Isaiah 63:16-17 "Thou, O LORD, art our Father, our Redeemer from of old is thy name. O LORD, why dost thou make us err from thy ways and harden our heart, so that we fear thee not? Return for the sake of thy servants, the tribes of thy heritage."
Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent is a time of preparation and hope. Preparation for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, preparation by contrition and repentance of sin. Hope as we hear again the gracious promises of God, who has promised to send a Savior to free us from all bondage; or as we often speak: to free us from slavery to sin, death, and the devil. To hear about the promised Redeemer who will bring to us pardon and peace through the forgiveness of all our sins.
We begin Advent with the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. And as we consider its meaning for us today, we find that people really havenít changed in all the time which has passed. For just as the people long ago looked for the promised Messiah, and longed for deliverance; so we also today are looking for something to believe in, and to understand the purpose of life. Just as long ago, people were unprepared for what God would do to bring salvation, so we today are also unprepared. We didnít know it would come so soon, the time has escaped us. How did it get to be December already? And we feel overwhelmed, so much to do, and so little time to get it done.
And so today in the Spirit of Advent I would like to speak of several kinds of preparations, several ways in which we try to get ready.
The first way of getting ready is one that might be called "here we go round the mulberry bush". Its a childrenís song and a childrenís game. You go round and round in circles, faster and faster, and then you canít go any faster, and you fall down. Sometimes its hard to see that this is what we are doing, after all, you are very busy, you are going very fast, and you have yet to fall down. Its easy to live life "around the mulberry bush". It is active, it is busy, and it seems like it is productive. And if there was one question that could put us on track again, it would be, Where are we headed? Anytime you loose sight of where you are headed it is easy to go in circles. And we know that in this kind of weather, being in a hurry is a sure way to spinning your wheels (ice will do that too). And we know that spinning your wheels does not get you to your destination quickly. There is a wonderful which happens when we remember where we are going -- we start going in that direction, and we stop going "around the mulberry bush".
The second way of getting ready in one that might be called "the road to Emmaus". Luke tells us of 2 disciples on the road to Emmaus, discussing the events of the day, and who Jesus came and walked with them, and as he walked with them, he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and they recognized him in the breaking of the bread. And then with hearts filled with joy they returned to Jerusalem. What can we learn, well, it appears that you can be going, and to have a destination, and can even arrive where you are going, but not to be where you ought to be. Where did the disciples need to be? Jerusalem! Not Emmaus! Are we on the road to Jerusalem, or does someone need to come and speak with us, and bring us back into the fellowship of believers, so that we may journey to Jerusalem together, so that we might welcome the King of Glory when he comes.
You see that is the problem. We have wandered from the way of God. 2 things are needed. Word so we can see how our life is headed. (Are he running in circles, or just in the wrong direction?)(This is the word of the Law) The second thing we need is also the Word, but this time not law, but Gospel. Gospel which tells us of grace , hope, and light so that we can turn from our ways, and return to Godís way.
You see, we do not travel the pilgrim road to Jerusalem alone. Others travel with us. Others remind us daily where we are going, and why. Others remind us daily of the grace, hope and promise which awaits. Others remind us daily of the salvation prepared for us, and the redeemer who has come, and is coming. And we also remind others, for this is the nature of traveling pilgrims, this in the nature of the church as we journey to Jerusalem, and to the new Jerusalem, the everlasting mansion prepared for us by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. It is with the fellowship of all believers that we travel, and it is in the church that we can find ourselves ready for the return of our Lord and Savior. So we begin Advent, with our goal in sight, confident that the grace of God is sufficient to speed us to our destination.