Overwhelmed by Joy!
† Jesus Son & Savior †
As we begin this year, may the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ overwhelm you, leaving you noticeably at rest and full of joy!
Standing in the wings
Isaiah, the prophet gives an incredible description of the new beginning we have in Christ in today’s Old Testament. It takes most of back a decade or two or five.
Back to when us guys were standing in churches, or chapels, and waiting for the doors to open. Back when you ladies were on the other side of those doors, in that moment of anticipation, in that moment of joy.
That’s what Isaiah starts the passage with, as he attempts to describe the joy he feels, as he catches a vision of the restoration of the people of God. Hear it again,
10 I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels.
All dressed up – and waiting, but what clothes! Salvation and Righteousness!
And Isaiah saw this coming – and the joy was overwhelming!
As we start this new year, this is what we need to realize, that our lives have changed, and changing as much as a young couples lives change, as the bride and groom see each other on their wedding day….
We’ll get back to that in a moment…
The prayer – for the new beginning
We need to understand that Isaiah is one of the prophets whose writings are filled with lament. With the words that people will hear, because they continually choose sin over God. They are self-centered, and ignore those in need, which Isaiah mourns over, even as he warns them what they are heading for, if they continue.
In between the woes, and the promises of judgment, there brief views of hope. He will talk about a virgin who would conceive, and the baby who would be the wonderful counselor, eternal Father, the prince of peace. He would mention the one who pleased God by taking on himself all the wrath of God, thus giving life to those crushed by their own sin.
But overall, the book is challenging to read, Lots of what we might call hell fire and brimstone. But then, sin is a serious issue, and it took a serious cross to cure and heal the damage done to sinners.
But you see God’s heart reflected in Isaiah’s prayer
Because I love Zion, I will not keep still. Because my heart yearns for Jerusalem, I cannot remain silent. I will not stop praying for her until her righteousness shines like the dawn, and her salvation blazes like a burning torch.
Even as the prophet has his moments, okay, more than moments, years of struggling to get them to listen to God, he has a desire for them to come into the relationship they were meant to be in.
God’s desire infused the heart of Isaiah, and even as he weeps over their disobedience, he longs for the change that God has promised.
He has to pray, and will pray until they are right with God, so right they shine like the sun rising, and the proof of God’s delivering them lights up the darkness like bonfire.
This is what the prophet longs for, and what causes incredible joy, as he looks to the future, and gets a hint of what Jesus, the one born of a virgin, the suffering servant whose wounds would provide our healing, when Isaiah realizes the work of Christ!
Even as it was His hope, it is ours as well, and we are so much closer to realizing it fulfilled.
We like Isaiah are dressed, and waiting for the doors to open, to see the promise come into its fullness.
The clothes and the name.
When I mentioned the joy of Isaiah being such that he compared it to a groom standing here, or a bride back at the door, all dressed up in their clothing of salvation and the robe of righteousness, I didn’t explain the depth of those words.
The clothing is that of the greatest finery – the same words are used for the special robes of a priest on the highest of holy days. As is the robe – we aren’t talking about a bath robe or choir robe, we are talking about the covering of a king… and the types of garments aren’t even the best thing!
The clothing of salvation – that is in Hebrew the being clothed with Yeshua – being clothed with Jesus! The very thing Paul will talk about, as we are united to Jesus – as we put Him on,
Which explains how our robes are righteousness – the purity and innocence of one who does not know sin at all.
This is what Isaiah saw as our future, this moment of pure joy, pure bliss, as the people of God are made so righteous that the world is amazed, because we will share in the glory of God, as He holds out for all to see.
This moment as God makes you His, this special moment that Isaiah prayed and prayed and prayed for, that the people of Israel and all the nations would come to know…
The moment we were united to Christ, it is already here, it happened at the cross.
In the beginning of the sermon, I mentioned waiting here as a groom would, or there, as a bride would, that is what Isaiah saw – but for us, we’ve come to that point where the pastor announces our name for the first time, for we have be claimed by Christ at this font, and again at this altar.
We are his, and though we can’t quite believe it has happened, it has, and the rest of life is the walk down the aisle, dwelling with Him in holiness, until we go out into eternity.
The thought of this occurring caused Isaiah great joy, so much so He was overwhelmed,
How much more can this overwhelm us, who don’t see it far off, but know it true now.
How much more can it affect our very lives, this incredible gift of God.
May we sing His praises, now and forever! AMEN
You Won’t Ask? I will provide anyway!I
As you experience the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, may you know the peace of the Babe, held in His mother’s Arms.
Can We Know Peace? Snoopy and the Red Baron & the real Story
As we look at the world, at Afghanistan, Syria, the Ukraine, as we hear of more shootings, and protests here in America, as we hear of disasters and people living in poverty, looking at a romanticized view of the manger causes… dissonance.
How can this be the same world?
My mind wandered back to a more peaceful time, or at least, It was in my mind. In a small New Hampshire town, the news of the Vietnam War was far more distant than the wards of today… and life seemed at peace.
I remember listening to Christmas music, on our record player, the albums that would get pulled out, year after year. One of my favorites was a group called Royal Guardsman, and their Christmas song was about Snoopy.
Yes, Charlie Brown’s dog, and a fight he had with Baron Manfred Richtofen in World War I, on Christmas Eve. A battle about to end with snoopy getting shot down, when the bells of Christmas began to ring in the village below,
The chorus was
“Christmas bells those Christmas bells
Ring throughout the land
Asking peace of all the world
And good will to man”
And for a moment, there was peace.
Such actually happened in World War I, not between two pilots, but two armies. For an evening, they laid down their rifles, they silenced their artillery, and as one man started singing silent night, men from his army joined their voices to his, then the other army did as well.
For an evening, as bells chimed from churches, announcing the birth of Jesus, there was peace.
Can that happen today?
Will we know if it does?
Can we know peace in War?
That question God wanted to ask…. Yeah
In the days of King Ahaz, in the time described in our Old Testament reading from Isaiah, there was a war.
We know the passage so well, because of the prophecy of Mary, and the name, Immanuel, which means Immanent or Immediate God. It is from where we get our blessing, “The Lord is with you!.”
Jerusalem was going to get run over, brutally run over….surrounded by armies,
In order to provide for God’s people, a prophet is sent to break this new to them.
God asks the king, “let me prove I will be with you through these times, ask me for something to confirm it….Let me give you and answer for the questions you will ask.
Ask, and you shall receive…. Jesus will ask us, centuries later….
Ahaz refused to answer, for whatever reason.
I won’t put you to the test…. I won’t demand you prove your presence, your love, I won’t depend on you God, no matter what threatens me. That’s Ahaz voice, defensive, dismissive….
Will we doubt the One who was promised, the babe born to a virgin, the One who would remind us that God is with us? That God has promised to deliver His people, and bring them, bring us safely home?
Will we hear it, more than this night!
Many of our wars aren’t military battles, nor even do they include weapons. They are wars with our neighbors, or our families,, skirmishes and fights with friends. Civil wars within our hearts, within our souls.
We need to hear that God wants us to ask of Him, we need to seek Him out, we need to realize that He will prove that He is as here this night
We need to know He is Immanuel, our God, with US.
That is what this night, these songs, these readings are all about. It’s why we gather. It ‘s why we are here……
and we are why He is here….
We are why this baby doesn’t just belong here… in the manger, but here, on the altar.
The sacrifice that we would know peace.
During a war, nearly 100 years ago, the bells pealed out, and the war was forgotten,… and men sang the praises of God, who came and dwelt among us…
To bring us the peace of heaven…..
So seek, and knock and ask….
And realize the answer was first seen, as a young lady laid her newborn babe in a manger, and God the Father offered Him as the sacrifice to prove Himself to be our God, and to make us His people.
We pray….Lord, Rip Open the Heavens and Come!
Isaiah 64:1-9 Psalm 102:18-22
† IHS †
As you grow to know God’s mercy, may you find your prayers sustained by the Spirit’s presence, even as you pray for Christ’s return!
Rip’em open Lord
There are days where Isaiah’s cry I hear with great anger, and other times I hear it with great heartache. As we look out into this world, with its wars, with it massacres. When we see people causing division, rather than trying to bring reconciliation, when we see people struggle with the political games, with broken relationships, when they get played by extremism, or self-centeredness. When we look around us, and all we see is sin. There is a frustration that results in anger, and in tears. There is a desperation to our prayers, to connect to God!
Lord, come quickly, come so quickly you rip the sky’s open, and bring it to and end1
Isaiah certainly didn’t mean this as a casual invitation, but it was a cry born of pain, he pleaded with God to not hold back, but to come down with all His power, and set things straight.
To make things the way they are supposed to be.
Why can’t people love God, and love each other?
We can get so frustrated, there are times where we aren’t sure whether to be angry, or crushed. For that matter, we aren’t even sure which we are, at the moment.
The World Deserves it….
The cries for God to fulfill His promises resound throughout the Old Testament. For God promises, as he does in our reading tonight, to come with all of the angels and fix it. To come and destroy all that is Holy, to shake it up the way He did in the Old Testament, to deal with those who do things that are unrighteous.
You see it in all of the prophets, they pray for God to come and fix it all that is broken.
To take care of evil once and for all.
Even as Christ came the first time to save us, we know He is coming back to judge the quick and the dead. He will reign, He will fix everything, and that will go one forever.
They plead with God to return, they can’t stand living amid the brokenness any longer, so they turn to God and cry for help. The God the psalmist notes is looking down, listening to the cries of those in bondage, and will come to release them.
We deserve it
Back in Isaiah, even as the prophet cries for God to rip open the heavens, there is a realization, a hesitation. For Isaiah realizes how much the people of God have wandered away. He realizes that God isn’t just angry at them, but at us as well. That our desire to do good, is worthless, that we are dried up by sin,
What is alarming is verse 7,
No one prays to you or makes the effort to reach out to you….
I have to ask, how much is prayer a part of our lives. Whether it is taking the psalms and praying through them, or whether it is just pouring out our heart to God. How often do we think of Him, talk to Him, find our selves concerned with what He is concerned with in our lives, in our world?
How often do we follow what He tells us to do? Or do we justify our sin, not caring if it breaks God’s heart?
We get frustrated by the very thing that in others we want to condemn. We need to learn to hate this sin, this failure, in our own lives. We need to call out to God to cleanse us, heal us, forgive us.
As Isaiah says, we cry for Him to remember we are His people. The people He poured water upon in baptism, the people He feeds and nourishes the souls of during the Lord’s Supper.
We are people that the psalm was recorded for, so that we could praise the Lord with angels and archangels and all the hosts of heaven.
For He has promised to look down and release those for whom Christ died. To free them from their sins…. He promised that to us.
Advent makes Christmas something special, for it takes it from something historical, and we realize that it was to us He came. Because we needed Him To save us, and eventually, to return and bring us home to the Father.
Where we will dwell for eternity, in His presence. A day we should long for, even as God gives us His peace, until we return.
Devotional THought of the Day:
2 He has sent me to proclaim That the time has come When the LORD will save his people And defeat their enemies. He has sent me to comfort all who mourn, Isaiah 61:2 (TEV)
13 I will comfort you in Jerusalem, as a mother comforts her child. 14 When you see this happen, you will be glad; it will make you strong and healthy. Then you will know that I, the LORD, help those who obey me, and I show my anger against my enemies.” Isaiah 66:13-14 (TEV)
“Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” (1)
It lies on my phone in wait for certain messages, just sitting there, a ring tone tied to email’s, text messages and fb messages.
I put it there originally tied to a name or ten, whose messages usually herald some kind of suffering. Now, faced with the truth, it heralds all messages. (btw – if you think you name was the one it was attached to, that probably means either that it wasn’t or was…)
As I approach fifty, I am more and more convinced that “the man in Black”/aka Wesley/aka the dread pirate Roberts was correct, Life is pain. Or as Buddha is credited as saying, “Life is suffering”.
Some of it is physical, like my body is wracking me with pain presently, because I worked out this morning, or because of the health issues I have faced all my life. Some of it is spiritual/emotional, like the grieving that I went through 2 weeks ago, as I walked along the shoreline where my dad and I walked so many times. Or the anxiety that comes from being a father and pastor, as I worry about those who I have been given the responsibility for shepherding towards God.
Some of the pain is second hand, which doesn’t mean it is any less, thought it is different. The pain and suffering that occurs naturally when we encounter people in our familes (biological, communal, church) that are suffering. Paul wrote about this to the church in Rome, “Share the happiness of those who are happy, the sorrow of those who are sad. Live in harmony with each other. Romans 12:15-16 (Phillips NT) That harmony means we do suffer together, though the notes we sound are different, they resonate together.
Life is pain…..
And The Man in Black is correct, many will try and sell you something to fix it. Some things will be dreams, or distractions that addict. Some will sell the promise of ignoring the pain, which is ultimately more painful.
LIfe is Pain….yet, as Princess Buttercup desired, it should not be mocked.
Even if we think it isn’t that painful, or it is exaggerated, or they are just whiny, pathetic people who don’t know what real suffering is, because they haven’t been in the pit of despair. There is a reason life hurts, and while we may say this is what pains us, it may be something much deeper.
The answer to life’s pain isn’t found in the latest self help book, or in the latest drug, or this or that relationship. It won’t be found on the other side of the continent (as I often wonder ) or in that perfect job.
It is found in an instrument of pain and suffering. It is found at the cross. For there, we find healing, we find the promise of God’s love fulfilled. We find God bringing comfort to us, That is why the first quote above was read by Christ in the synagogie, and the reason He could confirm it’s fulfillment. He is our comfort, He is the assurance of our peace.
In Him, suffering becomes something different. I have a hard ime explaining that, but I’ve seen it to many times, in hospice patients, in church members lives, in my own. I can’t call it nobility, but there is a quality of endurance and courage as we find sustenance and peace that is more than that. It isn’t inner strength, for while we barely endure, we are all to aware it isn’t by our strength.
I know no other way to describe it than to say, it is grace. It is a gift of God to us, to those around us, to know He is there, sustaining, reconciling, bringing healing beyond belief to our souls, and the hope of eternity in our lives.
This isn’t for sale, and we would discount it in this life because it isn’t so easily found. Yet this peace we know of, and in Christ experience, knowing its value, because life is pain.
Lord have mercy upon us, Christ have mercy upon us, Lord have mercy upon us.
(1) from the movie, “The Princess Bride”
Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:
17 But it is in that way faith comes, from hearing, and that means hearing the word of Christ. Romans 10:17 (NJB)
24 Some of them were convinced by his words, but others would not believe. 25 So they left, disagreeing among themselves, after Paul had said this one thing: “How well the Holy Spirit spoke through the prophet Isaiah to your ancestors! 26 For he said, ‘Go and say to this people: You will listen and listen, but not understand; you will look and look, but not see, 27 because this people’s minds are dull, and they have stopped up their ears and closed their eyes. Otherwise, their eyes would see, their ears would hear, their minds would understand, and they would turn to me, says God, and I would heal them.’ “ 28 And Paul concluded: “You are to know, then, that God’s message of salvation has been sent to the Gentiles. They will listen!” Acts 28:24-28 (TEV)
123 Meus es tu—you are mine, the Lord has declared to you. To think that God, who is all beauty and all wisdom, all splendour and all goodness, should say to you that you are his…! and then, after all this, you can’t bring yourself to respond to him!
His name is Paul, but most people in the USA who would quickly recognize his voice, have no idea of who he is, or what he does outside of five words.
But say those five words, and they will picture him, his glasses, his short hair cut, the blue jumpsuit and the arm which is glued to a cell phone, which is glued to his ear.
He is always asking, “Can you hear me now?” Over and over and over again.
But he isn’t the only one.
The quote from Acts above is replicated in the gospels, it is retold in Paul’s writings, and some would say it originates in the Isaiah. But the first people to hear it, dwelt in a garden, and daily, physically, walked with God. Can you hear me know Adam? Eve, are you listening?
They weren’t. The people of God in the time of Moses didn’t hear Him that well, in fact, they asked not to hear Him, for to hear God is a scary, intimidating thing. We are afraid of what we will hear. We are afraid of what he says, and like children or teenagers, we become good at hearing what God tells us, is beloved children. We busy ourselves with things, some of which we believe will earn His favor, but which simply exist to keep us from listening from being still and knowing that He is God.
We hear Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress” and want to make it the anthem of a church at war with evil in the world, rather than the cry of one who is broken, abused, neglected and oppressed, who finds rest and sanctuary in Christ. ( Remember, Luther writes that based on Psalm 46, not Revelation)
Will we listen when Jesus calls us to His side, to unite with Him in death, to come to Him because we are weary and burdened, so we can find rest and healing? Will we listen to the Holy Spirit, not described as a Warrior General, as a spiritual Chuck Norris/Bruce Lee/Yoda, but as the Comforter and Consoler. Will we listen to a God who attributes are love and mercy? (cHesed, Ellios, agape)
Will we listen and hear, and let the word of Christ dwell in us,
Or will we claim there was a bad connection, that the email was lost, that we didn’t get the Lord’s message, or understand His desire?
Will we here Him say,
1 “Do not be afraid—I will save you. I have called you by name—you are mine. Isaiah 43:1 (TEV)
Hear Him, dear people of God… and live!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 635-638). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 The Sovereign LORD has filled me with his Spirit. He has chosen me and sent me To bring good news to the poor, To heal the broken-hearted, To announce release to captives And freedom to those in prison. 2 He has sent me to proclaim That the time has come When the LORD will save his people And defeat their enemies. He has sent me to comfort all who mourn, Isaiah 61:1-2 (TEV)
“You shall have no other gods.” 1 That is, you shall regard me alone as your God. What does this mean, and how is it to be understood? What is to have a god? What is God? 2 Answer: A god is that to which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need. To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe him with our whole heart. As I have often said, the trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol. 3 If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true God. On the other hand, if your trust is false and wrong, then you have not the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God. That to which your heart clings and entrusts itself is, I say, really your God. (1)
It is for most men, one of the hardest images of God to grasp onto, because our pride gets so in the way. We want to be the ones who endure, the ones whom secure the victory, the ones who at the end of the day, soaked in sweat and blood, can rejoice that we are alive. The last thing we want to admit – we need this God, because He does the exact thing we don’t want to admit that we need.
The God who comforts, the God who consoles. The God who is so adept at comforting us, that the prophets don’t describe Him just as a father-figure, but use the illustration of a mother comforting her infant. But throughout the Old Testament, and especially in the major prophets, this is a strong picture of God – the one who comforts and strengthens (a number of times strengthens replaces the same word for comfort..and the word picture is a great sigh of relief)
It’s knowing we can’t go on anymore, we can’t take another step, or we feel like we can breathe. Then, we realize His presence, and the breathe is one of relaxation, as we realize we can rest in His presence. All is well.. or so our hearts know, even as our minds still anxiously struggle with the implications of something. We breathe deeply of the Spirit, we know we’ve found, as Luther says – refuge, sanctuary.
Our God has once again proven Himself to be God. He shows us we can trust in Him, even when we can’t believe the wars that surround us. Even though we struggle with what seems to be the world, or our nation, or our church, going to pieces.
A God of comfort – one who brings us to a place of peace, a place of nourishment, a place of blessing, as He comforts us, as He consoles us… as He reminds us that He is God.
Lord have mercy on us all, and help us to find comfort in that mercy… even us guys…
(1) The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. 1959 (T. G. Tappert, Ed.) (365). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
My devotional thoughts for today…
27 Why would you ever complain, O Jacob, or, whine, Israel, saying, “GOD has lost track of me. He doesn’t care what happens to me”? 28 Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening? GOD doesn’t come and go. God lasts. He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine. He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath. And he knows everything, inside and out. 29 He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. 30 For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. 31 But those who wait upon GOD get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind. Isaiah 40:27-31 (MSG)
You ask me, “Why that wooden cross?” And I quote from a letter: “As I raise my eyes from the microscope, my sight comes to rest on the cross—black and empty. That cross without a corpus is a symbol; it has a meaning others won’t see. And I, tired out and on the point of abandoning my work, once again bring my eyes close to the lens and continue. For that lonely cross is calling for a pair of shoulders to bear it.” (1)
It’s going to be another long day, I will probably be “working” late into the evening. The emotional roller coaster that hit top speed last Wednesday continues, and the work is piling up.
I know some of the people I am working with are far more challenged, far more weary, far more exhausted, and their burdens I struggle to turn over to God, (even though I know He has them already… I feel a need to help)
But there are days where I echo thoughts I know are said by those around me, as they question God. There are times where even as we pray, we wonder if He is listening. We leave Him, as He has asked – our burdens, but we anxiously wonder if they will be picked up. How are we to leave those burdens, those anxieties behind? How are we to keep moving, when it seems like we have no energy left? How are we to stop our complaining, our critiquing, our whining? They are the outbursts of people that are tired and weary>
As I read Escriva’s simple words, they simplify the problem, and identify what I know. Our work is our cross, our times of toil and tears is ours to bear. Even as I desire to abandon it, even as I desire to call ir a day, I know that I can keep going, I know that God’s work isn’t as heavy as I complain about, as I whine about. When I do, I am missing out on something, and I admit I miss out to often. The challenge isn’t the work after all, it is realizing what Isaiah says.
Do I know God is with me?
Do I realize His promises to sustain me?
Do I realize I do not bear this cross alone, but it is the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, who is strengthening me? Do I know His compassion?
We need to realize that in those burdens, in these crosses we take up, we find fellowship, we find communion with God. We find out He is here, that we aren’t alone. The burden doesn’t weigh as much. When we realize this the burden does fade, the sweat and tears are replaced with peace, and His strength – always there, becomes known, and we begin to rejoice.
In truth, it has nothing to do with our age, our strength, the size of the burden, what causes us to take it up, is knowing Him, being with Him.
Does God care I am tired? Yes.. which is why He is here….lifting me up with His presence.
We need to listen when we cry, “Lord have mercy!” For then we can hear the answer!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 735-738). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- Why I Love the Old Testament (justifiedandsinner.com)
- VIP Concert Passes, Surgical Nurses and Divine Appointments.. (justifiedandsinner.com)
- The Burden Bearer (catchingavisionbyviv.wordpress.com)
Devotional thought of the day.
It is Thursday morning for me, just about 6. I am sitting in a terminal of an airport in Tokyo, waiting for the next connection and a five hour flight to my first destination for this trip. Very tired.. yet…
About the time I crossed the international date line, I read…
The power of working miracles! How many dead—and even rotting—souls you will raise, if you let Christ act in you. In those days, the Gospel tells us, the Lord was passing by; and they, the sick, called to him and sought him out. Now, too, Christ is passing by, in your Christian life. If you second him, many will come to know him, will call to him, will ask him for help: and their eyes will be opened to the marvellous light of grace. (1)
That is my hope on this trip – that I will be able to see, or hear about later, the work that God does, as we interact with people, as we share with them the gospel, as we teach them that God desires to walk with them….as Isaiah points out – with the same desire that a bridegroom desires to see his bride. It is a message hard enough to communicate to people in the USA – there seems to be some kind of block to realizing God’s love and desire for them to be in His presence. May they – as well as those I will minister to – and minister alongside – know your love!
May the people you pass by today – realize that they have been visited by the Holy Spirit, for God dwells with you.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2445-2449). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
God’s Zeal did… this.
† In Jesus Name †
As we look at the life of Jesus, may we realize the manger is just the beginning of the story, as is the tomb, and even out baptism… and that God’s zeal uses that to accomplish something…beyond our belief
Mary Did you Know Video?
The Manger, the Cross, the Tomb, and the Throne…
All this accomplished because of God’s zeal
The lighting in the sanctuary this evening, allows for the beginning of the sermon to be a video of the life of Jesus, accompanied by a song most of us have heard before. (start video)
The reason is showed the video is simple – the manger – and the incredibly peaceful looking scene in most nativity scenes can only be understood as we contemplate the ministry of Christ – what occurs in it, the miracles, the teachings, the Cross, the Tomb, the encounter with Paul, and especially the throne.
I love in our Old Testament reading tonight, the use of the word “zeal”. Not normally a word we think of, when we think of God our Father, and the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It seems odd to use such a passionate, emotional word to describe the Creator of the Heavens and Earth, the Creator of life, the Sustainer of His people. But zeal is the word used.
Zeal – the thing we think of when we think of football fans, or the excitement of a couple as they look forward to their wedding – zeal. Words like enthusiasm, passion, ardor and fanaticism are synonyms. It is that all out- gung ho approach to getting what is desired….
And it is God’s zeal that accomplishes what we celebrate tonight.
Immanuel! God with us! With us, hereto live, to teach, to comfort, to heal, to die, rise, and reign! To create for Himself a people – holy and righteous.
He’s come to take and transform us, for we have too long lived in the darkness, it is time to live in the glorious light of His presence.
It is hard to imagine God that emotionally tied to us – that desirous of our company – so willing to give His son… that we would know and love and be with Him… yet His zeal is for that very thing – and Isaiah, writing hundreds of years – says that the zeal of the Lord of hosts gets this done!
The Light which shatters darkness
His reign and peace
His justice and righteousness
I have long counted Isaiah and Hebrews as my two favorite books in the Bible – because of the clarity of their presentation of the work of Jesus, the Lord who was chosen to be the child that Isaiah says was given to us. And the passage tonight – tells us of the incredible work that He came to accomplish.
We live in a world that seems dark. Darkened by sin, and darkened by the vary evil of mankind. By our thoughts, and the words we say, and even the deeds we do. I was talking to Bob recently, and we discussed that those deeds, once hidden, once never discussed, are now talked about freely, indeed we find people who take great joy, not just in doing evil – St Paul describes the people of his day, and indeed ours, this way….
28 Because those people refuse to keep in mind the true knowledge about God, he has given them over to corrupted minds, so that they do the things that they should not do. 29 They are filled with all kinds of wickedness, evil, greed, and vice; they are full of jealousy, murder, fighting, deceit, and malice. They gossip 30 and speak evil of one another; they are hateful to God, insolent, proud, and boastful; they think of more ways to do evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no conscience; they do not keep their promises, and they show no kindness or pity for others. 32 They know that God’s law says that people who live in this way deserve death. Yet, not only do they continue to do these very things, but they even approve of others who do them. Romans 1:28-32 (TEV)
Living in a world like this is difficult – where evil seems to reign. Even more darkened by things we cannot understand – the challenges of living life in a world were disease and disorders change our very lives – the very people we are.
But into this kind of life comes a baby, a little boy, that has promised to be a light unto the world.
Look at the things Isaiah promises He will bring – the wonderful comfort of God, His presence which will sustain us and cause us to be victorious over sin, and satan, and even.. death. He is promised to be our everlasting Father, the one who cares and protects and teaches us!
Incredibly – He will be our peace, the Lord, the Prince who establishes peace and keeps us in it!
The zeal of God – His desire to have you in His life, in His glory, makes this happen. It was planned before the foundation of the earth was laid, and it was revealed to us in scripture – even as it is today, and it was revealed in the flesh, as Mary and Joseph looked down upon Him and rejoiced!
And yes – it went through His life, as people were freed from demons and illnesses, the blind saw, the crippled walked and the dead – both physical and spiritual were given life! The plan was completed at the cross – and the grace and ascension bring its goal to fruition – even as we see it revealed in Pentecost – and in our lives.
That’s what this night is about – that is why we desired His advent – His coming into the world.. even as we desire that He comes again, to reveal the completeness of His glory to us, even as we are to abide in it for eternity, even as we do now, though we cannot see it all….
For we will dwell with Him, our Father, our Lord, our Counselor… our God forever.
For the zeal of the Lord HAS accomplished this. AMEN?