Preaching Advent as the Return to Paradise
- Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Text: Isaiah 11
There is something about the past that attracts each one of us. Deep in every human heart is a desire to repeat some experiences from the past. There is a hope of recapturing the thrill, the excitement, the joy of days now long gone.
We decorate our homes with oil-burning lamps and candles, exactly like those that our parents and grandparents so eagerly cast aside when rural electrification came to their farm. We do not feel that we really have a cozy home unless there is a fireplace; exactly the kind of fireplace that so many generations stood before, extra warm on one side and chilled on the other. We remember that previous generations provided food for their table from some garden plot, and all of us must have some small plot on which we can grow something to eat.
We celebrate anniversaries and birthdays, not just because they are milestones for those who observe them, but because they bring to our memory days that are past. Just for a moment, in the celebration, we can remember and relive how it used to be. We can experience again that special joy.
That which is a common human yearning is also a deep religious truth. Deep within our human memory is a picture of that reality which no longer exists. Although none of us ever lived in Paradise, in Eden, we cannot escape the memory of that place. Because it cannot be forgotten, we long for it to come again.
There was a time and a place -- a time so long ago and a place so far removed -- that the people of the Bible called Eden, where life was surely different than it is for us.
It was a time of innocence. Adam and Eve could walk in the garden, in the company of each other and of God and feel no guilt, no embarrassment, even though they were not clothed.
It was a time of peace. There was no struggle between people and nations; no anger, no hatred, no animosity. There was no mistrust between the animals; and man had no fear of any beast.
It was a time of harmony. Each of the creatures, each part of creation, had a place. All worked together to accomplish the purposes and the goals of God.
Then Eden was lost. The Scriptures tell of that loss in the story of Adam and Eve and the Serpent and the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden. When the story ends, everything is different. Adam and Eve are ashamed of their humanness. The anger and enmity and mistrust between humans and humans, between humans and animals, reigns supreme.
Adam and Eve are removed from Paradise; it is lost forever. As far removed as we are from that innocence and peace and harmony--marred and damaged the picture may be -- a memory of Eden is still present in the background of our lives.
The words of the prophet Isaiah speak to that longing to recover what is now only a memory. The Living Bible paraphrases those verses:
"In that day the wolf and the lamb will lie down together, and the leopard and the goats will be at peace. Calves and fat cattle will be safe among lions, and a little child shall lead them all. The cows will graze among the bears; cubs and calves will lie down together, and lions will eat grass like the cows. Babies will crawl safely among poisonous snakes, and a little child who puts his hand in a nest of deadly adders will pull it out unharmed. Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mount, for as the waters fill the sea, so shall the earth be full of the knowledge of the Lord." (Isaiah 11:6-9)
What a different world that is from ours! What a glorious hope those words present! What a magnificent dream are those prophetic words!
The prophet tells us that it shall become a reality. It shall occur when a shoot springs up from that chopped-down tree that is the house of David the King. A new branch will appear from the roots of that stump, and it shall mark the beginning of the new age.
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