Sermon: December 4, 2022

Visit Eastman FUMC YouTube Channel to watch the video of the sermon. (2 Parts)

“Someone’s Coming” | December 4, 2022 | First Sunday of Advent

1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
    the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
    the Spirit of counsel and of might,
    the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
    or decide by what he hears with his ears;
4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
    with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
    with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
5 Righteousness will be his belt
    and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
6 The wolf will live with the lamb,
    the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling[a] together;
    and a little child will lead them.
7 The cow will feed with the bear,
    their young will lie down together,
    and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
8 The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
    and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
9 They will neither harm nor destroy
    on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea.
10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious. - Isaiah 11:1-10

From our Advent Study book, Making Room, author Ed Robb shares how when the church he serves was much smaller, twenty years or so ago, he made a practice of visiting young families with newborns while they were still in the hospital. When their church was small this was very doable, not so much these days. Added to that is the fact that women and their newborns don’t stay in the hospital as long as they used to and when these families get home they aren’t on the mood for entertaining.

Robb asks us to think about the night Jesus was born, how crowded it must have been in the stable: angels, shepherds, sheep, cows, camels, and donkeys. And these are just the ones we assume were there. And in every Nativity Scene the Wise Men are included, even though they didn’t arrive until later, two years or so we believe.

Mary probably wanted to rest. They had traveled a long way to get there, and she has just delivered a baby. But now it looks as if she’s expected to entertain. And she does!

Did Jesus get His welcoming attitude and His sensitivity towards strangers from His earthly parents? Joseph and Mary made room for folks from the very beginning of Jesus’ life. Was this where Jesus learned about hospitality?

Robb shares the story how the town of Fairplay, Colorado responded to the snowstorm on Thanksgiving weekend in 2019. More than seven hundred people were left stranded, and the townspeople responded to their needs.

“For Jesus, it did not matter who was in need. Everyone matters to God. Everyone has value. And we are instructed to show mercy, kindness, and hospitality to everyone who crosses our path.”

Much like last week, in our text this morning, Isiah is painting a picture for us of what some make call the “perfect world.” I was reading this week a few signs that you might be living in a perfect world.
In a perfect world…a person should feel as good at 50 as they did at 17, and actually be as smart at 50 as they thought they were at 17.

In a perfect world…pro baseball players would complain about teachers being paid contracts worth millions of dollars.

In a perfect world…the mail would always be early, the check would always be in the mail, and it would be written for more than you expected.

In a perfect world…potato chips might have calories, but if you eat them with dip, the calories would be neutralized.

Do we live in a perfect world? No, not yet. We live in a very imperfect world. A world of intrigue and violence and betrayal. And in some ways, it seems to be getting worse.

But there is something else we need to remember. There is a group of people who have the responsibility for preparing for this perfect world. Know who it is? You are correct if you said the Church of Jesus Christ.

Isaiah—in his shoot coming from the stump and the roots that will bear fruit—is calling attention away from any man-made world power which will be destroyed—to the kingdom of God which the Lord Himself will set up, and which shall never be destroyed, the perfect world!

The lowly condition of Judah from which the Messiah will come is shown in that first verse by speaking of the stump of a small tree, which has its roots still in the ground, but which gives the appearance of being dead. Yet life does come from it—a shoot or a branch. The shoot gives promise that the whole tree (the Davidic kingship) will one day be gloriously replaced—and the given Branch is the promise of new life. (Spelled with a capital B)

The Messiah received the gifts of the Spirit in order to give them to us. He came in the power of the Spirit to do the work that was necessary for our redemption—and then He offers to us the Spirit of God so that we can do the work of God.

Sometimes at Christmas we don’t get what we want. Pastor John Jewell tells the story of counseling with an engaged couple who wanted to be married on Christmas Eve. This pair of love birds chose Christmas Eve because, as they said, their love for each other was the greatest gift they could give.
A few days before the wedding the love birds showed up in Pastor Jewell’s office with their feathers ruffled. It seems that the young man had given his beloved an early Christmas present.

“That’s a bad thing?” Pastor Jewell asked. And the young man explained this was a gift his future wife really needed but he should have known better.

The future wife rolled her eyes and announced, “It was a set of tires.”

“They were Michelins!” the young man protested. He couldn’t understand her lack of gratitude.

On that first Christmas morning the nation of Israel didn’t get what they expected because they were living in expectation of the Messiah. You see, the Messiah they got wasn’t the Messiah they expected. They of course expected a warrior king who would lead them to victory over their enemies. Instead—they got a tiny baby in a manger in the tiny town of Bethlehem. If only they would have read the prophecies of the coming Messiah with more care.

The picture that Isaiah paints of the messianic age goes well beyond victory over our enemies. It speaks of a world where evil and violence themselves have been forever rooted out. It’s a vision of the world that exists in the mind of God. This is where creation is headed. No more war—no more hatred—no more tears—no more pain.

God is at work in the world. Maybe not in the ways that we always recognize—not even in way we will always approve, any more than Israel approved God presenting Himself in the form of a baby. But God is at work in our world and in our individual lives. It’s so important that we don’t lose faith in the presence of God in our world.

And it is equally important that we never forget who we are and what God has done for us. The coming of the Savior reminds us that there was something from which we needed to be saved—the power of sin in our lives. The Advent of Christ is about goodness, purity, righteousness in life. It’s about faithfulness and love!

Isaiah also makes note that the coming Messiah is good news for the poor. And certainly he had in mind those who don’t have much in the way of material comforts. But people are poor in many ways. Some of the poorest people in the world live in the biggest houses.

Max Lucado in his book God Came Near tells about ways in which people can be poor at Christmas, “Visit a high school sometime,” he says, “and look for the teenagers already feeling the chilly winds of rejection. They are easy to find. They’re the ones with acne, or greasy hair, or holes in their shoes—they sit alone at lunch and stay at home on weekends. They orbit around the class stars, longing for acceptance yet increasingly convinced they don’t deserve it.

“Or try Miami Beach. I don’t mean the north beach where tourists pay $150 a day to get sunburned. I mean the south beach, a city deliberately built for the exhausted. Watch them shuffle aged feet down the sidewalk. They have come to their burial ground. They have fulfilled their function and now fill their days with dominoes, dogs, and doctor visits. They fill their nights with the dreams of their grandchildren who might come next Christmas. And though the Gold Coast is warm, in their souls blow the winds of winter.

“Society doesn’t know what to do with them,” Lucado continues, “And, sadly, even the Church doesn’t know what to do with them. They often would find a warmer reception at the corner bar than in a Sunday School class.

“But Jesus would find a place for them. He would find a place for them because He cares—and He cares unconditionally.”

The kingdom of God isn’t like the kingdoms of the world—which are established and preserved by the sword—for this is a kingdom of peace. The chief point that Isaiah is making with the animals is that they won’t eat or devour one another—but will fulfill their purpose for which they were created. The “Prince of Peace” will bring us a perfect peace and will do so by undoing the effects of sin.

Mary Meyer tells a heartwarming Christmas story that might help bring the truth home for us. Her family had just gone to the mission field in Liberia, West Africa. It was their first Christmas away from home, and it was a busy time. She and her husband were working in an orphanage where they were helping to supervise 50 children, along with their own three small children. Mary was trying to make Christmas a special time for the children at the orphanage and for many of the families of the village as well. With the help of the older girls, she had popped enough popcorn over a wood stove to fill a 55-gallon drum. They had also prepared 300 yeast buns to give to the families on Christmas morning. At the same time, she was trying to make Christmas special for her own family and to instill in their children the true meaning of Christmas: that it’s Jesus’ birthday.

Because their children had always had birthday cakes in special shapes, Mary made Jesus’ birthday cake in the shape of a Christmas tree. She baked the cake, but because of the busyness of the season, she hadn’t had time to frost and decorate the cake until she was preparing Christmas dinner. She used hard candies to represent Christmas balls and lights on the tree, and she put a tall, thin candle in the center of the cake. The children were excited and surprised to see the special birthday cake for Jesus. As they looked at it, one of the children piped up, “Who’s going to blow out the candle?” Mary didn’t know how to answer, so she said, “I don’t know. We’ll wait until later to find out.” They placed the cake in the middle of their table and enjoyed their Christmas dinner. When they had finished eating, the family joined hands and sang “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. Just as they completed the song, a gust of wind came in through the windows and blew out the candle! Mary’s three kids stared in amazement. One of them said, “Jesus blew out His candle!”

Some will say it was only a coincidence that a gust of air came through the house at just that moment. It would have been hard to convince those children of that. For them, it was proof positive that Jesus was with them!

You and I need to understand that God is with us. It doesn’t make any difference how difficult things might be for us. God has not forsaken His own. Don’t give up, whatever your circumstance. God loves you—God will deliver you—put yourself into God’s hands. No other hands can satisfy!

Thanks be to God!

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