Summary: This is a sermon for the third week of Advent, focusing on the message of "Joy."
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
1 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, 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 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. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. 4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.
8 "For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and iniquity. In my faithfulness I will reward them and make an everlasting covenant with them. 9 Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the LORD has blessed." 10 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, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
“From Fear to Joy”
Three candles stand lit before us today… and each one speaks to us its own message for advent. The first candle called us to “listen”… to remember the words of the prophets and listen. The second candle called us to “prepare”… to remember how Bethlehem was not prepared… it calls us to work to avoid the same mistake. Today’s candle also has a message for us… and that message is “remember!”
It is hard for us to really know what it was like for the shepherds in those fields… it’s hard for us to think of a world without the joy found in Jesus Christ. We need to remember what it was like for them… before Jesus… standing out in those fields… the night the angel appeared to them and gave them a message that would forever change their lives.
You see, the world has changed so much since then that even our ideas about angels have changed! We can’t even truly appreciate what it was like for those shepherds that night when the skies opened and the heavenly hosts appeared!
You see… when we think of angels… we think of chubby little cherubs with their baby like innocence… we think of beautiful woman with flowing blonde locks and gossamer wings. The shepherds had a different picture in their minds. Let’s look at what they knew about angels from the scriptures… in the days of King Hezekiah, an entire army of 186,000 men were ripped to shreds by a single angel. When Moses sent the plagues to Egypt, a single angel moved over the land killing every oldest son. When an angel appeared to Isaiah, he cried “Woe is me!” And lets not forget the angel found at the Garden of Eden… standing firm with his sword of fire! Now HE was cute and cuddly! So when we read today’s scripture about the angel visiting the shepherds keeping watch over their flock by night, we need to remember what it was like for the shepherds.