Friends, nothing reveals and proves true friendship, true fidelity to someone, like a willingness to suffer with or for him. I will often say that I’m truly thankful for the ever growing hostility our culture manifests toward Christianity. “How so?” you may ask. Well, I’m thankful because it ultimately clarifies our actual situation. It more fully reveals who’s really a follower of Jesus Christ.
When it is easy—or even beneficial!—to call yourself by the name of Christ then many people will pour into local churches and jump into membership classes, but when it costs them something—comfort, pleasure, reputation, career success—then play-believers stop coming, and the true Church become ever more visible.
So rejoice when you’re counted worthy to share in the sufferings of Christ since it reveals something of the authenticity of your faith.
Sadly, we far too often take the bait. We far too often go about buying gifts as if they’re the key ingredient to a merry Christmas. So we consume and consume without being satisfied. You see, it’s not simply the music that’s like chum to us but the wrapping paper and packages too. All of it sends us into a feeding frenzy while only making us hungrier and hungrier. But chum doesn’t satisfy!
Friends, as I hope we’ll learn in our first Advent passage, this is not new. People have always turned to the things in this world in order to find satisfaction—in order to satisfy their deepest hungers. So, even 700 years before Jesus’s birth, God through Isaiah calls people away from all that cannot satisfy to the only one, in all of history, who can. Let’s read about this gospel of Christmas past together. You can find the passage on page 675 of the brown Bibles in your row.
The king rejoices in your strength, Yahweh! How greatly he rejoices in your salvation! You have given him his heart’s desire, and have not withheld the request of his lips. For you meet him with the blessings of goodness. You set a crown of fine gold on his head. He asked life of you, you gave it to him, even length of days forever and ever. His glory is great in your salvation. You lay honor and majesty on him. For you make him most blessed forever. You make him glad with joy in your presence. For the king trusts in Yahweh. Through the loving kindness of the Most High, he shall not be moved. Your hand will find out all of your enemies. Your right hand will find out those who hate you. You will make them as a fiery furnace in the time of your anger. Yahweh will swallow them up in his wrath. The fire shall devour them. You will destroy their descendants from the earth, their posterity from among the children of men. For they intended evil against you. They plotted evil against you which cannot succeed. For you will make them turn their back, when you aim drawn bows at their face. Be exalted, Yahweh, in your strength, so we will sing and praise your power.
I will sing of the loving kindness of Yahweh forever. With my mouth, I will make known your faithfulness to all generations. I indeed declare, «Love stands firm forever. You established the heavens. Your faithfulness is in them.» «I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David, my servant, ‘I will establish your seed forever, and build up your throne to all generations.’» The heavens will praise your wonders, Yahweh; your faithfulness also in the assembly of the holy ones. For who in the skies can be compared to Yahweh? Who among the sons of the heavenly beings is like Yahweh, a very awesome God in the council of the holy ones, to be feared above all those who are around him? Yahweh, God of Armies, who is a mighty one, like you? Yah, your faithfulness is around you. You rule the pride of the sea. When its waves rise up, you calm them. You have broken Rahab in pieces, like one of the slain. You have scattered your enemies with your mighty arm. The heavens are yours. The earth also is yours; the world and its fullness. You have founded them. The north and the south, you have created them. Tabor and Hermon rejoice in your name. You have a mighty arm. Your hand is strong, and your right hand is exalted. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne. Loving kindness and truth go before your face. Blessed are the people who learn to acclaim you. They walk in the light of your presence, Yahweh. In your name they rejoice all day. In your righteousness, they are exalted. For you are the glory of their strength. In your favor, our horn will be exalted. For our shield belongs to Yahweh; our king to the Holy One of Israel. Then you spoke in vision to your saints, and said, «I have bestowed strength on the warrior. I have exalted a young man from the people. I have found David, my servant. I have anointed him with my holy oil, with whom my hand shall be established. My arm will also strengthen him. No enemy will tax him. No wicked man will oppress him. I will beat down his adversaries before him, and strike those who hate him. But my faithfulness and my loving kindness will be with him. In my name, his horn will be exalted. I will set his hand also on the sea, and his right hand on the rivers. He will call to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, and the rock of my salvation!’ I will also appoint him my firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth. I will keep my loving kindness for him forevermore. My covenant will stand firm with him. I will also make his seed endure forever, and his throne as the days of heaven. If his children forsake my law, and don’t walk in my ordinances; if they break my statutes, and don’t keep my commandments; then I will punish their sin with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. But I will not completely take my loving kindness from him, nor allow my faithfulness to fail. I will not break my covenant, nor alter what my lips have uttered. Once have I sworn by my holiness, I will not lie to David. His seed will endure forever, his throne like the sun before me. It will be established forever like the moon, the faithful witness in the sky.» But you have rejected and spurned. You have been angry with your anointed. You have renounced the covenant of your servant. You have defiled his crown in the dust. You have broken down all his hedges. You have brought his strongholds to ruin. All who pass by the way rob him. He has become a reproach to his neighbors. You have exalted the right hand of his adversaries. You have made all of his enemies rejoice. Yes, you turn back the edge of his sword, and haven’t supported him in battle. You have ended his splendor, and thrown his throne down to the ground. You have shortened the days of his youth. You have covered him with shame. How long, Yahweh? Will you hide yourself forever? Will your wrath burn like fire? Remember how short my time is! For what vanity have you created all the children of men! What man is he who shall live and not see death, who shall deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? LORD, where are your former loving kindnesses, which you swore to David in your faithfulness? Remember, LORD, the reproach of your servants, how I bear in my heart the taunts of all the mighty peoples, With which your enemies have mocked, Yahweh, with which they have mocked the footsteps of your anointed one. Blessed be Yahweh forevermore. Amen, and Amen.