In this second Sunday in advent Pastor Brad began the sermon reminding us that the word advent means “arriving” or “appearing.” Advent is a time when the people of God were awaiting the appearing of God.
God came in a manner we did not expect, as a child in utmost obscurity. He came into our smallness, and has met us in the whole range of our human experience.
Isaiah 53 presents a picture of the coming Messiah nearly 700 years beforehand, yet they did not recognize him when he came. In verse three the prophet proclaims, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
Jesus came as a suffering servant, not a conquering king. In a profound way Isaiah combines the cradle and the cross, the beginning and the end of our Lord’s ministry.
Jesus, God in Christ, had intimate first-hand knowledge of our pain and suffering. We see this displayed in John 11 in the story of Lazarus. In verse 4 Jesus is told that his friend is sick. Jesus replies that this will not end as you expect. It is for God’s glory. Jesus then stayed an extra two days instead of returning immediately.
Consequently, Lazarus did indeed die. Upon hearing this Jesus set about to return. For Thomas this decision meant something more, for he declared, “Let us go that we may die with him.”
Following Jesus does not mean a life that rises to continuous blessing, going up and up and up. In point of fact, if we follow Christ it leads to great sorrow and pain.
In verse 33 we see how deeply moved Jesus was by the sorrow of those around him. He was familiar with sorrow. Jesus experiences the very grief that he is observing.
Sometimes life events can appear so random. Yet Jesus enters our sorrow that he might pull us out.
In Philippians 3:10-11 Paul writes:
10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
What we see in Scripture is that Christ comes to us in our sorrow, and walks alongside us to bring us to the hope of the resurrection.
There has been a lot of criticism of some Christians who are so “heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.” In truth, people who are heavenly minded are the ones who are making us earthly good.
We live with anticipation. We are anticipators. Though this life has good moments, it is not enough. Paul states that the aim of his life is to attain something more.
My exhortation to you today, Pastor Brad declared, is to become that kind of attainer.