ADVENT 2020: TEAR DOWN THE HEAVENS
Updated & expanded for 2023
Featured Each Week:
All Weeks Include: AIM commentary, call to worship, prayer of confession, assurance of pardon, benediction, key quote, key illustration, more quotes, more illustrations, discussion questions
The Message of Advent
Advent is a season of longing, of waiting, and of expectation that the transcendent God, the sometimes seemingly far-off God would draw near, come close, and enter into our world. As the late Eugene Peterson adeptly expressed the fulfillment of this longing in his paraphrase of John 1:14, “The Word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood.” Advent is the season in the church where we yearn afresh for God’s intimate presence among us.
Advent is the dawn of the new liturgical year, the sunrise of the church’s soul, a new season of promise and renewed hope that God will indeed surprise us with another visit. Moreover, He will grant us a prolonged stay in our territory, a domain occupied by pains, perils, and precarious pitfalls, and God will prevail. Advent harkens to the ancient hope of Israel, to the incarnation of God in the flesh in Jesus, and to the church’s hope of his return. It is a season in which we might make the words of Isaiah 64:1 our own: “Oh, that you would rip open the heavens and descend!” We have taken this clarion cry of the prophet Isaiah as our Advent series’ theme, “Tear Down the Heavens,” expressing the human heart’s desire for God’s presence.
The Messiness of Advent
We at The Pastor’s Workshop know what it is like not only to live in this season, but also to shepherd others in such a season of longing, having ourselves stood and ministered in your shoes for many years. We are acutely aware that seasons of hope and longing, ironically, bring with them their share of suffering and sadness. They can equally be seasons of discouragement and despair as they are of expectancy and encouragement.
Advent is a time for both proclamation of hope in the coming of God, but also the hard reality check that life is messy, hard, unjust, and often unbearable. It is in this tension of emotion and paradox of reality that we as preachers insert ourselves as the broken and humble servants of God that we are, both those who proclaim the hope, faith, joy, peace, and coming of Christ while needing the succor of its message and comfort of its hero ourselves.
week 1: isaiah 64:1-9 | Tear Down the Heavens
- Longing created by exile (word studies: Qara’ and Zakar)
- Connecting Isaiah 64 to Advent: faithfulness and waiting
- Oppression and the cultivation of messianic hope
- Active waiting in hardship and spiritual exile
week 2: isaiah 40:1-11 | Comfort My People
- Earthly hardship, longing for God, and the path that God makes available
- Parallels between the highway in the wilderness, Jesus’ Palm Sunday procession, and God as comforter
- Finding comfort and home in community
week 3: isaiah 61:1-4; 8-11 | Dressed in Righteousness
- The restoration of community
- The role of covenant in the transformation of the exiles’ broken and wounded state to ecstatic celebration (word study: chabash)
- Jesus as a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, emphasizing marriage parallels
- The hope and comfort of Jesus in individual and communal suffering
week 4: 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16 | God Builds the House
- God as the source of stability and our home (word study: beth, ‘ad ‘olam)
- The earthy and spiritual houses of the Bible and the kings that construct them or dwell in them
- Jesus as the dwelling place of God
- The security of God’s promise to build the house
Scott Bullock is a Board Member and Contributor with The Pastors Workshop. He is an ordained Presbyterian minister who has served churches in Illinois, New Jersey, and California. He holds an MA in New Testament Studies from Wheaton College, an MDiv from Fuller Theological Seminary, and a ThM in New Testament from Princeton Theological Seminary. Scott is married with three teen-aged children.
What is AIM Commentary?
AIM stands for Ancient context, the text through the lens of Jesus (Ἰησοῦς), and our Modern application.
Understanding the Ancient or original context of the passage is necessary to inform and guide our interpretation. We also believe along with the Reformers that the interpretation of the Ancient context of the Hebrew scripture for the church necessarily flows through its Lord, Jesus Christ. Furthermore, we affirm that the role of the preacher to bring the congregation from the Ancient context through Christ and to the Modern context, making the message real in our hearts and lives.