Merry Merry Christmas 2022 #2
Bah Humbug! Bah Humbug on Christmas holiday stress, pressures, and obligations. Bah Humbug on Christmas consumerism and retail sales and car commercials that lie about a new car making you happy. Whatever drains you of the good news of great joy, bah humbug it. Whatever exhausts you or frustrates you, bah humbug it. Whatever makes it difficult to celebrate, bah humbug it. This Christmas let’s have fun. This Christmas let’s celebrate.
Luke 2:10-11 & 13-14 (NIV)
I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. … Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
Christmas is a celebration of the great and joyful event of a savior being born. Christ the Lord is Yeshua ben Josef, whom we know is Jesus of Nazareth. It's time to commemorate and celebrate, let's lighten up and have fun this Christmas. Time to be merry. We have reason to stop focusing on the negatives and anew, grab a hold of the blessings. This is why: The prophet Isaiah foretells the destiny of this babe born in Bethlehem.
Isaiah 61:1-3 (NIV)
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion-- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
Today we are going to open up this reason to celebrate this birthday. Let the truth, and the hope sink in a dispel your worry, your concerns, your frustrations, and fears. Christmas is a celebration of “fear not.” Consider what the prophet foretold.
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me…”
The Sovereign Lord is the Creator of all good things, we say God, and God is good all the time. The God Spirit, we say Holy Spirit, and once He the Holy Spirit is inhabiting you, identifies you with God, empowering you to be and to do the will of God. We know that the will of God is to love one another. We see in Jesus the self-sacrificial love that saves us from the messes of our life.
To be saved is to be acquitted of crimes we have committed. It is to be given a second chance to get things right. It is to be at peace with God, with others, and with yourself. It is to know that you are a part of everything eventually made right.
“…because the Lord has anointed me…”
To be anointed by God is to be singled out for special purposes and empowered to carry out those purposes. This savior has been set apart for the tasks the prophet has written.
In turn, when you asked Jesus to save you, you were endowed with certain gifts to be used to love the people in your world (1 Corinthians 12:7). Disciples have an anointing. Don’t miss the opportunities that God has blessed you for (Ephesians 2:10). There is joy in knowing that your life is being used to bring about good. Giving of yourself is part of your celebration.
“…to preach good news to the poor…”
The spiritually poor, are those with an estranged relationship with God, the ramifications of which deter, damage, and destroy right relationships with others, with our self and with the material resources of the Earth. The good news is that there is reconciliation. In getting right with God, you are empowered to get right with others, yourself, and the earth, transforming messes into masterpieces.
The materially poor, are those who lack the material goods of this world. Poverty is a symptom of a broken economic system. The good news is that Jesus came to replace that system so that every need would be met. It is the poor that are invited to the banquet of God (Luke 14:13 & 21). We see this in the very first congregation:
Acts 2:44-45 (MSG)
And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person's need was met.
Somewhere along our way, the “WE” was forgotten, and the “ME” took its place. “The poor need Jesus. The poor also need jobs and food. The poor need healthcare and dignity. The poor need education and hope. All these things rightly come in the kingdom of God.” (Good News for the Poor (Luke 4:18): Bible Commentary for the New Baptist Covenant - Good Faith Media) If the Church brings it.
No more economic poverty, no more spiritual poverty. This is where the Savior is leading us. Knowing that God will squeeze every ounce of good from the circumstances of our lives (Romans 8:28) and that every need will be met (Philippians 4:19) puts a smile on our faces. Christmas is set aside to celebrate this truth.
“He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted…”
A broken heart is suffering with grief and sorrow. When my heart broke, I felt that there was nothing left for me in this world. I didn’t know what to do next, havoc and chaos burst into my world pillaging my heart. I know depression, I know anger, I know loneliness, I know losing the ability to connect with people, to read people, I know being blinded by grief, and I know what it is to lose that which is most precious to you and that at the worst possible time. Now I choose to celebrate the birth of a savior because Jesus came and healed my broken heart. If He did that for me, He will do it for you.
“…to proclaim freedom for the captives…”
“A captive is carried off or lead away against their will.” (03-12-06-Year of Jubilee-Releasing the Prisoners - Faithlife Sermons ) Like a kidnapping. In the Creation story, humanity is given dominion over the world. Humanity’s rebellion allowed Azazel [ah zaa zel] and the rest of the Fallen Angels to corrupt creation (The Book of Enoch 10:8). So, we read “the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19 (NIV); “the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers” (2 Cor 4:4 (NIV). Wherever there is a mess in the world, in your life, in your heart, you will be able to trace it back to sin. Jesus said, “everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (John 8:34 (NIV). The Bible proclaims that “all have sinned and fallen short” (Romans 3:23) and that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). We get a sneak peek at this payday in the messes of our lives. The good news is that the birth of this Christ will eventually lead to the opportunity to be set free from sin, and sin’s biggest reveal, death (Psalm 107:13).
“…if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36 (NIV). Free, to be set free is a glorious thing. Being free to become everything you were created to be is a huge blessing and blessings make you smile. The’s reason to celebrate.
“…and release from darkness for the prisoners…”
The difference between a captive and a prisoner is that the prisoner is bound. They are tied up, with shackles on their hands and feet, chained to the wall. Our habits, attachments, and addictions can make us prisoners, sin is still the root cause. Doing what we want, when we want, regardless of the consequences has led people into dark places where they cannot see the light, nor can they get themselves out. Some prisons we did not make but we are thrust into by those who sin against us. There seems to be no way out, no escape. But there is one who can release the prisoner. We celebrate the birth of the One who will become a chain breaker. Jesus can take what is out of control and give you control, in control you can unlock your prison and live liberated. You defeat all your oppressors. All because a savior has been born. Have you asked Him to be your savior?
“…to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor…”
The year of the Lord’s favor is known as the Jubilee. The Jubilee is a time of “liberty, restoration, release, rest, and thanksgiving” (03-12-06-Year of Jubilee-Releasing the Prisoners - Faithlife Sermons )
Leviticus 25:1-13 informs us that the Jubilee is a time of restoration, of releasing people from their debts, of releasing all slaves, and of returning property to whoever owned it. It is a time of setting things back to the way they are supposed to be. This Jubilee is found in the Kingdom of God in which all things are being renewed and brought into line with the will of the Creator. The proclamation is also an invitation to enter the Kingdom, to be reconciled to God, and to be made right yourself.
The way one enters the Kingdom is by faith in what this Savior accomplishes. When we acknowledge the messes in our lives have left us wanting. When we believe the good news that we can be rescued from those messes. When we commit to being a disciple of Jesus, to live for Him by allowing Him to live through us. Then asking to be allowed entrance into the Kingdom, we find ourselves enveloped in a process of transformation making us fit citizens of the Kingdom of God. Have you knocked on the door of the gospel and asked to be let in? Doing so can turn your holidays into holy days.
“…and the day of vengeance of our God…”
The day of vengeance in scripture is also called the Day of the Lord. We get a picture of the wrath of God being poured out upon those who reject the good news of the Gospel, those who refuse the savior born on Christmas. What a weird idea, Jesus revealed that God is love, but the day of vengeance doesn’t sound like what a loving God would do.
In Luke 4, Jesus is quoting this very scripture but stops reading Isaiah after the day of the Lord’s favor. Why not finish the text? One possible answer is that Jesus was not going to bring vengeance but rather reconciliation and this day of the Lord’s judgment would happen after Jesus completed His task as savior. “Don’t worry disciple God is going to stick it to them that deserve it.” Could it be instead, that God’s vengeance upon sinful humanity happened on the Cross?
The Apostle Paul wrote about the ramifications of Jesus' sacrifice.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19 & 21 (MSG)
All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. … God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.
The kingdom is open for all who seek it first, seek it will full intent, seek Him who rules this Kingdom. But for those who do not:
2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 (MSG)
Those who refuse to know God and refuse to obey the Message will pay for what they've done. Eternal exile from the presence of the Master and his splendid power is their sentence.
This sounds like a self-imposed judgment (John 5:22-29). This sounds like the consequences of a really bad choice. God doesn’t stick it to you, you stick it to yourself when you refuse God’s gift of reconciliation (John 3:17). The good news is a Savior, who can save you from this vengeance, has been born. That is reason enough to celebrate.
“…to comfort all who mourn…”
Those that mourn for the mess the world is in, this Savior will comfort. Those who are grieved by their sins, estrangement, egoism, and actual transgressions; those who are pained by the rampant iniquity of others, the rape of the planet, disunity, inhumanity, disease, and death; those who are saddened by the unrighteousness in the Church, these will find comfort as they take these wounds to the Lord (2 Corinthians 7:11).
When I think of comfort, I think of arms embracing me when I am distraught. I think of words of encouragement when I am at my wit's end. I think of the helping hand when I am falling. That comfort is there for you every time you need it. Comfort brings a sigh of relief and the knowledge that everything will be alright. That’s the confidence that you can have in Jesus.
“…and provide for those who grieve in Zion-- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”
We can now understand Zion as the Church, the called-out ones, the people who have activated God’s invitation of salvation. Ashes, mourning, and despair are all being transformed into beauty, gladness, and praise. This is happening right now in the lives of those who acknowledge, believe, commit, and have been accepted. One day this transformation will be complete. Put a smile on your face, and celebrate this truth. For us, a savior has been born.
Isaiah 61:10 (NIV)
I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness…
See it, you wearing salvation. Then let’s celebrate.