Roger's Postings

Friday, December 13, 2013

Isaiah 35:1-10.                   Looking forward with hope                         15/12/13

 {1)  The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, {2} it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendour of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendour of our God. {3} Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; {4} say to those with fearful hearts, "Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you." {5} Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. {6} Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. {7} The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow. {8} And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it. {9} No lion will be there, nor will any ferocious beast get up on it; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, {10} and the ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

 Here again we have another important message for us as we approach Christmas. Already we are caught up in the so-called silly season; running around like mad things; finishing off our work commitments for the year; buying gifts, putting up the tree, cleaning house and thinking about all the cooking; then there are the seemingly never-ending round of parties and breakups; hurrying to and fro – getting hassled and run down; but then on top of all of that, there is the high cost of presents and the Christmas pudding turns out a flop, all adding to the frustration of this time of the year.

 Yet despite all of this – for us as Christians - there is an underlying hope and happiness. Not just, because with Christmas comes family gatherings, gifts, a good feed and a few drinks; but our hope and joy lies much deeper and is of far greater consequences. For us, there is again the reminder of the coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, which gives us a whole different perspective of life. And it is this which I want us to focus on today.

 To begin with, let us look at the hope that we have in the midst of a hopeless world. Here, how well do the words of our text this morning fit our world today? The difficulties and tragedies that we encounter in our world today are acknowledged by implication in these words, when we read: Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts.

 In our world today, with all that is happening, there are many who are sick, anxious, frightened, discouraged and who see no future; nothing to live for. I could give example after example of this, but never-the-less these threats are facing us from all directions; even within the church. Today, instead of enemy soldiers and deserts, there are concrete jungles and bureaucrats; instead of unclean things and wild beasts – there is materialism and traffic; then there is the constant focus and peddling of an ‘I focussed’ religion.

 So for many today caught in the midst of all of this kind of thinking, what hope is there? Despite all the rhetoric that goes around, there is really very little for many of these people to live for in the present; and even less to look forward to in the future. They are friendless aliens in someone else’s world.

 When speaking of despair, a few years ago, one writer wrote: “it is a state of dejection which gives rise to apathy of mind, and feelings and spirit, to a sluggishness or, as it has been put, a poisoning of the will; to despair, faintheartedness and even desirelessness, a lack of real desire for anything, even for what is good. At the root of it all …. Is despair of the mercy of God and therefore a despair of his creation.”

 Now off course, there are many who do not appear to be in despair. They have placed their hope in their wealth, materialism and technology. They have wrapped themselves in their own desires and wishes and are going full steam ahead: Sadly, however, making it even worse for themselves and others. Because in the end all these false hopes still end in despair: One suffering will be replaced simply by another. As we have seen; the end of the war to end all wars has been replaced by many other wars and even more terrorism. One person’s financial gain has been someone else’s loss. The win on the Tatts has destroyed the family. And the list could go on.

 Then to all those who have placed their hope in these things there is a final despair which will come at the end of their life – when there is nothing more to look forward to – except to face a God they had refused to listen to. Then they will have nothing of their own to stand on. A world without God – that is, the true God who has revealed himself to us in the Scriptures – is still finally hopeless and without any real happiness.

 However we know that it is right in the midst of this hopeless world that hope can be found. Despair in what this world has to offer is also the breeding ground for hope. For it is only when we know that we are in deep trouble and that on our own, as human beings, there is no way out. Then the riches of God’s grace can be found. When we are at our weakest, God’s mercy is sure to be there. Then the baby in the manger becomes that which is vitally important for us.

 Remember it is into this kind of hopeless situation that these words from Isaiah were originally written. To a people who had every reason to believe that all was lost, this promise was given that there would be a rescue and a new and better life in front of them. Your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you." Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.  Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.
God would not let them be destroyed – even the weakest of them. So with these promises, they had hope - they had the confidence to keep on going. So it is for us! We have every reason to keep up the struggle; and to do it with hope and confidence. Not only that, we can do this with a sense of underlying joy, because we have this and many other like promises from God. But not only do we have these promise, but in many cases we also have the fulfilment of them.

 Because with the coming of Jesus “the eyes of the blind were opened, the deaf were made to hear, and the lame walked and the dumb, spoke.  While he walked this earth he performed these miracles to show us that he is true to his word. But even more significantly he died on the cross and roses again three days later, just as what God promised hundreds and hundreds of years before hand. Through that death we were promised that our sin is forgiven and that we have the assurance of eternal life with God in heaven.

 So with Christ’s life, death and resurrection we have been rescued from despair – and have every reason to be hopeful. Through our baptisms our life have been connected to Jesus and his death on the cross and his resurrection. We have his guarantee that we are forgiven and have eternal life with him. We can go forward with hope and confidence.

 Yes, our life here on earth, will still be one which is encompassed in hardships, struggles and suffering; and we will still have to die. But we now know for sure that we will also rise again to eternal joy. That being the case we can go forward with hope – a sure and certain hope. Just as Christ lived, died and rose again, so also will we. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

 That being the case: Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, "Be strong, do not fear; your God will come. He has already come and will come again.

 So with that assurance, let us live our lives to the fullest. Now however, not simply for ourselves, but for our Lord and Saviour who has joined us to himself and all the good that he has in mind for us. Also we no longer need to look to our own selfish interests, for we have these promises, and so can now look out for those around us as well. We can go forward with hope and confidence – to strengthen and encourage those around us who are struggling: Pointing them to our Lord Jesus Christ and all that he has and continues to do for us.

 So in your preparation for the Christmas celebrations, lift up your hearts – lift up your spirits. Be joyful and full of hope and confidence, for we have the full assurance of the forgiveness of sin, life and salvation that has been won for us through this Son of God who came as a little babe in a manger all those years ago. Yes, be involved in all these other things that you do in the lead up to Christmas, but do it looking and thinking of our Lord: knowing that in him we have every reason to celebrate: every reason to be hopeful, as we look forward to the future. So a happy, blessed  and hopeful Christmas to you all.  AMEN.

 Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish


Post a Comment

<< Home