Walk in the Light of Christ, Isaiah 2:1–5, First Sunday in Advent, December 1, 2019
The Season of Advent is upon us and it is time for the Christian to spend a moment, but only a moment, acknowledging its occurrence and mourning its arrival. Advent is a very important season that is unfortunately swallowed up in the commercial frenzy that the world calls Christmas.
It is intended to be a time of penitential reflection, when we stand with the people of Old Testament days, waiting for the revealing of God’s great salvation in His Son. Now, that we have seen a glimpse in His first coming, we long for the day when He will be shown to our aching eyes and we will no longer pine for the perfection that God has written into our hearts but of which sin has cruelly deprived us.
How does one wait? Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, and the rest of the mercantile world says one waits best with credit card in hand spending money we really don’t have. God, however, has another vision for people’s patient waiting. It involves prayer, reflection, repentance, and the doing of good deeds for the blessing of another human being. It involves walking in the Light of Christ.
For us at Good Shepherd, we still remember and participate in special midweek services of Advent. Like many of our grandfathers and grandmothers we meet on these Wednesdays in Advent to pray and hear God’s Word. It is the mark of the season. Perhaps, in years past we have even enjoyed special Advent devotionals. This too is a reflection of prayerful waiting and walking in the Light.
The people of God also use this time to do good works. The guy ringing the bell outside the grocery store is a reminder of that this time of the year. God’s people often mark this season with good deeds like feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, or caring for their fellow man. This is a good way to wait for the Lord, to be about His business.
But a principal mark of the season is repentance. We need Jesus to come. We need a Savior so desperately. Advent often focuses our attention upon our deficiencies and upon the absence of God from our lives. It is only Christmas, when it gets to be Christmas, that we might focus on the presence of God and the blessings He continues to bring to us. Yet, both seasons really need one another.
Unwilling to wait, we chase after the fleeting joy of a new purchase, or receive a gift without really acknowledging that the gift is but a shadow of the greatest gift. Unable or unwilling to observe Advent, we are not even aware of how great the Divine gift really is.
The real tragedy of the season, as it is observed or not observed to be more accurate, is that we are denied the penitential reflection of waiting for the revealing of God in this season.
Our Old Testament reading points us to the fulfillment of prophecy in Jesus Christ when He first came, yet many of the Old Testament prophecies have only begun with Christ’s first Advent. They continue to be fulfilled in the life and work of the Church, the life and work of you and me. Now as we look back to Christ’s first Advent fulfillment, we see, even today, that it is being carried out. But we are not yet wholly and completely there.
This Sunday, both the psalmist and Isaiah call our attention to people going up to the holy mountain to worship in Jerusalem in peace and security. Isaiah particularly pushes the joy of worshiping at the Temple Mount as the pinnacle to which all nations shall flow.
Isaiah called for the people of Judah to do that by looking ahead, looking to the latter days. Days will come, he says, when people will stream from all nations to worship the true God. The little hill where the temple stood in Jerusalem will become the greatest mountain of all. People will listen to the teachings of the Lord and do them. And there will be peace. Swords will become plows to provide food to eat. Weapons of war will become tools to feed the hungry. Isaiah’s message is simple: walk in the promise of the Light of the Lord.
It is easy to look about and wonder if Jesus is ever coming again. The people of Israel had that temptation, and the people of this day have it. It leads to a certain moral and spiritual decay. What we do does not really matter. The little things are just that, little things which have no real importance.
But this is a serious trap. The sins which entangle us also lead to a sort of spiritual numbness to these little things. These things are not truly little in the eyes of God. The culture may not value your marriage, or your honesty, or your care for the neighbor down the street, but God cares a great deal. God has expectations for our life as children who walk in the Light of Christ.
We don’t know when Jesus is coming again. If we only knew the day or hour we might be better prepared, but as it is, we seem to be floundering in a world of multiple bad decisions and confusion. We could really use some clarity here.
This morning Isaiah speaks words of clarity. He invites the house of Jacob to walk in the Light of the Lord. It is the Lord’s light, not ours. We did not flip the switch. This is critically important. This is not a self-help passage. God shines that Light in Christ. We do not call the Spirit “holy” because He is holy, but we call Him holy because that is what He does, He makes us holy.
Imagine you are standing in a dark room. This room represents your sinful nature and it is the state of sin we are all born into. It is impossible to see anything clearly through all the darkness that surrounds you. Everywhere you look the images are distorted due to intense darkness.
That’s the way it is when you are surrounded by sin, you don’t see things clearly. You think you do, but that’s only because your eyes have become accustomed to the darkness of sin and you’re not familiar with the true Light of Christ. What should be offensive to those in the light has become commonplace. And you don’t even realize you’re in the dark.
Now, there is a mirror in this room of darkness and if you could look into this mirror you would see a picture of perfection, which is Christ Jesus. His image will guide you to a clearer understanding and total illumination if you could saw Him clearly enough, but again the darkness of your sinful nature makes it impossible to see anything clearly.
The darkness is so deep that no matter how hard you glare into the mirror you cannot make anything out. You can’t even see what your own reflection looks like, let alone the image of Christ. You have been in this state of darkness for so long now that you don’t even realize it’s not normal. To you it simply is the state of being you have come to know as life.
This dark room represents the way people choose to live every day of their lives. In this kind of darkness you can never know who you truly are, or who you were meant to be. In this darkness you can never truly experience the Light of Christ.
Now imagine you see a light off in the other room. You follow the light and see that it leads you to bigger and a brighter a room. You grab your mirror and walk into the room and the lighting hurts your eyes a little at first.
Now keep in mind this mirror shows you what perfection looks like. In this mirror you can see and learn how and who you are supposed to be. Coming toward the Light can hurt a little. You’ll have to give up things. There are things you have to leave in the other room that you think you’re going to miss.
But your eyes adjust quickly and now as you look around you start to see things a little more clearly. You realize you have never seen yourself in this kind of light before and so you grab the mirror of perfection to find out what you really look like. Since you can see your reflection more clearly now, you are eager to examine your own features in this newfound illumination. So you look into the mirror and find out that your image is not so bad after all. You are created in the image of one true and Holy God, the Creator, Himself.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)
God has set you free to walk in this Light through the work of Christ, the Light of the World. That means this is not about simply being Christians but about doing it. Walking in the Light will involve the care for the little, least, and vulnerable in the community; breaking down barriers of race and class which keep us apart, actually forgiving the person with whom you struggle.
Advent remind us of our need for this mirror that reflects Jesus, just as Easter does, they both proclaim that Christ has risen from the dead and established His kingdom upon that death and resurrection.
Jesus entered the dark times for you. He went to the cross, and the world was plunged into darkness for hours. On that cross, Jesus took the greed and selfishness, the disobedience and injustice, the hatred and fighting, the jealousies and power plays. He took whatever is dark in our lives, and He died for them. He was placed into that dark tomb with a stone rolled in front of it. Jesus, the Light of the world, was surrounded by your darkness.
But that tomb is now empty. The darkness was shattered. Jesus came walking out, and the promise of Isaiah was kept. The call to walk in the Light of the Lord is simply the call to walk with Jesus.
Advent reminds us Christ has come and comes again. This “between time” in which we live sees Him shining a Light into your darkness; you will be saved from the divine wrath that is to be revealed. You are part of that Light shining. You are not consumers of God’s grace but conduits of grace to this world. You live purposeful lives in which Christ loves people through you.
The season of Advent anticipates more than Christmas. We are preparing for the final Advent of our Lord and Savior; this final Advent, when war shall at last cease, as nations once and for all beat their swords into plowshares, and lead us to walk in the Light of the Lord forever. Amen.