I Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 28
Have you ever experienced a life threatening crisis in your life and wondered if God would get to you in time to rescue you? When I was seven, I was sitting on my grandpa’s dock as my brother waved a shovel back and forth in the water, attracting a curious cotton mouthed moccasin. I knew it was a poisonous viper and told my brother to remove his shovel and stay still while I yelled for Grandpa. As we waited for help, the snake’s mate climbed up the dock piling next to where I was standing. I remember praying and seeing Grandpa running toward us with his gun. Grandpa told us to close our eyes and stay still. We heard two gun shots. My World War I and World War II veteran sniper, marksman grandfather had shot the heads off both snakes as they poised to strike. Grandpa proclaimed, “Thank God, you are both okay.
In our culture in which many have chosen to set aside God from their everyday activities, many are asking, “Will help come to save people in desperate need?” Isaiah says that we have a God who comes to us, who aids us and helps us in our desperation. Six hundred years after Isaiah, John the Baptist stood on the banks of the Jordan River quoting Isaiah and said, “We have a God who comes to us, and I am the ‘voice in the wilderness’ to prepare the way of the Lord’s coming.” In prophetic tradition John says:
- We have a God who comes to us in creation, “Do you not know, have you not heard , were you not told long ago, have you not perceived ever since the world began that God sits eternal…He stretches out the skies like a curtain…Lift up your eyes to the heavens; consider who created it all, led out their host one by one and called them all by their names.Through his great might, his might and power, not one is missing” Isaiah 40:21, 22, 26. By the word of God’s power, all is brought into being and sustained. By faithfulness of the created world, by its order and pattern, seasons and cycles, seed-time and harvest, by the miracle of conception and birth, God is coming to us, sustaining and helping us.
- Isaiah saw the coming of God in the international political events of his time.The Babylonian Empire had conquered Judah and carried her inhabitants into exile. After Babylon’s king, Nebuchadnezzar died, Cyrus defeated the Medes and Lydians and pressed on to overwhelm Babylon. As Cyrus rose to power, he became the one to set the captives free and allowed them to return to their established homeland, encouraging them to set up their own government, to reestablish their economy, to rebuild their temple and to revitalize their religion. God came to them in a world leader not of their nation or religion. If God has come to us in history, will God come to us in our materialistically stuffed but spiritually starved culture? Will God say to a despairing world, “I have not forsaken you, I will raise up new Cyruses, I will renew the power of my living Christ in the world, and I will not leave you alone? Is God working among us in peace negotiations, in new treaties, in disarmament talks, in new and better trade agreements? In this Advent season, could God be saying to us in Isaiah’s words: You who bring Zion good news, up with you to the mountaintop; lift up your voice and shout, you who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift it up fearlessly; cry to the cities of Judah. “Your God is here.” God will tend the flocks like a shepherd and gather them together with his arm, carry them and lead them to water (Isaiah 40:9-11). We have a God who comes to us in the movements and events of history, who takes us in our weaknesses and sweeps us along in overwhelming streams of love and spirit outside our power and control. God makes God’s purpose known defeating despair. God enters into and breaks up stuffy religion, weak commitment and anemic devotion. God executes judgment on institutions that are more concerned with their own preservation than with the people they are supposed to serve. Look for a God whose Spirit is brooding over the depths of human wretchedness, whose seeing eye points out the rape and waste of the earth, whose penetrating word cuts into corporations and professions, exposing deceit, uncovering deception, executing judgment and whose heart cries out for victims of injustice like young children who are being beheaded by evil men. God has eyes to see what is happening in our time. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. We have a God who comes to us.
- We have a God who is a deliverer and leader.In Jesus, we see God coming to us in humility. We anticipate majesty and discover a servant. We look for royalty and find someone close to peasantry. We hope for grandeur and experience grace. We desire the power for vengeance and are forgiven. We long for a world leader who would lead us to world domination, and we find a world leader who leads us to world service. Expecting his leadership in a war to end all wars, we hear the call to beat our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks–farming implements to be used productively to sustain life. Craving a conqueror to crush the opposition, we find a mighty counselor, and an advocate for peace. We are boldly called to love our enemies. Wishing a victor to vanquish the foe, we discover a victim who suffers in behalf of the foe. Anticipating violence, we find powerful love. Expecting brutal force on God’s behalf, we are wrapped in the arms of forgiveness, acceptance, and inclusion.
We have a God who comes to u in Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us. In Jesus, all our theories, philosophies and wonderings about God are grounded and given concrete reality. In Jesus, the word became flesh and dwelt among us. With Jesus, God is not an ethereal dream or esoteric vapor, but a God who came to earth to put his body where his convictions are. Jesus put his life on the line in obedience to God and service to humankind. The very life and light of God shines through Jesus, illuminating and revitalizing all who are willing to come near him. In this time of Advent we celebrate and announce that we have a God who comes to us through Jesus. Is God coming to you? Will you recognize God in yoru presence?
Advent can be like a divine checkup with the Great Physician, who wants to keep us in continuing good health. Advent proposes repentance, a change of loyalties and habits, a new openness to God’s presence in our midst. God comes to us when we open ourselves to receive his care. Our God encourages us to rejoice, to give thanks in every situation because God is our Advocate–right there to guide and protect us. We wait for Christ to come again to intervene on our behalf.
Philips Brooks, author of “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” wrote: “How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given! So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven. No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive him still the dear Christ enters in.” God, come to us in Jesus this Advent season.