Third Sunday in Advent
Sermon starts at 18:45 in the recording
Old Testament: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; 2to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3to provide for those who mourn in Zion— to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
4They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. 8For I the Lord love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. 9Their descendants shall be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.
10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11 For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.
Afterthoughts: Fanning the Flames
Last Sunday, I shared what “Quenching the Spirit” means as it relates to our journey with Christ. To sum it up, we are called to make sure we do not get in God’s way (undo what God has done or is doing).
Or with others.
We can get in the way:
· When we are impatient and jump ahead of God’s plans.
· When we forget the truth and wisdom found in the Scriptures.
· When we lose our “attitude of gratitude” towards God for His work in our lives and of those we love.
· When we misrepresent God’s name through our actions.
So, if quenching the Spirit is what we do not want to do,
What is it that we do want to do?
We want to fan the flames.
We want to take the fire of God’s Spirit and increase it.
Think of the children’s song This Little Light of Mine.
“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”
Only, now, think in terms of being salt and light.
Or the hands and feet of Jesus.
Ambassadors of God’s goodness.
What does “fanning the flames” look like?
It is found in passages like the Isaiah 61 reading from last week.
In it, Isaiah shares God’s plan for the coming Messiah,
(Which happens to be a good vision for our lives too…more on that in a moment).
“The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.”
Messiah would be a restorative presence for those He would interact with.
And Isaiah, by being God’s mouthpiece, would participate in that too. And, we, by being God’s children and messengers here earth-side,
can participate in these things as well.
So how does this translate into our lives?
(remembering that this was written about the coming Messiah).
To Bring Good News to the Oppressed
This is, essentially, the thesis of the prophecy: good news.
It is news that is a change from the bad news about life.
It is a message that is a “breath of fresh air.”
Fixing Life’s Injustices
Isaiah communicates God’s plan to “bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, proclaim release to the prisoners, proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and proclaim the day of vengeance of our God.” This particular part of the message speaks directly to our spiritual bondage in life.
God’s promise is to nurse back to health His people.
To proclaim emancipation to those who feel imprisoned by their lives.
To punish those who oppress.
To give hope that things will not always be as they are.
That is indeed good news.
To the Children of Israel,
it meant literally freedom from those who enslaved them.
To us, it has a more spiritual edge (although, it does not negate giving importance to restorative activities and ministries for those who are incarcerated or subject to slavery).
To us, it reflects on the bondage of sin and its impact on our lives.
It provides a hope that there is a way out of this bondage and a way to be restored to health.
All of God’s doing, by the way.
But the good news is not simply about fixing broken things.
It is also about re-engaging relationship.
It is about engaging the wounded
Engaging the Wounded
Isaiah communicates this by saying God will “comfort all who mourn,
provide for those who mourn in Zion, give garland instead of ashes,
give oil of gladness instead of mourning, and give a mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.”
The result of living a life of wounded-ness is the act mourning.
Mourning choices made.
Mourning things done against.
The Children of Israel, who had been given the promise land by God and then lost it because of their own, disobedient choices, were mourning their loss and the treatment they were to endure.
Messiah would come and be a Healer of spirit.
A Healer of the heart.
This is seen, specifically, in the illustrations of tradeoffs:
· Ashes to garland.
Ashes on the head would signal to others that there had been some sort of loss.
Think Job, when, after losing pretty much everything he owned, found himself sitting in a pile of ashes. Trading those ashes, which are gritty and irritating, for a lovely garland around your neck would be a welcomed change.
· Mourning to anointing oil.
Oil has much significance within the bible. It is a sign of God’s blessing, God’s abundance and God’s restoration.
When we mourn and have been “ugly crying,” our face reflects that reality. When we trade that for an opportunity to “freshen up,” there is a change. No one would know that there had been a problem.
This is the idea here.
There will be no sign of loss.
Nothing to grieve.
· A faint spirit to a mantle.
The image here would be best understood by a common practice of wearing black to funerals. It is a sign of the heart in mourning. But a mantle, or a “garment of praise” as the Hebrew suggests, would be a notable change. From wearing black to the most colorful thing we own. It would be a difference.
All of these tradeoffs were a recognition of what had been done.
So what does all of this have to do with fanning the flame
vs not quenching the Spirit?
It reminds us of the truth.
We are broken and in need of a Savior.
A Savior who will restore us back to mint condition.
A Savior who has already come and will come again.
A Savior that identifies with our plight
and has both the power and authority to command a resolution.
This is hope.
And real hope is contagious.
Which is why we are called to participate in God’s salvific plan;
the pursuit of seeking to save all a la John 3:16-17,
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
This pursuit is made to change our lives and the lives of those around us.
To remind of the value of life.
The beauty of life in the way that it was intended.
The restoration possible.
And so, we wait.
But we also fan the flames while we wait.
We carry the banner high.
For all to see.