Reader: “God’s word given to us.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
Scripture: Micah 4:1-5
In the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s house
will be the highest of all—
the most important place on earth.
It will be raised above the other hills,
and people from all over the world will stream there to worship.
People from many nations will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of Jacob’s God.
There he will teach us his ways,
and we will walk in his paths.”
For the Lord’s teaching will go out from Zion;
his word will go out from Jerusalem.
The Lord will mediate between peoples
and will settle disputes between strong nations far away.
They will hammer their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will no longer fight against nation,
nor train for war anymore.
Everyone will live in peace and prosperity,
enjoying their own grapevines and fig trees,
for there will be nothing to fear.
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies
has made this promise!
Though the nations around us follow their idols,
we will follow the Lord our God forever and ever.
Reader: “The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
As we mentioned yesterday, the first days of the Advent season are focused on Jesus’ return, the Second Coming, and setting up his eternal kingdom. Why and how did that theme emerge and what does it have to do with Christmas? The development of this season in the early centuries of the church began with time set aside for people preparing for baptism on Epiphany on January 6th. (Christmas had not yet emerged until the 4th century. Yes, Epiphany is older than Christmas.) At the same time Christians in northern Italy were under persecution and were longing for the Lord’s return. That Second Coming theme became associated with the season. Now, to our passage for today.
Micah is prophesying about a future day for Israel and a future day for us. Mountains in the Bible played a significant role. God often spoke from mountains and made his identity known. Abraham attempted to sacrifice Isaac on Mt. Moriah and which later was the place of the crucifixion of Christ. Moses met God on Mt. Sinai to receive his call to lead the Exodus. God later wrote and spoke the Law from that same mountain. It was at the top of Mt. Nebo that the Lord showed him the Promised Land. Elijah met the Lord on Mt. Sinai. The Transfiguration occurred on a mountain top and Jesus delivered his “Sermon on the Mount.” Is it any wonder that Micah refers to the mountain of the Lord as the “highest of all―the most important place on earth?” While Micah’s words were spoken 700 B.C., they are more certain than anything you will read today. The day is coming when people from all over the world will stream to Jerusalem to worship the Lord. It sounds almost fanciful to us . . . a dream out of fiction, not something that will ever literally happen. We are talking about Christ’s coming Kingdom when he is present. He will mediate between peoples and settle disputes. You’ve noticed how poorly a job we human beings are doing mediating our own disputes! In the coming days wars will not exist. Everyone will live in peace and prosperity. There will be no fear. How can that be? Notice the power of the Lord as stated here: “The Lord of Heaven’s Armies has made this promise.” The authority of Christ is absolute which brings the peace. How does all this connect to November 30th? Micah’s world was not unlike our own. The people and the nations were in rebellion against the Lord. They loved evil and hated good. Right and wrong were opposites and God bought judgment. It is always important to see each of our days in relation to the biggest picture of what God is doing and what he has in store, otherwise we can become totally embraced by the trappings of the day being consumed with only the present and miss the truth that we are on a longer journey of which life on this earth is but a prelude, a wisp. Advent calls us to “watch and wait” for the coming Kingdom. This Advent hymn describes beautifully the coming King establishing his glorious Kingdom.
“Lo He Comes with Clouds Descending” Litchfield Cathedral Choir
1. Lo, he comes with clouds descending,
once for favored sinners slain;
thousand thousand saints attending
swell the triumph of his train:
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
God appears on earth to reign.
2. Every eye shall now behold him
robed in dreadful majesty;
those who set at naught and sold him,
pierced and nailed him to the tree,
deeply wailing, deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
shall the true Messiah see.
3. Those dear tokens of his passion
still his dazzling body bears,
cause of endless exultation
to his ransomed worshippers:
with what rapture, with
what rapture, with what rapture,
gaze we on those glorious scars!
4. Yea, Amen, let all adore thee,
high on thine eternal throne;
Savior, take the power and glory,
claim the kingdom for thine own:
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
Thou shalt reign and thou alone.
Glorious God, give me grace to amend my life, and to have an eye to my end without begrudging death, which to those who die in you, good Lord, is the gate of a wealthy life. And give me, good Lord, a humble lowly, quiet, peaceable, patient, charitable, kind, tender and pitiful mind, in all my works and all my words and all my thoughts, to have a taste of your holy blessed Spirit. Give me, good Lord, a full faith, a firm hope, and a fervent charity, a love of you incomparably above the love of myself. Give me, good Lord, a longing to be with you, not to avoid the calamities of this world, nor so much attain the joys of heaven, as simply for love of you. And give me, good Lord, your love and favor, which my love of you, however great it might be, could not deserve were it not for your great goodness. These things, good Lord, that I pray for, give me your grace to labor for. ―Thomas More (Written a week before his execution.)