Comfort, comfort, My people, says your God; speak from the heart to Jerusalem and call out to her, for completed–her warfare, for pardoned–her iniquity, for she has received from the hand of Yahweh double, in all her sins. A voice calls, "In the wilderness prepare a way of Yahweh, straighten in the desert a highway to our God. Every valley will be lifted up, and every mountain and hill will be made low; and the uneven ground will be to level, and the rough places to a plain. And the glory of Yahweh will be revealed, and all flesh will see it, together, for the mouth of Yahweh has spoken. A voice says, "Call out!" And I said, "What will I call out?" "All the flesh is grass, and all all its beauty as a flower of the field; the grass withers, the flower fades, for the breath of Yahweh blows on it; truly the the people is grass. The grass withers, a flower fades, yet the Word of our God stands forever.
Now that it is late fall, most of us have put up our lawn mowers until the Spring. Once the first frost hits, we retire our flower gardens for the winter as well. The grass has withered, and the flower fades. But God isn't talking here about lawn care or gardening. He's talking about His people, you and me! We are like grass, in that our time is short here on earth. Most of us live 70 or 80 years if we have strength, and then our life is over. Such a brief time really, compared with eternity.
God used John the baptizer to proclaim this very message to prepare the way for Jesus' ministry in his first Advent. His message was simple: The time is short for repenting, because the kingdom of heaven is coming soon! But this message is just as poignant as it was in John's day, as it prepares Christ's Way to us that we also may repent of our sins before it is too late. Yes, you are like grass, fading away quickly. You don't know how many days you have left on this earth before Jesus returns.
So how is your time-management as you await Christ's second Advent? Probably not so good. Most likely you are caught up in the everyday, mundane things of life in this world, and spend very little time preparing for the world to come. Oh, you can manage to give God an hour of time per week, on Sunday morning to focus on the things of His kingdom, but it's like pulling teeth to find any more time.
Yet God pardons your iniquity of neglecting to put Him and His Word first. Ironically, He forgives your avoidance of His Word with His Word. He proclaims your sin removed from you by the Word of His Gospel love, that in Christ Jesus God was reconciling the people of this world to Himself at the cross. Just as He declared from Calvary, "Father, forgive them..." so too does He declare you forgiven in God's name as you hear it from the pastor, as sure and certain as Christ forgiving you Himself!
So, how is your perspective on Christ's second coming? Probably not what it should be. Do you wake up each morning hoping that today will be the day Jesus returns? Do you go to bed each night praying that Jesus will come back soon? Or, instead, do you assume that you are safe at least until the year 2012, or even much longer, since Jesus hasn't returned yet in almost 2000 years.
Yet God finds a way to keep you in the right perspective, by His Word. Not the word of the bible, exactly, but the Word Who is God. That Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. You know that Word as Jesus Who stands forever. He died for you on the +, then rose for your justification so that buried with Him by baptism into His death, you are now raised to new life in your baptism to stand in Him forevermore! As He stands at the right hand of His father in heaven, so do you!
So how high a priority is the imminent return of Jesus for you? Probably not as high as it ought to be. When you think of the future, your first thoughts are probably of retirement. You worry whether social security will still be there for you down the road, if your pension and savings will hold out, and you may doubt that there will be affordable health care in your old age. But what of your eternal security?
The LORD takes care of your everlasting welfare, beginning here and now. He does it by filling in the valleys of your pits of despair, and removing the mountainous burdens that would impede His way to you. Jesus levels His path to your rescue by removing the stony sins of your heart and by filling in the ruts of your sinfulness with His mercy. For this forgiveness of your sins, He gave up His body and shed His blood for you, giving you that same body to eat and that same blood to drink in His Holy Supper.
Yes, these words of the prophet Isaiah do indeed teach you to number your days, to bless you by the Word of God which stands forever. Jesus, the Word of God constantly readies you by His forgiving word proclaimed, by reminding you of your baptism, and by feeding you at Holy Communion. Amen.