It is the first Sunday in Advent, and when I was planning my preaching for the season I looked and saw three texts from Isaiah in a row, and I felt the need to preach a little on the Old Testament. The sermon elaborates a little bit, but this text is from “third Isaiah”. For someone like me who sees no reason to reject the received tradition – that Isaiah the prophet saw foresaw – third Isaiah is simply the portion of Isaiah addressed to those who have returned from exile, what we would call the intertestamental period. And this particular text is one that resonates deeply.
Oh that the Lord would come down. It is Isaiah working out his desire for signs and wonders that would rescue his people. And debating with God, and with himself, if that is possible. Which of course it is, but first the Lord must come down in grace. The power teaches us to fear, but if we are wise we know to fear. It is the grace which moves to abiding love.
Advent gets short shrift in modern America, and it shouldn’t. Of all the seasons of the church year, it is Advent that feels most like home to me. Christmas and Easter are holidays, by which I mean nice to visit but you can’t stay. Epiphany is an intellectual and meditative season which are not words to describe most Americans. The long season of Pentecost only takes meaning if we feel like we are living in the Pentecost. But for me I think most of us are “waiting of the consolation of Israel”. It feels like we are living in soccer’s “extra time”. That is advent. And that is what this sermon attempts to do, weaving around Isaiah’s desires for the Lord to “rend the heavens and come down” and Jesus’ Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem, I have tried to invoke the feelings of separation and drawing near, of desiring repentance, the face of God being hidden, and yet the reign of God is present.
Worship Note: Our closing hymn LSB 348, The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns, captures many of these advent inspiration. It closes out the recording.