“Come Down Home” Advent 1 (Coming Home Series)

“Come Down Home” Advent 1 (Coming Home Series)

Isaiah 64:1-11

Have you ever seen a child throw a fit, so massive,
that you would swear she was possessed by a demon?

Both of my girls have had occasion to do that
and it has always, at least with me, happened at bedtime.
There is noting so surreal
as trying to put your child to sleep
and thinking that before you read Wynken, Blynken, and Nod
you need to perform an exorcism. Pastor’s kids… am I right!?!

A while back we tried to switch up the bedtime routine
so that I could put Braeleigh to sleep at night.
It worked alright for a night or two
and then it became a hassle of epic proportions.

It began with me telling Braeleigh it was time to get ready for bed,
she would respond by asking me if grandma could put her to bed,
and when I said no I am going to put you to bed,
the screaming and crying
and head spinning around 360 degrees like an owl would begin.
We tried to push through it
because once we got upstairs
and get her settled down it was usually a nice experience.

But every night, without fail, she wanted grandma.
It was traumatic for her to not have the comfort of grandma
before bed
and it was really undermining my confidence as a parent.
Why doesn’t she like me?
I am, by far, the most lenient and accommodating parent
when it comes to bed time shenanigans.
It left me feeling pretty worthless in her eyes until recently.

We had stopped putting her through the trauma
of suggesting that I tuck her into bed
but I am the one who lets them know
its time to go get their pajamas on.

Shortly before our trip to the Holy Lands
I sent the girls up to get ready for bed
and Braeleigh came back down pretty quickly.

She was obviously scared.
She told me that she heard a noise,
like monsters giggling under her bed.
She asked me if I could come get rid of the monsters.

Finally, she has a use for me!

I sprung into action.
I took her into the kitchen
to get our gear for fighting giggle monsters.

It amounted to a colander on her head, a stock pot on mine, and a big heavy rolling pin.

And then we charged up stairs.
We stacked up at the door to the room, Scooby Doo style,
and listened for a minute.
And then I dove on the floor next to her bed,
head first with rolling pin extended,
and proceeded to beat those giggle monsters into giggle jelly.

As Braeleigh and I sat back,
victorious and satisfied that those giggle monsters
wouldn’t be bothering her anymore.
And then Michaela told us she heard some under her bed,
and so Braeleigh and I , the giggle monster hunters,
dove back into action.

Braeleigh may not want me to be the one to tuck her in at night
but when it comes to monster hunting
I am number one on her speed dial. And that feels pretty good.

The story of the people of God is pretty similar.
Things are ok for a while in the garden,
but then we wanted our own way,
and God tried a lot of different ways to get our attention
and help us to recognize God’s love
but we largely ignored God, until the monsters came.
And then we wanted God to show up REAL quick.

We find the prophet Isaiah
and the people of Israel in pretty much the same situation.
The people had been ignoring the God of their ancestors,
they had served and worshiped other gods,
or ignored the divine all together. They sinned.

And as judgment for that sin
they were driven from the land of promise,
the land flowing with milk and honey.
Their temple was destroyed. The city of Jerusalem in ruin.

Isaiah was one of the prophets of Yahweh during this period of exile, when the people of Israel were feeling particularly low.
And all hope seemed lost to them.

The writings of the prophets
can cover a wide range of times and circumstances.
They can be long and drawn out
or they can be relatively short.
There are many different types of prophetic books in the bible
but there are no prophetic books where everything is hunky dory.

When a prophet is on the scene
something in the relationship between God and God’s people
just isn’t working right.

And Isaiah is no different.
Isaiah is the person God called to speak God’s truth
to the nation of Israel during this exile.
His job was to help them to understand
that they were the ones who turned away,
they were the ones who sinned,
and that God is waiting for them to repent and return.

One of the pieces you will often see
in the writings of the prophets are laments.
Sections devoted to the difficult feelings,
the anguish, that the people are experiencing
due to their present circumstance.

These are very passionate expressions
of the grief and sorrow the people are going through
and are meant to help gain God’s attention.
We also see a lot of laments in the Psalms or, of course,
in the book of Lamentations.

Our passage for this morning is part of such a lament.
And in it Isaiah says some interesting things.

In verses 6 and 7 Isaiah describes the present state of the people
and I want to paraphrase this for us
so that we can hear it, perhaps,
with an ear to what is happening in our world today.

We have all become unclean,
and all our good works are no better than dirty laundry,
it may cover us, but we still stink.
We shrivel and crumble like autumn leaves
and our sins, like the wind, take us further away from God.
There is no one who seriously calls on God’s name,
or truly seeks after God;
indeed we have made our beds and now we have to lie in them.

I think we could have a nice long conversation
about the state of our world
and find the truth in these words present all over the place.

We know how messed up things are out there,
and if we are honest,
things can be pretty messed up in here too <3.

Shootings and bombings
and inappropriate sexual behavior by those in and out of power
and those working in the positions of public servant
using that position to line the pockets of the rich
with the sweat, blood, and tears of the middle class and the poor.

We know this. We know all this, all too well.
And if this is where the lament ended
we really have no reason to be hear today.

But folks, there are two pieces of comfort
that we need to take away from this lament.

First, in nearly 3,000 years, people haven’t changed much.
People avoided God and faith and discipline back then
just as they do now.
So in that regard,
while the problem may have gotten bigger with time
and technology and population, it hasn’t gotten any worse.
Our laundry is still dirty.

And second, and this is the big one,
the lament doesn’t end with the dirty laundry.

Do you know what the best part of a lament is?
It’s when the writer’s memory gets jogged.
When they remember the God
to whom they are voicing this lament.
Who that God is.
And that reminds them, reassures them,
that this is not where the story ends.

Sure we are messed up
and we don’t know how to clean our laundry
but that is not the end.
Even though we’ve been screaming to God at the top of our lungs
to leave us alone at bedtime,
God is still God, and will always be there for us
when the monsters come-a-callin’.

The lament doesn’t end in sorrow
but with a memory, a memory that offers hope.

Isaiah goes on, describing God, 
 remembering God as Father and potter
and describing human beings as clay.

And just like dirty laundry can be cleaned,
clay can be shaped, and reshaped, and used again.
Human clay is made to be molded, and shaped,
and changed by the hands of God.

Isaiah is calling to his memory, and to God’s,
and to the people’s and to ours,
the reality of what our relationship is supposed to be.

Father to child. Potter to clay.
And no matter where the breakdown has been,
or whose fault it is, both long to be back in that place.
Even if we human beings cannot always admit it.

Over the years God has called on children,
and shepherds, and prophets, and kings,
and donkeys, and friends, and enemies,
and angels to try and bring that relationship back into alignment, time and time again.
And time and time again we get off track all over again,
something distracts us, something diverts our attention.
We focus on the wrong thing.

And so, the most important part of this lament for us today,
doesn’t have anything, really, to do with the dirty laundry,
or even the part about us being clay,
no, the important piece for us comes way back at the beginning.

“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down.”

Isaiah began with a dream, an idea,
I think maybe Isaiah thought
“enough with the children, and shepherds,
and donkeys and kings and angels,
how about you come down yourself God
and straighten this thing out?”

And that brings us to Advent;
God coming down home.
No more children, except the Christ child,
no more angels except the ones who told the shepherds,
no more shepherds
except the ones who came to behold this child,
no more donkeys but the ones in the stable with the holy family. All of it perfected in Emmanuel, God with us.

Isaiah made the invitation.
God, you do it!
You come down and make us feel your presence.
Make the mountains shake. Do the things we don’t expect.

Come down by us.
Show us the Father,
show us the potter, teach us how to be clay.
Come down home.

And that is what we await, as Advent begins today,
as our waiting begins we are waiting for God to come home,
to celebrate Christ in our midst,
God among us, God with us once more.

And it starts, I think, with looking up
it starts when we invite God
to break into our lives and into our world again.
And it starts when we realize
that God isn’t the one who wandered away… we did that.
God has always been waiting,
stockpot and rolling pin in hand,
just waiting to be asked to jump in
and help us face the monsters down.

As we prepare for Christmas this year, let’s be intentional:
in our busy-ness, in our stress,
in all our most jaded and bitter and anxious moments,
let’s remember to make room for God to enter in.
Let’s invite God into our lives,
and let’s be still and silent long enough
to see and hear what Christ is doing now. Amen? Amen.

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