Recent Sermon
 Sunday, November 27, 2022

First Sunday in Advent

Isaiah 2:1-5

1This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:

    2In the last days

the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established
    as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills,
    and all nations will stream to it.

    3Many peoples will come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
    so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
    the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
4He will judge between the nations
    and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
    and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
    nor will they train for war anymore.

5Come, descendants of Jacob,
    let us walk in the light of the Lord.

           The turkey or ham has barely had time to settle in our stomachs and already our thoughts have turned to Christmas.  To be honest, many people’s thoughts turned to Christmas quite some time ago.  Store shelves were stocked with Christmas items and advertising pointed us to all of the “must have” items for 2022.  Christmas lights and Christmas trees have begun to show up in and around peoples’ homes.
          Here at Emmanuel (Trinity, St. John’s) we have also begun to focus our thoughts on Christmas, the birth of our Savior.  The next time you come to worship you will see the Christmas decorations in the church.  We have begun a new church year with the season of Advent, a month-long period that we use to point hearts to the birth of our Savior.  We are, to be sure, in “getting ready for Christmas” mode!
          But what exactly does it mean to “get ready for Christmas?”  It’s more than bringing evergreen trees into our homes or putting lights on our houses.  It’s more than finding the perfect gifts to give to others.  These are some of the things that people do today to “get ready for Christmas,” but long before these things ever became Christmas traditions, people were “getting ready for Christmas.”  We could rightly say that people have been doing this since the day that Adam and Eve committed the first sin and were given the first promise of a Savior.
          “Getting ready for Christmas,” boiled down to its basic roots, means getting ready to celebrate Jesus’ birth.  We’ll continue to do that for the next 4 weeks, beginning today by looking at promises from God that were given through Isaiah that focused peoples’ hearts on the coming Messiah.  God used Isaiah to point his people to the light that God provides to a sin-darkened world through his Son, our Savior.  Preparing to celebrate his birth once again, we are called on to…

“Walk in the Light of the Lord”
I.  God’s Word gives light
II.  The light attracts people

          Isaiah lived in a particularly dark time in the story of God’s people.  King Ahaz encouraged the people to worship idols as a political move to establish alliances with other nations.  Isaiah saw what was happening and called God’s people “[a] sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evil doers, children given to corruption!  They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and runed their back on him.” (1:4-6)  We could say that Isaiah saw a people that were not “getting ready for Christmas.”  They were not at all prepared to welcome their Savior into the world.  It must have been quite disheartening for Isaiah to walk among the people and see their blatant idolatry.
          But as Isaiah begun the second chapter of his prophecy, God used him to speak of brighter days, days in which “…the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.”  Isaiah wrote that this would happen “in the last days,” which Hebrews 1:1,2 tells us will be when Jesus comes into the world.  Matthew said that period of history would end “when the Son of Man comes in his glory.” (25:31).  In other words, Isaiah was talking about the times in which we live today—the time between Jesus’ first coming into the world until his second coming on Judgment Day.
          It may not seem like such glorious times for God’s Church as we look at the spiritual climate of the world around us.  We might wonder where the “nations” are who are to be streaming to the “mountain of the Lord’s temple,” a reference to God’s Church on earth.  It might look to us as if people are running away from the “mountain of the Lord’s temple” rather than to it.
          Did you have to push your way through a large crowd to get here today?  As you watch the sings of Christmas begin to slowly appear, how many will point to “earthly” Christmas – gifts, vacations, food, the white bearded man in the red suit?  How many understand the meaning of bringing evergreen trees into our homes (Jesus’ birth means life) or the star on the top of the tree (the star that led the Wise Men to Jesus) or the gifts that we exchange (God’s gift to us)?  Every now and then you may see a manger scene in someone’s front yard, but they are vastly outnumbered by decorations that have nothing to do with Jesus’ birth.  Where are the “nations” that Isaiah said would “stream” to “the mountain of the Lord’s temple?”
          Isaiah didn’t see much evidence of people truly getting ready for Christmas, getting ready to welcome God’s Son into the world to save them from their sins.  And yet he wrote confidently the words that God had given to him, “Many people will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob.  He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.’  The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”
          You will see the nations streaming to the Lord’s temple in the next few weeks.  You may not have been crowded out of the parking lot today or had to squeeze your way into church today.  When the preparation for Christmas is complete and the day that we celebrate Jesus’ birth arrives, you will join approximately 2 billion people in celebrating Christmas.  Today children across the country and around the world are getting ready tell the story of Christmas in their churches.  Choirs are preparing songs of praise to the babe of Bethlehem.  Pastors are preparing the message that shares the joy of Christmas.
          God’s Word gave light during the dark period of Isaiah and shines just as brightly for us today.  If you bring a candle into a dark room, the darkness cannot overpower it.  Its light will be seen.  God is sending that light throughout the world, shining in the hearts and lives of is Church on earth.  God’s people will prepare to celebrate Christmas with a true understanding of that day in their hearts and a true love for God and the Son that he sent on that day.  The light of God’s Word will shine brightly on Christmas, and…

II.  The light attracts people

          Isaiah describes the success of God’s Christmas message when he writes, “He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many people.  They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.  Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”  Once again, a quick glance around the world today seems to indicate that Isaiah, and God, were wrong.
          It isn’t that Isaiah, and God, were wrong.  We are just looking at the picture that they have shared with us wrong.  These words do not promise peace and harmony between nations and people on earth.  These words describe the peace and harmony that exists between those who have been called to faith in Jesus, who together make up “the mountain of the Lord’s temple,” we have been given peace through God’s promises, and who live together in that peace.
          Today we are encouraged to live in that peace.  We are to let that peace guide us in the preparations that we are making for Christmas.  Sure, go ahead and put up the decorations, bake the cookies, buy the gifts, join with relatives.  Do all of those things that have become part of our celebration of Christmas.  Let it be “the most wonderful time of the year.”
          In addition to all of that, and more importantly than all of that, listen to the Lord’s call to you to “Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.”  That light is Jesus, as John quoted the words of Jesus, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (8:12) We have been called into the light of the Gospel, and that light has removed the darkness of sin from our hearts.  Living in that light, living according to God’s will and sharing our love for God in our lives, will extend the peace of God as it has already done so.  According to statistics and surveys, over 2 billion people are living in the light of faith, preparing to celebrate the birth of the Savior.  That number is made up of people from countries around the world with people of different age, race, and color.  All live together in the peace of God that the angels sang about when Jesus was born.  Where else in the world today do you find over 2 billion people united around one thing?  The “mountain of the Lord’s temple” is a powerful example of the work that the Gospel has done in our world and will continue to do.
          Christmas gives God’s people a unique opportunity to share the light of God’s Word with others.  Oh sure, Satan will continue to do all that he can to dim the light of the Gospel.  He’ll fill the celebration of Christmas with distractions and try to turn our eyes away from the manger in Bethlehem to all of the other things now associated with Christmas.
          But the darkness cannot hide the light.  The Gospel will shine this Christmas.  The birth of the Savior will be celebrated.  The eyes of God’s people will gaze into the manger and also glance up to heaven prepared to see the Savior come down from heaven again.  You and I will join a couple of billion people of our time and billions more from the past in answering the call of the Lord, “Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the LORD.”  God bless you as you “get ready” for Christmas.  Amen.