Before we go further, let us look back and see what the Lord taught us in those darkest times of 2020. Let me remind you of few themes of our sermons and I do not expect you to remember all of these.
- January-February —We learned about Church in Motion & the redeeming voice of God through the wilderness as we took on the story of Exodus.
- March—It was finding hope in the midst of wilderness. During the breaking news of the Coronavirus, God taught us to find hope in Christ as we journey through lent.
- April—Christ is Risen! And we heard Jesus inviting us to Christ's presence as we recall his self-revelation to the disparate fishers on the shore of Lake Tiberias and gave them warmth and fed them. Too, we feel Jesus' presence and his love surrounding us in our fears.
- May—We took on "Church in Action" and are called to imitate the church of Acts it made itself available and Paul meeting people where they feel comfortable, even during sever persecutions.
- June— We talked about Faith, Hope, Endurance, and Resiliency. The author of Hebrews encouraged us to run the race with endurance and " lay aside every encumbrance." Hebrews 12:1
- July—God’s called for Justice and New beginning— we journeyed through Hosea, Joel, Amos and the rest of the books of the minor prophets.
- August—Waiting on God while hope seems distant, was Habakkuk's call for us.
- Sep—Haggai too, challenged us of giving and remined us of our calling. That we should take courage while maintaining or building the church, the members, physically and spiritually.
- October—we celebrated Reformation, World Communion and with the parable of the prodigal son, we are called to "Mind our return" because we cannot live outside the presence of God.
- November—Matthew 25 brought the parables, (the bridesmaids, the talents, and the return of the son of man), that relates to gifts of faith, of service and Rewards & renewing covenant with King Jesus, on Christ the King Sunday and beyond.
- December—it was Advent, then the gift of love, light, deliverance, and reunion with God on Christmas and God promises to remain with us now and till the end of the world.
In our lectionary gospel reading, Luke reported that after Marry and Joseph completed the ceremony "required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom, and the favor of God was upon him." Luke 2:39-40
This simple child is endowed with God's favor, God's power, might and wisdom. He came to the ones of his own. He came as a new beginning of God's purpose. He was the promise. He was the light that Isaiah called Israel to seek after as Israel dwelled in the shadow of slavery. In Isiah 60:1, an astonishing voice of mercy was heard inviting Israel to rise above circumstance because the light of God has come toward—to Arise and shine! Israel was in its weakiest moment. Israel was called rejected, desolate land, forsaken by own God, and there was no hope for the remnants either. Yet, God break the dawning light and break the good news of God's reclaiming Israel. God brings a fresh restart of partnership. Therefore, Israel must recognize the light and make its own little light shine forth to meet divine offer. God has remembered his commitment and show his love to Israel once again.
We can see this love manifested through the example of Hosea's marriage to the unfaithful partner. For the sake of the covenant, God has promised to keep loving Israel despite Israel's untrustworthiness character. In the fullness of time, after Israel experienced a period of slavery, God comforted and promised of a double reward for the cause (Isaiah 40:1-2). This happened not because of Israel's goodness or any merit, but only God's love compelled God to have compassion on Israel. The author of laminations recalls the experience and said: “The faithful love of the Lord never ends; His mercies never cease.” (Laminations 3:22)
Scholars agreed on one thing, that Isaiah 60-62 is believed to be a proclamation of the good news to Israel. When we read these chapters, we can see voices of a speaker and of the receiver while God remained silent in the background. Israel expressed gratitude for God's mercy and deliverance and said, — "I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom dressed for his wedding or a bride with her jewels (Isaiah 61:10-11).
God, on the other hand, broke his silence and promised to remain Israel's defender and that he won't rest until his full purpose is accomplished— "until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch (Isaiah 62:1). As Charles Cousar says, 'the exuberant joyfulness in the face of so much present and future hardship is quite remarkable." What has been the old experience is now and will be the future hope that rests and sources from within.
This hope is to be "born of a woman" says Paul, making many friends, and make their deliverance possible. This promise has been fulfilled with Jesus's Birth as the light to the world and in his ministry as he claimed on a Sabbath when he was given the scroll and read from Isaiah. That the promises of God have been fulfilled and that he had come (Luke 4:14-19).
- To bring good news to the poor—“for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:3
- To proclaim release to the captives—"for they will be comforted." Matthew 5:4
- To restore the sight to the blind—"for they will see God" Matthew 5:8
- To set free the oppressed—"for they will be filled" Matthew 5:6
- To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor— "for they will be called children of God" Matthew 5:9
Therefore, through the coming of Christ, at the time when we were still sinners, God reached out to us. Even when we were and are imperfect, God has, and will cause our:
- Deliverance through atonement in the blood of Jesus Christ
- Vindication and Justify us right with him only by faith in Christ
- Transformation and create in us a spirit of worship to glorify God as God over other gods of the world.
- Reunion and bring personal relationship with him
As God's love to Israel has been wide and endless, this too, affirms to us today the love of God. We are the most important, significant, and substantial possessions to God. This immeasurable love is unfathomable and profound. Puzzled by God's compassion, the psalmist broke his silence and asks "…what are human beings that you are mindful of them, crowned them with glory and honor (Psalm 8). Isaiah seems to have the answer and says human beings are God’s precious Jewells, are precious God's sight, and honored, and "I love you" says God. (Isaiah 43:4). More importantly, the elect and the chosen are enveloped in God's purpose and are vital in God's salvific plan and are as the apple of God’s eye (Zech. 2:8). This means, God will not keep silent over their case, circumstance, misfortune, and God always brings breakthrough in God's own timing. We are safe and secure with God even when we are in troubling circumstances of our lives. What a promise!
In his daily study commentary, William Barclay, describes security with God both inward and outward: Inwardly, he says, "The inward characteristic is the awareness of the love of God, the deep awareness that we cannot drift beyond his care, the sense that the everlasting arms are underneath us. One of the basic needs of life is security and we find that need met in the consciousness of the unchanging love of God." God never changes and his love is an endless ocean to us. In the moment of despair, God promises to shoot up a new beginning, new way that help us look into the matters in the world around us. God puts himself in position for your cause. God will not take rest until a messenger is appointed and you're inform of the God's great news. This can be hearing a scripture on Sunday, reading the Bible, chatting with a friend, or even hearing the whisper of God's voice into our hearts.
God promised Israel of a new beginning. He also tells us he will robe us with RIGHTEOUSNESS and will be a perfect robe— (not like mine). God's robe is God's presence, renewal, and close relationship with us. God will bring Spring of joy in time of sorrow. In those moments, where God seems distance, the whisper of the Holy Spirit wakens our covenant relationship and our commitment to God. You and I are given new name and will be called: Chosen, Forgiven, Delight, and God's own crown. No more will you be called rejected, desolate, old, and powerless. But in God's newness, you will be young in heart, renewed in hope like Abraham and let this be true to us in the year 2021.
As the bridegroom finds joy in his union with his bride, so will your God take joy in his union with you! (Isaiah 61:11). A new day is about to dawn in the relationship between God and the people. As the end of captivity bring Joy to Israel, may the new year end the pain and suffering of our people and the whole world through this virus.
This message is personal to me as well as you have accepted and show me love through my ministry. And thank you for accepting me in my filthy robe today and in our struggles to make the service possible throughout this year. Thank you to many of you who, behind the sense, have been helping and making the service, our newsletters, and websites possible and better. Thank you for your love and acceptance of me even in my crazy moments of losing the entire PowerPoint or adding hymn to the PowerPoint sometimes. Your patient has made my weakness turn to strength and fear to greater confidence. In my wants, needs and despair, you reach out with great support and your generosity has brighten our Christmas this year.
It's true that God's intention and greater purpose for our lives is transformation and rebuilding. It's about restoration and reunion with him and take on personal responsibility. “In the Jewish world, on the first Sabbath after a boy had passed his twelfth birthday, his father took him to the Synagogue, where he became A Son of the Law. The father thereupon uttered a benediction, "Blessed be thou, O God, who has taken from me the responsibility for this boy." The boy prayed a prayer in which he said, "O my God and God of my fathers! On this solemn and sacred day, which marks my passage from boyhood to manhood, I humbly raise my eyes unto thee, and declare with sincerity and truth, that henceforth I will keep thy commandments, and undertake and bear the responsibility of mine actions towards thee." There was a clear dividing line in the boy's life; almost overnight he became a man.” William Barclay
Alluded to this experience, Paul told Galatians that they are in union with God as faithful adults as they accept Christ Jesus. That they do not belong to the laws, or the legal codes that had served as guardian until the coming of the gospel. The gospel, then, has brought us deliverance from the law. This deliverance is the gift of God and God's only love that bring us unity. This unity is compared to the best Robe, only made prefect by God through Christ and it's God's salvation which we receive by faith. As Paul states, "…when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. 6 And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God." Galatians 4:4–7
Therefore, we are heirs of God with full rights to access God, and God's goodness and possession. As children, we have full confidence to approach God and ask of him everything we need. And God has and will causes your deliverance. He has and will transform you from within. He will remain as your "glory within” to guide, as you continue your journey with him to the new year—2021! The secret to keeping the joy of Christmas and to maintain our union with God, is to keep finding and seeking the face of God! So, may it be true to you now and through 2021!