Do Something, Lord

Do Something, Lord

Isaiah 64:1-9

(Attached to this message is a suggestion for Advent activities and Advent Wreath in preparing for Christmas)

“Come on God! Why won’t you do something!” Have you ever uttered those words, as evil seems to have the upper hand and rages all around us? Do you ever have that inward longing for God to just flex some muscle and do something to come and bring an end to all this evil? Why doesn’t God intervene and show his power? This was the same lament Israel had. Today’s Old Testament reading begins:

Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,

that the mountains would tremble before you!

As when fire sets twigs ablaze

and causes water to boil,

come down to make your name known to your enemies

and cause the nations to quake before you! (Isaiah 64:1-2).

 

These words are from the latter chapters of Isaiah where God promises great favor and blessing to Israel. He promised that his judgment on Israel for their persistent rebellion and idolatry would end. He would return them from exile to their own land and they would be restored. The people pinned great hope on that return. With their years of hard labour served, they were coming back home! It would be an end to all their suffering and shame. They would flourish, and those from other nations would come to them also. The future is so bright, with so much excitement and anticipation! So why does this desperate cry for help come here—after the time of Israel’s restoration? It seems it would be better suited to the first half of Isaiah, when Israel was oppressed.

 

Israel’s return didn’t mean the end of their problems. The evil of their neighbouring nations still surrounded them. The temptation to run to inanimate and powerless objects in place of the living and life-giving God continued. They still didn’t want to worship God on his terms or have life with him in the way he ordained it. The people still sinned. How easily people forget. Why are they still persecuted? Why won’t God deliver them from the evil they witness? Why doesn’t God do something? God gave Israel today’s text to use as an ongoing prayer for the community gathered in worship; a psalm of confession and lament for them to cry out to him:

 

Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,

that the mountains would tremble before you!

As when fire sets twigs ablaze

and causes water to boil,

come down to make your name known to your enemies

and cause the nations to quake before you! (Isaiah 64:1-2).

 

But then there is a shift. The text that God has given to Israel leads them to the painful awareness that their sin makes them as unclean as those around them. The burden of Israel’s situation isn’t God’s fault. All of Israel has become unclean; their deeds are as “a filthy cloth.” The prophet names the reality of the people’s cold, hard hearts―they have returned to their land, but in their hearts they have not returned to God: “There is no one who calls on your name or attempts to take hold of you”(v7). The people come to the chilling realization that they are just as guilty, so if God wiped out evil, they would be swept away themselves. They are called to confess: “We all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away; for you have hidden your face from us and made us waste away because of our sins.”

 

But when all seems lost and the chasm between God and his people seems too great, these words lead God’s people to recount his goodness from of old, and to appeal to him based on his grace in the past:

Yet, O LORD, you are our Father.

We are the clay, you are the potter;

we are all the work of your hand.

 

God is their Father. He is their potter. Just as he formed Adam from the dust of the ground, he has been personally involved in their creation, carefully and delicately molding them. And God leads his people to appeal that he does not act as human potters would, squashing their work on the wheel when it is not what they desire it to be—but instead to gently mold them, recreate them, and reshape them. In connection with this thought the people are led to pray that God will curb his anger and not deal with them according to what they deserve; but that he will walk with them according to his grace, so that rather than turning his back to them, he will again look upon them as his own:

 

Do not be angry beyond measure, O LORD;

do not remember our sins forever.

Oh, look upon us, we pray,

for we are all your people” (v9).

 

This is the perfect text with which to begin Advent. It sets Advent in the context of a real world in which things are not going well. The world is not a perfect place. Evil continues. The church is attacked, in some places literally, in the west it is more subtle, with the removal of freedoms in the name of tolerance. These words weren’t just for Israel in exile, they are for me and for you as we long for God’s power to be displayed in the presence of the church’s enemies, and as we await our final deliverance from the exile of sin and suffering and injustice.

Advent is situated in the midst of reality; in a world that is broken and breaking, and brings the hope that despite all that is wrong and evil and sorrowful in the world, God promises to help his people. Like Israel of old, our hope is in God’s faithfulness in the past, where he acted graciously and lovingly not only for Israel, but for us too. He did open the heavens and come down, not with mountain-quaking terror, but in the most vulnerable of existences: as a baby, born in a filthy stable. In Christ, he came all the way from heaven to earth for you, to bring freedom from sin, to overcome death itself and to rescue the world from the kingdom of darkness.

 

We think of Jesus’ words to his disciples in John’s Gospel: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Like a shepherd he gathers his people to himself and cares for them. Like a potter shaping clay, he goes to work through his word, molding us, shaping us, making us more like him and less of ourselves. He leads us to grow in our awareness and acknowledgement of our sins, for like Israel we also wander from the Lord’s ways. But he also gives you ears to hear the gospel, that God has not hidden his face from you, because he turned his face away from his own Son. He is not angry beyond measure with us. Instead He poured out all his wrath for our sin on Jesus while He was on the Cross. That is why he looks upon you with his favor and doesn’t remember your sins forever.

 

Advent begins by affirming two realities: all is not right with the world, but through faith in Christ, all is right between God and us—even if what we see around us would tempt us to say otherwise. It is because of the precious blood of Christ he shed on the Cross that you can be sure that God is for you, and has done something. It is because of Christ that we can pray these same words that Israel did: “Oh look upon us, we pray, for we are all your people”. It is because of Christ that you can be certain of God’s help for you―today, tomorrow and always. Because of Christ crucified you can be certain that no matter what you experience in this life, no matter what evil you witness around you, no matter what guilt and shame troubles you, God still acts on behalf of those who wait for him.

 

So, lift up your heads, high, in expectation―for God has sent hope into the world, clothed in the flesh of Jesus, that all people might know the true way to forgiveness, life and peace with him. You know that way. You know Jesus. He will watch over you. He has you and he will not let you go, even as you take him to others when you serve them, what you say to them and what you say for them in prayer. In Christ he has done everything necessary to share in his life and glory forever—for you, and for those you know and come across each day. Why doesn’t God do something? Look to the cross and see his answer: “I have”. He has come, and will come again, and until he does, he is with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.

This message is brought to you by Grace Lutheran Church, Web and Park Street, Mountain View, Arkansas.  For prayer or more information, contact Pastor Kenneth Taglauer by email: [email protected].  A Pass it On Project ,  You can read more  at  LCA Prepare Services Sermon

 

Advent wreath

 

An Advent wreath can be made by tying evergreen branches (pine or eucalyptus) to a metal or wooden hoop, thus making a wreath. Care needs to be taken since both pine and eucalyptus are highly flammable.

Candles should be large enough so that the first candle will last for all four Sundays – the symbolism is best maintained if there is no need to replace or rotate candles. Candles may be blue or red, but commonly the candles are purple. In the old 1-year calendar, the Third Sunday was known as Gaudete Sunday (Rejoice!) and so the third candle was occasionally rose-coloured as a symbol of joy. A fifth candle is often included in the centre of the wreath (this one is white, because it does represent Christ) to be lit at Christmas Eve.

The wreath is taken away before the Christmas Day service. While the Advent wreath may be lit before the service at the same time as the altar candles, the lighting of the wreath candles in a little rite in the service offers the opportunity to focus the congregation’s attention on this symbol.

Do not overlook the opportunity the Advent wreath gives for the participation of children. The lighting of the candle may be done by an older child (with care), or it may become the focus of the children’s address (which may be shifted to the beginning of the service).

 

Suggested prayers and responses following the lighting of the first candle:
(The  reader or children could read the part in normal print, and the congregation respond with the bold print).
The true light was in the world,
and the world came into being through him;
yet the world did not know him.
The true light, who enlightens everyone,
was coming into the world.

OR
Lord Jesus, you are the light of the world.
You came to be born as a king in Bethlehem,
the city of King David.
Be born in our hearts,
and rule our lives today.
Amen.

OR, a hymn verse (tune: LH 19 (TIS 295) or LH 36)

Keep awake throughout the night.

Let this candle flame burn bright.

Let us shelter in the light

till the dawn is in our sight.

Second Sunday of Advent

 

The true light came to those who belonged to him,

and his own people did not accept him.

The true light, who enlightens everyone,

was coming into the world.

 

OR

Lord Jesus, you are the light of the world.

The prophets foretold

that you would bring peace to the world

and save your people.

Bring peace to our hearts,

and show God’s love to all people.

Amen.

 

OR, a hymn verse (tune: LH 19 (TIS 295) or LH 36)

See how John prepares the way,

for the coming light of day.

As this candle shines its ray,

shine your love in us, we pray.

 

Third Sunday of Advent

 

John came to bear witness to the light,

so that all might believe through him.

The true light, who enlightens everyone,

was coming into the world.

 

OR

Lord Jesus, you are the light of the world.

John the Baptist preached

that people should repent

and get ready for you to come.

Come into our hearts,

and help us to welcome you.

Amen.

 

OR, a hymn verse (tune: LH 19 (TIS 295) or LH 36)

Like this candle burning bright,

John bore witness to your light.

Come down now from heaven’s height,

banish all the shades of night.

 

Fourth Sunday of Advent

 

To all who received the true light,

who believed in his name,

he gave power to become children of God.

The true light, who enlightens everyone,

was coming into the world.

 

OR

Lord Jesus, light of the world,

we bless you for Gabriel who brought the good news;

we bless you for Mary, who became your mother.

Bless your church as it prepares for Christmas;

and bless us your children who long for your coming.

Amen.

 

OR, a hymn verse (tune: LH 19 (TIS 295) or LH 36)

Holy Spirit, come, we pray,

teach your servants to obey.

Shine on us your inward ray,

brighten darkness into day.

 

Christmas Eve

 

The Word became flesh and lived among us,

and we have seen his glory.

The true light, who enlightens everyone,

was coming into the world.

 

OR

Lord Jesus, you are the light of the world,

God from God, and light from light.

Thank you for coming to be with us.

Help us to shine with your light.

Amen.

 

OR, a hymn verse (tune: LH 19 (TIS 295) or LH 36)

Jesus, one with humankind,

heal my sight, by sin made blind.

As this light in darkness shines,

shine into this heart of mine.