#1 ADVENT--The Need
It just doesn’t work to start in the middle of a story. It doesn’t make sense to crack open a novel and begin reading in the middle and expect to understand what’s happening. Step in to the middle of a conversation and it is a challenge to make sense what is being discussed. There will be things that people are choosing to do that confuse you completely. And, you can’t walk into the middle of a movie and make sense out of what is happening. Some have tried, but it doesn't work.
The season of Advent is the time in which we look forward to, and prepare for the coming of Christ, a time in for which I am looking forward. But if we think about Christmas, a lot of things happened before Christ came as a babe of Bethlehem in a manger. When Christmas arrives we are really entering in to the middle of the story.
So, during these Wednesdays in Advent we are going to do our best to not start in the middle of the story; but instead we’ll focus our attention on giving the story some context. This evening and the next two Wednesday evenings we will enter into the story of ADVENT in three parts:
This evening we begin with THE NEED. And to truly understand our need, we need to go back to Genesis, chapter 6.
6 And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.
Consider, for a moment, the deeply personal nature of these words: The Lord was grieved; the Lord was sorry. What is it that would bring such grief to the heart of God?
Those words stir something that is personal, some kind of offense, some kind of affront, some kind of personal betrayal. What was it?
Look at the words of Genesis 6:5
5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of mankind was great on the earth, and that all the thoughts and plans they formed in their hearts were only evil every day.
Could it get more graphic, more specific? If we truly think about this, it may be difficult to understand the great horror of these words. This passage is describing something that’s deeply personal. And if we are having a difficult time understanding this, we will have a challenging time understanding the glory of the sending of that baby to Bethlehem.
So, let’s start at the beginning of the story:
Created to Love
Created to Love
When God created all things in the beginning, when He created man and woman, we were created to love God; we were hardwired that way in every respect of the word.
We were made for God. We were made to love God! I'm not describing first something spiritual; this is what all human beings were made to do – this is the calling of all humanity. Love God!
All of us here are lovers, and are wired to love, everything you would ever do in your life is always driven and motivated by love, and the love that was to motivate us was God-ward love. That’s how we were meant to live.
And so, it is clear that something happened that disrupted how we were supposed to live. There must be some other love that has claimed the heart of human beings…
because no longer do we live to serve God;
no longer do we find joy in His joy;
no longer do we want to stay inside of His boundaries, but we willingly, purposefully, continually do what is evil in His sight.
What would bring such distress to His heart?
Think of Christ’s summary of the Law when asked, “What's the greatest commandment?” He summarized the Law with this, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and your neighbor as yourself.”
And there in lies the problem: we do not love God as we should, it doesn’t mean that we don’t love, because we always love; we are hardwired to love. So, if we are not loving God, we are placing that love somewhere else. No one in this worship space is loveless. Therefore, either God owns our love at the deepest, most profound level or something else does!
When we read here about the evil and wickedness that brought grief to the heart of God, we should ask the question, “What love is so seductive and so powerful and so deceptive that it has the possibility to replace the love that I was meant to have for God?” What an important question.
St. Paul makes a brief comment on the reason for the incarnation of Jesus Christ in 2 Corinthians 5:15 He says this, Jesus came—that baby was born—so “that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but who died for them and rose again.” (2 Corinthians 5:15).
The thing that always replaces love for God, the thing that leads to this endless catalog of evil is love of self; somehow, some way, we all insert ourselves into the center of our world. Somehow all of us ascend to the throne that only belongs to God. Why? Because we don’t find delight in serving Him. We are obsessed with our will and our way. We want to be lord over our own lives. We want to set our own rules. We’re obsessed with our own comfort and our own pleasure and our own happiness. And when we live for ourself, we will step over God’s boundaries again and again and again, because our heart isn’t motivated by love of Him. It doesn’t take a whole lot; just look around, and we see a massive amount of evidence dominating, controlling, enslaving, life-shaping self-love.
Think about it: every act of murder and violence is rooted in self-love; every moment of greed is rooted in self-love; every kind of gossip is rooted in self-love; every bit of disobedience to parents is rooted in self-love; every moment of adultery is rooted in self-love. The evil of the world has happened because we no longer love God as we should.
And it is a tragedy; it is a horror because all of creation was designed to have at its center, love of God and when that’s not there, things that should work, don’t work; things explode into evil and chaos, and we experience that every day – watch the news. What a tragedy! How sad! The root of all this misplaced love is what we all “original sin”.
And that, dear friends, at it’s core is the genuine problem of all humanity. And though we should love God, He loves us first and set in motion events to restore the love misplaced caused by original sin.
And it is this sin which causes us to forget about God and loving Him; every sin is refusing to love Him, and is a rejection of His presence and His authority in our lives.
That’s why King David, in confessing his sin of murder and adultery said, “Against You and You only have I done this thing” (Psalm 51). Listen to what David is saying: “My failure wasn’t first that I didn’t love Bathsheba and Uriah as I should — My failure was that I didn’t love You God as I should. This sin is against You!”
So, in our text the Lord God said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them” (Genesis 6:7).
This sounds like a sad and horrible end to the story. But it is not. It is not the end of the story because Genesis 6 has a verse eight, and it says this, “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”
By God’s grace Noah and his family received God’s favor. And you know the rest of the story; they were chosen by God to survive the waters of the flood with some animals there in the ark. And after the waters of the flood recede and the earth dries God makes a covenant with Noah saying, “Noah, I'm going to bless you and not only bless you, but I’m going to bless your descendants.” And as we follow the genealogy of Noah we come to the name Abraham, one of Noah’s descendants. And God made a covenant with Abraham, and He said to Abraham, “Not only will your descendants be blessed, but through your seed, all the nations of earth will be blessed.”
And the Bible reveals us to the fact that the seed of Abraham is Christ Jesus our Lord. You see, the only way this horrible broken relationship could be rectified is for God restore us by sending His Son.
It must this way because someone needs to do for me what I can’t do for myself. And we need to be rescued!
And so, God sends His Son, the Christ Jesus the Lord, into our flesh — starting off the way everyone does — as an infant. And Jesus was exposed to all the harsh realities of life in a fallen world: He lived a perfect life amid all the brokenness and all of the temptation of this world. His life flowed out of His love for the Father. He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God” (Hebrews 10:7). And in every thought and in every desire and in every word and in every action, He perfectly obeyed. He did what we are unable to do. He died a satisfactory death by becoming the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world.
He took my sin and your sin upon Himself and paid the penalty for our sin with His death—enduring God’s wrath—so that there would be hope for us. Finally love of self can be defeated, and replaced by the love of God. By Jesus’ work on the cross, the power of sin has been broken. He has made a public spectacle of the enemy, triumphing over him by the cross. And so, I need not live under the slavery of sin any longer.
Yet, we still struggle. There are times when our thoughts are shaped by love of God, but not always; there are times when the things we desire flow out of love for God, but not always. There are times when the words we speak are formed, the content of those words are formed by love for God, but not always. There are times when we act in ways that we wouldn’t act now that we know of God’s love for us. And maybe that struggle was even this evening; even as you were preparing to attend this evening’s service of worship, outbreaks of self-love create anger and division and conflict. How ironic!
And so, everyone we must all understand that we are beggars, which is why we are here tonight. As beggars, we need to hear the comforting words that our sins are forgiven for Jesus’ sake. As beggars, we need the body and blood Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins and the strengthening of our faith. And the baby in a manger is the one who has come on this mission of rescue and deliverance and has restored the love for God. And because of Jesus, we can say with St. Paul “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 7:25).
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.