Sunday, December 11, 2011
Comfort or a bandaid....
Bandaids are truly one of the world's great inventions. How many trillion flesh colored, cartoon adorned, plastic, or fabric bandaids have been used since they were first invented? We use them for all sorts of different things but mostly we put them on wounds to make them heal. But the truth is that they don't make wounds heal. They keep them clean. They cover them up. They hide them. But they do not make them heal. In fact, sometimes a wound must be opened up and exposed in order for it to heal. Covering it up can actually hide the wound but also protract the time it takes to heal.
The same is true for the spiritual and emotional wounds we carry. This time of year is filled with stresses and pressures. Our wounds and hurts are even more vulnerable now in the busy, stressful, pressure cooker lives we lead than ever before. Too often, however, in our pursuit of comfort and healing, we settle for mere bandaids. We cover up our wounds, we hide them, we protect the hurt instead of exposing it. But what do we want? Do we want real comfort or just a bandaid. Out of sight, out of mind, right? We may be content with a little sympathy and a bandaid but God offers us real comfort and healing. Yet in order for God's comfort and healing to begin, we must expose the wound.
All flesh is grass... it withers and fades. It is true of you and me. Advent reminds us that we are marked for death. We can cover up our mortality or hide from it but we cannot make it go away. With repentance comes the acknowledgment of this mortality. All my beauty is fleeting. Like the wild flower that comes and goes, I am here and gone, strong and weak, healthy and ill. All my strength withers and fades in the heat of the day, in the heat of real life with all of its challenges, stresses, and pressures. None of us can hide from them.
All my life is like the breath on a cold morning. It is there and gone. We are not forever people but people of the moment. Why do you think we try to fill the day so full? Why do we spend so much time trying to make our lives so complete? Is it not because we know how fragile our lives really are? Is it not because we live with an uncertain future, we are so impatient for things and so tempted to make ourselves weary trying live as much life as we can?
What do we gain by putting a bandaid on our mortality or hiding from the changes and chances of this mortal life? Is it enough comfort to be distracted from sin, from the reality of death, from the uncertainty of life?
God offers us more than a bandaid. His Word is forever. His comfort is eternal. This is the Advent message. Not a bandaid to get us through a tough moment, but real comfort, real healing, come to us in the Savior who is Christ the Lord. Listen to the prophet describe this comfort... He tends His flesh like a shepherd watches over his sheep. You have got to think here "I am the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep." Jesus is no make do shepherd but the real shepherd who makes His sheep His highest priority in life and in death. This is no bandaid. This is God making our wounds His and healing them by His blood. This is real hope.
The prophet says, "He gathers me up in His arms..." This is the comfort of God. He comes for in Christ born of Mary. We do not come to Him; He comes to us and for us. He takes our wounds upon Himself. He lifts us up and carries back home to the cool quiet waters and rich green pastures God has prepared for us. We have resisted, we have rebelled, we have run away. But still He comes for us to take us up in His arms and hold us tight in the arms of love strong enough to take away our sin and bestow upon us the gift of life. This is no bandaid. This is real comfort.
The prophet says "He carries us home..." not to a better place in this world passing away but to the eternal home prepared for us by Jesus' death and resurrection. There the undeserving find welcome, rest, and peace.
Despite the cartoons, John the Baptist did not come as some doomsday prophet. He came as the voice of hope, the voice of comfort, and the voice of love. This was no repent or die message but the promise that the kingdom of heaven was near, at hand; repent of your sins that this kingdom may find you ready and able to receive its gift and blessing. John's was first a call to faith in the promise of comfort to come and then to repentance that we may lay aside all distractions and diversions to receive the full benefit of God's grace.
The comfort promised by the prophet is the comfort delivered in Jesus Christ. But this comfort is only available for sinners. Those who insist upon hiding their wounds, covering up their need, and settling for a bandaid will receive nothing. But for those ready with repentance to strip away the bandaid and confess their wounds, their sin, and their death, Christ offers everything – forgiveness for all, salvation assured, and life stronger than death. That is a whole lot more than sympathy and a bandaid.
So what will it be, people? If you are looking for a little sympathy, a bandaid, a cover up, or a quick fix, there is not much for you here. But if you have come confessing your sins, acknowledging your need, and exposing to Christ all your wounds, weakness, sin, and death, then Christ has more than you ever imagined, grace more than you hoped or dreamed for.
People, we do not need a bandaid. We need radical hope and comfort. We need what only Jesus can give. So lay aside your sins and your excuses. Strip off all the cover ups to expose your wound, your weakness, and your excuses. And Christ comes with solace, comfort, and hope. Not sympathy but remedy, not cover up but healing, not rose colored glasses but realism met with a real Savior. This is the call of Advent – repent, the kingdom of God is at hand, comfort is here, healing is here, grace sufficient for all is here. Amen