Tuesday, November 29, 2011

“Comfort, Comfort, Ye My People” (Isaiah 40:1-2)

S-1280 1SIA/3B 11/27/11 Hymns: All LSB (O) #332; S#347; L.S. 380; 352; (C) #348

Text: Isaiah 64:1-9; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 11:1-10

Theme: Comfort, Comfort, Ye My People” (Isaiah 40:1-2)

Question: “Have you ever been comforted?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for the 1st Sunday in Advent is from Isaiah: Comfort, comfort My people, says Your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.(Isaiah 40:1-2).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

Today, saints in Christ, we begin our new journey through Advent culminating on Christmas at the manger. Today, and the next few weeks, we shall listen to the prophet Isaiah speaking to us by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit about the loving God, who sent His Son, our Savior to the cradle in Bethlehem and what does that mean to us personally. Thus, with great joy, we look back at what has already happened in Bethlehem and look forward with great anticipation and expectation to Christ’s Second Coming.

An old “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” TV show was about a woman in prison who became good friends with the prison caretaker. When a prisoner died he would ring the bell, get the body, put it in a casket and nail it shut. Then, placing the casket on a wagon, he would take it to the graveyard outside the prison walls and bury the corpse.

Knowing this routine, the woman devised an escape plan and shared it with this caretaker. “The next time the bell rings,” she said, “I’ll leave my cell and sneak into the coffin with the dead body. Nail the lid shut and take the coffin outside the prison with me in it. Bury the coffin,” she continued, “and because there will be enough air for me to breathe for some time, you can come back to the graveyard that night, dig up the coffin, and set me free.” The caretaker agreed to the plan.

One day this woman heard the ringing of the death bell. She arose, walked down the hallway, found the coffin containing the dead body and climbed in. Soon she heard the pounding of hammer and nails. The coffin was lifted onto the wagon and taken outside to the graveyard. After the dirt was poured on the coffin she began to giggle out loud, “I’m free, I’m free!”

Feeling curious she lit a match to identify the prisoner beside her and in the glimmer of light she discovered that she was lying next to the dead caretaker! In classic Alfred Hitchcock fashion this final scene fades as we hear the woman screaming, screaming, screaming, and then silence. PAUSE.

Beloved in the Lord, of course this is only a show. It is not real. But have you ever been buried like that before? Before you answer, think about it. Have you ever been buried like that before? Sure you have, and so have I.

You might say, “Pastor, I have NEVER been in a coffin! I haven’t been buried yet! I am still breathing and moving!” But really dear saints, the truth we all have been buried.

We’ve been buried in questions – “If God is so good, why do I hurt so badly?” “If Jesus is the light, why am I in the dark?” If Jesus loves me, why am I hated by the world? If Jesus is in control of my life, why am I in total chaos?”

We’ve been buried in disappointment – “You’re just not like your older brother!” “You’re just not like your older sister!” “You’re just not like our last boss!” “You’re not mounting too much.” “You’re a sorry state!”

We’ve been buried in responsibilities – “Here’s a 30 page case study – be ready to discuss it tomorrow. Honey, the kids have softball and baseball games tomorrow.” “Sugarplum, I need to work late at the office, please prepare the supper. “

We’ve been buried in the past – the minute we lost our temper, the hour we lost our purity, the day we lost control, the years we lost our priorities. And on top of it all – literally – we’re buried in our daily self-assertion, self-righteousness, self-satisfaction, self-sufficiency and self-will.

The truth of the matter is this: We are buried, boxed in, six feet under, again, right here, just now – it’s dark, tight, claustrophobic and the enemy has nailed the lid shut. And if there isn’t screaming, there are heavy sighs and lifeless looks and empty hearts.

Buried, boxed in, six feet under – so also were the Israelites in Babylon. They were taken captives by a ruthless king. For 70 years, life was harsh and hard. Life was empty and void. Life was dark and death reigned supreme. PAUSE.

How many of you know that the word “bedlam” comes from the word “Bethlehem”? The hospital of St. Mary of Bethlehem was established in 1247 in London, but the local inhabitants of that time had their own speech, which was not always the King’s English. Bethlehem for them came out “bedlam.” When, under Henry VIII the monasteries were dissolved in the land, the hospital was given to the city of London, which incorporated it in 1547 as an insane asylum. The name bedlam became permanently linked with the noise and confusion within its walls. Leave it up to us to take a gracious hospitable place like Bethlehem and create bedlam; to take Christmas—God’s gift to the nations, and make it so full of clamor, confusion and chaos. We know more about bedlam than we do of Bethlehem.

Look at your life! On the outside everything looks so serene, rosy and beautiful. Even the houses shine with the glitter of lights and the hope of Christmas. But be truthful and honest. Remove the venire of hypocrisy and you will see homes divided, hearts broken, and lives filled with pain. To be srue, no amount of glitter and glamour can cover the grim lives we live. PAUSE.

It was once high noon at the OK Corral and our Savior put down His gun! “Go ahead,” He said, “Take your best shot and shoot Me!” And the enemy marshaled every weapon of mass destruction. Judas, Pilate, Herod, Priests, Pharisees, Sadducees, Soldiers, Crowds … thorns, nails, spear, darkness, sweat and screaming, screaming, screaming, until there was total silence; even the angels in heaven were silent.

It all ended “crucified, dead and buried.” Nothing is as bottomless as a pit, as lifeless as a grave, as hopeless as a tomb. Smell the mildew, the odor of rotten flesh, of blood, the stench of death and your nostrils itch and your eyes water. See the confines, the darkness, and the sealed stone. Witness the charred marks of a divine explosion to life!

Cramped by the chaos, suffocating in the stillness, trapped in transgressions and sins, screaming in the silence, let’s light a match and see who we’re buried with. PAUSE.

Well get this YOU who are buried, boxed in, six feet under – Paul tells us: “We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life!” (Romans 6:4) Again, he speaks: “Having been buried with Him in baptism and raised with Him through your faith in the power of God, who raised Him from the dead.” (Colossians 2:12).

Through water and the Word you and I have been buried and raised with Jesus our New Born Savior and Lord. Our certain defeat is turned into a stunning, bottom of the ninth inning, come-from-behind victory. And so our buried, boxed in scream is forever changed into a baptized, blood-bought, forgiven, Spirit-filled endless Hallelujah!

This is why God writes, through the pen of Isaiah: “Comfort, comfort My people.” Comfort is here. Comfort is yours. Comfort is now. Comfort is forever! Amen.

Now the peace…


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