Here we are, Lord!

This Sunday begins the Season of Advent. In many Christian traditions, Advent marks the start of the new Christian year - with congregations lighting candles each of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas Day, which celebrates the birth of Jesus. The term comes from the Latin ad venio “to come” – anticipating the coming of the Lord. 

It is a time not just for a new year, but a new commitment to Christ as we prepare spiritually for Christmas, remembering Christ being born into the world. It is a season of waiting, of preparation to welcome God’s light into the world. The season comes as the days grow shorter and darkness abounds, and we light the Advent Candles in preparation for the one who brings light to the darkness 

The book of Isaiah is full of verses that are used during the Advent season. Christians take these versus to foretell of Jesus as the coming of the Messiah. 

Many of these verses from Isaiah will be familiar to some of you: 

Isaiah 9:2

The people walking in darkness

    have seen a great light;

on those living in the land of deep darkness

    a light has dawned.

Isaiah 9:6-7

For to us a child is born,

    to us a son is given,

    and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called

    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the greatness of his government and peace

    there will be no end.

He will reign on David’s throne

    and over his kingdom,

establishing and upholding it

    with justice and righteousness

    from that time on and forever.

But the scripture I selected from Isaiah today to be read isn’t a traditional Advent scripture. But yet it is one that I think is a call of preparation.

All the preparation, all the waiting, none of it matters if God has comes into the world and we are not ready to hear his voice or heed his call. 

The Scripture we read today is from Isaiah 6:1-8 - the Commissioning of Isaiah.

In it, we see the Glory and Majesty of God, wonder of Heaven – imagery like the Book of Revelations. We’ve got flying seraphim, singing Holy Holy Holy Lord God Almighty. We’ve got the heavens shaking and the temple smoking. 

But Isaiah is ashamed, for he has seen the Glory of God and feels unclean.

Yet he hears the voice of God saying, “Whom shall I send?”

Now God isn’t asking just Isaiah when that voice rings out. He’s putting that question out there to everyone.

But it is only Isaiah who responds: “Here I am, Lord.”

How often do we miss God’s call? 

Even the words “Here I am, Lord” remind me of the story of Samuel. 1 Samuel chapter 3 tells us that Samuel is laying down, about to go to sleep when he hears the Lord call “Samuel!” But Samuel thinks it is Eli, and runs to him and says, “Here I am; you called me.” But Eli says “My son, I did not call; go back and lie down.” This happens three times before Eli realizes that it is the voice of the Lord who is calling Samuel. The Bible tells us “Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.”

After the third time, Eli tells Samuel ““Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’ And when the Lord calls to Samuel again, Samuel does indeed answer ““Speak, for your servant is listening.” He is able to hear and receive the message of the Lord.

How do we ready ourselves to hear the voice of God? How can we ready ourselves to receive the message of the Lord? 

Being Ready to Receive the Message, – What is it that is between you and God? I think sin is whatever keeps you from abiding in God. When Isaiah sees God’s majesty, he is ashamed. You can’t receive a message if you think you are unworthy to hear it! “Woe to me!” he says,  “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips!”

But the Seraphim hears this and cleanses his lips with a live coal from the altar of God, saying “your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for!”

It is then that Isaiah hears God’s call. It is then that he can say, “Here I am, Lord. Send me!”

Like Isaiah, our sins have been atoned for. We need to release the guilt and know that we are worthy of God’s call. 

I saw a meme the other day that said:

We often get in the way of our calling - we might refuse to listen because we refuse to accept it. We doubt God’s ability to use us in the way God has planned. Don’t let self doubt interfere with God’s plans. Which reminds me of another powerful meme I’ve seen going around: 

The Importance of Prayer - spending time with God. Samuel did not recognize the voice of God because he did not yet KNOW God. We have to know God to hear his voice. 

Spending time reflecting on God’s word and spending time in prayer is how we get to know God.  For too many people, Prayer is the time that we ask things of God. But that is surely not the reason to pray - God is much more than a Genie granting us wishes. 

Julian of Norwich wrote over 600 years ago,  "The whole reason why we pray is to be united into the vision and contemplation of God to whom we pray."

Prayer should be a conversation with God, and it is through this conversation that we can align ourselves with God’s will. Jesus himself taught the disciples (and us!) to pray “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done, on Earth, as it is in Heaven.” This is an acknowledgment of our accepting God’s will, and in fact, our participation in doing God’s will right here on Earth. 

The Bible says “Pray without ceasing.” How many times in the New Testament does Jesus seek time alone to pray? Jesus is constantly praying in the Gospels – often before big moments. Luke tells us Jesus prayed all night before selecting the 12 Disciples. (Luke 6:12-13). And of course, Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane just before his crucifixion, again, seeking God’s will. “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 

Scottish theologian William McGill said, "The value of persistent prayer is not that God will hear us, but that we will finally hear God."

Are you spending quiet time with God? Are you in conversation with God so that you can hear his call? 

Clear your hearts and minds; seek silence, and listen to God’s voice. Mother Teresa said, "God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer."

Listening is more than hearing. How many times did you hear your mama say “Listen to me!” You know she wanted you to do more than listen. There were some action items in her plan. 

Listening is more than hearing. Truly listening means there is some follow through. 

It’s believing and doing. We are called to follow through with God’s plan for us, with God’s help. Like that meme says, God qualifies the called. Despite our doubts, if our hearts are open to the message, and we have faith in God’s ability to use us as God’s instrument, we are qualified to do the work. 

In Exodus 3, Moses also says, “Here I am” when God calls to him from the burning bush. God tells Moses “I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” – But Moses protests – asking God ““Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” But God says, “I will be with you.”

Even still, Moses protests: “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?” Even after the Lord gives him the ability to do miracles to prove what he says, Moses still protests: “I am not a man of words ... for I am of slow speech, and of a slow tongue'. (Some take this to mean Moses stuttered.) The Lord says, “I will help you speak,” but Moses says, Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”

How often do we say, “I hear you, Lord, but please send someone else.”  

We’ve seen Charlton Heston in the movie. We know how Moses’ story ends. He delivers the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and leads them in the Journey to the Promised Land, which he, by the way,  doesn’t get to see.

But how will your story end? How will you answer God’s call? 

Somebody, somewhere is depending on you to do the work that God has called you to do. 

The music for reflection we’ll be hearing is a song called the Summons. Thee first verses are Jesus calling us, but in the last verse is our response. May this be how we respond to the call:

Lord, your summons echoes true
When you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you
And never be the same.
In your company I'll go
Where your love and footsteps show.
Thus I'll move and live and grow
In you and you in me.

As we prepare for the Holiday Season, don’t forget the most important preparations: 



Discern your calling.

Do that work that God is calling us to do. 

Here we are Lord. Lead us to do the work you are calling us to do. 



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