Monday, December 29, 2014

Freedom Fulfilled | Christmas 2014


ISAIAH 61:1-62:3

The Year of the Lord’s Favor

 The opposite of what you’d expect… In a good way.

 61:1Spirit of the Lord upon me, anointed me… To bring good news to the poor… Bind up the brokenhearted… Liberty to the captives… opening their prisons… 2Proclaim yr. of Lord’s favor, day of vengeance, comfort mourning 3Bearing a headdress instead of ashes… Gladness instead of mourning 4raise up from devastation, repair ruins 5strangers tend flocks 7instead of shame, a double portion... everlasting joy 9descendants recognized and blessed

 10Rejoice in the Lord… exult in my God… clothed me with garments of salvation… robe of righteousness 11righteousness and praise sprout up before all the nations Zion’s Coming Salvation 62:1 For Zion’s sake, will not keep silent… her righteousness will go forth as brightness, her salvation like a burning torch. 2nations will witness her righteousness… called by a new name 3crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord

 4 Forsaken no more… delight instead of desolate… 11 Behold, the Lord has proclaimed to the end of the earth… ‘Behold, your salvation comes; behold, his reward is with him.’ 12 And they shall be called the Holy People, The Redeemed of the Lord; and you shall be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken
 63 The Lord’s Day of Vengeance


 The Law and the Promise

 Sons and Heirs

 Son, slave until the appointed time, our time has come.

 1 child heir is no different from a slave though he owns everything… he’s under guardians and managers until he reaches the date set by his father… when we were children, we were enslaved to the principles of the world

 4 But, when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born under the law to redeem those under the law so that we might receive adoption as sons… because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts crying ‘Abba!’ ‘Father!’ no longer a slave, but a son, a son, an heir through God

 Paul’s Concern for the Galatians
 What to do now that we are free

 8 were enslaved to those who were not gods. But, now that we know God… rather, we are known by God, how can you turn back? I may have labored over you in vain… become as I am…. Become as you are

LUKE 2:22-40

 Jesus’ Birth in a manger after Magnificat and Zechariah’s prophecy

 The Shepherds and the Angels Glory to God in the highest…

 Jesus Presented at the Temple

 22 Time came for purification according to the law (for the babe born under the law)… went to be presented to the Lord (we receive the opposite of expected when we are presented to him) and offer sacrifice according to the law of the Lord

 25 Man in Jerusalem, Simeon, a righteous and devout man waiting… the Holy Spirit was upon him (just as it had been upon Isaiah)… it was revealed to him that he would not see death before he saw the Lord’s Christ. (promises of God connection)… He came by the Spirit into the temple… when the parents brought the child Jesus into the temple, he took the child up into his arms and said,

 29‘Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.’

 33 His father and his mother marveled at what was said… Simeon blessed them, saying the Mary, ‘Behold, the child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.’

36 There was the old prophetess, Anna, who spent her time and her widowed life praying and fasting at the temple… at that very hour, she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

39 They performed everything according to the law and returned to Galilee, to their own ton of Nazareth… the child grew and became strong… filled with wisdom… he had the favor of God upon him.

Simeon and Jesus in the Temple
December 28, 2014

All these words, hear them with your ears, and hold them in your hearts. Ez. 3:10

Freedom Fulfilled

It was just a normal day at school. None of the details really stick out to me. Perhaps, I had been reading books or hanging out with friends. Maybe I had been playing video games or typing papers. But, what I do remember is a call on the phone.

It was my one of my best friends. And, she was excited to tell me that they were having another baby!! This would be their second child, a girl, named Jocelyn Renee which means "joy reborn." She asked if I would be a godfather. After surpassing the amazement in the fact that she would choose me, I said "yes" right away.

Months later, I found myself in Michigan holding the child. We had had a wonderful service, where we made the vows to help teach her the ways of God. The sign of the cross was made across Jocelyn's forehead and her chest. The pastor covered her head with water in the name of the Father, the Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Maybe you have been part of such a service, or at least witnessed the wonderful act.

After the hour was over, I held her again. I actually ended up being in most of her family pictures because I didn't want to let go. I couldn't help thinking that one day this baby would grow up and do amazing things. She could be anything she wanted, do any work that God had prepared in advance for her to do. Her life was just beginning.

I don't know what it is about babies. But, just being around them changes the entire atmosphere. They fill the room with cheer. Even the most hard hearted tend to smile in the presence of a child. Every time my friends post a picture or a video of their baby on Facebook, I can't help but look right away. Maybe it's the way they act, in curiosity and innocence. Maybe its the remembrance of our own childhood or the reflection of the aspects of their parents. Or, maybe its the glimmer of gentle and certain hope they give in our often dark and uncertain world.

That is what the man in one of our readings could have used that day. Isaiah knew that a storm was coming. At the point in history in which he lived, nations fought nations. Battles were waged. War was done. And, he knew that his people were in trouble. If they did not die, they would meet a fate worse than death. At least, in death, they knew they no longer had to be troubled with this world. But, if they survived, they became enslaved to the nations who had conquered them. They had given into idolatry and horrible deeds. Just as in the time of the judges, God's people turned away from God. So, why would their God remember them in their struggle?

Isaiah becomes the mouthpiece of the Lord. He is the voice that cries out to hear God once again. He pronounces judgments against nations. But, amidst his judgments, there is hope.

In the bulletin today, there's a "Space For Writing" section. It's for you to take notes either as I'm reading passage to you or later on. As you will soon see, God provides in the ways we'd least expect. If you think of some of the ways that He has provided or blessed you that you hadn't expected or things that stick out to you as unique or interesting in this message, be sure to right them down.

Here is the unexpected hope that the prophet speaks of:

He says, The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor... the poor hardly ever hear good news... to bind up the brokenhearted... those who are familiar with being torn apart are healed... to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor... although we know we deserve judgment... and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; ... comfort although we know we deserve wrath

to give us a headdress instead of ashes... adoring us instead of completely destroying us... bestowing upon us the oil of gladness instead of mourning... the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit... so that we may be strong and towering oaks of righteousness... glorified... instead of condemned and ashamed... instead of shame a double portion... instead of dishonor, rejoicing... everlasting joy...

These people were waiting for a calamity. They knew they were lost, their hope was fading. Yet, God promised that he will give them what they do not expect. It just took time. After the prophet spoke, the people entered into centuries of darkness. They became enslaved to the peoples around them. Their nation was broken apart, shattered into an unrecognizable visage.

But, there was a man who remembered the promise. He looked for hope among the turmoil... the headdress amidst the ashes.. the joy to replace the shame. He found Jesus years before the wise men had. He was waiting for him, at the temple, hoping to get a glimpse of the Messiah before he died.

Just eight days after Christ's birth, Simeon held him in his grasp. Wonder filled his face. Remember the hope and the light that we find in our own children.... the pondering of who they might be, the unexplained gladness and joy that just being in the same room as them supplies us. That gift was magnified. For, Simeon knew exactly who he held... the bearer of salvation, the light for revelation to the Gentiles... the glory of the people of Israel. This child would be the one to change the world, to redeem Israel, to bring them glory instead of judgment. He is the blessing that no one expected. While Herod searched for the man, Simeon held the babe.

He is the one who would finally free them from their slavery. It may seem as if the Jews were free at the time of Christ's birth. They could worship. They could work in society as fishermen and tax collectors. They gave Caesar what was Caesar's and they were typically went along with the government. But, they were still slaves to the Law. They understood that the only way to become righteous was to fulfill the commands of the Lord, to follow the Law to the letter. Although they tried, no one was able to do it.

 Then, Jesus was born under the Law. He became man, begotten of the Spirit, not to get rid of the Law, but to fulfill it. That is why he was at the temple on the eighth day, his circumcision was part of fulfilling the Law. That is why he was able to get lost in the temple and found in the garden. During his entire life, he kept the Law. Even in death, he stayed true to the letter. Only God could do that.

And, because it was God who had done that, finally reaching the ultimate fulfillment (arms outstretched) promised even from the first books of Genesis, he was able to restore us to himself. And, his resurrection brings us home. In his fulfillment we are freed. We are freed from the slavery of the Law and the slavery to sin. We are renewed.

Stepping back for a minute, before I left Michigan to return from Jocelyn's baptism, her parents told me, "You know, you didn't need to do this for us." And, all I could think was, "There is nothing I would rather do." In the same way, we tell God, "God, you didn't need to do this for me." "It's jut me... and you're God..." "Really, you didn't need to." And, he replies, "There is nothing I would have rather done for you." And, in what he has done he has made us his children, adopting us as heirs of God.

In many ways, even the child is a slave. The babe is dependent on the mother, the kids look to the parents for all their needs. They don't know anything else. Without Jesus Christ, we become slaves to the world. Just like the people Isaiah had prophesied against, we follow our own idols. We put our time, our money, ourselves first. We follow the world as our parent, enslaved to its bidding.

But, since God sent his Son into the world, born of woman, born under the law, to fulfill the law, to redeem us, we have become children of God. We know better. We are free to reject the idols of the world, to follow him... to follow his law not because we have to but because we want to, knowing we will fail.. we will fall. But, he is there to pick us back up again, to forgive us. Although, we deserve to be ashamed, he renews our joy.

That is what Simeon knew when he held his Lord. His chains were finally broken. His life was made complete. Yet, we still have lives to live. We might not have as much time as an infant. But, we still have a good amount time to go.

What will you do with your freedom?


Now may the peace that passes all understanding guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus from this time forth. Amen.