The first two Sundays of Advent begin we hear from Isaiah:
“Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.” — Isaiah 40:1
“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence.” — Isaiah 64:1
Both proclaim the arrival of God’s presence among the people, but while one passage speaks of comfort, the other sees a time of upheaval. Perhaps we still feel both those things. We are used to the soothing sounds of angel songs, and the babe in the manger, and yet, at least for me, there is this pervading sense that things need to change, and our only hope is in God’s power.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor who was a leader in the church resistance to Hitler, spoke of it this way:
“We have become so accustomed to the idea of divine love and of God’s coming at Christmas that we no longer feel the shiver of fear that God’s coming should arouse in us. We are indifferent to the message, taking only the pleasant and agreeable out of it and forgetting the serious aspect, that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim to us. The coming of God is truly not only glad tidings, but first of all frightening news for everyone who has a conscience.
Only when we have felt the terror of the matter, can we recognize the incomparable kindness. God comes into the very midst of evil and of death, and judges the evil in us and in the world. And by judging us, God cleanses and sanctifies us, comes to us with grace and love. God makes us happy as only children can be happy. God wants to always be with us, wherever we may be – in our sin, in our suffering and death. We are no longer alone; God is with us. Therefore we adults can rejoice deeply within our hearts under the Christmas tree, perhaps much more than the children are able. Jesus comes in judgment and grace. (from the sermon “The Coming of Jesus into our Midst”)
May our hearts be ready to receive all that our Lord brings!
Pastor John Twiton