Sermon 12/25/2014 Christmas Day

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. 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.

 

Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Lord Jesus Christ, Dear brothers and sisters,

    The careful approach.  The selection. The holding.  Steadily, you observe what could change your life forever.  Maybe a little shake and the mass destruction begins.  However, the look of excitement soon leaves your face and you see what you thought would have been the greatest Christmas present.  Yay! A rain gauge! Thanks! I’ve always wanted one...There are always those presents that seem to disappoint.  Even those gifts which we deem to be the best, soon lose their appeal as newer and better things come out.  Ipad 10s will soon replace Ipad 5s, sweaters will be worn and thrown away, and books will be read and forgotten.  The joy that was once written all over our faces soon fades as we wait another year for excitement. 

    Now, with gift giving, there is always some sense of excitement.  And what is the first thing that people do when they get a gift for Christmas? Do they try to sneak it, and not show anybody? No, the first thing anybody does is hold that object up in the air, twist and turn it like its gonna do something, contort their body 180 degrees to show it off, and then oooh and ahh over it.  Naturally, your first reaction is to tell everybody.  Well, in our lesson today, Isaiah brings to mind this very same picture.  He reminds us that the Lord brings us joy because of a great gift he has given us.  This joy is so great that those who have it can’t just hold on to it, but they have to share it and show it to everyone.  

Mountain biking or snowboarding down a mountain is one thing.  However, running down is not so much for me.  But this is what Isaiah is picturing for us.  If you saw some guy running down a hill at High cliff state park, not on the trails, but b-lining straight down, surprisingly agile, but waving his arms, would you think this was some new fitness routine? Maybe. Or would you think that this person was trying to get your attention with some news like somebody up the mountain was hurt or there was a bear?  In the same way, Isaiah is looking up to the mountain and sees something notable, a messenger.  But the messenger isn’t quite close enough to hear the news because he is still a ways up the mountain. The messenger continues running, but he’s so excited that he just has to yell something.  Out of breath, the messenger struggles to say: good news! Then he runs a little bit.  Peace! Runs a little bit more.  Good tidings! A little bit farther.  Salvation! Wow, that does sound good!  

    So what’s the good news?  The messenger says, “Your God reigns!”  Ok, you almost wonder, was this message really worth traveling over mountains to tell us?  Yes it was!  For those living during Isaiah’s time, this simple message gave hope!  The nation of Israel had gone through a lot of trouble and turmoil throughout their history, and the trouble would only continue.  With such a rough history, it may have looked like God wasn’t in control.   However, the Lord reminds his people, through these words of Isaiah, that he was in control through all the good times and the bad. He continues to reign, and he will show his power.  That in itself is a reason to be happy! God has always been there for us, even through the times we thought everything was spiraling out of control.  But your God reigns!

     Today, however, we hear how God brings us joy with even better news!  Do you remember the shepherds on Christmas day?  They were just minding their own business, doing their own thing and then bam! Angels proclaiming the birth of the savior! The shepherds just had to tell everyone about it!  Isaiah gives us another scenario.  It would be as if the neighborhood watchmen are having a friendly conversation and then, “shhhhh, did you hear that? Listen!”  These watchmen are the first to hear of this great news and now they let the whole city know by lifting up their voice.  Literally, giving a ringing cry.  They would be yelling so loud that you could not hear yourself think!  So, there would be no such question as, “Did I miss it,” because the Lord’s mercy and power will be so evident that you and I won’t be able to miss it.  You’ll be able to see it with your own eyes!

    These verses of Isaiah point us to the reason for all singing and praising.  The Lord had told Isaiah that Jerusalem would fall.  God wouldn’t leave it to rot in desolation.  He would watch over his chosen people.  But, Isaiah was still looking ahead to the fall of Jerusalem, to the destruction of all the precious things within the city.  So, how could this be a happy time for Isaiah when everything so near and dear would be destroyed?  Isaiah was happy because he says that the Lord comforted his people.  The Lord took pity because he wanted to, not because they deserved it.  God would redeem his people, he would save them, and he would pay the price for that redemption.  Listen to the words, “the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.”  Did you notice the tense?  Even though this is something that would take place in the future for Isaiah, it’s as good as done, because when God promises, it is certain.  The people could have joy even though none of this would take place for years, maybe not even in their lifetime.    

This is a comforting reminder for you and for me because sometimes finding happiness in this life can be difficult.  You would think that with the holidays, life would be as happy as the Christmas songs you hear on the radio.  But did you know that the Christmas season can be one of the most depressing times for people?  When things don’t go exactly as planned, our Christmas isn’t so merry.  The family meal is burned, brothers and sisters are back and fighting with each other, your job is on the fritz, maybe it is your first time without a loved one, or things are just turning for the worse.   We lack that spark of joy that Isaiah was speaking of, maybe because our Christmas motivation is wrong.  We fail to see the true gift of Christmas and we fail to see the awesome things that God has done for us!  These are the things that we can really be happy about!

    This is why we need his Word to open our eyes, to shatter our lethargic and disinterested attitudes.  His word shows us that He really has done great things for us.  Isaiah goes on to say, “The LORD will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations.”  He was saying that the Lord was rolling up his sleeves and getting to work.  The Lord was going to do something very special for his people and everyone would see not only his power and glory, but also salvation.  Isaiah was speaking most importantly about the Lord rescuing all of his people from sin and hell.  We were heading for hell and destruction, because of our sin.  This wasn’t something we could get out of, like saying we were a good person to Santa Claus, because God tells us that the wages of sin is death. No good deed could save us. Thankfully, The Lord saved us from the destruction that we were heading towards.  God came to this earth as a human to demonstrate his power and love, and it came to us in such a simple setting.  Remember what Luke 2 said, “And she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.  She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”  

    For such an extraordinary event, the king of kings, the prince of peace, the savior of the world, could’t even get a room in a hotel.  But this little child, sitting in the feed box of an animal, was our salvation. This is our reason for joy!  Today…tomorrow…always!  God brings happiness to our hearts because he demonstrated his power and love by sending his only Son.  He didn’t live the life of an earthly king.  Instead he died on a wooden cross, the death of a criminal.  However, in this terrible death, we were given life, because he removed all our sin forever.  I have a hard enough time shelling out 5 dollars for a present.  But our Savior, gave up his life to give us life.  You really can’t beat that kind of present!  Isn’t that something to be happy about?  That reminds me again of the messenger that Isaiah saw.  This messenger had such great news that he was spitting out the information before he could even catch his breath.  It was too good to hold it in any longer. The news of salvation, of Christmas, is really some happy news! I’ve got to share it!

    So, as with many gifts and presents during Christmas, they will lose their appeal after time and some presents will just be disappointing.  However, we don’t have to wait another year for a hopefully more promising Christmas because we have been given salvation, something that we can always be happy about and something that will never fade.  May God continue to give us the joy of Christmas and the zeal to share it.

Amen.

 

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.