through this cycle of the church year – the Spirit keeps it alive in our hearts and minds as we worship and read God’s Word and fellowship together.  We have good memories, but they are very SHORT, EH?

During Advent we live in an interesting tension between what is NOW and what is NOT YET.

ALL the promises of God find their fulfillment in Jesus.  All the gifts and fruit of the Spirit is ours as the Body of Christ NOW to serve and live today as the people of God.  All that God promised to us in Jesus is ours ALREADY.

How do we reconcile the promise of peaceful rest in ISAIAH with the reality of war and violence in our world?  The promises God made to King David seemed broken (2 Samuel 7). But from the house of David a Spirit-filled BRANCH would emerge: Jesus, the Son of God.  He would bring PEACE to both Jew and Gentile.  (The book of EPHESIANS (2:13 – 21) Jesus himself is our peace.

AND we struggle with the idea of ‘promises’ –  Promises to us have been made and then broken; we’ve been hurt and we’ve hurt others.  MARV:  when we were first getting to know each other, because he lived with an alcoholic father who made promises to him as a young boy and then regularly didn’t keep them.  Marv warned me not to make any promises that I wasn’t sure of keeping.  Have I done it?  Not perfectly, but that’s where love and forgiveness work their miracles.

HOWEVER,  It’s not over YET. . . There is a NOT YET of Isaiah’s prophecy, and it will arrive with Jesus’ second coming.  Christ will return a second time and that will be another fulfillment of promise.  But it’s now a done deal.  It gives a hint of what eternity is like.  Image of ‘lion and lamb’, a ‘serpent becomes a child’s plaything’.  That new creation will ultimately satisfy our deepest longings for justice and peace, while in the NOW we work daily for justice and peace in every way possible.

Advent reminds us of the glorious rest given through Jesus’s first coming and anticipates the full restoration that will accompany his return.  In this time of tension –between the NOW and the NOT YET—God calls us to be marked by grace, a people who pursue justice for the oppressed and spread the knowledge of Christ in our communities.

How’s your Advent preparations going?  I’m not very good at WAITING: Marv is much better than I.  The Advent Calendar with the chocolates really kept my attention one year – – –

As a kid growing up in a large family on a farm in MN, we always knew what everyone was getting – ONE present – 9 kids – no place to hide 9 presents – but we knew it represented all the love our parents could give.

What is God up to in our world today?  There is healing today – medical miracles through the inventions and discovery of medicines.  Relationships are restored and strengthened through forgiveness and reconciliation.  God’s promises are still sure.  But God’s time is NOT clock time, not chronological.

Titus 1:1 “in the hope of eternal life that God, WHO NEVER LIES, promised before the ages began, in due time he revealed his word through a Savior

(Basic Four of Advent: Hope, peace, joy, and love.)

Every time you and I care for people more impoverished than ourselves. . . love is shared.

Each time we stand in solidarity with one who feels alone, joining in God’s work of justice. . . hope is shared.

Each time we start a day and continue it in prayer. . . peace is shared.

Every time we focus on generating a life of greater dignity for the hurting. . . joy is shared.

 

PRAYER
Good and gracious God.  Thank you for your promises so that we can live NOW, knowing they are fulfilled, although we also live in the NOT YET of eternity as we join you in the work of proclaiming the Good News.
Jesus Christ, You are the same yesterday, and today, and forever.  Thank you for that promise.
May we rest in your presence.  May our Advent Attitude be one of hope, peace, joy and love, as your Spirit works in us and through us.  We pray this in Jesus’ name, for You make it all possible.  AMEN.