12/9/01, A2A

“Our Long-Expected Jesus
Isaiah 11: 1-10; Romans 15: 4-13

he most exciting time of mine and Marilyn's life together was when we were expecting our babies. We had decided to wait on having children until we had completed our several degrees; thus, we waited seven years for Lyn and another three for Candi. By then we were ready! The baby's room was decorated with curtains and pictures, the crib, the changing table, clothes, toys, the educational crib mobile that was supposed to teach them to talk sooner, all were prepared for these long-expected additions to our family.

God's plan for the salvation of humanity was also a long-expected event. The gradually unfolding promise was that the future Messiah would bring the opportunity for a relationship with God to all people, regardless of race. God had planned it this way all along. Toward the end of the Old Testament we read of God's plan to come into the world on a heart felt level. Today's Old Testament reading points toward this event: "A shoot (sprout or twig) shall come out from the stump of Jesse, (or the royal family of David) and a branch shall grow out from his roots." (NRSV). The biblical epic reached its climactic event in the fulfillment of that ancient promise with in the life of Christ. All history is hinged on the coming of the Holy Child.

God Almighty, who flung the stars into space, stepped down the stairway of heaven with a baby in his arms. The shepherds came with haste, the wise men left their homeland to come and worship, and billions of wise persons from all nations have continued to kneel, and open their hearts at the manger for two thousand years.

The last time our family was in the Jerusalem's Garden of Gethsemane, next to The Church of All Nations which is located in the valley between where Christ was crucified and ascended into heaven, we saw a new shoot coming from an assumed dead ancient olive wood tree's gnarled root. Long past producing olives, the tree would have typically been cut down to produce hand carved Nativity scenes, or Bible covers, but this ancient olive tree was located in the protected sacred garden where Jesus had wept over Jerusalem the night before his death. The old tree may have even felt his tears for they sometimes are able to survive for thousands of years. After all those years came a sprouting of new life, a bright green twig out of the assumed to be dead wood.

Dead looking things can be revived. The miracle that can give our assumed to be cold hearts new life is found in the wonder of a divine baby born in a stable. This is the mystifying core of Christmas. Babies have a way of changing things.

What better way for our Father to offer the Good News of Great Joy than through a baby. Babies can make dramatic changes in lives and parents are not the only ones who go giggly over a new baby. Grandparents can really come alive. Gnarled old arms can caress an infant child close and hearts that had been cold, can burst forth with new enthusiasm and hope.

We have all seen hard hearted, crusty old bosses break into a big proud smile when you point at a picture in their office and ask. "Are these your grandchildren?" Of course, you are letting yourself in for exaggerated and extended stories of how marvelous their grandchildren are. One old codger told me how he had even come to love his "meat- headed" son in law after he had fathered such a magical grandchild.

As we think about it, what more ingenious plan could have been devised to change the course of human history? Could we in this modern age pull off a grander plan? Maybe something like Atlanta's Olympic Games; millions of dollars, so many years of planning, and what a fantastic time it was for all of us, and the whole world. Seriously, what percentage of the population of this planet could even tell you who hosted the 1996 summer games? Yet, the Gospel story is retold, read, sung, and acted out, over and over as a reminder of how God still seeks entry into out hearts. It is the story that
changes every other story.

Our Epistle lesson makes the purpose of the story plain: "For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that... we might have hope." ...Isaiah says, 'Out of the root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles shall hope."

Or, as we sang this morning, "Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free... Israel's strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art; dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart." (The U.M. Hymnal, p. 196).

The Good News is that the long-expected Jesus seeks entry into our hearts. Christmas is about our allowing God to draw up close to us, to cradle us in His arms. Our hearts hunger to come home to the Divine Father and Christmas is about renewing our connections with the Divine family. The sights and sounds of Christmas have a way of mellowing our hearts so that a new spiritual twig, a tiny fragile new thing, might begin to sprout.

Lots of folks seem to rediscover God each Christmas. He has been packed away like the Christmas tree ornaments in the basement. But at Christmas we reopen the boxes and we ask, "Where did this one come from dear?" "I think Aunt Callie gave it to us in '68, or did we buy it on sale at Rich's?" We likewise open up our God box, and we ask, "Where has He been all year?" "Has God been hiding in our basement?" "How could we have forgotten Him?" The Good News is that even if we have lost Him we can find Him anew on this second Sunday in Advent. What better time could there be to become a part of God's family?

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

12/9/01, A2A