The First Sunday in Advent

Thank you to John for this message.

Dear Sisters and Brothers, I apologise that this sermon is in the form of notes. If possible, please do look up and read the Bible references, whether in written or in digital format.

Isaiah 2:1-5

Very Happy Advent!
Here’s a teaser: “Why is Advent like a dog?”
Answer: “A dog is not just for Christmas”.

Recently I received a book by Chris Wright with John Stott, called “Rejoice”, subtitled “Advent in all the Scriptures”. In his preface, Chris writes that Advent is “something of a Cinderella in the church’s year – rather overlooked and sometimes downright ill-treated.” Too often “the weeks of Advent are simply buried under the avalanche of approaching Christmas.” The book shows that Advent is not just for Christmas, but from before time and beyond it. Why? Because Advent is about the coming of God – the God who has come, comes, and will come again. The Bible is full of God’s comings.

What is the Bible? God’s Story; story in 7 sections or acts.
Act 1   Creation of the Universe: God comes, rejoicing in creation
Act 2   Human Rebellion against God: God comes, questioning sinners
Act 3   Old Testament Promise: God comes, with a promise
Act 4   The Lord Jesus Christ: God comes in person, bringing light and life
Act 5   New Testament Mission: God comes, sending us to the nations
Act 6   Final Judgment: God comes, to put things right
Act 7   New Creation: God comes, creating a whole new world

What about today’s reading? How does Isaiah 2:1-5 fit into God’s story? Which “acts”?

First, some background. Isaiah son of Amoz (not Amos) lived in 8th-7th centuries BC, in Judah (the southern part of Israel), probably in Jerusalem. Isaiah prophesied (spoke God’s message) during reigns of 4 kings of Judah (Isaiah 1:1). These were turbulent times for Judah and all Israel. Dominant superpower was the Assyrian empire. In 721BC Assyria’s armies conquered the northern kingdom of Israel. They then threatened Judah, and Jerusalem was besieged. But after King Hezekiah, urged by Isaiah, prayed and trusted God, there was a miraculous deliverance. However, Isaiah warned Judah that if she continued to disobey God, her sin would lead to disaster: she would be conquered by the Babylonians and taken captive into exile. So the book of Isaiah is full of solemn warnings, as well as great comfort, for God’s people.

Now we look at the prophecy in Isaiah 2:1-4. These words portray God’s ideal world – what he wants and expects. “The last days” (v2) point to the “Messianic Age”, the time between the first and the second comings of the Lord Jesus. (So we are living in “the last days”.) These verses 1-4 focus on (a) the mountain (house) of the Lord, and (b) the word of the Lord.

1) MOUNTAIN (HOUSE) OF THE LORD (verses 2-3a)
O.T. depicts “Mount Zion” as place where God reveals himself, his abode (Psalm 68:16). Isaiah’s prophecy refers to the whole world: all will be attracted to the Lord’s house (temple). Verse 2 even describes “live-streaming”!

Fulfilment? Has this happened? Is it happening now? Will this happen?
(Remember “house of the Lord” stands for God’s revealing himself, his presence.)
~700 years after Isaiah, Jesus came – “God with us” (Matthew 1:22-23). And Jesus spoke of his body as “the temple” (John 2:18-21).
After Jesus’ ascension and the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the church community is described as “God’s temple” (1 Corinthians 3:16), or a “spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:4-5).
So Isaiah’s prophecy is being fulfilled: people from many nations are being drawn to “the house of the Lord”, to join God’s church through coming to the Lord Jesus Christ.
BUT that wonderful fulfilment is only partial: the complete fulfilment is still to come. Revelation 21:1-4 speaks of God’s dwelling-place – his house – gloriously fulfilled.

2) THE WORD OF THE LORD (verse 3b)
God’s word is his great creative force (Genesis 1 “and God said… and there was…): see Psalm 33:6, 9.
By God’s word he sustains and governs the world and guides us: Isaiah 55:10-11.
In Isaiah 2, the nations seek the Lord and his word/teaching (verse 3). The result? Verse 4 – a wonderful picture of peace. War has been described as “the greatest curse of the human race”. N.B. the sequence: war is abolished after the nations submit to the word of the Lord.

Fulfilment? Has this happened? Is it happening now? Will this happen?
~700 years after Isaiah, Jesus came – the word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:12) See Hebrews 1:1-2. The Lord Jesus Christ is God’s final word to us. 
After Pentecost, the church proclaims the word of God boldly, and it spreads (Acts 4:31; 13:49). All over the world, the gospel bears fruit and grows (Colossians 1:6). I learnt recently that the Bible Society in the land of Jordan has in the last 8 months had a great increase in the number of requests for Bibles, including from non-Christians!
BUT the word of God is not universally accepted or loved: there is opposition and/or apathy, even in our own country or culture. The complete fulfilment is still to come: the word of the Lord will be triumphant over all evil: Revelation 19:11-16.

Brothers and sisters, how are we to respond to this? Isaiah tells us:

Later, through Isaiah God said “Arise, shine, for your light has come…” (Isaiah 60:1-3).
~700 years after Isaiah, Jesus came saying “I am the light of the world…” (John 8:12), and to his followers “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14).
What does it mean to walk in the light of the Lord? See Ephesians 5:8-11, 15-18. Only by the Holy Spirit is it possible – so go on being filled!

Whatever happens to the world, to St Christopher’s, to us, let us walk in the light of the Lord – until he comes in glory.
The risen Lord Jesus Christ says “Behold, I am coming soon!…” (Revelation 22:12-13, 17).
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Category: Uncategorized