It is the first Sunday of Advent and we celebrate the hope that is to come in the birth of Jesus Christ. Advent is a time to prepare and in preparing we look to the words of the prophet Isaiah.
Text: Isaiah 2: 1-5
In Days to Come
Last week was the Santa Claus parade and the jolly man in red is now visiting with children in local malls. Christmas music of the popular variety is being played in those same malls and on certain radio stations. If you are out and about in the world, as far as Christmas goes, the refrain that we hear is ‘Sleigh Bells ring, can you hear them?’ Nothing points us toward the light of Christmas. Few of those popular choruses talk about a star the led and guided people towards the baby Jesus.
We right now are at the beginning of Advent. A day when we look forward with hopeful expectation of a birth to come. Advent is a season of preparation, as we anticipate the birth of Jesus. For us the star has not yet risen, we do not yet hear the call to Bethlehem. Today we prepare ourselves and the scripture passages this week all point to future events. Of a time that is still yet to come, they prepare us not only for the birth of Christ, but for the reign of the kingdom of God.
This morning we turn our attention towards the words of Isaiah. Words that were written some 2,500 years ago. Words that still carry a message for us today. I am particularly struck by the words which Isaiah opens with, “In days to come…”
These words remind us that God’s promises are always found before us. That God is at work in our lives, that there is a purpose for why we are here. We are reminded that God occupies the high ground and I believe this could be interpreted literally and figuratively. In Israel, Jerusalem occupied the high ground and it was within the temple where God was believed to dwell. However, of more importance and relevance I believe is that God’s justice and righteousness is what we should look to. That God hold us to a higher standard than anything we could imagine.
Therefore, we are to look up to God. We are to encourage others to do the same so that all nations might stream towards God’s goodness and mercy.
In days to come we will learn of God’s ways and we will walk in God’s paths. In a few short weeks we will journey with Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. We will witness the Word becoming flesh, we will hear the pronouncement of choruses of angels. In the fullness of time Jesus would teach many and encourage many to turn towards God. That message endures and is shared with us today.
We come to God, we turn to Jesus in order to learn his ways and walk in his path. The earliest followers of Jesus were known as ‘Followers of the Way’, for they followed in the way of Jesus Christ. We also follow in that tradition as followers of Christ and we seek to live as he did. To heal the injured and feed the hungry, to minister to one another and offer the same grace that we too have received.
It is through Jesus Christ, his teaching, his ministry that we learn what God is looking for from us. It is the Word made flesh which teaches us, inspires us and calls us to work together for something greater, for something larger than ourselves.
In days to come they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. How I wait for this day to come! When nation shall no longer lift up the sword against other nations. How I long for this day to come! This is a day, an event for which I say come Lord Jesus, come! The destruction we bring upon ourselves is devastating, damaging. It alienates us from one another, damages our planet and all that we should be working towards.
I have an infographic on the desktop of my computer. It is a few years old now published in 2010, but it counts all the nuclear weapons in existence in the world. There are 3,091 nuclear launchers or missile silo’s in existence in the world capable of firing 6,071 nuclear missile’s. And the reality is that it would only take a handful of those to irrevocably change life on the planet as we know it.
Come, Lord Jesus come. How I long for the day when swords shall be beaten into ploughshares and we will learn to live with our fellow human beings. I yearn for the day when we no longer desire for war. When we will no longer send our young women and men into conflict and harm.
We do not hear much about the topic of disarmament, but it is still a vital discussion. Not only of weapons of mass destruction but of the hostility which resides within each of us. If we can lay down our weapons, if we can set aside our hostility and hate then in the days to come we can witness an new era of peace, of prosperity.
How I long for the day. Yet, when I look back on the last decade, when I look back upon the last century I see a period in time which would bloody the annals of history. A time that shows the brutality and desperation of humanity. A period in time which saw the rise of a military industry, which is only satisfied while there is continued conflict.
In his book Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin and Sadat at Camp David which details the 1978 conference where the peace accord between Israel and Egypt was signed. In the description of the events which led up to the conference staff writer for the New Yorker Lawrence Write reflects, “Peace no longer seemed necessary or even desirable.”
It seems to me that in many ways that statement reflects much about the present state of the world. It saddens me and fills me with profound regret. That we as a people seem to have become more divided. That through globalization, advances in technology we have not drawn closer together but instead have moved farther apart.
That for much of the world peace is not desirable. That for much of the world it is not necessary, that people and nations would rather be in conflict than at peace with one another. Come, Lord Jesus come.
For in days to come they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. We trust in the promise of God that this day is coming. We stand at the beginning of Advent with the hope that this day is coming. We seek to walk in the light of the Lord, we anticipate the light coming into the world again. We know that light shines in the darkness and that it does not go out.
Advent begs us to look anew at the world. Henry Miller once said, “Our destination is never a place, but always a new way of looking at things.” The world around might tell us that Advent is a time when sleigh bells ring and jolly old men say ‘ho, ho, ho.’ But we know that Advent is a time when we look at the world in a new way, when we consider again the promises of God.
In days to come, let us walk in the light of the Lord! Amen.