ADVENT: THE COMING OF CHRIST
Isaiah 9: 2-7
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness, a light has dawned.
3 You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you, as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder.
4 For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.
5 Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.
6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called:
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and for ever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
- Time hangs heavy when we are young…but as we get older we say that time flies!
- So what happens in-between?
Time seems to control us
- When staying at a hotel, you can dial the time you want a wake-up call…and when it comes through, you can press another button to be contacted again 10 minutes later… just in case you doze off!
Eventually, of course, time runs out for us
- The competition entries are closed
- We get impatient and start to walk. When we are mid-way between stops the bus comes!
- The final whistle is blown… even on life itself
And time can make us competitive
- First past the post gets the prize…runners-up need not apply!
- Money-back guarantee if the parcel is not delivered before 10 a.m.
- Time penalties for late trains or building projects
Time seems to be our master
- Come and have the time of your life (in truth, only if you share it with the one you love)
- Your time is up!
- Time and tide wait for no man (or woman)
- Get me to the church on time!
- One bride was late because her mother, who was supposed to be driving the bridal car, left her daughter back at the house!
BUT TIME IS NOT GOD’S MASTER…BUT HIS SERVANT
- Peter writes (in 2 Peter 3) that with the Lord a day is like a thousand years and 1000 years like a single day
- God will even extend eternity so that as many as possible will come to a point of repentance
And the writer of Ecclesiastes declares everything that God does will last forever…until He draws the curtain and creates a new heaven and earth
We sometimes imagine that time is out of control
- God hasn’t answered our prayer yet
- Things that were supposed to have happened by now have failed to materialise
- There simply isn’t enough time in the day (especially if you have a young family)
But the Bible teaches us that God has sorted everything out in advance… He even builds in a factor based on our failure to obey. Thus, in Habbakuk 2:
For the revelation awaits an appointed time…though it linger, wait for it…it will certainly come and will not delay
Remember how Martha complained to Jesus that if only He had come a bit earlier her brother Lazarus would not have died
- Jesus had to show her that God was not governed by human events or time
And perhaps He is saying the same thing to us today… You are not forgotten. I have not overlooked you. Trust me, even though the way is hidden from your view
And look at other occasions when key people are taken out of the action for long periods of time:
- Joseph languishing in prison for several years…before being made second only to Pharaoh
- Moses spending years herding sheep in the desert… before leading the Israelites out of slavery
- David hiding in caves to escape Saul…only later to become king
- John banished to the island of Patmos…only to write the Book of Revelation
And like Nelson Mandela in recent years, the ‘wasted time’ is transformed into a blessing…but it does not appear so ‘at the time’
Time was important to Israel
- Remember the advertising strategy for the Ghostbuster film? The poster contained just two words: Coming soon!
- And in the Old Testament the prophets foretold the coming of the Messiah (Christ)…but the precise time was not revealed
THE YEARS HAD COME AND THE YEARS HAD GONE and still no Messiah
There was really no reason to doubt that the Saviour would come
- There are 29 separate and specific references in the OT to the life and work of Christ
- So any scepticism on the part of the religious establishment to his coming was unnecessary
- Perhaps they had noted that the Christ would be a suffering Saviour as well as a glorified Saviour and it baffled them
So in Isaiah 53 v 3:
He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
Or in the Contemporary English version:
He was hated and rejected. His life was filled with sorrow and terrible suffering. No-one wanted to look at him. We despised him and said: He’s nobody!
But against this description of the Saviour we also find someone who would be glorified…
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given. And the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government there will be no end. (Isaiah 9 verses 6, 7)
They did not seem to grasp that Christ must suffer in order to be glorified…it was all part of God’s plan.
- Only one thing could prevent it happening…the Christ’s refusal to come to earth as a baby
They were waiting for the Messiah to appear…but unsure when, where, and crucially, who?
- Have you ever been on a blind date? (No, me neither!)
- You can wear a red carnation or carry a newspaper to be recognised…these days it’s computerised!
- But what about the coming Saviour? How would HE be recognised…? There had been many frauds.
Some Jews had (and still have) preconceived ideas about the Messiah:
- What He would be…a great king, a conquering hero
- What he would do…overthrow the hated Romans
- Whom he would save…the Jews, of course!
BUT GOD HAD OTHER IDEAS!
Could it be that people have much the same attitude today?
- They want a Saviour of their own choice…preferably meek and mild
That’s why Jesus is so popular at Christmas when He’s a baby
- A god they can manipulate…whistle him down when required
- Someone or something they can organise and predict
- A god who will answer their prayers regardless of what they have done or believe
- A god who will stop nasty things happening in the world
- A god who will grant them all their desires
- A god who doesn’t mind what people do, as long as they are sincere
- A god who will forgive everyone in the end
You may have heard those advertisements suggesting that if you have had an accident or been let down by medical staff you should ring a certain number, as you may be due for compensation…
If it were possible to take God to court, I wonder how many people would file a claim!
- “He didn’t answer my prayers straight away…but told me to wait” and similar comments
- He didn’t get me that job…I’m still in the old one
- He let the child die…while the murderer lived
- He didn’t prevent me getting hurt, though I always pray for protection
So they claim:
God is guilty of negligence…he really isn’t God at all…and probably doesn’t even exist
“We want a god that will always behave in the way we want” …but then He wouldn’t BE god!
Even Christians can be tempted to doubt…
- I prayed in faith but my friend still died (so we say that God did answer our prayers because He took the person home)
- I pleaded to God for him to become a Christian but he seems even more cynical instead
- (And for preachers) I declared the word with fear and trembling and with high expectations…and after the service they just talked about trivia and fretted whether they would be late for lunch!
SO WHAT SORT OF A CHRIST ARE WE LOOKING FOR THIS CHRISTMAS?
- Do we try to manipulate Him too?
- Do we build a picture of a Jesus that does not reflect his true character?
- Do we persist with an infantile view of the One who is beyond our comprehension?
It is tempting to seek a Jesus who dances only to our tune:
- One who can only be worshipped in a particular way (the subject of much division in church life)
- One who is particularly partial to our denomination and favours us above all others
If only everyone else saw God in the way that we do wouldn’t the world be a better place!
WHICH MESSIAH ARE YOU AND I LOOKING FOR THIS CHRISTMAS?
When John the Baptist cried out “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” and the people looked around to see Jesus, were they astonished at what they saw? How about you and me?
The Bible teaches us that it was at ‘just the right time’ that Jesus came …not too soon, not too late…
- And when He comes again it will be not too soon, not too late… but at just the right time.
As the Jewish people awaited the promised Messiah, some must have doubted… others never gave it a thought… and a smaller number waited with great anticipation.
SO WITH US…as we await the return of Christ (this time the 2nd Coming)…
- We can waver in our faith
- We can lose interest
- Or we can patiently and eagerly await His return
THE VIRGIN MARY WAS ASTONISHED WHEN SHE HEARD WHAT THE ANGEL SAID about the impending incarnation of Christ as the baby Jesus
- Well, perhaps we can forgive and understand her reaction
But what about you and I?
- Have we found the real Jesus who is the Saviour of the world and the Christ of Christmas?
We can do all the “right” things this Christmas… shop ’til we drop… sing the Carols… sigh sentimentally at the nativity scene… eat the mince pies…yet somehow we miss the Saviour because we are focusing on the wrong things
WE CAN BE SCORNFUL of those who missed the coming of Christ because their minds were closed by prejudice, tradition, fear of men, apathy…
BUT LET’S REMIND OURSELVES:
- Jesus Christ has not only come before…but will come again…and he sends the Holy Spirit to make Jesus known TODAY
- If we ‘miss the salvation bus’ today it’s a long and lonely walk through eternity
AND WHEN JESUS COMES AGAIN…
- All will rise from the dead
- Our deeds on earth will be exposed
- God will judge the living and the dead
- Eternity will follow
For those who have trusted Christ, our existence will be totally changed
- There will be no more tears or sadness
- There won’t be any dark winter nights
- No more loneliness or fear
For those who have NOT trusted Christ, they risk spending eternity separated from God, condemned by the decisions they made here on earth and their refusal to accept GOD’S GREATEST GIFT… the Lord Jesus Christ
ADVENT is a time of ‘coming’ or ‘arriving
- At this moment Jesus is still ‘coming’ but will soon be ‘arriving’
- Let’s live each day as if today were THAT DAY when Jesus comes again
“The Spirit and the bride say ‘Come’. And let him who hears say ‘Come’. Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the FREE GIFT of the water of life”
So why not come today?