“God sent Jesus”
“Come down, God!” Isaiah was in prayer as he entreated God. He echoed the words of Psalm 144, “Part your heavens, and come down, touch the mountains, so that they smoke.” Come down and act in the world.
Isaiah remembers when God delivered his people from slavery in Egypt, and the awesome things God has done. The problem was that the people only noticed God if God was doing something flashy, like parting the Red Sea. He writes in verse seven, “No one calls on your name.” People have given up on God. They don’t care anymore. Does this sound familiar? Isaiah wants God to appear so the people will sit up and take notice and acknowledge God’s glory.
Isaiah pleads with God, “Oh, that you would split open the heavens and come down!” Whom of us hasn’t prayed that prayer some time or another, when we see what a mess the world is in? Why does someone we love have to suffer? Why does there have to be fighting and conflict, people doing wrong things that hurt others? Why do some people get everything and others have nothing? Why won’t you come down and fix this mess, Lord?
Maybe you have been tempted to despair at some insurmountable problem. Maybe you have wondered why God has not intervened to make right a wrong. I began reading a book last week about a young woman whose mother was dying of lung cancer. This young woman cried out to God in her pain, but when she perceived that her mother would not be healed, she turned her back on faith.
We cry out to God when we’re in trouble. God, show yourself with such power that a mountain would tremble before you. We want a demonstration, a miracle; we want definite proof that God will make a difference. When we see such chaos in our world, we want God to establish his reign of peace. It’s hard to wait for that day to come.
I think Advent can be a special time of waiting if we can allow God’s Spirit to enter into our souls. Sure the kids are waiting for Christmas and lots of presents to unwrap, which means that the rest of us are running around trying to make it all happen. But if we can be intentional about waiting, even longing, for our Savior to come, we put ourselves in a different place.
Isaiah writes, “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.” We are an active people, charging ahead with plans and decisions and going after what we want. We are used to being in charge of our own future. Patience doesn’t come easily, whether it is having to wait for Christmas, wait for a job offer, wait for someone who walks more slowly, or simply wait for the right time.
Throughout history, God reveals himself to those who are prepared to receive him. God shows his character in the beauty of creation, gave his law, spoke through prophets and performs miracles. The people of Israel had to wait for God’s good timing for the messiah, but even then, some did not perceive what God was doing. They longed for one who would be crowned the true king of Israel, so they did not recognize him when he appeared.
The joy of Advent’s waiting is that we give God time to draw near. We choose to give control back to God so that God will be revealed in God’s time, not ours. We allow God to be in charge even as we feel the pain of the present day. We step back and allow God room to work.
Our waiting during this season is different from that of the people of Isaiah’s day. God has already sent Jesus. God has come down. God entered human history in the person of Jesus. Our savior has entered the world even as we celebrate his coming. When God sent Jesus, God himself came down. God became flesh and dwelt among us. We say that Jesus is God incarnate, because God came down in the person of Jesus. He became a person like us, entered our broken world, endured our pain, and died for us to take away sin and the fear of death.
God sent Jesus, because Jesus is how we come to know God. In Jesus, God has revealed himself fully. Jesus is how we know what God does and what God values. Jesus is how we know God’s character, how we understand God’s plan, and how we can be a part of everything God intends for us. Without Jesus God would be a distant entity to be admired or feared, but not to love.
Jesus said in John’s gospel, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” Jesus prayed before his arrest and crucifixion: “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you and they know that you have sent me. I showed them what you are like.” Paul wrote in Colossians, “In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.”
If I had never seen a sunrise or a sunset, how could someone describe it to me? How would I know what it was like, to see such color radiating out from the sun to transform the entire sky? I would need to experience it for myself to understand why people love the transition of night to day and back again. In the same way, how could I know God if I didn’t have Jesus who helps me understand what God is like?
Because of Jesus, I learn about God’s character – God’s compassion, God’s sorrow when we stray from right paths, and God’s determination to set things right again. What I see of Jesus’ character tells me much about what God is like too. Isaiah reminds me that God sent Jesus to restore us.
Verses 5-7 in our passage this morning gives some clear reasons why we needed Jesus to come. God is a righteous God, and Isaiah writes that God comes to the help of those who gladly do right and remember God’s ways. Unfortunately, more often we sin against God’s ways, so God has every reason to get angry. We make God ask the question, “How can they be saved?”
We continue to sin. We are like one who is unclean, and even our best acts of kindness are as nothing beside what God would do. Isaiah tells us that we are not holy; even our best actions are like an old rag someone has mopped the floor with. Without God we are as lifeless as a dry leaf in late autumn, waiting for a fall wind to whisk us all away. No one calls on God’s name or tries to draw near to God. Our wrongs make God hide his face from us, and keep us from vital living. God longs to mold us like a potter working with clay at the wheel, shaping us into forms that are pleasing to God.
We need some serious overhauling from the inside out. There was a time when the Pharisees criticized Jesus, accusing him of not keeping the law of Moses because he allowed his disciples to eat food without washing their hands. Jesus’ reply was that it wasn’t what goes into our bodies that makes us unclean, but what comes out of our hearts and minds and especially our mouths. That’s what gets us in trouble.
I love the end of our passage for today, because what does our loving God want to do with us? Isaiah says that we are like clay in the hand of our Father, who wants to reshape us and remold us into vessels fit for the king. If you were clay for God our master potter, how would you want God to use you? How may you be of best use to the Lord?
Isaiah longed for his people to be restored to God and transformed into shining vessels for God’s service. They who had ignored God or actively turned away from God, would be remade by God’s hand, and brought back from the lost places where they had been. This is what we want too, within our lives, and for those around us.
Isaiah prayed for his people for the coming of God’s messiah. I pray for all of us, that we will more fully embrace Jesus as God sent for us, and that our lives will reflect the amazing truth of God’s forgiving love. I pray that we will be transformed like clay in the hand of our potter who is God, to the glory of God’s name. God sent Jesus – to show us the depth of his love, to be God but as fully human as us, to forgive us and to make us new. God sent Jesus – to me and you.