Hope l Isaiah 40:1-5; 43:1-3 l Chapel Hill Church Gig Harbor
A couple weeks ago, Cyndi and I returned from a road trip to the desert. We decided to make the final run from Salt Lake City in one day. It was going fine…12 hours down, one to go, when we hit the Hwy 18 turnoff on I-90. Have any of you tried to get on Hwy 18 lately? It is a nightmare! The backup just to get off the highway was more than a mile long! We sat for 10 minutes…and didn’t move.
So…finally, in my despair, I asked some woman on my phone…Ms. Google or somebody…to guide us through the backstreets of Issaquah. I was completely at her mercy. It was dark…rainy…I had no idea where I was going. So, if Ms. Google said, “Take the next left on this sketchy backroad,” I just obeyed her and kept going…trusting that, sooner or later, she would lead us home!
The prophet Isaiah is like a sanctified Ms. Google. At a time when God’s people were in exile, trapped…lost…hopeless, Isaiah promised them a way home. More importantly, Isaiah promised God’s ultimate deliverance: a Messiah. No Old Testament book has more to say about Jesus than Isaiah. In fact, Isaiah has been called the fifth gospel.
Christmas Eve, we will start our service as we have for 37 years with these words: “The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light…” That’s Isaiah. When Matthew writes, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and they shall call his name, Immanuel…” Isaiah. Who does Mark quote to introduce the ministry of John the Baptist? Isaiah! Who does Mary quote when she sings her great song of praise, the Magnificat? Isaiah.
Isaiah is the Christmas prophet. Christmas carols are sprinkled with quotes from Isaiah. Handel’s Messiah is chock-full of Isaiah. Many of our Advent readings come from Isaiah. So…this Advent we thought we’d turn to the original source; the gospel writer who wrote about Jesus 800 years before he was born. This Advent, our sermon series will be taken from the gospel of Isaiah. We are calling it, “Joy of Every Longing Heart.” And this morning, to kick off Advent, we start with one of the deepest of human longings: Hope. Isaiah 40 speaks to God’s people in exile; they are prisoners of war; hopeless and desolate. But listen to the tenderness…and the hope…of God’s prophet.
“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her
that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’S hand double for all her sins.
A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.
Watch here as we unveil hope. Journeying through Isaiah’s Gospel, Rediscovering Ancient Promises, and Proclaiming Joy to Every Longing Heart this Advent.