December 29, 2013
He Became Their Savior
Have you ever walked into a room and someone was laughing and you had no idea why? Or you found someone sobbing their heart out and you wondered what had happened? It is difficult to know what is going on when you come into the middle of a situation, right!
Our lectionary, actually, list the Old Testament lesson as Isaiah 63:7-9. But numerous commentators frown on just focusing on these 3 verses. They alert the preacher to read the entire chapter. The reason being is they don’t want you to come into the middle of the scene and miss the whole story!
In all honesty, the lectionary wants the warm, fuzzy section of the story. It is 4 days after Christmas; I don’t blame them for wanting to stick with the happy, joy filled part. But, we have to hear the whole thing!
Isaiah 63 begins with God being so angry with the people of Israel that he is blood RED! There is no doubt that God is fed up with the ungrateful acts of the people. They have been returned from exile and they are miserable. This is not the picture perfect “Fa-la-la that we deck the halls with at Christmas”!
Then the prophet speaks up in verses 7-9 and helps God and the people remember. Let us recount what great things the Lord has done for us. Think about the times when God has blessed us! God has come as a savior to redeem us in the midst of tragedy and despair. God remember that these people are your children.
Then the rage comes again, we are thrust back into how God feels when we don’t behave. It is not a text that leaves us with Christmas joy after opening our presents and gathering with family. I don’t know about you but I want the comfortable feeling that I have after eating a wonderful delicious meal. I have opened up my gifts and I want to feel good after all it is Christmas!
But today in Isaiah, there is this uneasiness. Perhaps it is the uneasiness that not all went well for some this Christmas or maybe it is their whole year that failed them. For the ones that spent too much and now their bank account is showing it. For the dysfunctional family gathering where everyone was on edge and there was not the perfect Christmas cheer. For the family who had a person missing around their dinner table and the sadness was so thick you could cut it.
In reading the entire chapter of Isaiah, we get to experience God’s feelings. I don’t often think about those. We realize by reading and hearing this that God gets angry with us. We also know God suffers when we mess up, we know God is sad when we hurt each other; we know that God is disappointed when we are ungrateful. And we know God that despite all of our flaws will come into this treacherous world as a vulnerable baby and save and redeem us. It is difficult to understand and know God but maybe this gives us some insight.
I am always moved by the story in the Gospel of Matthew 2:13-23. When Joseph gets word about the plan of Herod’s to kill baby Jesus, he does as the angel instructs him to do and they flee to Egypt. God sends his only son as a baby into a world with so much violence and hatred. And yet, God protects this child. God doesn’t stop the violence but protects. God doesn’t stop the hatred but loves us through his son.
As we learn to know God, may we live out our faithfulness by sharing the awesome love that God has for us with each other. I have a dear friend and over the past several months things were amiss with our relationship. We have been friends for a long time and we have always been honest with each other. This is one of the things I cherish about our friendship. So, I shared my concern with my friend. They told me about some things going on in their life that shed some light on their behavior. But they also shared that there were times when I did not share my gratitude for the things this person does for me. At first, I was surprised to hear this. But it made me think and look back on my actions. It was true. Though I was thankful for the things this person has done for me, I had not shared my gratitude with them because of the tension that had come between us.
For this I am thankful to my friend for bringing this to my attention, I realized that it is important to others for me to share my gratitude with them. This can mean a lot. Even if it is someone who is not necessarily a friend or if I am having a difficult time with someone, I need to share my gratitude with them. Even if it is someone who I am close to and may take for granted, I need to share my gratitude with them. This can go a long way in building healthy relationships including the one that we share with God.
As we look to celebrating New Year’s Day, we enter into 2014 with hopes for a good year. Some of us long for a better year than the last. We will receive a blessing of oil later on in the service. This is a symbol of how God’s sustaining love is always present with you. This scented oil will stay with you throughout the day reminding that in the good and bad times God is there.
When making your New Year’s resolution, a suggestion is to not go with losing weight, give up TV and read more, spend less time on Facebook, but try living out the prayer of Isaiah.
What would it look life, if every day you said, “I will recount the gracious deeds of the Lord, the praiseworthy acts of the Lord, because of all that the Lord has done for me.” Remember what the good things the Lord has blessed you with in your life and be thankful and be filled with gratitude. Can you imagine how joy-filled this will make God? Can you imagine how joy-filled your life will be if you begin your day like this? Can you imagine how it will bless others if you share this with them?
Praise be to God, who from a babe born in a manger becomes our savior. Amen.