S-1395 1SIA/A 12/01/2013 Hymns: (O) #55; (S) #239; (C) #82
Texts: Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 21:1-11
Theme: “Come Let Us Go!” (Isaiah 2:2-3)
Question: “Have You Been Invited to go Some Place Lately?” Armour, SD
Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for our First Sunday in Advent is from O.T: “It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us His ways and that we may walk in his paths.’ For out of Zion shall go the law, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem’” (Isaiah 2:2-3).
INTRODUCTION: In Nomine Iesu.
Children of the Light, I like to be the first to wish you Happy New Year! Yes, you heard me right. I greet you like this because today marks the beginning of a new Church Year with the season of Advent. Once again, our journey will lead us from expectation to fulfillment, from darkness into light, from manger’s cradle to Calvary’s cross and the empty tomb.
Advent is a blessed season that helps us look backward and forward. We look back to the Nativity of our Lord Jesus as we hear the familiar words of prophesy about a Virgin and a Baby King and a sleepy little village turned the center of the Universe and we know that Christmas is on its way!
But Advent is so much more than just pre-Christmas! While the rest of the world is consumed with the high feast of retail gluttony, Advent, by the grace of God and the working of the Holy Spirit, compels us to look forward to the glorious Second and Final Advent. For the same Lord who entered our created world in humility as an infant King has also promised to return. But this Second return will not be so meek and mild. This Second Advent will be one that finalizes the changes that were set in motion by Christ’s first Advent.
Thus, Advent is really a season of invitation. That is exactly what the Prophet Isaiah is doing in the words that serve as our sermon text. “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us His ways and that we may walk in His paths.” Isaiah, bids the people of Israel and us to come to the mountain. It isn’t just any mountain—but the Lord’s mountain where God Himself will intervene in human history and change the world forever. The mountain of the Lord is Mount Zion or better known as Jerusalem. And this trip to Jerusalem is not some tourist destination. Even though some 3.5 million people visit the Holy Land each year, the prophet is talking about so much more—God’s promises fulfilled!
But why Jerusalem? Jerusalem isn’t that great a city. It has never been seen the center of culture like Paris, or the center of commerce like New York; or viewed as cosmopolitan as London or Rome. Jerusalem has never been that special or prominent until King David established it as his headquarters. It never was a special city. So why does the Prophet invite us to come to Jerusalem?
The answer is clear. Because this is where God determined to make Himself known and present. The Prophet tells us It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills. This lifting up will not be because of some geological phenomenon. The hill on which Jerusalem sits will not suddenly shift higher in the sky than the peak of Mt. Everest. But a day is coming when Jerusalem, the Holy City set atop of God’s holy mountain will be made the most important of the cities! It is important because this is where the Lord promises to do His work!
The Old Testament faithful viewed Jerusalem, the site of the Temple as the place where heaven and earth intersect and where sinners meet their Holy God. While God promises to be ever-present in His creation, He does make the promise that there will be a place where He guarantees to be found. It was there that generations of the faithful brought their lambs and rams, bulls and birds in the foreshadowing sacrifice of Temple worship. And it was in Jerusalem that Yahweh Himself made the ultimate sacrifice. Jerusalem was the setting for the Gospel lesson for today. On the very same day that the lambs were brought into Jerusalem for the Passover sacrifice, Jesus entered the Holy City as both King and Lamb. It was on Golgotha, just outside the Holy City where our Lord Jesus Christ, the Babe of Bethlehem and Lamb of God, was crucified as the once and final sacrifice for all sin of all humanity. His blood which freely flowed from His battered body was the judgment of God on all mankind. Jesus the Holy Child of Bethlehem takes our place and willingly receives all of the judgment and death that our sins deserve! The hostility and division that existed between Creation and its Creator, humanity and their Lord was forever undone! That’s why the Lord invites us to come and go with Him this Advent!
The Lord tells us, “Come let us go” to Jerusalem, not only on this First weekend of Advent, but every day. For in that city, we behold the mighty works of God that changes history and our lives forever! For the Word of the Lord that goes out from Jerusalem declaring that our sins are forgiven not only once, but over and over again.
This daily return to the mountain of the Lord is critical because while we look back to what Advent has already achieved, we know that there is still more to be done. We know that Christ’s Second Advent will come and usher the very PEACE that Isaiah proclaims. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. We know full well that as we speak there is more than one nation on our planet that isn’t beating its swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. We know that all over the globe nations are not only learning war, they are getting everything in place to make it happen!
And it isn’t just the nations that behave like this. We do the very same things individually. Even among those of us who make this annual Advent trip, seeing the wonder of the Christ Child and following Him all the way to the Cross and empty tomb, are slow to put down our swords and spears. We keep our armaments handy so that we can do battle with the very people that our Lord has called us to be at peace with! We engage in the hand to hand combat of vengeance and refusal to be reconciled to one another. We cheapen the sacrifice of Christ by withholding the peace of forgiveness from one another. We are quick to bite and devour. While we come here to sing of Advent peace, in our hearts we beat the sinful drums of war against God and one another. Be honest! You do this! I DO THIS! All sinful human beings do!
That is why Isaiah invites us to go to the mountain. Advent helps us see the Lord’s work among us and in us. As the days of Advent pass by, the darkness seems to deepen. Yet the more the darkness deepens, the more the light shines. It seems as though the darkness of our world and of our own hearts gets deeper and deeper. This darkness can be scary. In fact, it can be downright terrifying when we are reminded where the darkness of sin ends! But the Lord calls us back to Jerusalem today and every day to see the Light of the Lord. In our baptism we have been delivered from the domain of darkness and placed in the marvelous saving light of Jesus Christ! It is there that we are made part of the house of Jacob. The house of Jacob of all time and all places draws its light from what our Lord does for us! At the cross He once for all judged between nations and settled disputes with many peoples. In Christ, outside the walls of Jerusalem the judgment was done! This light sets us on the new path that the Psalmist talks about in Psalm 119:105 “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” That is precisely what Isaiah invites to. Come let us go to the mountain. From the mountain flows the Word of God Incarnate. From the mountain flows the Eternal Light that will never be extinguished.
This light, flowing from Jesus and His holy Mountain guides us each and every day as the darkness of our present age deepens. The light of the Lord leads us in ways that seem out of step with our world and it is. His Word teaches us that this world is not our final destination. He teaches us the truth that in Him there is life, light and eternal love. The ambition and angst of this era will give way to a much more beautiful eternity that will know no more sin and war and death. The Light of the Lord’s Word will lead us.
And that day, while it is coming, is already here now. For the Lord once again teaches us His way today. His way is His Word. This Word kills us in our sin and makes us alive because of the Word made Flesh Jesus! Until that final day, we are called to walk, not in darkness but in the Light of the Lord. Filled with the Word as it is preached and fed to us in the Holy Supper, that Light of the Lord washes over us.
Today, Isaiah the prophet invites us saying “Come let us go!” not to Starbuck to have a cup of coffee, but to His Holy Mountain, where we can spend time with the One who chose to enter our created world and to create in us a new heart that lives in the Light of His grace. And Jesus, whose name in Hebrew is Isaiah, says to us also, “Come let us go to My Mountain. For on that Mountain I have won Your eternal salvation, forgiven you your sins and made you mine forever.”
Therefore, as children of the Light, walking on the journey of Advent, and listening to Isaiah anew, we hear him saying: Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,” and by the grace of God, and His Spirit, we begin the climb up to the mountain. AMEN.
Now the peace of God…
SOLI DEO GLORIA