Summary: Our excitement as Christians celebrating Christ’s birth is similar to the excitement of the messenger of God announcing God’s deliverance to the Israelites in Babylonian captivity.
Christmas Eve/Day Yr B, 24-25/12/2008
Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, &
Chaplain of The Good Samaritan Society’s
South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta
“Your God reigns”
If Queen Elizabeth II (or some other royal personage) were coming to visit us soon what would we do? What if our queen was coming to visit our city? What if she were coming to visit our congregation/facility? Well, likely the first thing on our “to do list” would be to make sure that the word got out. We would likely send out all kinds of media news releases. We would designate certain messengers, spokespeople to spread the word. We would advertise it to everyone on T.V. We would announce it on the radio. We would publicize it in the newspapers. These days, we would likely even build a special web site or blog with the message for the whole world to see on the internet. We would talk about it in our conversations at home, with our friends, at the workplace or in school. We would be messengers with a joyful, good news message—“our queen, Queen Elizabeth is coming!”
This is the mood of the messenger with beautiful feet in our first lesson today. The original audience who first heard these wonderful words of the messenger were living in Babylonian exile in the sixth century B.C. They were feeling somewhat abandoned and forgotten by God. Now the prophet encourages them with this wonderful oracle of joy and hope. God says the prophet is a God who acts to save and deliver his people. The prophet’s oracle pictures the messenger coming on the mountains announcing peace, good news, and salvation. Contrary to those exiled people of Judah and Jerusalem who had lost their joy and hope; the messenger tells them “Your God reigns.” The messenger prepared his people for the coming Messiah-King, just as people today would prepare for the coming of Queen Elizabeth. The air was full of excitement, expectation, joy and hope.
The messenger tells the people, “Your God reigns.” This reminds me of the language of sports fans today. When sports fans speak of the victory of their favourite team; when their team wins the Stanley Cup or Grey Cup, the fans often say things like: “The Stampeders reign!” or “The Oilers rule!” In saying this, the fans are expressing their excitement and joy over the victory of their winning team. So it is with the people of God. In this prophetic oracle, the messenger, full of excitement, has to tell everyone: “Your God reigns! He delivers! He wins the ultimate victory!”
As Christians, we interpret this passage as a Messianic oracle, referring to Jesus. God reigns in the Person of Jesus for he is the Prince of peace. Peace in the Hebrew is Shalom; it is way more than the absence of war. Shalom means health and wholeness which encompasses all of creation. Perfect shalom brings with it a harmony and unity of all peoples and all of creation. Shalom is living in a right relationship with God, with one another and with God’s creation. That is why in this wonderful Book of Isaiah we are given that beautiful vision of shalom where all natural enemies shall live in harmony with each other; all suffering, sorrow and tears shall come to an end. That is our future hope and joy in Jesus our Messiah.
No wonder then that this is GOOD NEWS, this is Gospel. This message is worth sharing with everyone. We as followers of Jesus are called to be messengers too. We are good news bearers; we are Gospel proclaimers as the apostle Paul said in Romans ten, quoting this Messianic oracle, and emphasising the need to get the Gospel-Good News message out, because, says Paul: “Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.”
This GOOD NEWS, this Gospel, is our very salvation. That word salvation here is chock full of meaning. First of all it refers to Jesus himself, for that is the meaning of his name—Jeshua, Joshua, Jesus means he shall save. His very name is a reminder then to all that he is our Saviour, The One who brings salvation. The word translated in our text as salvation also means victory in Hebrew. In the original situation, the messenger was announcing to the exiled people of Judah and Jerusalem that God would win the victory for them over the Babylonians; God would act to deliver them from exile. Their deliverance did come through the sending of Cyrus the Persian and his army to defeat the Babylonians and allow the people of Judah and Jerusalem to return home to the Promised Land. As Christians, we believe our final victory comes through Jesus. Jesus wins the victory over the powers of sin, death and evil. They shall no longer keep us in exile. One day God in Christ shall act to deliver us and win the final victory for us over sin, death and evil. That is our joy and our hope. That’s why we celebrate the birth of Jesus.