First Sunday in Advent
Bob Erler was a golden gloves boxing champion, a karate black belt, a green beret war hero and a silver badge supercop. Yet while working as a policeman he was arrested for a horrible murder and sentenced to 99 years in jail. He professed his innocence the whole time. It was not only a profession of innocence; he knew he was innocent and had been wrongly convicted.
Then in jail, something happened. Bob met Christ. His life was transformed. And when he met Christ, do you know what happened? He realised he really was guilty of murder and although already sentenced for it, he confessed to it.
This is something that happens to us when we give our lives to Christ and are made right with God: we become aware, often for the first time, that we are guilty of sin.
This is what today’s reading from Isaiah is all about. And this is what the beginning of the Advent season is all about:
Realising that we are guilty of sin and need redeeming.
Realising that we are the cause of Jesus leaving His glory in heaven and coming to earth.
The Christmas message is a beautiful one. There is nothing more beautiful than the Christmas message. But it is born of a deep and dark reality: we have rebelled against God and we need to be made right with Him again.
Are we really that bad? 私たちはそんなに悪いんでしょうか？
We might want to ask ourselves, are we really that bad? Isaiah 1 is a heavy passage. Does that accurately reflect us?
Look at verse 3:
“The ox knows its master,
the donkey its owner’s manger,
but Israel does not know,
my people do not understand.”
Even dumb animals know their master. How much do we struggle in our lives to know our Master? I believe this is observable and reflects the level of our waywardness from God.
When I come home from work, my dog Ruby runs to the gate to see me. She’s wagging her tail, her tongue’s hanging out and flapping around and she’s jumping up and down at the gate. “You’re here! You’re here! Hooray! Hooray!” She doesn’t do that to strangers. But she knows it’s me (and I’m not even a very good master!).
When we come into God’s house (come before God), what are we like? Do we run in wagging our tails with expectation and excitement, jumping up and down with joy because we know our Master, saying “God you’re here! You’re here! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”? Or does our body language suggest something a little less than that, or a lot less than that? In our heart, are we thrilled to be here in the presence of God, or do we somehow feel that we might actually be doing God a favour by turning up?
To whatever degree this might be true, we have casual, rebellious hearts.
Have we been evangelised by the world? この世に伝道されていますか？
We might want to ask ourselves, to what extent have we been evangelised by the world because by answering this we might find a parallel to today’s passage from Isaiah. We are, of course, called to evangelise the world with the good news of Jesus Christ.
How successful have we been in influencing the world for Christ? (That will reflect our devotion)
How successful has the world been in influencing us away from Christ? (That will reflect our waywardness)
I don’t want to speak in cliches – I want this to be a real examination of our lives (this is what Advent is all about – examining our hearts and preparing them for the Christmas message).
Entertainment.娯楽 To what extent does our choice of entertainment (movies, TV shows, computer games, music, books, theatre) assimilate us with the world and to what extent does it set God and us apart as holy?
ii. Business practices.仕事の実践 To what extent do we conduct business in a way that is
consistent with the social justice that God calls for? Do we honour our employers
and/or employees and treat them justly?
Financial commitments.金銭的責務 Do our spending habits reflect a true devotion to God? Do we overcommit financially so that we can have more (and give less)? Are we generous with what we have?
iv. Life priorities.人生の優先順位 What’s more important to us:
finding the right marriage partner or finding God?
making money, or making disciples?
having fun, or having faith?
submitting quality work on time, or submitting to God?
The former things here are all good things. This is not about doing good things verses doing bad things. This is about priorities that please and honour God, and bring blessing.
To what extent do we deny God, sideline God, by our prioritising of activities like these?
How guilty are we? 私たちはどれほど罪を犯しているのでしょう？
Looking at Isaiah 1, it’s tempting to ask if we are really that bad, if we are as bad as the Israelites 3000 years ago (so, does this passage apply to us?). The question misses the point. We are all guilty. We are all guilty of causing Jesus to put aside His glory and come to earth. We’re all guilty of putting Jesus on the cross.
In the movie, “The Passion of the Christ”, you might know that the hand that nailed Jesus to the cross was actually Mel Gibson’s hand. He wanted to declare his own guilt by doing this. It could just as easily have been your hand. Or my hand. It could have been any of our hands that did it. It doesn’t matter if we’re better or worse than the Israelites 3000 years ago, it doesn’t matter if we’re better or worse than the person sitting beside us now. We’re all guilty. Jesus died for us all. Jesus came for us all. This is why we celebrate Christmas.
Last week we were looking at how we are God’s artwork, fearfully and wonderfully created in Him to enjoy fellowship with Him and to do good works. This week it seems we’re guilty of terrible sins. Which is it? Are we a work of art, or horribly sinful? The answer is both. We are horribly sinful people who have been redeemed by Christ and are being recreated into the wonderful work of art that God originally intended for us to be. Thanks be to Christ!
We start Advent by listening to heaven’s verdict upon us. Heaven’s verdict is ‘ loved but guilty’.
And so, 天の判決は‘有罪’です。だから、
We confess our sins and our need for a Saviour.
We turn from our sins and receive forgiveness through Christ.
We humble ourselves before a loving God, and surrender our lives to Him
We marvel at the miracle of the Christmas sacrifice.
Time of silent prayer.