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11.13.16 The Witness of Walking Isaiah 9:1-7, 1 John 1:1-9 Sermon Summary

by on November 14, 2016

Advent starts early as we begin a “walk to Bethlehem.” Join us as we engage perhaps the most prominent biblical metaphor for the spiritual life.

Summary Points

  • Walking in the Bible
  • Walking in the Light of Christ
  • Where to place our hope
  • Prayer after the election

When I was in high school a common question among my friends was, “How’s your walk?” Corny as it seems now, we were using a recurring biblical metaphor for the spiritual life. From its opening chapters to its last, the Bible speaks of our walking together with God.

In Genesis 3 God is found walking in the cool of the day, surprised that Adam and Eve are not to be found. Apparently the daily promenade between divine and human was routine. Revelation 21 reports that all the nations will walk with God. Psalm 23 assures us that God is walking with us even through the valley of the shadow of death. In Luke 24 the resurrected Christ teaches two peripatetic disciples before revealing his true identity at the Table. According to the popular poem “Footprints in the Sand,” it is during life’s most difficult times that God carries the surf-strolling tourist.

For the past year we “made the road by walking” through the Bible’s grand narratives, proving the adage that experience and discovery are the best path for spiritual maturity. (See all the sermons here beginning in August 2015.) And so we are walking to Bethlehem, to experience and know God, to remember we do not walk alone, and to discover the presence of Jesus even today.

As a corollary to the “walking with God” metaphor, the Bible speaks of “walking in the light.” This is the major visual of Christmas. It begins with Isaiah’s prophetic assurance that, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”

Anytime a light is turned on, it reveals the darkness by contrast. In the 2016 United States presidential election, a light was certainly turned on. Some wanted escape from an encroaching darkness: They saw the America of the 1950s continuing to fade. They saw the expanding government as a gathering of dark clouds. They were disillusioned by the darkness brought on through abuse of power and position.

Others wonder what darkness lies ahead: The shadows of death because they no longer have healthcare? Gay and transgendered people returning to the dark closet? Women who are afraid of the dark, but with them people of non-European descent, non-Christian people, disabled people, and people of limited means?

There is no shortage of darkness as winter approaches this year. Isaiah’s words speak to us. Isaiah’s situation was also political. The hope Isaiah promised was the birth of a child who would become a new king.

Eight centuries later, Israel was again in darkness, and the birth of a child again brought hope. But this was a different kind of king, not one who boasted military might and national supremacy, but one who more fully fulfilled the longing of Isaiah’s heart. This was a king who could more truly be called, “Wonderful counselor, Everlasting father, Prince of peace,” and even “Mighty God.”

The author of 1 John believes he has met this child who became king. He had heard of the promised deliverance from Isaiah, and claims to have seen him with his eyes and touched him with his hands. And 1 John proclaims it to us: God is light, and God has walked with us, and we may walk with God; we may walk in the light.

Everybody walks, in the metaphorical sense. We are all on the spiritual journey. But not everybody walks with God. Not everybody walks in the light. This is the case even if they appear to walk in the light. Jesus accused hypocrites of walking around in their robes in order to be seen. He says they are like people walking over unmarked graves—unclean without knowing it.

But walking with Jesus is different. With Jesus, the lame walk. The blind can see, and walk with Jesus. The dead are raised, and walk with Jesus. The prisoners are set free, and walk with Jesus. Those baptized in Christ, Paul teaches, “walk in newness of life.” Elsewhere he says “We walk by faith, by sight”—by faith in God—not by what we see in the world.

When Jesus’ disciples walk in the light, they do not stumble. Darkness does not overcome them. They do not become blind. They have fellowship with God, 1 John tells us, and they have fellowship with one another.

The hope of the United States and of this world is not in the office of the president. It is in the kingdom of God’s light. It is in the child born to us in Bethlehem, revealed to us by the Spirit, and revealed to the world as we walk in the light.

An excerpt from our prayers Sunday

Lord, this morning we pray for those among your children whose identities have been devalued, debased, dismissed, and denigrated by the political process over the past 17 months. We think of women, immigrant people, non-Christian people, men and women of the military, gays, lesbians, and transgendered people, differently-abled people, and all others who were given cause to question whether America stands for what is right, good, and true. We pray for their sense of self-worth, and we pray for their protection. We pray that the actions and attitudes of those pursuing political power will not cause them to despair that such are the attitudes of all Americans. We pray that the actions and attitudes of those who call themselves Christians will shine the light of your kingdom into our nation.

We pray for those experiencing fear and anxiety as a result of last Tuesday’s election. And we pray for those experiencing feelings of joy and triumph. And we pray for those experiencing resignation or cynicism. Intervene in all these emotions, we pray, and correct them according to the truth of your sovereignty. In our fears and anxieties, help us to trust you. In our joy and triumphs, keep us from idolatry. In our resignation and cynicism, restore our hope in you. Grant us all the faith of Isaiah who envisioned you sitting above the circle of the earth, bringing princes to naught; for scarcely are they planted, than you blow upon them and they whither. Such is your power, and therewith you deserve our faith and worship.

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