Rev. Doug Floyd
Isaiah 11:1-11, Romans 15:1-13, Matthew 3:1-12
In the story of Robin Hood, King Richard the Lionheart is away. In his absence, Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham are usurping his kingdom. Robin Hood and his Merry Men rob the rich to give to the poor. They are seeking justice for the weakest in the land due to the corrupt leaders. If only King Richard would return, he could set the kingdom in order.
During Advent, we take up this longing for the king to set things in order. We are acutely aware that our world is out of order. From broken bodies to broken hearts, we know the pain that reverberates throughout our communities and our homes. Ben Ferguson, a relatively young priest, died this week of colon cancer. He leaves behind his wife and two daughters. This ought not be. He was a beautiful soul who has left this world far too soon.
We see the ravages of Russian’s invasion of Ukraine on the nightly news. There is an approaching famine in Somalia that threatens to take many lives. There are regular reports of slavery in China, Africa, and all throughout the world. There is so much pain and suffering in the world, we cannot bear it. It’s too much. It leads to despair.
After covering war zones for many years, the photojournalist Sebastião Salgado put down his camera. The corruption of humanity so grieved him, he felt like humans no longer deserved to live on this planet. If we ever needed a savior, we need him now. We need him to put our world to rights.
Our Psalm today extols the virtues of the coming king, the Prince of Peace. This psalm appears to celebrate King Solomon. He is the wise king who establishes peace and justice in Israel. 1 Kings 11 tells us that in his old age, Solomon’s heart turns to the idols of his many wives. The Lord appears to him twice and warns him about foreign gods, but he does not heed the Lord. The wisest king turns out to be unfaithful and sets a pattern of idolatry that will corrupt the nation for centuries to come.
The kingdom falls to civil war under Solomon’s son Rehoboam, and they split it between the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom. Both kingdoms will eventually collapse under the weight of their own sins and corruption. Isaiah sees the destruction of Israel by Assyria and anticipates the destruction of Judah by Babylon.
In the midst of this oracle of doom, Isaiah looks to the coming king for hope. Unlike the kings of Israel and Judah, there is coming a true prince of peace. Isaiah sings,
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
Though the house of David has fallen to Babylon, the Lord will raise up a true king. He will establish a kingdom where the most vulnerable will be welcome and made safe. This king will bear the fullness of God’s Spirit. His rule will embody the very wisdom of God.
Unlike all the kings of Israel or all the kings of other nations, this king will establish justice at the very heart of all things. By His Word alone the wicked and oppressors will fall. Isaiah offers a series of images that give us a picture of the peaceable kingdom this king establishes.
6 The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. 
In each of these images, natural enemies live together without harming one another. Here we have a picture not simply of animals, but of humans. When this king puts the world to rights, humans are finely at peace. Those who have ancient hostilities share a meal in love.
The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord. The curse of sin and death has blinded all humanity and we stumble as one walking in the dark. In our Gospel today John the Baptist goes before the coming king, preparing the way. He calls us to “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
We turn and behold the king. He comes and opens our eyes and ears and hearts to His love, His wisdom, His life. This king will restore his lost and wandering people into a communion of love.
We were created for this love. We were created to live in love with God and one another. Our will power alone cannot restore this love. The king who comes with healing in his wings will transform us into holy lovers.
We long for this king. We long to see the world put to rights. We long for His coming, His unveiling, His kingdom to be revealed in fullness. As we around at the sin and suffering in world, we often do not know how to pray. We cry out for God’s mercy and we pray “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”
As we watch and wait for the coming of the Lord, we live toward His coming. Paul exhorts us in Romans,
“We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” (Romans 15:1-2)
Instead of images of a wolf and a lamb, Paul offers us images of the strong and the weak, of the Jew and the Gentile, of the poor and the rich. Christ our King rules our hearts and through us, He establishes His kingdom in our midst.
“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:5-6)
One way we long for the coming of the Lord is through hospitality. Paul writes, “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7) In and through His grace, we open our hearts and our lives to those around us as well as those beyond us. Those in the community who may be different than us, who may even oppose us. At the same time, we open our hearts and our lives to those far from us. We reach out to those in need by offering our financial gifts and prayers.
We watch and wait for the coming of the Lord. As we watch and wait, we love, we serve, we give, we bless, we embrace.
Come Lord Jesus.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Is 11:1.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Is 11:6–8.