John Glenn learned how to fly fighter jets as he completed 59 missions in World War II and 90 missions in the Korean War. John Glenn learned to fly fast as he was the first pilot to fly at supersonic speed. John Glenn learned how to fly into outer space. In 1962, he became the first American to orbit the earth. John Glenn learned how to win elections as he served as a United States Senator from Ohio from 1974 to 1999.
John Glenn learned a lot, but there was one thing he never learned how to do. He never learned how to say good-bye. John and his wife Annie hated goodbyes, so they developed a code. Each time John left home, he would say, “I’m going to the store to get a pack of gum.” Annie would respond, “Don’t be long.” And then John Glenn would go to Japan, Korea, Germany or to outer space.
John and Annie never learned to say good-bye.
I can’t say that I blame them. No one likes to say goodbye. Not the spouse of an astronaut. Not the mom of a preschooler. Not the father of the bride. Not the wife in a funeral home. No one likes to say goodbye because goodbye leaves us what? … Alone. Eating alone. Dying alone.
Today we begin a new sermon series for the season of Advent on the Old Testament prophet Micah called Fierce Judgment: Final Grace. A little background on Micah. He lived in the 8th century BC and prophesied during the same time as Isaiah. Today’s sermon from Micah … The Advent of Our God. Advent comes from the Latin word adventus. Adventus means arrives. Micah 1:1-4 says to us that God arrives to address our deep pain of being alone.
How does God do this? Well … three ways.
The Word of the LORD arrives. Opening verse of Micah says this, “The word of the LORD that came to Micah of Moresheth during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah – the vision he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem” (1:1). The Word of the LORD arrives for people who are overwhelmed with feeling alone. Micah knows what it is like to feel alone. In chapter seven of his book he describes the total breakdown of neighborhoods, friendships, families, and marriages. Micah describes a people who are all alone.
Americans are more alone now than ever before. In 2018, the New York Times published an article called, “How Loneliness is Tearing America Apart. The article said that one-half of all Americans say they sometimes or always feel alone; 13% of all Americans say that “zero people know them well”; 45,000 Americans commit suicide each year; 70,000 die from a drug overdose. Being alone is literally killing us.
For some of you … your families live far away or you can’t visit them because of Covid restrictions. They might as well be living on the dark side of the moon. For others, you’ve spoken your final goodbye to someone you deeply love and raging loneliness is breaking your heart. For others, your teenager is off in college, busy with everything but you. You long to reconnect, you long to reminisce. God says in Genesis 2 that, “It’s not good for many to be alone” (2:18). God has a heart for lonely people. This is why he says …
“Hear, O peoples, all of you, listen, O earth and all who are in it” (Micah 1:2a). The Word of the LORD arrives. Hear his word. Pay attention to his word. Press hard into God’s Word. When being alone brings great anguish, say, “But Hebrews 13:5 say, “Never will I leave you, no never will I forsake you”. When being alone brings great anxiety, say, “But Jesus says in Matthew 28:18, “I am with you to the end of the age.” When being alone overwhelms you, go to one of my favorite verses in Joshua 1:9 which say, “For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go”. You are not alone! The Word of the LORD arrives.
Not only does the Word of the LORD arrive, but the Warrior of the LORD arrives. Micah 1:3 says, “Look! The LORD is coming from his dwelling place; he comes down and treads the high places of the earth.” “Is coming.” “Comes down.” This is our God who we confess, “who for us men and for our salvation, came down.” God comes down to “tread the high places of the earth.” In other words, God comes as a warrior marching in victory. The Warrior of the LORD arrives to defeat every evil force that makes us feel all alone.
But when the LORD finally arrived … he didn’t look anything like a Warrior. He didn’t tread upon the high places of the earth. He came down to the lowest place on earth. A messy manger with some straw, a few shepherds, Mary, and Joseph. The Warrior cries, naps, sleeps, burps, and needs his mother. How does this Warrior respond to our deep pain of being alone?
The Warrior who came down to a manger … he’s the same Warrior who came down to a cross. Three nails, a crown of thorns, and some Roman soldiers. Left alone by his countrymen, left alone by his followers. Left alone finally by his very own Father. Jesus suffers, bleeds, and dies for us … alone. Jesus accomplished our salvation … alone. Jesus finally ended up dead for us. He was all alone.
Death leaves us the most alone. We hear it all the time, “death is natural.” Let me tell you, there is nothing, absolutely nothing natural about death. Death is not a natural part of life. Birth is a natural part of life. Breathing is, belly laughs, big hugs, and bedtime kisses are all natural. But death? We’re not made to say goodbye. God’s original plan had nothing in it about a final breath, a final day, or a final heartbeat.
Death is an intruder. Why would God fill a crib and then empty it? Why would God give a daughter and then take her? Why would God give a husband and then take him? NO matter how you frame this … it never feels natural to say goodbye.
Death takes so much from us. We not only bury a body, but the wedding that never happened, the golden years we never knew, the grandchildren she never met. But death isn’t the end of Jesus and that means that death isn’t the end of us either! Good Friday’s fierce judgment over our sin gave way to final grace. Christ is alive! The Word of the LORD arrives. The Warrior of the LORD arrives.
The New World of the LORD arrives! Micah says, “The mountains melt beneath him and the valleys split apart, like wax before the fire, like water rushing down a slope” (1:4). Fierce judgment is first. Melting mountains, split valleys. Everything will be like wax before God’s purifying fire. What the fire doesn’t burn, the waters will wash away and cleanse. Fierce judgment – final grace. The final grace … it’s Jesus.
Micah 5 says, “He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. And he will be their peace” (5:4-5a). Peace. Shalom. Shalom puts Humpty Dumpty back together again.
You the nursery rhyme. “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men, couldn’t put Humpty together again.” When was the last time you felt like that? What shattered into a million pieces in your life? Your career? Your health? Your finances? Sometimes our world falls apart and we are all alone.
You’ve probably heard about people who died from loneliness. You may feel that way right now. You’re so overwhelmed that you feel as though you can’t go on. You’re in darkness so thick that you can barely breathe. Your sadness and tears may even be leading you to despair of your own life. You just want it all to be over. It all feels like a losing battle.
Friends … take heart. Shalom, peace is on its way. When Christ arrives again, he will put Humpty Dumpty back together again. He will put him back together again with shalom, with peace. What do we call that?
Advent! Adventus! Arrives! This is what Micah 1 is all about. The Word of the LORD arrives! The Warrior of the LORD arrives! The new world of the LORD arrives! In this new world … there will be no more goodbyes. We will talk about the good book. We will talk all about the good book. But goodbye? We will say goodbye to goodbye … forever. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.