2nd Sunday in Advent, Year B
Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
2 Peter 3:8-14
December 7, 2014
During Advent many of our first readings come from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. The book can be divided into three sections. The first includes chapters 1-39 and is written around the 8th century B.C. God’s message is offered to the people that if they continue to sin, God will allow them to be defeated by their enemies. As such, it can be a message causing fear and despair.
Today’s passage comes from the second section and have a very different tone to it. The Israelites had been defeated by their enemies and many taken into exile in Babylon. It is a time of despair but it is also a time of repentance. The Israelites have come to realize the gravity of their sins so God is about to see them free from the Babylonians.
We see the different tone in the very first word of the passage, “comfort.” God now wants Isaiah to give comfort to his people. Speak tenderly God directs. Give them my message that I am about to restore things to what they are meant to me.
God gives us a gentle image of his love, describing a shepherd who truly feeds his flock and holding them in his arms.
Which type of message do we respond to better? The image of a God who judges us and punishes for our sins or a God of compassion and mercy?
Guilt can be a powerful motivator but it can be good and bad. Guilt can be a normal thing for us to realize, “Hey, I screwed up. That isn’t what I meant to do or it had effects I didn’t think about. I need to say I’m sorry. I need to change.” That’s all good.
Too much guilt or guilt in depression can make us feel like we are no good. No one will ever love us. We can come to fear that there is no hope for us. This guilt hurts us and is never what God intends. Even when we sin, God loves us and wants to forgive us. God wants to hold us in his arms.
So do we see God as judge and punisher or as love and compassion? I think we probably need to see a little bit of both. We need to see more of the love and compassion but sometimes that can leave us complacent. We need a healthy dose of fear to keep us aware of what we are doing and our need for God’s help to do better.
If you read the Bible you can see a cycle that repeats itself over and over in the Old Testament. God rescues the people and they praise help. Then, over time they get used to having everything good and they become complacent in their relationship with God, and eventually wander away from God, often with no idea they are. When they fall away, God allows them to be defeated by their enemies. Some are led to repentance and God rescues them. Then the cycle starts over again.
So where are we at? As a society, many people think we don’t need God and so turn away. As a people here in church, we come because we want God in our lives but how deep does our desire for God go? Do we see places we need to change? Do we seek to change now?
As a people we have been waiting 2,000 years for the Second Coming of Jesus. Have we become complacent? It can be so easy to say there’s always tomorrow.
God is patient in waiting for us. God gives us lots of time but we don’t have forever. Sooner or later the end will come.
The Israelites had been waiting for a thousand years for a messiah. Some had given up the faith while others kept the faith but became set in the ways. The time came for Jesus’ introduction into the world and God knew the people needed a wakeup call. God loves us and always wants to give us another chance so He sent John the Baptism to cry out to the people, Prepare ye the way of the Lord! Repent!
Christmas is coming. Are you ready? I’m not talking about presents and baking. Are you ready to stand before Jesus?