Please check out the audio version of this sermon, click on he above link or copy and paste into your browser.
We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and if you are anointed and if the Holy Spirit is on you, say … AMEN!
The reading in Isaiah is the theme of the sermon today, but I have to start with our epistle reading. Paul tells us to exhort, so I am going to exhort you: “Rejoice always!” We know what time of year it is, we are reminded that while Advent is a time of penance, of clearing the clutter of sin that has gathered in our heart we are prepared for the coming of the Christ child and just as significantly, His second coming at the end of time. So yes, rejoice, but still remember to pray without ceasing. Part of prayer should be repentance. Pray for forgiveness, but a special emphasis on praying for help to prepare for His return. For myself, Lord remind me of whose I am in You, that I am saved in You. Yes I need forgiveness, that I am sinful, that I need a Savior.
700 years before the fact, before it actually happens God is giving Isaiah the words that Jesus says in Luke 4: 18-19. These are the words that Jesus says at the beginning of His earthly ministry. He had just gone through the temptation by Satan, certainly Satan knew Jesus is God the Son and now Jesus has gone back to his hometown, Nazareth. He proclaimed the words of Isaiah to identify Himself as the one anointed by God. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, but His ministry started when He returned to Nazareth and in front of the synagogue on the Sabbath day He proclaimed, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to proclaim the good news to the poor.”
What, just the poor? Yea! Who are the poor? In terms of our relationship with God, we are all poor. Remember “Christmas Clubs”? I don’t think banks have them anymore, but all year long, you would go to the bank (yea, definitely before electronic banking), you would take part of your regular income and deposit it in your Christmas Club account? Back then it would actually earn some meaningful income and then just before Christmas, not Black Friday, that wasn’t around either. You would take everything you’ve saved, go and buy your presents and decorations and holiday food. When you emptied that account you might have felt like you had some money, but after a few days of Christmas shopping you felt even lighter in the pocket book then you had before. You may have been poor again, but celebrating the birth of Jesus makes us rich.
Yea, this time of year, like it or not, we are all kind of poor so that we can have that great holiday celebration. But that’s not what Jesus is really talking about. He’s talking about the “Poor in Spirit”. Where does that phrase come from? … The Beatitudes, “The Sermon on the Mount”. What does He say about the “Poor in Spirit”? “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” We want to be “Poor in Spirit” don’t we? As Christians, by definition we should be poor in spirit in order to have the Kingdom of Heaven. That Kingdom came when Jesus came into the world. We who are the poor in spirit have inherited that kingdom. We are living that kingdom today. While that kingdom has arrived in Jesus and we should live our lives as subjects of the kingdom, as loyal subjects of King Jesus, the kingdom that is to come, as we pray for it, has not yet been realized. You may not think you’re “poor” in anything, but you would be wrong, unless of course you don’t know Christ as your Savior.
It is Jesus who has been xv;m’ That is anointed, kings and priests would be “anointed”, this would be a special blessing to them to bear their duties, to faithfully serve, to be the ones who would do what Yahweh has designated them to do. We call Jesus, Messiah, that is the One who is anointed, who has been blessed and designated by God to bring us the Good News, to bind up, proclaim liberty, release those who are bound. All the things that sin imposes on us and Jesus is anointed to save us from.
While Yahweh is giving the words to Isaiah of the great promise of the Savior, He’s also reaffirming a previous promise. He’s reaffirming a promise made about 800 years earlier, to Abraham, not just that Abraham will have, what we know to be hundreds of millions of descendants, but that they will be blessed in Jesus who has been anointed, who has the Spirit of the Lord. We who are blessed to be eternally saved in Jesus, in the resurrection. In one of the verses not quoted, Yahweh promises “…you shall be called the priests of the Lord; they shall speak of you as the ministers of God;…” Peter re-emphasizes that when he writes 700 years later: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” You may be poor in spirit, but Yahweh says that we are priests, minister of our God and speaks through Peter to re-affirm that promise 700 years later.
We end with God’s promises that will be confirmed and carried out by Jesus during His human lifetime and will be the gifts of all who are in Jesus, you and I, until He returns that second and last time. Isaiah writes: “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; … He has clothed me with the garments of salvation…the robe of righteousness, the bridegroom will have a beautiful headdress and the bride will be adorned in jewels.” It may be difficult to picture or appreciate, but there is no doubt in my mind that we will understand how magnificent it will be when we see it accomplished in all of us who are in Jesus. We have a tiny little speck of it when we celebrate Christmas, the lights and decorations, for the Lord’s first coming. We can’t even begin to imagine how magnificent it will be, what we will see in the second coming of Jesus.
Paul’s words, two simple phrases, write them down in your journal, really think over them: “Rejoice always” “Pray without ceasing”. Rejoice because we have the promises. Pray to stay strong in God’s promises. Rejoice always means, always. It’s often tough to do, but always means always; not just when you’re in the mood. Not just when Christmas is coming, or maybe when it’s over. Rejoice even when someone bashes in your door, when you’re in the hospital, yes even when the time of year reminds you who won’t be at the Christmas feast this year. Rejoice not because they’re gone, but because we have the eternal promises to be with those we love and to enjoy the magnificence of eternity in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So how do you rejoice this Advent, what are your prayers?
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.