Scripture: Isaiah 40:1-11; Psalm 89:1-4; Luke 1:26-35
Is there any good news?
When one listens to the news of the day, one hears about the happenings everywhere in the world and one hears
- the terrible reports of the war being waged against Ukraine
- the increasing voices and acts of antisemitism,
- threats against people of color,
- acts of intolerance and terrorism against the LGBTQ community,
- the attempt to take away the rights and dignity of women across the world,
- horrific murders of college students and shoppers.
Is there any good news? As we enter this season of Advent, the answer is YES.
Enter Isaiah, the prophet of God. Isaiah is the prophet to the Jewish people who are living in exile in Babylon (modern day Iraq). They are a people who need to hear some good news. They
- have been forced to live in exile in a foreign nation,
- can only dream of Jerusalem, their Temple, and their homeland.
They can no longer worship their God in the Temple. When they attempt to worship Yahweh they are mocked by their captors who say, “Sing a song of Zion for us.” They cry out, “How can we sing the songs of our God in a foreign land?”
They need to hear some good news.
It is to this people, in this situation, that the prophet Isaiah is called by God to share some good news. God has the audacity to send Isaiah to them with the greatest news, the greatest proclamation, that has ever been uttered since creation.
From the time that Adam and Eve left the Garden because of disobedience against God, God has been in the process of trying to redeem God’s creation. God redeemed them, freed them, from Egypt and gave to them the Commandments, and established a covenant with them, but being human, it was impossible for them not to put their own desires and behaviors before that for which the covenant demanded.
And now it’s time for God to reveal God’s final plan for the redemption of humanity:
- the final plan for the establishment of a new covenant relationship between God and humanity;
- the plan for Israel’s partnership with God in making Good News happen, not just for them, but literally for all of the world.
The people living in exile hear the words of God saying to them, “You will be going home.” The people living in exile hear Isaiah delivering the words of God to them, saying, “O Jerusalem, you will be a herald of Good News. From you there will be a voice crying out, ‘Good news, the Messiah has come.’” God says to them, “O my people,
- no matter where you are now,
- no matter what your circumstances are now,
- you have been chosen to bring Good News to a world that hasn’t heard any good news for a very long time.”
This news deserves an announcement, a proclamation to anyone who can hear.
Isaiah tells the people,
- get yourselves up to a high mountain where everyone can see and hear you;
- shout out with a loud voice; this is no time to be timid, and
- announce the coming of the Messiah, the Son of God.
Tell the nations that
- the Messiah will be the agent of redemption and the restoration of relationships and the forming of a new covenant,
- The Messiah is coming as a King and a victorious Messiah who will bring in the Kingdom of God.
In due time, God will lead the Israelites home. God will become their Shepherd who will lead them. Though God’s arm will be raised in triumph for their victory, God’s arm will also be lowered in compassion toward them. God will go before them, giving them safe passage home.
“In due time,” Isaiah tells them, “God will send the Messiah who will be the Good Shepherd to lead all who will choose to follow.” The Creator of the universe will send the Messiah to come and dwell among them.” What a contrast to the kings and potentates and rulers whose authority was guaranteed by power and control!
We have a number of artists here in this congregation. How would you paint a portrait of the Creator of the Universe, coming in power and victory, and at the same time serving as a Shepherd? Stop and think about it. You would paint a portrait of Jesus.
Centuries later Mary would deliver that baby boy, that promised Messiah, and name him Jesus. Her husband Joseph would be there to provide for them.
Centuries have come and gone, and here we are today. We are on the other side of that prophecy. The Messiah has come. The Messiah has died for the forgiveness of our sin and secured our redemption and invites us into that redemptive relationship. God restored Him to life and He now reigns with God forevermore. It is the New Covenant that we celebrate each time that we take Communion.
Today we begin the Christian Season of Advent. The word Advent means coming or arrival. Between now and Christmas Day we shall move through this time as though we are journeying with the people of Israel,
- waiting with anticipation for his coming, and then,
- celebrating of the birth of the Messiah, Jesus.
Do you remember those long road trips that you made with the family when the children were young? Of course you do. Do you remember those voices from the back seat of the car?
- Are we there yet?
- How much longer until we get there?
- He’s touching me.
- She’s looking at me.
When we planned ahead, we brought with us games for them to play. Of course, that didn’t last very long. The next ploy was to have them count trucks or see how many states they could see on license plates, or count cows, or whatever.
The journey to Bethlehem can be a long journey for some of us. Riding that donkey isn’t all that comfortable. So, I have packed for you some things to think about on the journey. Your package includes a few questions to which I want you to give some thoughtful consideration. Here are the questions. You can write them down or look on the web site this afternoon, and the printed version of the sermon will be there.
“What will Advent mean to you personally this year?”
Has it changed your life that Isaiah’s prophecy has been fulfilled?
Has it changed your life that Jesus was born?
If you are a follower of Jesus Christ as Lord, what difference has it made?
If you have chosen not to make Jesus Christ the Lord of your life, why not?
All questions for your consideration as we make this journey.
During this season of Advent, when there are so many things that demand our attention and our time, might we find time to focus on our Good Shepherd who
- sometimes walks before us, opening the way forward, pushing away the briars and the brambles of life, so that we have a clear path in which to walk;
- sometimes walks beside us, being a companion during the everydayness of our journey;
- sometimes walks behind us, protecting us, guarding us from things that we cannot see coming at us;
- sometimes carries us in his arms, close to his heart, when we are so weak and so weary and so troubled with life that we cannot keep on walking.
God’s purpose was that through the people of Israel, the light of God would illumine the world. As followers of the promised Messiah we are also called to be the light of Christ to the world.
Advent: a season of anticipation, a season of light, a season of prophecy fulfilled.
Is there any good news? God’s answer is always a resounding “YES!”
May this be a season in which the light of Christ fills our souls with a sure and certain hope, even in this troubled world in which we live. May this be a season that assures us that we are moving into God’s promised future.