3rd Sunday of Advent: 15 December 2019
Isaiah 35:1-10, Psalm 146, James 5:7-10, Matthew 11:2-11
35 The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; 2 it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God.
3 Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. 4 Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.”
(Isaiah 35:1-4 ESV)
Advent is about the promise of God, and it focuses on readiness and preparedness.
When God says something He will fulfil it. Sometimes we forget this and take His Word for granted. Advent focuses on the coming of Jesus. Though we become busy in life, we should never forget that He will return - and that should be our hope. We need to be awakened from sleep and realise that He could come at any time.
The readings encourage us to:
The Lord is faithful forever; He offers hope to those in difficult situations.
Because God came to us we can experience great joy.
Jesus is the long-expected Saviour for whom we must wait patiently.
Before He comes, God will speak to His people through the prophets.
He will restore His people.
In the world today there are many fake products, even fake news. Someone taught my mom how you can tell the difference between real and fake jade by tying a hair around it put under fire and the hair will not burn. In the season of Advent the Church says we must make sure that our faith, hope and joy are founded upon the love God and His promises.
The promised JOY
In Isaiah’s time a stronger nation could suddenly conquer another nation. Marauding bands might suddenly come to your town, kill the men, rape the women and take the children as slaves. The Assyrians had colonized and enslaved Judah, and the people were discouraged and wanted independence and freedom. They were so desperate that they had begun to listen to false prophets. They would believe anyone who had good news, even if it was false. Their hearts also became hard so that when they heard the Word of God they would not believe it.
But King Hezekiah told them, “Remove all the idols and pagan things you are doing - everything that is not right, and false worship - because there is something wrong. God is not fulfilling what He has promised, and we need God. Think about what you are doing that is not right, and stop! God’s favour is no longer with us: He has turned His face away and He is showing His displeasure against us.” The people were saying, “If that’s the way God wants it, that’s fine”; but God wanted to bring them to repentance. Nothing they were doing was bearing fruit. When that happens I say, “Lord, I am not where You want me to be or doing what You want me to do. Please tell me the problem. I want to live under Your blessing and Your favour, I don’t want You to be displeased with me.”
The children of Israel were doing what was displeasing to God, and their suffering and turmoil made it very clear that something was wrong. People were desperate for an answer because they knew that something very bad was happening and would happen. They were weak, exhausted, discouraged, and completely at a loss.
The people were in a desperate situation when God spoke the words in Isaiah. The good news is that He will never abandon His people if we put our faith, trust and hope in Him.
The hard lesson they had to learn, and that we too must learn, is this: Sometimes we put God last on our list; and when everything falls apart we realise that God is important, that He is the only God whom we can come to.
Trust God more
When faith in God is replaced by faith in ourselves and human ability, when hope in God is replaced with what man has promised, and when eternal joys are replaced by joys that are temporary, something is wrong.
During the last election people were shouting for Duterte; but he cannot solve all the country’s problems, and he is not the messiah to the Filipino people. God can use people, but ultimately our trust is in God. Last week 800,000 people in France went on strike because the government is short of money and wants to change the retirement age. The government promised something to the people, but it is failing them. We trust in our own ability, but we all are prone to fail. We may trust the government, but we should trust God more - because God cannot fail. We should trust God more than we trust our own ability.
Employers, the world, circumstances and human institutions may all abandon us, but God will never abandon us. We may rely on human institutions and human ability but not more than we trust in God. People might find themselves might be in a desperate situation but God will not abandon his people. Rejoice.”
Are you tired of getting tired? Are you in a situation where nothing is working and your life is like going around in a circle? Put your trust and hope in God. Let us not replace our faith in God with in ourselves and human ability; let us not replace our hope in God with the best that man can promise.
Sermon of Bishop Elmer on the 3rd Sunday of Advent at St. John's Parish-Madrid, Spain by Dcn. Andrew Gossage