Thursday, December 01, 2011

Sermon on Isaiah 40:1-2, for Advent 1, "Comfort, Comfort Ye My People"

Sermon Notes drawn from the series "Savior of the Nations Come" by Dr. Reed Lessing, of Concordia Seminary St. Louis, MO. Preached for the first Wednesday in Advent.

Illustration from Alfred Hitchcock show about a woman trying to escape from prison in a casket, to be buried and then dug up...finds that she's buried with the caretaker who was supposed to be her rescue…ever been buried?

Ever been buried like that before? Sure you have, and so have I.

We’ve been buried in questions: “If God is so good, why do I hurt so bad?” “If Jesus is the light, why am I in the dark?”

We’ve been buried in disappointment: “You’re just not like your older brother!” “You’re just not like our last boss!”

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.”

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.

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 Israelites in Babylon. Buried under the weight of their sins, their idolatry and waywardness from God, that had resulted in their being carried off as exiles into a foreign land. Watching in despair as their capital city Jerusalem was pillaged, burned, leveled, and destroyed. Their homes, the walls of the city, their strength, and most importantly of all, the holy and beautiful Temple of Solomon that was the crown jewel of Jerusalem. Desecrated, looted, demolished. We can hardly imagine the scale of their sadness and loss. Buried with questions: “Is God unable to save? Does He exist? Are the Babylonian gods greater? Or had God utterly abandoned us?” To people in this despair—to us in our despair and empty hearts, God called for comfort. Comfort, Comfort, Ye My People—speak of peace so says our God.

From where would such peace and comfort come? An epic conflict once took place. Not between the God of Israel and the gods of the Babylonians. Not between Israel’s soldiers and theirs. But a greater and more deadly battle between our Savior God, and all the forces of evil that were matched against Him. Jesus disarmed Himself and said “Ok, take your best shot.” And all evil was launched against Him. Judas, Pilate, Herod … thorns, nails, spear darkness, sweat and screaming, screaming, screaming, until there was total silence.

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 blood, the stench of death. 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. Well get this—Romans 6:4: “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!” Again Colossians 2:12: “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.”

Through water and the Word you and I have been buried and raised with Jesus our 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! God in Christ has pardoned all our sins that “well deserved His anger” and He has changed our deep sadness into ever-springing gladness. Truly God speaks tenderly to us when God writes, “Comfort, comfort my people.” Comfort is here. Comfort is yours. Comfort is now!

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