Theme: Prince of Peace
Series: Advent – The Greatest Story
Book: The Cat in the Hat Comes Back
Bible Reading: Isaiah 1:10-20 (and other readings from Isaiah)
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
How many of us grew up with Dr Seuss? Sorry … I should have said … “I grew up with Dr Seuss too, did you?”
I have to be slightly honest … I am not completely sure what makes him so popular. Sure, he has a great sense of rhyme and rhythm but some of his books are plain weird and some of his characters are not great role models for kids. The cat in the hat is a great example of this.
The first time that Sally & her brother meet the Cat in the Hat, the cat in an effort to make the rainy day exciting, trashes their house with seemingly no regard. As I said, not the greatest example for kids to follow … even though the cat does clean it up just before their mum arrives home. So it is no wonder in this book that the kids are distressed when the cat turns back up again and instead of listen to them, invites himself in and eats cake in the bath.
Have you got friends like that? People who are ok but it seems like when they are around you always end up in trouble. The cat in the Hat is one of those type of friends and sure enough, in the book that we read today, the Cat turns up and it is not long before they are in a mess. And all the things that the cat tries to help … the mess just keeps getting bigger and messier.
Do you see the link between the book and our bible reading from Isaiah? All through the first chapter of Isaiah, the prophet records the frustration and disappointment of God. To understand just how cranky Isaiah is, you need to understand the history of the Israelites.
Remember, way back in the time of Abraham, God decided to use Abraham’s descendants (the Israelites) as an example of how a group of people could live in a right relationship with God. God gave them love and support, rescued them, guided them, even gave them the 10 commandments and other commands so that they would live in right relationship with God. But after 1500 years of trying they were still mucking it up.
At the time of Isaiah, they had just had a run of kings who were selfish, corrupt, unjust and for some of them, just plain evil. Consequently the people were not being led in the ways of God.
So Isaiah talks about people who are corrupt, worship that is offered just as a ritual, but with no meaning. He talks about people who have forgotten to take care of those who live on the edge of life. He talks about people who have deliberately chosen to live the way that God does not want. And he uses the picture of the whole place being stained red like blood.
It is true … what starts out so innocently can end up with such an enormous stain. For example…
- What starts out as a desire to care and protect someone, can end up as the stain of smothering them and hindering them becoming self-confident people.
- What starts out as a desire to provide for the family can end up as the stain of workaholism and an absence of warmth and relationship.
- What starts out as a desire for security and protection can end up as the stain of nationalism and pride, and fear of anyone who is different.
We are not unlike the mess in the cat in the hat.
As a nation, as individuals – we are stained.
We haven’t – at least for the most part – intended to create the stain any more than the cat in the hat intended the ring around the bathtub. But it’s there. And eventually it will dawn on us that we can’t get rid of it by ourselves. This is where the good news of Advent kicks in. You see, while Isaiah was cranky and frustrated with the mess the world and his people were in … God also spoke some amazing works of promise through him.
Did you catch them in the bible reading. Verse 18
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
I will make them as white as snow.
Though they are red like crimson,
I will make them as white as wool.
How is God promising to do this? If we flick through Isaiah we will see the promises keep coming:
Isaiah 7:14 – The Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).
Isaiah 9:6 – For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
1 Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot—
yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.
2 And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
3 He will delight in obeying the Lord.
He will not judge by appearance
nor make a decision based on hearsay.
4 He will give justice to the poor
and make fair decisions for the exploited.
5 But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.
Are you getting this? Isaiah starts his prophetic ministry having a rant at how bad the world is … and then God begins to speak. Yes we are in a mess, but someone is coming who can help us clean it up. Some is coming with VOOM – the ability to turn our red stains, white again.
The book of Isaiah is full of these promises. I read out 4 but there are around 20 prophetic promises in Isaiah about the one who is to come. I can imagine by the time God had said all these things to Isaiah, Isaiah and all his listeners would have been pleading for this saviour to come. They are desperate for the saviours help.
The irony is that Isaiah died before his prophecies were fulfilled. Isaiah never saw the Messiah but they passed on the promise to the next generation. Generation after generation they talked about the coming saviour, the one who will save them. And they waited … A … B … C … D … E … F … 600 years they waited … G … H … I … J … each year hoping that the messiah would appear … K … L … M … N … waiting & hoping … O … P … Q … R … S … T … U … V …
are you getting sick of waiting yet? W … X … Y … and just when you think that it is not going to happen….
Z. Jesus was born as a baby. So small and insignificant. How could this baby born to poor parents in a tiny town be the Saviour. It was such an insignificant even that most people didn’t even realise that the Messiah had come.
And yet … this little child was the one with VOOM. The angels declared it to the shepherds … Today in the town of David a SAVIOUR has been born. The Prince of Peace and the Lord of Lord. Jesus is the one who was coming to made everything right again. Jesus had the VOOM to clean away once and for all the stain of sin. Jesus was the one who showed a way of living which was based on love, justice, mercy and grace. Jesus is that saviour.
For me, that is what Advent is all about. The waiting, the anticipating, being full of hope and wonder for Jesus is coming to make everything right.
Advent is the call for us to wake up and realise that there is another way. A way of something new breaking through
and dealing with the stain of individuals, and the stain of nations, in a way that doesn’t spread it around or hide it but absolutely and utterly removes it.
As we move through Advent – I encourage us to look at our lives and to see if there is a stain that needs to be dealt with. If there is, let’s deal with it. Let’s call upon Jesus Voom to cleanse us and then commit ourselves to live in a way which honours God.
And if we stuff up again … don’t wallow in guilt. Just remember the last paragraph of the Cat in the Hat … but this time imagine Jesus is saying it.
And so, if you ever / Have spots now and then,
I’ll be very happy to come here again (or to cleanse you again)