It’s been a difficult Advent for us at Morton this year as we struggle with sickness and death. Our hearts yearn for God’s comfort. Thanks be to God, divine comfort is on the way. Here is an Advent sermon for people who need to be comforted.
Love Is On the Way
A Sermon on Matthew 11:2-6 and Isaiah 40:1-11
“Are you the one we’ve been waiting for?” No wonder John the Baptist sent that word to Jesus. John was longing for the Messiah to set the world on fire, gather the wheat, burn the chaff, make things the way they ought to be, thy will be done, O God, on earth as it is in heaven.
But that hadn’t happened yet. And now John was chained in King Herod Antipas’ dungeon. Prison was a place of great suffering even for someone as tough as John, who dressed in camel’s hair and was used to eating insects. It was dark and damp and teeth-chattering cold. John’s disciples brought food to keep him alive; otherwise there was nothing to eat. Prisons didn’t provide luxuries like food. Prisoners depended on the mercy of people outside for food. It looked like John was probably not going to live to see his dream fulfilled. Who knew when Herod might issue the execution order? If Jesus really was the Christ, the Messiah, why didn’t he get on with things? What was Jesus waiting for?
I can’t blame John the Baptist at all for his urgent question: Are you the one, or must we wait for another? People who know what desperation is know what John was getting at. In a place of pain, the heart questions. This happens even to people of the strongest faith, like John the Baptist; like Lucy Rose, the Presbyterian pastor I told you about many months ago. You might have met Lucy when she did a student in ministry year in the early seventies at First Presbyterian Church in Rocky Mount .
Lucy Rose was much loved across the Presbyterian Church and at Columbia Seminary where she taught preaching. In her forties she developed breast cancer, and at first it appeared that she had beaten it. Three years later it showed up again all over her body and she struggled mightily with it and with stubborn pain for a year. Lucy taught as long as she could. She kept singing hymns with her friends and family even after she could no longer leave the bed. Yet even tough, faith-filled Lucy humbly asked in those last hours, “Why doesn’t God take me home?” (Lucy’s story is found in Songs in the Night, a book compiled and edited by her father, Ben Lacy Rose, ©1988 CTS Press, Decatur, Georgia.)
In a place of desperation, when all they can see ahead is more pain, people ask, “Why am I still here? Why is God keeping me here?” Loved ones witnessing the suffering ask, “Lord, why? Can’t you see the pain? What is with the timing?” (more…)