Sermon 12.25.18

Isaiah 52:7-10                                                                                                                                                                         Rev. Kenneth Frey
Christmas Day                                                                                                                                                                                        12/25/18
 
Isaiah 52:7-10  How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”  Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy.  When the Lord returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes.  Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.  10 The Lord will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.
 
What reason do you have to rejoice today?
1.  We were captives
2.  God revealed his power
3. We have peace and salvation
4.  So let us rejoice
 
It’s Christmas Day!  It’s finally here!  Are you happy today?  Why is everyone so happy today?  I’m sure many are happy because you will be able to spend time with family – maybe some that you haven’t seen for a while.  Some of you are happy because of the presents you received for Christmas.  Some of you are probably happy just because you get a few days off of work.  Today we have a section of God’s Word to study that tells us to rejoice.  Why?  What reason do you have to rejoice today?
To understand why we should rejoice today, we need to come to grips with what takes away our joy.  The reason we didn’t rejoice is because we were captives.  Much of Isaiah’s prophecy was a warning to the Jews that they were going to be sent into captivity because they had rejected the Lord.  There are consequences for their behavior.  God cannot be mocked. 
But that Babylonian captivity of the Jews was used by God to picture the captivity that all people experience – the captivity to sin.  We like to think of ourselves as self-sufficient.  We are not.  We like to think of ourselves as free and independent.  We are not.  We like to think of ourselves as masters of our own destiny.  We are not.  We are mastered by forces beyond our control.  What makes our situation worse is the illusion that we are truly independent. 
We are owned, lock, stock and barrel, but we are convinced we are free.  Nothing we could do or say, nothing we could pay, could buy our independence.  Because before God we are bound in our sins and trespasses.  We have no freedom to better ourselves in God’s eyes, no sufficiency to move him to favor us with his grace. 
What is worse is that we are also at war.  We are at war with ourselves and we are at war with God.  We are in danger not only from our fellow human beings, but we are in danger of God’s righteous judgment.  There is no safe place for sinners.  “If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?” (Psalm 130:3)
But we rejoice today because God has revealed his power for us.  How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”   In the rather obscure song entitled, “Christmas is” Percy Faith once sang, “Christmas is sleigh bells.  Christmas is sharing.  Christmas is holly.  Christmas is caring.”  In this song, Percy Faith tried to capture some of the things that make Christmas, well, Christmas.  The sights, sounds, and feelings – apparently that’s what Christmas is to him.  Most would probably agree. (Adapted from Edward Frey)  But is that what Christmas is?  Is that reason to burst into songs of joy?  No, Christmas is the Word becoming flesh, our God dwelling with us as one of us.  Christmas is the Lord returning to Zion in the birth of Jesus Christ.
Christmas is:  “Your God reigns!”  The Jews may have wondered about that.  Under the thumb of Babylon, most of them taken away from their homeland, their city and the temple in ruins, they may have wondered if God really is in control.  But then the herald came with the news that Babylon was conquered, the exiles would return.  Soon they would be able to build the temple.  Yes, your God reigns!  He is in control of history.
The birth of Jesus announces to us that your God reigns.  He controlled history and the universe to bring about the good news of Jesus’ birth.  A Roman emperor, a census, a journey, and a star were used by him to bring about his gift to us.  Christmas reminds us that God reigns and rules history for our salvation.  Christmas reminds us that God has not abandoned his people and he never will. 
Things looked bad for us.  Satan had trapped us in sin.  He was marching us toward hell and we could not stop him.  But our God reigns.  Jesus stepped into history with power.  The Lord will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.  Do you remember the old Popeye cartoons?  Popeye would always find himself in trouble that he couldn’t get out of until he opened his can of spinach.  After eating his spinach, his muscles would grow and he would clobber the bad guys with his powerful arm. 
Christmas is God rolling up his sleeve, revealing his muscle and going to work to deliver you and me from sin.  He displayed his holy arm by wrapping himself in human flesh.  He shows his strength in a fragile little baby wrapped up tightly in cloths. 
And that makes us pause.  This lesson is the introduction for the climax of Isaiah’s prophecy.  He begins with this exciting message of good news, but after that he has to ask who will believe it?  It’s not a powerful King and a mighty army, but a baby.  It’s just a man who has nothing to attract us to him, who is very common and ordinary.  But Isaiah goes on to tell us that this ordinary man would be pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities and the Lord would lay on him the sin of us all.  That is the mighty arm of the Lord.  In the baby in the manger God has turned the game around.  He won the victory. 
We have redemption.  Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.   Our redemption in Christ is like a transaction:  The curse we deserved for having defied the Holy Lord through our sin is transferred to Christ.  He makes the payment.  He takes our place beneath the curse of God and saves us from hell.
And now we have peace.  How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”  Even if your feet have been spared the unsightliness of bunions, blisters, calluses or athlete’s foot, you would probably not be quick to call your feet “beautiful.”  Let’s face it, most of us do everyone else a favor as we cover up our feet with socks and shoes each day.  If our feet can look a little battle fatigued even with the protection of socks and shoes, imagine what the feet of an ancient messenger looked like.  In 700 B.C. a messenger probably wore sandals, or he ran barefoot.  He would run over rocky terrain, slog through mud, do whatever it took to get the message through.  But what makes those feet beautiful is the message they bring.  They bring peace. 
Imagine being at war.  Imagine being bombed and under missile attack.  Imagine the turmoil and the stress.  Imagine the constant threat from the enemy.  Now imagine that enemy is God.  That is the condition that we were in because of our sinfulness.  We were God’s enemies, hating God and everything godly.  But God has sent his messengers with the message of peace.  The hostility is over.  Because of what Jesus does, God is no longer at war with us.  We are at peace.
So let us rejoice.  Remember the Grinch?  He thought he could steal Christmas but when he heard the townspeople of Whoville singing he had this to say about Christmas, “It came without ribbons!  It came without tags!  It came without packages, boxes, or bags!  Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store.  Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” 
The joy and music of Whoville was contagious enough to spread into the heart and life of the Grinch so that he too joined in celebrating Christmas.  So, we too, on this Christmas Day, are moved by the messenger and the message of God to us.  Redemption, salvation and peace through the Christ child.  The hope and joy of Christmas invites us to join choirs of heaven and earth, the choirs of every time and place, every tribe and nations in singing, “Your God reigns!”  The Lord will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.  Now that’s worth celebrating!  That’s a reason to rejoice today.