Christian joy is rooted in God’s gift of salvation through Christ Jesus and the future hope that goes along with it. We emphasize joy at advent because when Jesus was born, God was confirming his promise of salvation to all peoples. However, God’s promise of salvation will not be fulfilled until Christs second coming. Salvation is both already, but not yet. This week, we reflect on the nature of that completed work of salvation from book of the prophet Isaiah as we look to a day when all God's people will rejoice.
This Sunday is purposely chosen to issue a call for justice for the unborn, for those oppressed and for those denied civil rights. The church's goal in fighting for justice is to glorify God, bring joy to the hurting and point everyone to the glorious Kingdom that is to come. As Christ’s body, our mouths and our hands are meant to tell of and point to a God who is perfectly just and who is ushering in a Kingdom of righteousness and justice.
This Sunday we will participate in Orphan Sunday. Orphan Sunday is an opportunity to join in with churches all over the world in learning about God's heart for the fatherless. This week we will thank God for the ways He is using our church and study Psalm 68:1-10. God has a plan to care for orphaned and vulnerable children and his plan involves us!
This morning is Sanctity of Life Sunday. A Sunday in which we recognize the innate dignity of every human being made in the image and likeness of God. Humanity is utterly unique, set apart and resplendent with glory and dignity because of whose image we bear. And horrifically, never before has our humanity been attacked, assaulted and denied in so many ways. There is an arsenal of weapons unleashed to attack human dignity at every stage of life, from the moment of conception to the moment we take our last breath. And God's people, the church is called and equipped to be a redemptive community that works to establish the Kingdom of God through the proclamation of the gospel AND actively working to overthrow injustice and stop oppression wherever it is found.
In Isaiah 58, God rebukes his people for going through the motions spiritually, rather than having genuine hearts that desire God and honor him with their words and actions. Rather than mindless spiritual ritual, God desires sincere acts of righteousness. God specifically calls his people to work to 'loose the bonds of wickedness' and 'let the oppressed go free'. God wants his people to work to preserve and uphold the dignity of every human being. Anything that robs a person of innate human dignity must be opposed by the church. No where is this more needed and urgent than in the area of one's right to life. The most oppressed people in our nation are the unborn. We are commanded to be a voice, an active agent for their good, in their defense. This week we recognize Sanctity of Life Sunday and issue a call for the church to be informed, engaged and prayerful in the defense of human dignity and life.
The love God poured out for his creation when He sent his Son, Jesus, was for an abundance of purposes all stemming from His love for us. (1 John 1:9) Jesus didn't just come as a teacher, a prophet, or a good example of how to live, although He was all of those things. No, Jesus came to SAVE us. God’s ultimate purpose in sending Jesus to walk with his creation was for him to die on our behalf for our sins. Those who believe in Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross for them are the happy recipients of His love eternally. Peace on the earth, good will to men, From heaven's all gracious King!
Isaiah 55 is a call from God to stop pursuing lesser, ultimately unsatisfying things of this world and turn to Him to be satisfied. God is not some cosmic killjoy. God wants us to be filled with joy. And He knows that He is what our souls long for. Therefore, in Isaiah 55, God reveals his people's folly in chasing after the world and offers us forgiveness of sin, compassion and lasting joy forevermore. You are invited to come to God and drink deeply of his presence and goodness and allow your souls to be overwhelmed by joy.
In Isaiah 11, God shares a magnificent vision of peace that is coming to the sin ravaged world through the Messiah. The peace that the Messiah will bring is far beyond our wildest notions of peace. His peace is not merely the absence of conflict but rather a restored perfect communion with Him, our Maker and the reversal of the curse of sin. Furthermore, this peace is total and comprehensive. It is not restricted to one place or to one people. But it will cover the entire earth and be for all peoples.
The prophet Isaiah proclaimed that God would lead his people from spiritual darkness to light by sending His Messiah. On them a light will shine and this light will bring a surprising joy that will break upon sinners through grace of Christ. He will be their Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.