So we’ve reached the point of the most difficult time in the church year: when everyone is in food-coma-recovery mode from this past weekend before the mad rush to a commercialized finish line for that one holiday in the now not-so-distant-anymore future. Nevertheless, the church wants to make all of us sit down, relax, and think about something completely different, something that may seem in the way far-off-in-the-distant future. Except we are far more comfortable and able to grasp what happened in the way distant past, when Jesus came the first time around. That story we will hear about soon enough is much more tangible. It’s much more life-like for us. We may not fully understand how it happened, or the immense kindness of God willing to do such a thing for us, but we still get that story more: the one we will hear about soon enough.
However, the church will not stop from making us sit down, relax, and think about something far, far greater than what happened in Bethlehem long ago. Something greater is coming, with Jesus leading the way yet again. It’s just…we don’t know exactly how it’s going to happen. We don’t know when it’s going to happen. And deep down we can’t quite fully explain why it’s going to happen. Why does our Savior, the Messiah, have to come back at all? Didn’t He already do enough on the cross and out of the empty tomb? Didn’t He already save us then? Aren’t we already taken care of when we die? What more does He have to do? The church will not allow us to approach this certain holiday in the now not-so-distant-anymore future before facing these questions of an even more important future first. Because these questions about our Savior coming back is not simply about us and our eternal fate, and exactly when does that start. This is about the whole world. This is about why God cherishes the whole world to the point of sending the only Son to Bethlehem to ignite this hope for all people.
And so the church will force us to face those questions right off the bat this morning with the prophet Isaiah as the culprit with this image of God’s mountain; that’s evidently for anyone and everyone to come to from all over the world. One thing we cannot take for granted: the mountain is setup in the world; not in the heavens, not in some far-off distant cloud, but right here, smack dab in the middle of our world, God’s world. Evidently God is not interested in, at some point in what we think is the far-off-distant future, destroying the earth with fire and brimstone and then saving the good-enough ones to whisk off into Heaven. Evidently God is interested in saving this world, including the Creation. In this image about what we think is the far-off-distant future, God is setting up the shop of eternal love and salvation right smack dab in the middle of this world that we think is lost forever. God doesn’t think so, and God never will.
Yet another reason why we struggle with this time of the church year, making us perfectly okay to immediately transition from the food-coma-recovery mode from this past weekend to the mad rush of the commercialized finish line of that next holiday. Still the church will keep on trying year after year to make us sit back, relax, and seriously think about what this whole Advent thing means. We just can’t quite figure it out. After all, isn’t Jesus supposed to come back the second time with trumpet blasts and raise people from the dead to lift them up into Heaven just like all those rapture books tell us? Except even the Bible isn’t on the same page as to how exactly it’s supposed to happen: if Isaiah is telling of this mountain on earth where God is inviting everyone to walk up.
And of course part of the struggle for us is, quite honestly, we are not ready to go there just yet. As much as we complain about the hustle and bustle of this time year, when we can’t sit down and relax and think about anything, let alone God’s ultimate saving of the whole world; we still like the world we live in. We like our setup now. We like having control over our life. We wouldn’t mind a little divine assistance every once in awhile for healing and help with overall stability, but we are not quite ready to go up that mountain just yet. We’re not ready for the whole world to be restored as God intended from the beginning. We’re not quite ready for this new Creation when we have to live side-by-side with people we disagree with and complete strangers we’ve never met. We’re just not there yet.
But God has always been there. God has always been working towards just that: when the whole world will be redeemed, when all of God’s children will be gathered together, wherever it may be. We may not fully understand it. We won’t ever get exactly how God is going to pull it off, but don’t worry, God does. God knows how to save the world time and time again. The story we will hear soon enough that started in Bethlehem though was only just the beginning. Something greater is coming: something far far greater, because whether we are ready or not, God’s love most certainly was long ago in Bethlehem, is today, and will be forever. And for that ultimate hope for all of us, we give thanks to God indeed! Amen.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Dennis Smith, Interim Pastor
Office: Tue - Fri: 9 a.m. - Noon