“Come on Down” Isaiah 64:1-9
Delivered to Church for the Highlands
The First Sunday of Advent, December 3, 2017
I wrote this sermon just after hearing the news onWednesday morning that NBC Today Show’s Matt Lauer was fired over allegations of sexual misconduct. He is one more on a long list of men recently exposed in a sexual scandal. Competing with that story was a report of North Korea’s successful test launch of an ICBM missile capable of carrying the weight of a nuclear warhead as far as Washington DC. By Friday, those stories had already faded into the background of breaking news that former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn plead guilty to lying to the FBI about meeting with the Russians. Our world is a mess.
The ancient words of Isaiah we’ve just heard are all too relevant now and come to us on this first Sunday of Advent as ones for us to make our own: “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down . . .” Isaiah looked at his world, his nation, and his people and cried out to his God with those same words. Jerusalem was in ruins, lives were lost, honor was stripped, faith was challenged, and freedom was removed. Israel was now in captivity, exiled to Babylon, far from all they knew and held dear. Yet hope remained, even if just a spark. Isaiah intended to fan it into flame within his people. Their hope was to be in the heavens, in their God, who was outside of their miserable circumstances in the world. Their hope was to be in a God not bound by the heavens, like the gods of other nations who were limited by sea or geographical boundaries. Their God could come down, right where they were in life. They knew this from their past, from how God had come down to them when they were slaves in Egypt. God came down to them as Moses led them out of slavery and through the Red Sea. God had come down when they wandered in the wilderness, often meeting with them in a tent, a pillar of fire at night, or a cloud by day. God came down to be with them in their new homeland, making a home among them in the Temple. So, yes, they knew God could come down. If they ever needed God to do it again, it was then.
Isn’t that what we need to happen today, for God to come down into the darkness of our time? Our nation is in turmoil as our national sins of racism, injustice, sexism, bigotry, and greed are exposed on what seems like a daily basis. At this point, we may possibly conclude that our nation will never recover its leadership for liberty, reputation for justice for all, or its moral authority against tyranny and totalitarianism in other parts of the world. Perhaps we have become much like the Roman empire as it fell from decay within its own walls long before invaders arrived. O that God would tear open the heavens and come down.
We are also looking for hope in our personal lives. What is it that you are hoping for these days? You and I may be on the same page as Isaiah and Israel, lamenting what once was, wondering if it will ever be again, and concluding that God may never show up as we had hoped. We have hopes for healing, for true love, for significance, for peace, for acceptance, for security, for a job, for a home, for freedom, and for a better tomorrow. O that God would tear open the heavens and come down.
What we are starting today on this first Sunday of Advent is a period of saying those words, of looking ahead together to the arrival of God as a baby born long ago in Bethlehem; to hope fulfilled in the one in swaddling clothes. As we partake in communion this morning, we have a powerful reminder of the bread and the cup that God did come down. That God does come down. That God will come down. May we fix our hope there as we come to the table.