Sunday, December 24, 2006

Isaiah 11:1,6-10,12 - “What Hope! An Eden Promise Among Us”

4th Sunday in Advent (Year C - Lutheran Service Book readings)
Sunday, December 24, 2006 (morning)

In a moment, we will sing Stephen Starke’s hymn, “What Hope! An Eden Prophesied,” which is based on those verses from Isaiah chapter 11 which we just heard. In your bulletins, you have both the words of the hymn and the verses from Isaiah.

Those verses from Isaiah talk about the new Eden. While Isaiah doesn’t call it the new Eden, certainly that is what he is describing in this prophecy from God—cows and lions and children laying down together, cows and bears raising their young together, the vegetarian bears eating grass not thinking of eating the cows. It’s a description of a peaceful paradise, a return to the way God designed things in the first Garden of Eden. This is a prophecy, a promise for the future when God will take us to a new earth for eternity. Eternal life will be like Eden restored, the way He meant for us to live

Starke’s hymn gives us words to sing about this new Eden:

What hope! An Eden prophesied
Where tame live with the wild;
The lamb and lion side by side,
Led by a little child!

In the fourth stanza, Starke references the fact that when Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden, God placed an angel to keep guard so no one would be able to enter Eden again. Now, through Christ, the garden is open again.

, Jesus, come Messiah Lord,
Lost Paradise restore;
Lead past the angel’s flaming sword—
Come, open heaven’s door.

This hymn makes me think of how as a congregation we’ve been studying prophecy, the promises of God. Starke’s hymn is called “What Hope! An Eden Prophesied,” but it’s not just some dead promise, some old words that we dig up and dust off once in awhile. The prophecies of the Old Testament are fully a part of what we do together—because those promises point to Jesus Christ. And so we say, “What Hope! An Eden Promise Among Us.” An Eden Promise Among Us.

That Eden Promise has been among us in many places in our congregation lately.

This month the 7th Graders on Sundays and Wednesdays have been studying this very passage from Isaiah 11 about Jesus being from the family tree of David and Jesse.

The Tuesday Morning Men’s Bible Study was studying Leviticus and all the ways that “Christ came to suffer loss” as a fulfillment of all of the Old Testament sacrifices.

The Tuesday Morning Women’s Bible Study was studying Micah and seeing there the promises that God would send His “Prince of Peace in Bethlehem.”

As Pastor Miller’s Sunday Morning Bible Study looks at the readings for the next week, they encounter the Old Testament prophets, especially in Advent, who show us that Jesus is the “banner of God’s love unfurled.”

Last Sunday’s Children’s Christmas Program took so many of these Old Testament promises and showed that they come true in Jesus.

The sermons for our Advent Midweek services focused on three different psalms—words that applied to the people of the Old Testament but psalms that all point to Jesus, “the fruit of God’s design.”

Those of you who have experienced the death of loved ones, or seen people struggling in health — you’ve taken comfort in knowing the Eden promise. What hope! we have in Christ knowing He will take us to an eternal paradise. That hope for you comes directly out of the prophecies of the Old Testament, fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

But even as we’ve studied prophecies, and seen how Jesus fulfills those promises, we’ve seen that we’re still waiting for the final promise to come true, the day when we will be with Christ forever. And so. . .

(Usher brings up rope attached to a cart with a manger on it that is in the center aisle at the back of the church).

Today’s service is built around the simple Advent prayer: Come, Lord Jesus. (pull cart towards front of church)

It’s in Stephen Starke’s hymn: “Come, Jesus, Messiah Lord…Come, open heaven’s door.” (pull)

Our prayers have all concluded: Lord, come soon. (pull)

In our opening hymn, we prayed: Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus. (pull)

We sang that familiar Advent hymn: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. (pull)

Soon the Senior Choir will use that hymn as part of their anthem, “Every Valley,” singing: “Emmanuel shall come to Thee, O Israel.” (pull)
We’ll sing, “Savior of the Nations, Come.” (pull)

The Hmong choir will sing about how Jesus did come, He “came upon the Midnight Clear.” (pull)

The final anthem by the senior Choir gives this prayer another name: The Advent Cry. In Latin, you’ll hear the choir singing, “Veni, veni, Redemptor,”—“Come, Come, Redeemer.” (pull)

(manger cart arrives in front)
Come, Redeemer. Lord, come soon.
Come, Lord Jesus. . .to be born in Bethlehem

But the Advent Cry isn’t just about a manger. It’s also about what comes from this manger.

Come, Lord Jesus . . .to live a holy and perfect life. (pull out a picture of Jesus from manger’s straw)

Come, Lord Jesus . . .to preach the Good News. (pull out a Bible)

Come, Lord Jesus . . .to die on the cross. (pull out a cross)

Come, Lord Jesus . . .to return and take us to the Eden promised. (pull out a globe)

Right now, we have the manger. We have the cross. Jesus came and was born. Jesus came and He died. But now we’re asking that He come again, that He come to rescue us forever from sin, death, and the devil.
Come, Lord Jesus. . .to return and take us to the Eden promised.

While we can’t actually pull a rope and make Jesus come back, that’s the sense behind the prayer: Come, Lord Jesus. It’s that urgent; it’s that powerful—wanting to bring Jesus to be among us, to be here. The Advent prayer is a big tug on the rope around the waist of Jesus, pulling his pant leg, as it were, asking Him to come.

Stephen Starke’s hymn is our Advent Cry. See how his hymn is like the Advent prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus.” His hymn is urgent; it’s hopeful; it’s expectant; it’s a tug on Jesus; it’s looking to the sky with the sense that he might just answer us right now. As we sing, remember that we are asking Jesus to come again, to save us, to bring us to the Eden promised, a promise among us through God’s Word. He will come again and open heaven’s door for us. What hope! An Eden promised among us!

“What Hope! An Eden Prophesied” Text: © 1988 Stephen P. Starke, admin. Concordia Publishing House.