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Be At Peace

Another of the common jokes of our time begins with a person receiving the news from his doctor that he has only days to live. Here is one version:

A man went in for his annual checkup and received a phone call from his physician a couple of days later.
The doctor said, "I'm afraid I have some bad news for you."
"What's the news?" the man asked.
"Well, you have only 48 hours to live."
"That is bad news!" said the shocked patient.
"I'm afraid I have even worse news," the doctor continued.
"What could be worse than what you've already told me?" the patient stammered.
"I've been trying to call you since yesterday."

God tells Isaiah, "Cry out!"
"What shall I cry?" asks Isaiah.
"All flesh are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field."

God says to Isaiah, "Go up on a mountain and call out to the people, ?Here is your God, coming with power."
In the early part of the book, that announcement would have been an announcement to bring terror, but not this time.
God says, "He comes like a shepherd who gently leads his flock and holds them close to his heart."
Isaiah forty begins with the words, "Comfort, . . .

A voice says, ?Cry out.?  And I said, ?What shall I cry??
?All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.

                                                                                           Isaiah 40:6

Another of the common jokes of our time begins with a person receiving the news from his doctor that he has only days to live. Here is one version:

A man went in for his annual checkup and received a phone call from his physician a couple of days later.
The doctor said, "I'm afraid I have some bad news for you."
"What's the news?" the man asked.
"Well, you have only 48 hours to live."
"That is bad news!" said the shocked patient.
"I'm afraid I have even worse news," the doctor continued.
"What could be worse than what you've already told me?" the patient stammered.
"I've been trying to call you since yesterday."

God tells Isaiah, "Cry out!"
"What shall I cry?" asks Isaiah.
"All flesh are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field."

God says to Isaiah, "Go up on a mountain and call out to the people, 'Here is your God, coming with power."
In the early part of the book, that announcement would have been an announcement to bring terror, but not this time.
God says, "He comes like a shepherd who gently leads his flock and holds them close to his heart."
Isaiah forty begins with the words, "Comfort, comfort my people."

John the baptizer picks up on Isaiah forty as well and he quotes it when he says, "I am the voice of one crying: 'In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord'."

Why does He call for a road to be prepared, for someone to call out to the cities and towns that their God is coming like a shepherd?
Because this is the signal that their exile is over.
God has sent the nation, or a good part of it, into exile in Babylon because of their sinfulness and their hardhearted refusal to change. Now the time of exile is over.
God is coming again, not to punish, but to restore.
Prepare a way through the wilderness. God's people are coming home again.

Yes, all flesh are grass and all their glory dies like grass, but the good news is that God's love for us is eternal.

The preacher and writer, Howard Hendricks writes this:

Joseph Bayly, delightful personal friend now in heaven, was flying from Chicago to the city of Los Angeles. He engaged the woman sitting next to him in conversation. She was a little over 40, well dressed, and quite articulate. He asked, "Where are you from?"

She said, "From Palm Springs."

Knowing Palm Springs to be a city of the rich and famous, he asked, "What's Palm Springs like?"

Being perceptive, she answered, "Palm Springs is a beautiful place filled with unhappy people."

Taking advantage of the occasion, he pressed the question, "Are you unhappy?"

She said, "Yes, I certainly am."

"Why?" he asked.

She said, "I can answer it in one word, and that word is mortality. Until I was 40, I had perfect eyesight. Shortly after, I went to the doctor because I couldn't see as well as I could before. Ever since that time, these corrective glasses have been a sign to me that not only are my eyes wearing out, but I'm wearing out. Some day I'm going to die. I really haven't been happy since that time."1.

 

All flesh is like grass, but the good news is that the love of God is eternal.
We have peace with God, with ourselves and with our mortality because Jesus has come not as judge but as our Good
Shepherd.

We experience our mortality in a number of ways. The most obvious is the frailty of human life: disease, accident and just the movement of time erases the carefree time of our youth.
One of my favorite poets, Dylan Thomas spoke of his carefree childhood free from thoughts of mortality this way:
He concludes his poem "Fern Hill" with these words;

Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would
take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
In the moon that is always rising,
Nor that riding to sleep
I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea 2.

Our mortality is expressed in our flawed vision of ourselves and our life.
We seem to pitch from one opposite to another, thinking one moment we are the best thing since sliced bread to really believing that we are nothing and worth nothing.

We experience our mortality in the bad judgment we exhibit and in our carelessness for our lives and for one another.
And our life runs like sand through the hour glass.

And so John came to announce the coming of God, once again coming to His people in exile.

At advent we celebrate that God has come to humanity in exile. In exile to death and  to despair.
All flesh may be like grass, but the peace of God is God's gift to us all.
Christ has come and he comes to gather us up like a Good Shepherd. He carries us all close to His heart and He will lead us to an eternal home where time, death and sorrow will be no more.

Charles Wesley wrote the Christmas Hymn, Hark, The Herald Angels.
The third stanza goes like this:

Hail the heav?nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris?n 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.

Be at peace, beloved.
Christ has come for us, to give us the kingdom and eternal life.
Be at peace.

Preached December 4, 2005
Dr. Harold McNabb
West Shore Presbyterian Church
Victoria,British Columbia


Notes
1. Howard Hendricks, "Memorial Service for Bea Campbell," PreachingToday.com
2.
Dylan Thomas, Fern Hill,

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