A Sermon from Isaiah 11:1-4a, 6-9
All the waiting of Advent, preparing our hearts to receive the Holy Christ Child, watching, waiting, anticipating, and it’s finally here. Thursday night, with candles held high we sang Silent Night, Holy Night. Jesus, Lord, at thy birth. Christ the Savior is born. What a good and holy moment. And now here we are, in the season of Christmas, knowing that all is right with the world. Wolves and lambs are lying down together. Calves and young lions are sharing meals. Cows and bears are eating on the green pasture. Lions are roaming around eating straw like the oxen. People are living in peace and harmony, wars have ceased and all is as it should be.
Except that… that’s not true at all, is it? It’s Christmas, this is the service of Lessons and Carols. This is supposed to be a joyous occasion and I was determined not to be a downer... But we are 44 days out from suicide bombers and mass shooters in Paris, 25 days out from two people opening fire at a holiday party in San Bernardino, 6 days out from having six U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan. And these are just things that were largely highlighted in the media. There’s so much that has happened. I want to call up Isaiah and say, “you’re wrong. Everything is not ok. And, I don’t know if you’ve checked lately, Isaiah, but lions don’t eat straw.”
Not only is our world just wrecked with violence and despair, we can’t even agree on what to do about it. One school of thought says to ban all assault weapons, another school of thought says to arm every willing and able member of society. I know it’s a fictional show, but the disagreement makes me think of The Walking Dead. In the most recent episode of the current season there is a face-off between a man named Morgan and a woman named Carol. Morgan is convinced that all life is precious, including the life of the murderer who he is trying to save. Carol is convinced that the only way to survive is to eliminate the threats. She looks at Morgan and says, “I will kill you to kill him because I don't want anyone else to die.”
The issue of a broken world and what to do about it is not new. In fact, tomorrow many Catholic, Episcopal and Lutheran churches will observe the Feast of the Innocents which recalls the events of Matthew 2:16-18. “When Herod knew the magi had fooled him he grew very angry. He sent soldiers to kill all the children in Bethlehem and in all the surrounding territory who were two years old and younger, according to the time that he had learned from the magi. This fulfilled the word spoken through Jeremiah the prophet: A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and much grieving. Rachel weeping for her children, and she did not want to be comforted, because they were no more.” In the beginning of chapter 2 we’re celebrating the birth of Jesus, but in a mere 16 verses we have turned to the violence and despair of a broken world.
So what does it all mean? We have a problem, but not a unique problem. Christ our redeemer has come to save, and yet we are surrounded by brokenness—in our world, in our country, in our very own families and lives. In The Walking Dead, Morgan’s problem is that he is putting most of his trust in humanity and Carol’s problem is that she is putting most of her trust in herself. The good news for us is that we don’t have to depend on humanity or on ourselves. Humanity will almost always disappoint us and we consistently mess things up over and over again. I've tried to count on my fellow humans and I it almost never works out. And I've tried depending on myself, but I let myself down every time. It turns out we're all a little messed up. (Merry Christmas)
But we’re not counting on ourselves, our fellow humans, or Herod, we’re counting on Almighty God.
Do you remember what we say at communion as we proclaim the mystery of faith? Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. As Christians we live in this already/not yet paradox. Christ has come to earth—Savior of the world. But God is still making all things new. There’s a lot to be done to walk along side God in helping God’s kingdom be realized here on earth. Today, I’m going to sing songs of triumph. I’m going to hear from God’s living word about the Word made flesh. I’m going to listen from the prophets to the gospels about the one who has come and is coming to save. I don’t have all the answers, but I follow the savior of the world and he is making all things new. Lions might not eat straw, but I know the one who can make that happen. So I’m going to sing boldly in this space this morning and in my life:
No more let sin the sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground; he comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found, far as, far as the curse is found.