The Advents of Christ and the Comfort of God, Genesis 3:6-24; Luke 1:39-45; Isaiah 25:6-9


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“The Advents of Christ and the Comfort of God”

Genesis 3:6-24; Luke 1:39-45; Isaiah 25:6-9

December 15, 2019

Faith Presbyterian Church – Morning Sermon

Pr. Nicoletti

 

We continue our Advent series this morning. On the first Sunday of Advent we considered the advents of Christ and the humility of God. On the second Sunday of Advent we considered the advents of Christ and the power of God. Next Sunday we will consider the advents of Christ and the call of God.

 

But this morning we consider together the advents of Christ and the comfort of God.

 

We once more will hear from three portions of Scripture together. This morning it will be from Genesis chapter three, from Luke chapter one, and then from Isaiah chapter twenty-five.

 

With all of that in mind, please do listen carefully, for this is God’s Word for us this morning.

First, from Genesis 3:6-24, the account of what comes after the serpent tempted Adam and Eve to eat of the fruit that God had commanded them not to eat:

 

3:6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God [of Yahweh God] walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of Yahweh God among the trees of the garden. But Yahweh God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then Yahweh God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

14 Yahweh God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

16 To the woman he said,

“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be contrary to your husband,
but he shall rule over you.”

17 And to Adam he said,

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”

20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 21 And Yahweh God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

22 Then Yahweh God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore Yahweh God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

 

Next from Luke 1:39-45, as we follow Mary after the angel Gabriel announced to her that she would give birth to Christ.:

 

39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

 

And finally, from the prophet Isaiah, chapter twenty-five:

 

On this mountain the Lord of hosts [Yahweh of hosts] will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
    He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord Yahweh will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for Yahweh has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is Yahweh; we have waited for him;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

 

From the Garden to the Incarnation to the Restoration of all things, this is the Word of the Lord. (Thanks be to God)

 

“All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” [1 Peter 1:24-25]

 

Let’s pray …

 

Most Merciful God,

In this season of Advent, we remember that you are a God who comes to his people with comfort.

We are often so foolish in how we handle the sorrows and the suffering of this life.

And we are often so blind to the comfort you offer us.

And so, give us now eyes to see and ears to hear your word,

for your glory and for our good.

We ask this all in Jesus’s name.

Amen.

 

Advent and Christmas … for a variety of reasons … can be a time where people especially consider the sorrows of their lives.

 

And so it is an especially good time for us, as God’s people, to step back and reflect on how we as a culture and we as individuals tend to handle the sorrows of life in this broken world and how we should handle those sorrows.

 

Henri Nouwen reflects on this question in his book titled Here and Now. Nouwen writes: “The world in which we live wants to surprise us by sorrow. Newspapers keep telling us about traffic accidents, murders, conflicts between individuals, groups, and nations, and the television fills our minds with images of hatred, violence, and destruction. And we say to one another: ‘Did you hear that, did you see that … isn’t it terrible … who can believe it?’ Indeed it seems that the powers of darkness want to continue to surprise us with human sorrow.” [p.29-30]

 

“It seems that the powers of darkness want to continue to surprise us with human sorrow.”

 

Nouwen, it would seem, is on to something when it comes to our culture’s relationship to sorrow. The news is filled with constant reminders of sorrow in this world. Tragedies, pain, violence. It runs 24-hours a day on cable news. It fills our social media feeds. We often begin our days by picking up our phones bringing up the news, and scrolling through a seemingly endless stream of tragedies and discouragements. We are offered unending streams of information on the sorrow of this world. And each source aims to surprise us. Each source aims to shock us. Each source seems to want to say “You thought it was bad … but it’s actually much worse than you think … allow me to explain…”

 

“It seems that the powers of darkness want to continue to surprise us with human sorrow.”

 

On a cultural level we see how it floods the media.

 

But, of course, you don’t need to turn to the media, you don’t have to pull up the internet, in order to see it. Sorrow will eventually force its way into some aspect of your life, if it hasn’t already. Sorrow enters, and we feel hopeless before the brokenness of this world.

 

Like many of you, I can think of examples from my own life. It was this month five years ago – the first week of Advent in 2014 – that my wife and I were getting an unscheduled ultrasound after she had some bleeding in the first trimester. A few days later, we had a miscarriage. It was our third. Sorrow enters, and we can feel hopeless before the brokenness of this world.

 

I have my stories of sorrow. You have yours. Some of your stories I know. Many I don’t. But regardless of that, they are there.

 

Some stories of sorrow, like our miscarriage, are events that suddenly come upon us, and we don’t know why, and we don’t know for what purpose. And we find ourselves both sorrowful and perplexed.

 

Other stories of sorrow are ones where we bring suffering on ourselves.

 

For sorrows in that second category, we know we are responsible for our own suffering. We know that it was our sin that damaged that relationship – whether it be with a friend, a co-worker, a parent, a child, a spouse, or someone else. We know that it was our sin that cut off an opportunity we might have taken advantage of. We know that it was our sin that got us trapped in a cycle of sin that we must now struggle so hard to get out of. We know that it was our sin that hurt us, or hurt those around us, or that led to a loss that we must wrestle with, maybe even for the rest of our lives.

 

We face sorrow that comes upon us. But we also face sorrow that we bring upon ourselves.

 

In either case – whether it came upon you as a mystery or you brought it about in your own life, each of you has your own stories of sorrow and of feeling helpless and hopeless before the brokenness of this world – whether it’s brokenness in our hearts, or minds, or bodies; brokenness in our families; brokenness in our relationships; brokenness in our communities, or finances, or somewhere else. Where do you see that brokenness? What are the stories of brokenness in your life?

And how do you tend to respond to them? Maybe you share it with others. Maybe you cry alone. Maybe you express your sorrow as anger. Maybe you clench down, and deny the sorrow, and deny the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness … but the feelings are still there. We may respond in a range of ways – but we all know sorrow and brokenness somewhere in our lives.

 

So what I want to ask this morning is this: What does Advent have to say in the midst of sorrow? What do the comings of Christ have to do with our suffering? What do they have to say when we feel helpless and hopeless in the midst of brokenness? What do they have to say when it is just so clear that things are not the way they are supposed to be?

 

To answer that question we will turn to the three texts we heard from just a moment ago: Genesis 3, Luke 1, and Isaiah 25.

 

We’ll begin with Luke chapter 1. This topic – these questions – might seem like odd ones to bring to the account we have read in Luke chapter one, but the reason we can bring these questions to this passage is because brokenness, sorrow, and fear already form the context in which this passage takes place. Luke chapter one begins in, really dives into, a part of the world and a period in the life of the People of God, that was familiar with sorrow and brokenness – with feeling helpless and hopeless, and like things are not the way they are supposed to be.

 

The background for this text is the period of history that came before it – what is commonly called the “intertestimental period” – the period between when the Old Testament ends and the New Testament begins. It spans about four hundred years. And while a few good things happened for the Jewish people in that time, on the whole it was a difficult and dark period. Despite their efforts towards independence the Jews remained under the thumb of a hostile power. They were a people who had been given the promise of a kingdom by God, but who instead found themselves the captives of a foreign nation. In both their corporate lives and in each of their individual lives, they were reminded daily that things were NOT the way they were supposed to be.

 

And it’s in that context that Luke begins his Gospel story. Most of you will be familiar with how the story begins. Zechariah the priest is in the Temple. He and his wife are both faithful servants of God. They are both advanced in years. But they have no children. Elizabeth is infertile. Once again, we find people familiar with sorrow – dealing with brokenness they were helpless to change.

 

Then, in the middle of his temple service an angel suddenly appears to Zechariah and tells him that he and Elizabeth will have a child. Zechariah is a bit incredulous. So the angel makes him mute until the baby is born, as a sign to him. (A good reminder that Gabriel is not an angel you want to mess with.) So Zechariah is struck mute. He finishes his service. He goes home to his wife. And sure enough his wife Elizabeth conceives a child.

 

Having told us that, Luke then fast-forwards five months and draws our attention to a young woman named Mary, a relative of Elizabeth. The same angel appears to her as well. He says to her “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary is understandably confused about this announced pregnancy, because she is a virgin. The angel explains that the baby will be conceived miraculously, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and will be the Son of God. He also tells her about what has happened to Elizabeth. And Mary believes.

 

And all of that serves as the background to the text we read just a moment ago in Luke 1:39-45.

 

There is a lot going on in that interaction between Elizabeth and Mary, but I want to focus on one thing that is most relevant in the context of their challenges and their sorrows: Both Mary and Elizabeth believed that they served a God who shows up. And that changes everything for them. That brought comfort and joy in the midst of challenges and sorrows.

 

Both Mary and Elizabeth believed that they served a God who shows up, and that brings comfort in the midst of sorrow.

 

Mary and Elizabeth both found themselves in difficult circumstances. Both lived among a conquered people at a time where tension and conflict were high. Both were part of the people of God, but God had not seemed to speak to them for over 400 years. More than that, look at Mary’s situation. She is engaged, and she is pregnant, and it’s not from the man she’s engaged to. Her whole plan for her future would seem to be up in the air right now. What will Joseph do when he finds out? We know from Matthew’s account that he will at first move to end their engagement. In their time and culture that would not only leave Mary vulnerable and likely never to marry, but it will put her in danger of facing harsh penalties for adultery. Mary has good reason for concern, for worry, for anxiety. She had reason to be distressed over these aspects of her situation. And maybe she felt those things. But if she did, then that’s not all that she felt. She also felt joy. And she felt joy because she believed that she served a God who shows up.

 

There was a lot Mary did not know about the difficulties and challenges ahead. But in the midst of it all, she did know that she served a God who comes to his people. And that brought comfort in the midst of uncertainty. As Elizabeth put it, Mary “believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (1:45) She believed that Yahweh, the God of Israel, was not just a God you could read about in a book, but that he was a God who still comes to his people. And that changes everything. That brings comfort and reassurance in the midst of distress and uncertainty.

 

Mary and Elizabeth both faced difficulties, challenges, and sorrows, that they did not have a hand in creating. Neither of them was part of the sin that led to Israel being a conquered people. Elizabeth, we are told in Luke 1:6, was “righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.” Mary, we are told in Luke 1:30, has found favor with God.

 

Yet despite their faithfulness, despite their righteousness, brokenness is all around them. Their response, though, is not to deny that brokenness, nor is it to wallow in that brokenness. Instead they see the difficulties for what they are, and lay hold of the fact that they serve a God who comes to his people – which brings comfort in the midst of the challenges of this life.

 

The first thing we see is that we serve a God who shows up, and that that fact brings comfort in the midst of sorrow.

 

As we reflect on the stories of Mary and Elizabeth, we see how that is true for the sorrows that come upon us in this world. But what about the sorrows that we bring upon ourselves? Does the fact that we serve a God who shows up have anything to say to that?

 

To answer that question, we turn to Genesis chapter three.

 

In Genesis 3 we see the sin of Adam and Eve, our first parents, and its aftermath.

 

Adam and Eve rebel against God. They choose to believe the word of Satan over the Word of God. They choose to grasp at a twisted view of god-hood rather than live godly lives as God himself has instructed them. They sin by their own free will, and in the process, they bring sin and death and suffering onto themselves.

 

And then, once they have done that, God arrives.

 

Now … God shows up and confronts them for their sin. He pronounces judgment. He calls them to repent. That is all true, and we will focus on that aspect of God’s coming to Adam and Eve next week when we consider the advents of Christ and the call of God.

 

But this week I want to point out that even in the midst of judgment, even in the midst of consequences, even there, when God comes to Adam and Eve, he brings comfort and hope to them.

 

And this comes both on a cosmic level, and on a day-to-day level.

 

The first thing that comes out is that God brings Adam and Eve comfort on a cosmic level.

 

We see this in Genesis 3:15. There, before Adam and Eve, God says to the serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

 

Adam and Eve have subjected themselves to the devil by obeying his word. Satan has tempted them, and he has triumphed. And now their defeat and their captivity to the devil seems unavoidable. They have given themselves to him, and in some sense, they rightfully belong with him for eternity.

 

But God speaks comfort into their despair. God comes and gives the first proclamation about Christ who will come – about Christ, the seed of the woman – about Christ the one who will crush the head of the serpent to set God’s people free. In the midst of their sin, God speaks the gospel – the word of comfort. They will be set free. He will redeem his people. They will be spared from the eternal consequences of their sin. And in verse twenty, by naming his wife Eve – “the mother of all living”, Adam indicates that he believes this promise, and he receives that comfort. [Collins, 174]

 

God first brings comfort on a cosmic level. But God does not stop there.

 

When Adam confesses faith in God’s promise in verse twenty, God then responds by making Adam and Eve garments of animal skin, and with that, he clothes them.

 

You see, Adam and Eve faced not only eternal sorrow for their sin, which God addressed with the comfort of the gospel … but they also faced temporal sorrows. Adam and Eve would have to leave the garden.

 

In one sense their expulsion from the garden was an act of judgment. But in another sense, it was also an act of mercy. Dr. Jack Collins points out that God “cannot stand the thought of [Adam and Eve] being confirmed in their rebellious state,” and so, he must send them out of the garden. [Collins, 175]

 

We might say then that God, out of love, puts a limit on the sorrows Adam and Eve will face for their sins. He limits their lifespan, cutting them off from the tree of life, so that the time in which they experience the sorrow from their sin will be limited.

 

But as he sends them from the garden, he knows they will face other hardships – other difficulties and sorrows and pains that have resulted from their sin.

 

And his response, is to clothe them “with something more durable, more suited to the hard lives they will face outside the garden” than the feeble fig-leaf loincloths they have made themselves. [Collins, 175]

 

He provides for their needs. He cares for them. He provides comfort and provision in the midst of their suffering and sorrow – even the suffering and sorrow that they brought upon themselves.

 

When Mary and Elizabeth faced challenges and sorrows they had no hand in causing, in Luke chapter one, they were comforted by the fact that they serve a God who shows up – who brings comfort in the midst of sorrow and distress.

 

And in a similar way, long before he came to Mary and Elizabeth, in Genesis chapter three, when Adam and Eve faced sorrow and suffering, even sorrow and suffering which they brought upon themselves, it was true then as well, that they served a God who comes to his people, and who brings comfort in the midst of sorrow – and that changed everything.

 

The question … the challenge … is to ask yourself if you really believe those truths. And do you believe them enough that it brings the comfort of God into your life?

 

Of course even as we say this, we must keep in mind that none of this is a question of denying the brokenness or the consequences we face in our lives. In every case, the brokenness is still there in one form or another: Israel is still an occupied nation. Elizabeth’s husband is still mute. Mary has a very hard road ahead of her. Adam and Eve are still sent outside of the garden. My wife’s and my tiny unborn child is still in the ground. Brokenness still exists in your life. No one is denying, or papering over any of that. That’s not the question.

 

The question is whether we also believe that we serve a God who shows up in the midst of our sorrow and brings comfort.

 

Consider our text from Genesis chapter three again.

 

When Adam and Eve sin and stand guilty – stand guilty enough to deserve to be under the power of Satan, then God comes to them and proclaims the promise of the Gospel – he will send a Savior who will rescue them from their sorrow and from the power of the devil. They will be forgiven. He will release them from their guilt. And when God proclaims that to them, they believe, and are comforted.

 

Do you believe? Are you comforted?

 

Every Lord’s Day in the declaration of pardon, God does the same thing for you that he did for Adam and Eve. Every Lord’s Day God comes to you his people. He speaks his word, by his Spirit, through his servant the minister – and he declares that by grace, through Christ, all who trust him will be released from their guilt.

 

He comes to his people and he offers you comfort to relieve your sorrow.

 

Do you believe that? Do you experience that?

 

And not only that – God also comes to you offering help and assistance as you face the temporal consequences of your sin. He comes to you and offers to equip you. He holds out sturdy garments to comfort you from the cold and protect you from the hard challenges ahead. Because of his great love for you, he wants to clothe you, and equip you, and comfort you. Do you let him? Do you look for his comfort and aid? Or do you assume you must face the consequences of your actions alone? Do you assume you must step into the sorrow and struggle in the pathetic and flimsy fig-leaf loincloth you have made for yourself?

 

When you, through your own fault, bring suffering and sorrow into your life, God shows up, and he offers you forgiveness, and he offers you redemption, and he offers you his comfort and aid even as you face the temporal consequences of your sin. Do you receive that from him … or do you face the sorrows brought on by your sins as if you have to face them alone?

 

Your calling, like Adam and Eve’s, is to believe, again and again, the promise of the gospel, and then to reach out to Christ that he might comfort you from the elements around you, and clothe you for the challenges ahead.

 

That is what we learn about the comfort of God when he comes to his people in Genesis chapter three.

 

But of course, along with that we must consider Luke chapter one again.

 

Mary and Elizabeth faced a set of hardships and challenges – none of which they had brought upon themselves. But when Mary and Elizabeth were together, God was literally, physically, right there with them. Jesus was in Mary’s womb. Think about that for a moment. Their Lord was present in their midst. They couldn’t see him, but they knew he was there. Through the support of each other and the help of the Holy Spirit they believed that the Lord was truly in their midst. They knew it by faith, not by sight. And their entire interaction revolved around that reality.

 

And with all that in mind, there’s a sense in which Mary in this text gives us a picture of both the Church and the individual Christian here. By the power of the Holy Spirit, she has Christ living inside of her, because she believed the Word of the Lord. Is that not how we would also describe a Christian? Is that not how we would also describe the Church? We are told by the Apostle Paul that Christ lives in those of us who believe – he writes “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”. Jesus assured his Church that when they are together in faith, he is in their midst – “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them”. Christ did not stop living among believers when he ascended into heaven, but he tells us he still does it today. He promised us when he said to the Apostles “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

 

He tells us … much like the angel told Mary … but do we really believe him? Do we act like we believe him? Do we really believe he’s here right now?

 

How does Mary respond when she is told that the Christ, the Son of God, lives inside her? She re-writes her life plans, it would seem. She changes the way she looks at everything. She runs out the door and to someone who she knew would believe her about it, so that they could rejoice together.

 

Now – we need to notice that at this point, none of her problems were gone … in fact new challenges had come into her life! But she believed the word of the Lord, she believed that she served a God who shows up, she believed he had shown up in her own life, and that changed everything – that provided joy and assurance in the midst of fear and uncertainty. In the midst of her troubles, she trusted the God who comes to his people. And she did it by faith, not sight.

 

And that brought comfort. That brought joy in the midst of troubles.

 

Is that how you respond? Is that how we respond? Is that how we think of our lives and the world in the midst of the brokenness and the challenges that we face?

 

Do you believe that Jesus is just as truly with you? Do you believe that he shows up in your life? Do you believe that he is in you and in your midst, just as truly as he was in Mary and in the midst of Mary and Elizabeth? Where do you need to believe that more in your life? How would it change you, or change your perspective, if you really did believe this – not just with your mind but with your guts?

 

Faith Presbyterian Church, do you believe that as a congregation, you bear Christ, just as Mary did? That he is in you and with you?

 

I have talked a lot about Mary this morning. But I hope it is clear that it’s not really about Mary. It’s about the one who dwelt in her womb. Just as it is not really about you or me, as Christians, but the one who dwells in our hearts. And just as it is not really about Faith Presbyterian Church, but the one who dwells in our midst.

 

We serve a God who has come, in the manger, to set his people free. We serve a God who comes, even here and even now, bringing comfort to his people. But there is also the third coming of our Lord: We serve a God who will come again.

 

Our faith also looks to the final coming of Christ, when he will make all things new – when he will, as Isaiah 25 says, make for all his people “a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine” … when “He will swallow up death forever; and […] wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth.” And in that day, God’s people will declare: “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is Yahweh; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

 

Christ is coming, and he tells us that when he comes, he will make everything new. He tells us he will wipe away every tear from his people’s eye. He tells us he will raise up his people and heal the nations. He tells us, in the words of J.R.R. Tolkien, that everything sad will come untrue.

 

Children lost in the womb will be raised up and reunited with their parents to not only meet them face-to-face for the first time, but to spend eternity together. The wife who has lost her husband, the child who has lost her parent, the friend who has lost his loved one, all those in Christ will be reunited. Relationships broken will be healed. Sickness and suffering will be cast away. The one who preyed on the weak will be cast down from his position of power. The one who humbly trusted in the God who shows up will be raised up.

 

In the very next passage of Luke, Mary puts it like this:

“[The Lord] has brought down the mighty from their thrones

and exalted those of humble estate;

he has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel,

in remembrance of his mercy,

as he spoke to our fathers,

to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

 

Is that the future you look to? Is that the end, the goal, the final scene that orients your life? Or do you … like me … tend to orient your life to goals that are far more superficial than that? Far more petty? Far more worldly and mediocre?

 

What if we lived our lives hoping not just for some worldly consolation for our struggles, but hoping in the promise of our King’s final coming? What if we lived our lives believing what the Apostle Paul says in Romans, that the sorrows we and all of creation experience right now are really birth pains, leading up to the coming of the One who will bring new life? What if we lived as if the final coming of Christ was not just something we read about in a book, but something we really believed would happen one day to us and to this world?

 

What kind of comfort would that give us in the midst of our sorrows in this life?

 

We live broken lives in a broken world. We are each, in some way, acquainted with sorrow. That is real. That is significant. Some sorrow comes at us from forces outside of ourselves. Some sorrow we bring upon ourselves.

 

But wherever our sorrow may come from, the fact remains that we serve a God who shows up. And that is the true source of all comfort.

 

We serve a God who has shown up, most especially in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We serve a God who shows up even now, in the life of his Church and in the lives of his people. And we serve a God who will show up on the Last Day to make all things new.

 

Mary and Elizabeth believed that. And while it did not erase their problems, it did change them. It brought to them the comfort of God.

 

Let us believe it too. And let us join the words of the heavenly hosts, in the throne room of God, saying: “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”

 

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This sermon draws on material from:

Bernard of Clairvaux. Bernard of Clairvaux: Sermons for Advent and the Christmas Season. Translated by Irene Edmonds, Wendy Mary Beckett, and Conrad Greenia OCSO. Edited by John Leinenweber. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 2007.

Collins, C. John. Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary and Theological Commentary. Phillupsberg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2006.

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