Today is the beginning of the Christian season of Advent when followers of Jesus consider what it means to live with faith in a faithful God. Beginning on the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas, the season of Advent concludes on Christmas Day with a choir of angels singing in the dark of night about the birth of Jesus. On Christmas Day, they sing “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward all,” but today is not Christmas Day. Today is the first day of Advent. Today, rather than hearing angels sing, we hear a prophet lamenting on behalf of the exiles who have returned to Jerusalem after spending 70 years in exile in Babylon. Today, we hear the lament of Isaiah as Jerusalem sits in rubble and the Temple has been destroyed:
“Our holy and beautiful house, where our ancestors praised you, have been burned by fire, and all our peasant places have become ruins. After all this, will you restrain yourself, O Lord? Will you keep silent, and punish us so severely? – Isaiah 64:11-12
On the first Sunday of Advent, we hear the lament of Isaiah as he pleads for God’s vengeance:
“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence – as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil – to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence.” – Isaiah 64:1-2
Today we hear the lament of Isaiah as he proclaims faith in God despite the stark despair being experienced by the Babylonian exiles.
From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you who works for those who wait for him.” – Isaiah 64:4
Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” – Isaiah 64:8
On the first Sunday of Advent, we confess with Isaiah that we need the potter to shape our future as we lament with Isaiah in the darkened realities of our world.
Rev. Stephen H. Wilkins shares these thoughts about the potter.
“It is not the potter’s nature to destroy what the potter has created; instead, the potter takes the clay, as long as it is pliable, and works it into something of beauty, in which the potter will take great pride. … that’s the way God deals with us: as long as we are willing, God will mold us and remake us and transform us into a work of beauty, something that will bring glory to our Creator. Our hope is not in ourselves, but in the One who has created us and given us life in the first place. I want you to know that, by starting the Christian year from a point of despair, by underscoring the sense of urgency, by pointing out our need for repentance, I’m not trying to put a damper on the season. I simply want to invite you to pause and consider what the Church is reminded during Advent: that the world is messed up and in need of a Savior, and we can’t un-mess things by ourselves; and that God loves this world (including you and me) so much that He is not willing to settle for a messed-up world. And so God comes to us in the person of the Christ child born in a lowly stable. Don’t jump ahead to Christmas until you’ve first considered the reason we need Christmas in the first place. That God would come down to us and dwell among us means nothing if you haven’t first considered why it was even necessary that God come at all.“
In the darkened realities of our world, followers of Jesus live with faith in a faithful God as we lament with Isaiah and believe that God is our potter and that we are the clay. With Paul, we affirm our faith in a Savior who strengthens us to the end so we may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
On this first Sunday of Advent, followers of Jesus remember that Advent is not the story of Jesus being born in a manger. Advent is the story of a lamenting world waiting for Jesus. Advent is the story of faith in a faithful God.
How are you telling that story?
Faith in a Faithful God
by Pastor Marc Brown
December 3, 2023
Accompanying Scriptures: Isaiah 64:1-12, 1 Corinthians 1:4-9
Fort Hill United Methodist Church
Order of Worship for December 3, 2023
Scripture Lesson Isaiah 64:1-12, 1 Corinthians 1:4-9
The Good News “Faith in a Faithful God”
Music “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” Hymn #626
Closing Music “In the Bleak Midwinter” arr. Mark Hayes