The First Sunday in Advent, December 1, 2019

Old Testament Isiah 2:1-5

Coming In to Go Out

Our text for this First Sunday of Advent is from our Old Testament reading in Isaiah, the first five verses of chapter two, again as follows:

The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

It shall come to pass in the latter days
    that the mountain of the house of the Lord
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
    and shall be lifted up above the hills;
and all the nations shall flow to it,
    and many peoples shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
    and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,[a]
    and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
    and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
    and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
    neither shall they learn war anymore.

O house of Jacob,
    come, let us walk
    in the light of the Lord.

Isaiah speaks of a great multitude going up to “the mountain of the house of the Lord.”2 He says “all the nations shall flow to it.”3 Well perhaps the streams of people we are more likely to see in our age – especially at this time of year – are the crowds lined up outside big box retailers on Black Friday to make their offerings at the altar of materialism. But Isaiah does not point us to the sale of the century. He points us to Christ. Always. So we launch into Advent with the first of these readings from the prophet and today and for the next three weeks our focus will be on the prophecies of Isaiah and how they speak to us about the coming of the Messiah, Christ our Lord. For He comes, and the day of His coming shall be a day of great celebration. God’s people knew this back in the days of Isaiah when they looked for relief from the ravages of war and darkness. And now in these “latter days” the Lord has visited His people, He has forgiven their sins, “he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.”4 The whole world bursts forth in joy. The whole world streams to Zion, where the Lord is, and they cry out “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”5

According to Isaiah the Lord’s house will be established as the central place to where all people will come. Why? What is there that brings people literally flowing into his house?  What is the attraction? Well it’s better than any Black Friday sale. It’s the Gospel.  It’s the message of light that comes to a world in the darkness of sin. It’s the promise that our Heavenly Father has heard the cries of his people and has relented in his judgments, and now he sends his only begotten Son to take away our iniquities. The prophet Isaiah speaks of this time, when the Gospel light comes into the world, when the kingdom of Christ is established. For this really did have a beginning, a time and a place, and it exists even now in His Holy Church.  The nations flow to it, for this is not a kingdom established by war or force of arms.  No one is compelled against their will. But people come like a stream of water to this Gospel wherever and whenever it is proclaimed in the Word and Sacrament of our Lord Jesus Christ.

When we hear of the coming in of Jesus to Jerusalem on a colt from St. Matthew’s Gospel  we know that this is just the start of a series of events that will take Him to the cross on Good Friday. The events of that day and the miracle of the Resurrection the following Sunday are now what goes back out, for now the new age of salvation has come to the world on the cross. Jesus comes in in order that His Word may go out.  So when Isaiah says, “For out of Zion shall go forth the law, [the Torah or the teaching] and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem”6 we know when and where this actually happened.  After His Resurrection, Jesus taught the disciples that the entirety of the Holy Scriptures are about Him: “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”7 Jerusalem, the City of David, is where is all starts. Then the Apostles went forth from Jerusalem after Pentecost and through the power of the Word made flesh they witnessed to the world.  That Word preached and the Sacraments which were administered drew people to the new church. And these are the means that will continue to draw all people. By this Word and this Word alone the Church is recognized, and where the Church is there Christ has promised to be with us. The light shines in the darkness.  Here in this time of Advent, by once again remembering His coming in and the going out of His Word through His church, we look ahead to end of the age when Christ will come again to judge both the living and dead. 

That’s why you are here today. You have been drawn to the Light, to the “the word of the Lord from Jerusalem”8that Christ brings. This is something that happens for your sake, and it’s something that He wants for all people, for all nations for all time. Jesus comes into Jerusalem in order that His Gospel may go out again. That Word is the means by which He draws us to Himself, and Isaiah gives us this image of His holy mountain, the place where He resides. Where He is, we want to be also. The church father St. Augustine says, “Approach the mountain, climb up the mountain, and you that climb it, do not go down it. There you will be safe, there you will be protected; Christ is your mountain of refuge. And where is Christ? At the right hand of the Father, since he has ascended into heaven.9 Christ died for us all. He has not forgotten us. He knows precisely how bad it can be. He alone knows all our broken promises and resolutions, all our failed attempt to do better. He alone knows how much is lacking even when we try to do our best. But He comes to you this day in His Word, and in His very Body and Blood, He commits Himself to us as our Saviour. No accusation and condemnation of the evil one will stand against you, “because the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains.”10 Jesus is our rock, our mountain which cannot be moved, our King above all other Kings. 

So the church begins another year, and this wonderful season of Advent makes us look once again at all things. Jesus knows what He will do and only He can do it. There are many competing voices for your attention, many other “high places” that look appealing and seem to promise all kinds of benefits in this life. But only our Lord Jesus Christ offers you what you need: the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. You can’t find this anywhere else. And forgive you He does, and He will again and again, everyday forgiven anew in the promise of your Baptism, every day a life lived in repentance and belief. Forgiven, restored, raised again to the new life of light, walking on the path of righteousness.  Forgiven though we can hardly believe it and though we don’t deserve it. It is really true that God visits his people, and so now it is that Christ comes to us. Blessed is He who comes.

Isaiah ends this brief look at the city of Zion, the place where God is, with a call for transformation, which is also part of our Advent journey of preparation for the coming of our King. The prophet writes, “O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.”11 This is a call to reorient ourselves, to make sure that the path we are on is the one that goes out from Zion, the path that we have in His very Word. The call for transformation, for repentance, is based on knowing what God has done, knowing what he is doing right now, and what he will do in the future. The Light of the World comes, He brings us out of darkness, He teaches us His Word that “we may walk in His paths.” In John’s Gospel Jesus says, “Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”12 Here in this first week of December the days are getting shorter and shorter, the darkness of the evening comes upon us earlier and earlier this time of year. But the light of Advent shines brightest in darkness. So let us move into this season as those who do not walk in the darkness, but “let us walk in the light of the Lord.”13

1 Is 2:1–5.

2 Is 2:2.

3 Is 2:2.

4 Lk 1:53.

5 Mt 21:9.

6 Is 2:3.

7 Lk 24:46–48.

8 Is 2:3.

9 Steven A. McKinion, ed., Isaiah 1-39, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 24.

10 Is 2:2.

11 Is 2:5.

12 Jn 12:35–36.

13 Is 2:5.

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