Second Sunday of Advent – December 8, 2019
It is so easy to take it for granted that we can hear everything people around us are saying. To have ears that function adequately, is, however, as we so often discover, not a given.
Growing up in Pretoria, South Africa, we had a much-cherished School for the Deaf, very similar to the school in Edmonton. As a young person, it was a big deal to me to see how people who have no hearing have a completely separate communication system to speak to one another. Furthermore, have you ever noticed the parents coming into the mix?
They too speak with sign language that we would never mistake. It is elaborate and sign language is spoken by using one’s arms, hands and fingers to say everything you want to say. These parents are so proficient at using sign language, it’s really astonishing to see them speak. Their facial expressions as they shared their stories was quite something to see. As I watched, I was very moved seeing parents talk with their children using sign language.
The touching part about the parent-child communication that struck a chord with me, was the fact that if I had a deaf child, I would not hesitate for a single moment in learning the sign language myself. It would be so vitally important for me to be able to tell my child how much I love them and how much I care for them. I would also want them to know how much God cared for them. It would be the greatest pleasure for me to learn the language as speedily as possible. I would want to say everything as clearly as possible so that the exact meaning could be conveyed.
Watching deaf people communicate with one another brought me to the stark realization that this must be similar to what God did for us as humanity. How clearly this image speaks. Here we are on earth, living our lives. We do our own thing, but there’s no way we can hear God’s voice.
In today’s clip from the movie, “Miracle on 34th Street”, notice how Kris Kringle interacts with a little girl who has come to the department store to see Santa. Part of the plot is that the daughter of Mrs. Walker doesn’t believe in Santa and she witnesses Kris communicating with this little girl in a way that the little girl could understand.
Did you see the wonder of what is being told? Kris Kringle communicated in a way the girl understood. He was able to speak her language.
God has been telling us many things throughout history. God was revealing the message of peace all along.
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews puts it in this way: “Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days God has spoken to us by a Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom He also created the worlds” (Heb 1:1-2).
God had been speaking, but people weren’t getting what God was telling them. They didn’t understand God’s nature. They didn’t understand what God was planning. There were many ways in which God spoke, through creation, sunset, sunrise, through Moses and the burning bush. There was the time when it was through Elijah in a still, small voice, even through a donkey. There certainly wasn’t a shortage of God’s ways of speaking. It’s not monotonous at all. God has been speaking throughout the course of history. The word of God went into a deep silence for four centuries before the new covenant opened up before humanity. Since the prophet Malachi had last told his audience what God was up to, there hadn’t been any prophets until John the Baptist arrived. God’s revelations in the Old Testament had been in bits and pieces, from time to time, and incremental, because no single one of them could share the whole truth. They could not fully capture the whole picture of God’s nature of bringing peace to this world.
People were more confused than ever.
And then, at last, God sent God’s Son to bring the true message to us. It was in the Lord Jesus Christ that God’s revelation finally came to us all as humanity. It is true that God revealed God’s self through the words spoken by Jesus, through his message, but God did more than that. Jesus Christ is the living, divine Son of God. Jesus did more than just proclaim God’s message – He is God’s message.
Friends, when I see Jesus, I see God in human flesh.
More than that even, when I see Jesus’ actions happening in people, I also see more of Jesus. I see God working, speaking, telling me what it means when we say God’s New Reality or God’s New Kingdom has come and is breaking into this world increasingly.
The wonder of what God tells us is that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. Jesus came so that God’s plan in your life and my life could be revealed and that this plan of God could come to us in a way that we would understand. 1.)
There is a poem in today’s Old Testament reading which is called by Hans Wildberger a “pearl of Hebrew poetry.” There is a breathtaking variety of images and metaphors: the shoot out of the stump, the branch out of the roots, the rod of the mouth, the breath of the lips and righteousness as a belt around the waist. This is followed by the description of a pastoral scene in which a variety of animals are paired to convey an image of peace: the wolf, leopard, young lion, bear, lion, viper and young viper are juxtaposed with lamb, kid, calf, cow, ox, nursing child and weaned child. 2.) By making use of such traditional images, Isaiah skillfully makes us aware of a New Reality. Centuries later, Jesus came to proclaim God’s message that we can be set free from being in continuous conflict and being and utterly removed from God.
Why would God do that? Was it because God wanted us to know how enormous God’s love for us is? I could only think God wants us to know the peace of which Isaiah was dreaming. God wanted us to know that He created us for a reason – that we might know and love the God who ultimately brings peace in a confused and conflict-ridden world. Peace and hope are what God brings to us.
1.) Adapted from an Advent series by Greg Fine, with this part being “The Miracle of the Message – Hebrews 1” (at www.lifeway.com)
2.) “The branch from Jesse” from a sermon on Isaiah 11:1-10 by Leonard Sweet on www.sermons.com (paid subscription required).
Copyright 2019 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church
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