Advent 1, November 30, 2014
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
“Make Your Name Known … Yet”
Today is the 4th Sunday before Christmas – the 1st Sunday of Advent. Our theme for this season is, as followers of Jesus Christ, recognizing that in the Christmas event we celebrate that Jesus was born, God was made incarnate, for us and for our salvation!
This time of year is full of all sorts of distractions – from the consumerism that surrounds us, to the relationships that seem more complicated, to the gatherings we feel compelled to either plan or be a part of. It’s noisy. It’s hectic. It’s expensive. Although the it’s “most wonderful time of the year” trying to invoke all the nostalgia of the season, we often find ourselves feeling frantic!
However, we can choose something different. We can choose the quiet places; the meaningful relationships; the times of community; the moments for reflection; the realizing of the present; the value of people over things.
Therefore, I want to invite you to experience the life-giving good news of Christmas rather the then life-sucking news of the holidays.
During this last week – the week of Thanksgiving – the trial against the white police officer who shot and killed the young black man who had attacked him ended with the verdict of “non-indictment”. And then the whole town of Ferguson, MO, seemed to erupt in violent uproarious revolt! And cities all across this country experienced differing levels of peaceful demonstration, including right here in Spokane.
I know that there is a whole variety of opinions about what the verdict should have been, and I am only as smart about this situation as the various news sources, and friends, have explained to me what actually happened – so I’m not here today to defend the policeman’s actions or to condemn them – the whole story is tragic. What I have been asking all week long is – Where are You in this, Lord? Where are You?
When we turn on the television and look around us we can note the thousands of circumstances and places that we long for God to show up (at least in the way we think He should). We pray for Ferguson, MO. Lately Ukraine & Russia and Iraq & Syria and Israel & Palestine could be added to that list. And then there are the personal circumstances like Janie’s, or Marge’s health, or our own families’ futures that are often part of our petitions to the Lord.
Please, God. Intervene. Show up. We need a Savior. We need Jesus.
We take great comfort in the truth that God did, and does, show up. Jesus did come. For us and for our salvation. This truth changes everything.
Hear the Word of God from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, 64:1-9 …. —-
1 Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you!
2 As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil,
come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you!
3 For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.
4 Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you,
who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.
5 You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways.
But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry. How then can we be saved?
6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
7 No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us
and have given us over to our sins.
8 Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.
9 Do not be angry beyond measure, LORD; do not remember our sins forever.
Oh, look on us, we pray, for we are all your people.
Isaiah 64 is a lament; a crying out; a pleading for God to show up; a longing for God to make Himself known in a tangible, action-oriented way – to reveal Himself to the world. The people of God, God’s community, are wasting away. They feel as if God has turned His face from them. And they are lamenting this, crying out to God to come and be present with them.
This is a familiar place. Our brothers and sisters around the world live in the midst of captivity or war or persecution, struggling and wondering where and when the promises of God will be fulfilled, this is an hourly lament.
Closer to home, it may be a personal lament because of tragedy – the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, the loss of good health, a deep pit of depression that looks to be endless.
Where are You, Lord? Please, please show up. Give us a sign; come right into our circumstances and be the God we know You to be.
In verse 2 we see Isaiah cry out, “make Your name known.” This is beyond the informal “know” or the factual “know”. This is “know” in the intimate sense, the connected sense, the deepest sense.
“Make Your name known” means far more than just being famous. It entails relationship.
And in order to make Himself known, the people are hoping God’s presence will come in big, demonstrative ways such as earthquakes and fires. Little did they know that the future Messiah would come in the form of a baby whose seemingly insignificant birth would one day shake the earth to its foundations.
In the longing there is a recognition that the people of God have turned away from God. In the tragedy of their circumstances they stopped calling on Him. They feel abandoned and in their abandonment, they confess that they have turned away and sinned.
Where are you at the beginning of this Advent season? Lamenting? Crying out? Longing, hoping, asking for God to show up in your circumstances? Or asking God to show up in the circumstances of those you love and pray for? What are you lamenting, hoping for? Do you feel abandoned?
Have you turned away from God in your grief and struggle?
But even in the midst of their lament – while they struggle with their feelings of abandonment, look at verse 8 – God’s people are still able, even in their sadness, to confirm the character of God. In their crying out, they affirm that God acts on behalf of those who wait for Him, that He comes to the help of those who remember His ways.
Verse 8 reveals that the people of God still trust Him: “Yet You, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, You are the potter; we are all the work of Your hand.”
Even in the midst of the struggle, the despondency and the worry, there is an affirmation of trusting in God. YET… takes us to the place of confirming that we belong to God, we are still in His care. The acknowledgement of God as Father is so important here. The people of God are still His children and in spite of the circumstances we can yet acknowledge that we still belong to Him and that He is still sovereign.
Can you hold on to the word “YET”?
Can you affirm God’s care and sovereignty? Why?
Today, let us prepare ourselves in humble prayer that He make us more lowly for our submission to His sovereign claim on our lives. Let us give to God our faithfulness. Amen.
Lord God, thank You for Your gift of Hope when we feel totally lost. We do hope to reflect the Love of God always, through Jesus our King. Amen.
Quan, Rachel; “Make Your Name Known”; For Us and For Our Salvation: An Advent, Christmas and Epiphany Experience; Fellowship Community; 2014.