November 29, 2020

Rev. Bernt P. Tweit



Psalm of the Day; Psalm 24

Epistle Lesson; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Gospel Lesson; Mark 13:32-37                              

Sermon Text; Isaiah 63:16b-17



The portion of God's Word we focus on this first Sunday in the Advent Season, and this first Sunday of the new Church Year, is taken from end of Isaiah, chapter 63, and the beginning of Isaiah chapter 64.  This is God's Word.


You, the Lord, are our Father.  Our Redeemer from everlasting is your name.  Why do you cause us to wander from your ways, Lord?  Why do you harden our heart so that we do not fear you?  Return for the sake of your Servants, the tribes that are your heritage.  Oh, that you would rip open the heavens, and come down.  Mountains then would quake, because of your presence.  As fire ignites stubble, and as fire makes water boil, make your name known to your adversaries.  Then nations would quake in your presence.  You did amazing things that we did not expect.  You came down.  Mountains quaked, because of your presence.  From ancient times no one has heard.  No ear understood.  No eye has seen any god except you, who goes into action for the one who waits for him.  You meet anyone who joyfully practices righteousness, who remember you by walking in your ways!  But you were angry, because we sinned.  We have remained in our sins for a long time. 

Can we still be saved?

All of us have become like something unclean, and all our righteous acts are like a filthy cloth.  All of us have withered like a leaf, and our guilt carries us away like the wind.  There is no one who calls on your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you.  So you hid your face from us.  You made us melt by the power of our guilt.  But now, Lord, you are our Father.  We are the clay, and you are our potter.  All of us are the work of your hand.


These are your words.  Heavenly Father, lead us in the way of truth.  Your word is truth.



So, as Pastor Bartels mentioned earlier, today is the beginning of a brand new Church Year.  For these next four weeks, including today, it is The Advent Season.  Our English word, 'advent', comes from the Latin word, 'adventus', which means, 'the arrival of', or 'the coming of'.  So, these next four weeks, we prepare for Jesus coming to us. 

As was mentioned, probably the obvious way we think of Jesus coming is at Christmas.  We prepare for Jesus' first coming in meekness, and in humility, as Jesus comes as a baby to be our Savior. 

But, some of the other themes of Advent are this. 

-We prepare for Jesus coming in to our hearts, by faith, as the Holy Spirit works through The Word and The Sacraments, so Jesus comes to us. 

-Another theme of The Advent Season is thinking of Jesus' second coming, when He will come with might.  He will come with power.  That time, He will not come to be our Savior, but He will come to be the Judge.  He will come to destroy, and to save.  And so, our prayer is this: 

“Come, O LORD, and save us!”

Isaiah is the author of our text for today.  I want to give a little historical background to our text.  He wrote these words about seven hundred years before Jesus was born.  Isaiah was the prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah.  I will show you a map so you can see this. 


The nation of Israel was a united nation under the kingdoms of Saul, David, and Solomon.  After that, it was a divided kingdom.  Here on the map you will see the pink section.  That is The Ten Northern Tribes of Israel. 

The Southern Kingdom was two tribes, and we refer to them as being Judah. 

So, during the days of Isaiah, The Northern Kingdom, (all the of those tribes) were carried away in to captivity by the Assyrians. 

The green shows the world super power, the Assyrians of the time, and the kingdom they overtook.

All that was left, here on the map, is the little brown part.  All that was left was the little, tiny nation of Judah.

And so, again, our text for today is a fervent prayer on behalf of the remnant of Judah. 


be faithful to your promises. 

God, keep your promises, and please come, and save us.

Now you have heard me say before that I love Advent Hymns.  I love Christmas hymns.  I love playing them in the house.  I love playing them in my car.  They help with our preparation for Jesus' coming. 

One of the hymns that is taken directly from our text for today is a wonderful Advent hymn.  Here is the first verse.

O Savior, rend the heavens wide.

Come down, come down, with mighty stride.

Unlock the gates.

The doors break down.

Unbar the way to Heaven's Crown.

It is a reminder to us of one of the ways in which Jesus comes to us.

  He comes with His might, and His power.

And so, as Isaiah says this fervent prayer on behalf of the nation of Judah, God, please come in your might, and your power to save us, just think for a moment how God did that in the past.  I am going to take you back to Egypt for a moment, for us to be reminded again of the might, and the power of God, saving His people. 

-Certainly all of the ten plagues show God's might, and power, but especially think of the last plague, the plague of the first born, in which Pharaoh said, “Moses take your people and get out of here”. 

To think that God would rescue a million people, and take them out of slavery in Egypt.  To put that in to perspective, Madison is a population of 250,000.  That would be four city of Madison’s that are leaving.  That is God's might, and that is God's power.

-Now the Children of Israel get between 'a rock and a hard place'.  They have The Red Sea on one side of them, and the Egyptian army on the other side.  So, what mind could have imagined that the waters of The Red Sea would divide, and a million people would walk across on dry ground?  That is God's might, and that is God's power! 

-Or, to think that same water that divided, to save the people, would now come crashing down on the Egyptian army, and not just a portion of the army perishing, but the entire army perishing.  That is God coming in His might, and His power to save His people. 

-Or consider when the Children of Israel get to Mt. Sinai.  Hear what scripture says about God coming to His people.  They can feel His might and power.  Here is what it says, as they gather around Mt. Sinai.  This is from Exodus, chapter nineteen.  

“There was thunder and there was lightening and a thick cloud covered the mountain.  There was a very loud trumpet blast.  Everyone in the camp trembled.  Then, Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God.  They stood at the foot of the mountain.  Mt. Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire.  The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace.  The whole mountain trembled violently.  The people could feel the might, and the power of the LORD.”

So Isaiah in our text says,

“ one has heard.  No ear has understood.  No eye has seen any god, except You...”
It was the Apostle Paul who picked up on that very sentence of Isaiah, when he was visiting with the church in Corinth, as he was talking about the might, the power, and the wisdom of the work of The Holy Spirit, when he said this (and it sounds very familiar, doesn't it?). 

“No eye has seen.  No ear has heard.  No mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.”

Isaiah, in our text for today, gets very specific about the sins of the people.  He gets very specific about our sins, as well.  It cuts to our hearts, when he says,

“ were angry, because we sinned. 

We have remained in our sins for a long time.” 

Now he has three, or four pretty descriptive phrases that are going to come at us.  I am going to read them all, and then come back, and talk about them.

He says

“All of us have become like something unclean,

and all our righteous acts are like a filthy cloth. 

All of us have withered like a leaf,

and our guilt carries us away like the wind.”

Think about those four phrases there. 

-We have all become like something unclean. 

I am not going to go through all of the Levitical Laws, but just one of them.  This phrase here, “All of us have become like something unclean” is talking about the legal impurity of a person.  One of the Levitical Laws was, if you had an infectious skin disease, you needed to walk around saying, “I am unclean.   I am unclean.”  Now, I am sure this has happened to you in this year 2020, when you have been out walking on the sidewalk, with a family member, or maybe by yourself, or maybe running down the sidewalk, where people are terrified of you, because of the Corona Virus.  Do you know what people do?  They cross to the other side of the street.  They walk on the other sidewalk, because they are terrified of you. 

That is a little picture of what Isaiah is talking about.  We become like someone who is unclean. 

-Isaiah goes on to say that even our righteous acts are like a filthy cloth.  Now I am just going to get descriptive here, because the Hebrew is very descriptive about this, in talking about our righteous acts.  When Isaiah says our righteous acts are like a filthy cloth, the Hebrew word here is, 'a woman's menstrual rag'.  That gets pretty descriptive on what our righteous acts are like to God.  It is like a woman's menstrual rag.

-Then, Isaiah says we are like a leaf that has withered, and our guilt carries us away like the wind.

You guys know this is a pretty windy property, here at Holy Cross.  In the Fall, when the leaves have fallen, and the wind is driving out of the south, our entryways fill up with leaves.  They are dried, and withered.  They are worthless, so they are picked up, and thrown away.

All of those phrases are a reminder to us of what we look like in God's eyes, because of our sin.

Which leads us to ask the very same question that Isaiah presents in our text for today. 

“Can we still be saved?”

Remember what our text for today is.  Our text is a fervent prayer on behalf of the remnant.  The remnant is praying, “God, please come, and save us.  And please be merciful to us.”
And so, now consider how that came about.  Again, put this in perspective.  Isaiah wrote these words seven hundred years before Jesus was born.  Now I can say that.  And we are like, “Ok, seven hundred years”. 

But, just think of our country.  The pilgrims came in 1620.  This is the year 2020.  They came only four hundred years ago, and that seems like a long period of time, doesn't it?  Well, seven hundred years ago before Jesus was born Isaiah prophesied.  In his whole book he prophesied the coming of our Savior. 

-So, what mind could possibly conger up, what mind could have possibly thought that God, in time, was going to send His one and only Son, as a baby?  Jesus was going to be born in meekness and humility, as our Savior. 

-What mind could have thought, what mind could have imagined that when Jesus grew up, God's one and only Son would be nailed to a cross, and He would suffer and die? 

-What human mind could have thought, or imagined that on the third day Jesus would rise from the dead, and the grave would be empty? 

As Isaiah says in our text,

“ one has heard. 

No ear understood. 

No eye has seen...” 

We simply could not have imagined what God had planned to save us. 

But today, we are comforted in knowing that when God makes a promise, He keeps His promise.  The promise that was written seven hundred years before Jesus was born, a prophecy that was written twenty seven hundred years ago, has come to fulfillment, because Jesus did come the first time in humility and meekness to be our Savior.  And, now it is our fervent prayer we pray that Jesus comes in to our hearts by faith, through the working of the Holy Spirit, and His Word.

What a wonderful take away this is from our text for today.  A fervent prayer on behalf of the remnant,

“Come, O LORD and save us!” 

As we begin a brand new church year, here are some wonderful ways we can go about doing that. 

-If you use The Meditations Devotions (the one you were using, previously ran out yesterday).  What a wonderful thing we can do all of the time, but in these next four weeks, especially, to prepare ourselves for Jesus' coming, with devotion and prayer. 

-The worship committee has made available Advent Calendars, and Advent Devotional Books.  Again, for all of us as a congregation: a school, an ELC, and a church to prepare our hearts and our minds for Jesus' coming in to our hearts by faith.

-In trying times, God's people turn to Him in prayer.  Certainly, this year has been a trying one, hasn't it?  It has been a trying year, and yet God's Word encourages us to fervently go before Him in prayer, and ask Him to have mercy upon us, and to save us.

Remember that when Jesus comes,

He doesn't come to change our circumstances, but

He comes to change our hearts. 

When Jesus comes, He comes both to destroy, and to save.  So, get ready.  Get ready, because Jesus is coming.  And so our prayer simply today is:

“Come, O LORD and save us!”



Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.  As it was in the beginning, shall be now, and forevermore.