12/6/98, Advent 2, Year A

“Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus”
Isaiah 11: 1-10; Romans 15: 4-13

he most exciting time of our married life was when we were expecting our babies. We had waited seven years for Lyn; and then, another three for Candi: We were ready! The baby’s room was decorated with curtains and pictures; the crib, the changing table, clothes, toys, all were prepared for this long-expected new era in our lives.

God’s plan for the salvation of humanity was also a long-expected event. The promise was that the co-eternal Son would intervene and bring the potential of salvation to all people. The epic of God’s long biblical revelation records an eternal plan that finds its climactic event in the little town of Bethlehem.

And what better plan could there be? Everyone naturally opens their heart to a baby! Who can not be captured by the story of Mary and Joseph who were so willing to believe and so open to being players in God’s divine drama. And then we hear that God Almighty, who flung the stars into space, has 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.

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 shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out from his roots.” (Is. 11: 1, NRSV).

The last time our family was in the Garden of Gethsemane 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 been cut down to produce beautiful Bible covers, or nativity scenes, but it was located in this protected sacred garden where Jesus had wept over Jerusalem. The old tree may have even felt his tears. And now came new life, a bright green sprout out of the assumed-to-be dead wood.

Dead looking things can be revived. And the miracle that can give our assumed to be spiritually dead 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.

Parents are not the only ones who go giggly over a new baby. Grandparents can really come alive. Gnarled old arms can hug that 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 1996 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. But seriously, what percentage of the population of this planet could even tell you who hosted the last summer games? Could we think up a better plan to reach into human hearts than the story that we retell every Christmas?

I bought a book for $ 1.00 at a yard sale last Friday that originally cost $29.95: it records the grand story that captured us temporarily about carrying the Olympic torch across America, One With The Flame. We can buy $50.00 limited edition collector Olympic pins for .50 cents at flea markets. The ‘92 Barcelona pens are .25 cents. However, the year 2000 Sydney, “limited edition” Olympic pins are $ 50.00.

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, ‘The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles shall hope.’ And may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Or as our second Advent Carol said, “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 “had landed on our shores,” as C.S. Lewis use to put it. Christmas is about allowing God to draw up close to us. Our hearts hunger to come home to the Divine Father. We are restless until we rest in Him.

Lots of folks kind of 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 Polly 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?” But the Good News is that even if you have lost Him you can find Him anew on this second Sunday in Advent--- What better time could there be?

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

12/6/98, Advent 2, Year A