S-1220 2SIA/3A 12/05/10 Hymns (O) #63; (S) #370 LSB; #70
Text: Isaiah 11:1-10; Romans 15:4-13; Matthew 3:1-12
Theme: “Can It Be…?” Isaiah 11:1, 10)
Question: “Is your home peaceful?”
SOLI DEO GLORIA, Armour, SD
Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our Second Sunday in Advent is from the Old Testament lesson: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit… In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of Him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious” (Isaiah 11:1,10).
Introduction: In Nomine IESU
People of God, chosen and beloved: Is life that simple? Is it plain black and white? Can it be that what we hear on TV, radio and read in magazines and newspapers really make us happier? I just recently heard a commercial of a woman who is over 50. They asked her how she felt about herself. Her response, “I am invisible!” However, they gave her anti-wrinkle cream and that took away the wrinkles and now everybody notices her. Can it be that a cream takes away years of your face and makes you young again and everyone notices you so that you are visible? Can a diet pill make you skinner and more beautiful? Can the right medicine, the right diet, the right car, house, popularity, prestige, make your life more complete?
Can extending the unemployment benefits bring about a change and get the economy going? Can Secretary of State Hillary Clinton bring about peace in the Middle East? Can the latest toys, gadget, cell phone, ipad, and any other item, make your life happier and healthier? PAUSE.
During the month of December, as we go from store to store, there is soft music playing and the one theme for Christmas is PEACE. But do we have it? Is it available? Look at our world. It is far from perfect, far from having peace and far from being joyful. In Haifa Israel, a negligent act burned many acres and causes massive evacuation. In Juarez, Mexico murder is rampant and out of control. Many homes are in turmoil and pain. Many families are at odds with one another. Certainly, people want peace, but there is none. Some don’t even have joy or hope in their homes.
But listen carefully to what the Prophet Isaiah says today about the Messianic age. “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.” (Is. 11:6-8) Can it really be? Will we ever see anything like this with our own eyes?
It seems absurd to even think that this will take place and peace will fill the animal kingdom and the world we live in. You don’t need me to tell you that as you watch TV, you know that it is not just the animal world where peace on earth seems missing in action. Terrorism won’t go away, car bombs go off, and innocent people are killed. Street crime takes lives of teenagers or even younger children. Drug deals and gang violence scare us out of the cities. No peace in those places.
And inside, in our hearts and minds, peace eludes us as we listen to the news and see an economy in free fall. Retirement funds shrink. Jobs disappear. No one seems safe and secure anymore.
In Isaiah’s picture, a little child plays with a snake without fear, but in the world we live in, peace on earth seems as far away as angels singing a couple thousand years ago to shepherds on a lonely hillside, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace” (Lk 2:14). And yet, that angelic song, sung at the birth of Jesus, has it right. True peace on earth has to start somewhere, and in Bethlehem, long ago, true peace arrived as child, born so humble and vulnerable.
Isaiah’s prophecy, written hundreds of years before Jesus was born, described His arrival as a shoot out of a stump. The nation of Judah was almost destroyed. Its rebellion against God had led to foreign nations taking it over and sending the people into exile. It looked dead, like a stump. But God had promised that a Messiah would come one day, and He would be called the Prince of Peace.
However, in this prophecy, the glory of King David is not mentioned. The time when Israel is at the pinnacle of power and prestige is not the heart of the message. No, Isaiah goes back to David’s early family, when he is a part of a little-known family of shepherds. King David’s father, Jesse, is named to show that the promised Savior of the nations would be born in humble surroundings. And he was. Mary and Joseph are not famous: a carpenter and his wife—simple working-class folk. Jesus is born in a manger, not a palace. He is raised in a small town among fishermen and other hard-working people, not in a capital city.
Yet He is the shoot out of that stump who will bring peace on earth. He has the wisdom and counsel, the knowledge and might, to bring true peace. Isaiah says His delight is the fear of the Lord. Not frightened fear like a lamb before a wolf, but reverence and total submission to His Father’s will. Every breath he takes is to do just what the heavenly Father has sent Him to do.
What was He sent to do? He was sent to bring peace. He was sent to bring justice. He came in all faithfulness to do what was right for us, for all creation.
What was right was to make peace between God and us. God’s wisdom and counsel was a cross. His death would take care of whatever anger and hostility God had against us because of our sin and rebellion. We call it forgiveness, but we can also call it peace. Listen to how Paul describes it: “All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ” (2 Cor. 5:18). Again, “For in Him [Jesus] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross” (Col 1:19-20). Did you catch what all is included? All things—animals and people alike are included in God’s wise plan to bring peace to this scary world, where violence and hate destroy the peace we so desire.
And then came that day where peace flowed from Jesus to His first followers. He rose from the dead. The violence done to Him was undone. On that first Easter, the disciples were huddled in a locked room, afraid for their lives. Then the frightened disciples saw Him alive and standing in their midst. He greets them by saying a powerful word, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I Am sending you” (Jn 20:21). With that, the true peace that Jesus brought into the world began to spread into the world. The disciples took it wherever they went in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy (v 10). And we His chosen and beloved people take it wherever we go.
During the 2008 presidential race, John McCain was asked by Time magazine to share his “personal journey of faith.” In response he told a story from his experiences in a North Vietnamese prison camp during the Vietnam War. He tells how he would often be tied with ropes that pulled his head down between his knees. Sheer torture. Often He was left that way the entire night.
Then one particular night a guard came to him, and without saying a word loosened the ropes. In the morning, before anyone knew, he returned and tightened the ropes again. No one else was aware of what had happened, but McCain was deeply grateful for his night of relief
The two men never exchanged a word, but some weeks later, on Christmas Day, the same guard came to him in the courtyard of the camp. Again, he said nothing, nor did he look McCain in the eye, but with his foot he drew a cross in the dirt. The two men looked down at that cross, a wordless conversation that said everything.
Our eyes do not yet see the wolf dwell with the Lamb (Is. 11:6), but the little Child who came at Christmas has brought with Him a whole new age. For now, the peace of this messianic age is often hidden. Amen.
Beloved in the Lord when Christ rules the heart, peace rules the day. How is this all possible? How can peace abound in our hearts and heads and even in our homes? It is all because of a child promised of old and fulfilled in Bethlehem. How can a child do ALL of this? This is no ordinary child, but the heaven-sent Child. He is the Savior of the world; the One who came to fulfill what was promised in Eden’s Garden after the fall. He is the message of God’s love and peace flowing from His heart.
Can it really be? Yes, it can. The cream may/may not make you visible or take your wrinkles away. Hillary Clinton may/may not succeed to bring peace in the Middle East. The extension of the unemployment benefits may/may not improve the economy. The diet pill may/may not cause you to lose weight.
However, the Root of Jesse will accomplish all that He promised. In fact He already has! You find this in the manger, the cross and the empty tomb. We may not see it because our eyes still focus on the world rather than on the child.
Now the peace of God…
SOLI DEO GLORIA