Advent Week One - Get Ready: "An Angry God"



This Sunday is the first Sunday in the season of Advent. Advent means “expectation.” 

For many, this marks the beginning of the Church calendar, the beginning of our shared story as Christians. 

I once read an article by Conrad Hoover on Advent, and he wrote that for the Church, “the new year is not marked by drunken and numbing merrymaking on December 31, but rather by joyful anticipation and urgent exhortation to stay awake and be watchful on the 1st Sunday of Advent.” 

But if those of us who call ourselves Christians should be waiting in expectation during the season of Advent, what are we expecting? If we are called to be awake and watchful on the 1st Sunday of Advent, what do we hope to see or experience?

Advent - A Season of Expectation, but also of Readiness

The texts we’ll be studying for the next few weeks will help us prepare for the change and transformation in the world we all long for. 

For most Christians, we would offer up some sort of Sunday school, saccharine-sweet response like, “We’re expecting the birth of Jesus, the coming of the Prince of Peace, the arrival of the Messiah.” 

Most of us who call ourselves Christians will say these kinds of things because we are supposed to; it is what we have been taught to say. Our traditions demand it of us. But our actions betray us in the end. 

We say we expect the Messiah, but we clearly position the story of the Messiah’s arrival safely in the past. Our expectations during the season of Advent are fairly low, pedestrian, in fact. 

The world around us may be filled with deep, aching, and abiding needs, but most of us spend the Advent season worrying about how we will pay for all the Christmas presents we will have to buy.

Some 82 years ago, Macy’s department store in New York launched the first ever Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade to signal the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. The arrival of Santa at the end of the parade was both a sign and a symbol that Thanksgiving was over and the season of Christmas had officially begun. 

It’s strange to think that in 1926, three years before the great Stock Market Crash of 1929 and just a few years before the Great Depression, Macy’s began what has now become a uniquely American holiday tradition----Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year.

I must say that something good has come out of the shift to online shopping.  No one died this year by being crushed to death when a huge crowd forced their way into a Wal-Mart.  That happened in 2008.  

These days, Black Friday starts well before Thanksgiving, and then there's Cyber Monday and constant deals on Amazon.  I get texts, emails, and ads all over my social media, hawking all manner of stuff I should buy.  

And sometimes I do.  

People in our culture used to ask the question, “Where is God?” “Where is God in this war? Where is God in the poverty, hunger, and violence all around us? Where is God in the racism, sexism, judgment, and intolerance we experience? Where is God in these hard economic times? Where is God in my broken relationship? My lost job? My addiction?”

We wonder where God is, but we've lost our true sense of wonder and expectation. 

Instead, we just go shopping.  

The radical nature of the story we tell as we lead up to Christmas---the story of a God who becomes intimately connected to humanity by taking on humanity---gets lost in a sea of consumption. 

And we need to recapture that radical nature.  We need to understand the absolutely ridiculous love that God has for us.  

ONLY A LOVING GOD WOULD BECOME ONE OF US IN ORDER TO RESCUE ALL OF US. 

Isaiah 64:1-9

This is a litany, a prayer, a cry to God from exiles, who lost everything. 

It is a cry of pain seeking understanding

[a]Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
    that the mountains would tremble before you!
2 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!
3 For when you did awesome things that we did not expect,
    you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.
4 Since ancient times no one has heard,
    no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
    who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.
5 You come to the help of those who gladly do right,
    who remember your ways.

This lament calls upon the collective memories of the Hebrew people as a way toward hope. 

The prophet longs for God to act dramatically but then takes a different tack. 

But when we continued to sin against them,
    you were angry.
    How then can we be saved?
6 All of us have become like one who is unclean,
    and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
    and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
7 No one calls on your name
    or strives to lay hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us
    and have given us over to[b] our sins.

That last line is the key, the prophet imagines that God has turned away, but then turns even that on its ear with this next bit. 

8 Yet you, Lord, are our Father.
    We are the clay, you are the potter;
    we are all the work of your hand.
9 Do not be angry beyond measure, Lord;
    do not remember our sins forever.
Oh, look on us, we pray,
    for we are all your people.

God is a parent, potter, and still working in the middle of trials and tribulations. 

What are you waiting for? This is question at the heart of this prophecy, both to God and to us.  

What do we learn from this?

1. The world around us might seem like all is lost, even God is hidden.
2. But we have memories of the world (and us) being made right. 
3. We need to be asking ourselves, “What are we waiting for?”  
4. Our expectations need more imagination, and a whole lot of hope. 

ONLY A LOVING GOD WOULD BECOME ONE OF US IN ORDER TO RESCUE ALL OF US. 

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