“Let’s Go Up to the Lord’s House Nov. 27, 2022
“LET’S GO UP TO THE LORD’S HOUSE”
Isaiah 2:1-Psalm 122
Greetings one and all and may God’s peace and grace rest upon you this, the first Sunday of the Advent season. For those who might need a bit of a refresher, advent is the four week period before Christmas Day. It has traditionally been a period of waiting and preparation I’ve always found it curious that some churches embrace the Advent season wholeheartedly while others choose simply to ignore it. So, I suppose the question is: would Christmas be ruined If we didn’t observe the period of Advent? No, of course not. But we would miss out. We would miss out On this precious reminder of why…. Why did God feel it was necessary to come in the flesh and live amongst us? Without advent, we might get swept up In all the traditions and decorations and preparations And commercialization and before we know it, we’re singing the carols and not even paying attention. This period of Advent serves to remind us of the glory and the wonder and blessing of Immanuel, God with us.
Few lyrics say it better than these words we all know well:
“Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Risen with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth/ Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the new-born king”
“Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die”
It’s been said that a people are known by their stories. We who live in these United States are known for our resistance and our rebellion against Kings and Queens and The suppression of our right to free enterprise and the free expression of our faith. For those of us who believe and have chosen to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, our stories are vast, But none are more powerful or speak With a greater import than The beautiful truth that our God came to us in the flesh, Born to raise the sons of earth; born to give them second birth. This is, after all, the crux of our faith, wouldn’t you say? that the son of God. meek and mild, would lay his glory aside to live amongst us and eventually give up his life that we might know life everlasting. That is our story and amidst all the hoopla and the lights and music and traditions, the advent and Christmas season is a giant big deal because of this one fact: the sun of righteousness came into the darkness to bring light to us all. When, in the dead of winter we celebrate a baby born into a lowly estate, we celebrate because we understand he was born to bring peace on this earth, We celebrate Because the righteousness of God came to reconcile the sins of the world – finally and at long last.
So yes, I’d be willing to say that without advent. The depth And the goodness and the joy of the Christmas season might just fall flat. But then, that’s just me perhaps.
Our theme for this, the 1st Sunday of Advent is the theme of HOPE. What gives us hope. What keeps our hopes alive. Where do we turn when it looks like all hope is lost? It’s been said that hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there’s no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.”
and so it was that as I was reading through our scripture selections for today, I found myself looking for something – anything – to pin my hopes on. let’s face it folks, the last few years have been rough. I mean, between a global pandemic and my extended visitation with our medical community, hope has become somewhat of a fleeting thing. it’s a bit like trying to grab a wet bar of soap.
Paul’s message to the Romans as well as the apocalyptic words from Matthew both stressed the importance Of staying alert; of being aware. Paul tells us. “The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” this is, no doubt, good advice, but it didn’t do much to inspire feelings of hope along with warm, fuzzy feelings of confidence.
Likewise, Matthew instructs us, “42 Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” Likewise, good advice, but it wasn’t until I looked at the 122nd Psalm coupled with our reading from Isaiah that I started to feel it.
the 122nd Psalm is one in a series known as the Songs of Ascent. These were songs that were commonly sang while climbing up to Jerusalem which is on a hill. and then climbing the steps to the temple. Now I’ve never been there, but from what I understand, it’s pretty good hike and it is all uphill. But here’s the thing; No one seemed to mind. in fact they had songs that they sang on the way to the temple. I’ve often tried to imagine what that might have looked like and what that might have sounded like; Singing on the way to church. I like that. One thing is for certain, they weren’t singing because they were hot or their legs were tired or their feet hurt. No, they were singing because they were happy. People sing when they’re happy.
Once again, from the 122nd Psalm: “I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the Lord’s house . And now we are here,
standing inside the gates of Jerusalem!” like I said, people sing when they’re happy And it kindles my hope that they were happy and they were singing because they were going to church.
Not surprisingly, our text from Isaiah begins on a similar note: “In the days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house will be the highest of the mountains. It will be lifted above the hills; peoples will stream to it. Many nations will go and say, “Come, let’s go up to the Lord’s mountain”
Now I’m going to interrupt myself in the middle of this passage to pose a question, and that is: Why in the world were these ancient Israelites knocking themselves out to climb up to Jerusalem or, as Isaiah tells it, to stream to the Lord’s house which will be the highest of the mountains? How are we to interpret this? Did they come streaming to the Lord’s house because of the great praise band? Or was it The youth program? Maybe it was the choir Or the free espresso. it was the words of Isaiah that gave me hope when he wrote:
“Come, let’s go up to the Lord’s mountain,
to the house of Jacob’s God
so that he may teach us his ways
and we may walk in God’s paths.
Instruction will come from Zion;
the Lord’s word from Jerusalem.” with the final instruction asking us:
5 “Come, house of Jacob, let’s walk by the Lord’s light. Come, house of Jacob, let’s walk by the Lord’s light.”
So what is it that gives me hope? The people of this congregation give me hope. the people of our collective churches give me hope. When closures due to COVID would cause many to despair, you rallied. Come, let’s go up to the Lord’s house. When obstacles and setbacks and break-ins And finances all threatened to make doing church not so doable, you never lost hope. Come, let’s go up to the Lord’s house. And yes, we love our buildings and we love our faith communities. but what gives me hope Is that we continue joyfully To go up to the Lord’s house so that he may teach us his ways; so that we may walk in his path.
I’d like to close with an advent call to worship written byLaini Taylor who wrote:
It doesn’t matter whether or not you can have faith;
whether or not you are cynical or despairing,
hope-filled or hope-less:
what matters to God is simply that you are here.
“We are entering the time of Advent,
in preparation for Christmas.
Advent reminds us that if God is to be born again
in the most ordinary parts of our world and our lives
that we need prepare for it.
We need to make the space in our lives
where love might be born.”
:To make the space in our lives where love might be born” now that’s something to hope for.
Amen and Shalom