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Rejoicing in God’s promises, both realized and still to be realized

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3rd Sunday of Advent – December 11, 2016

Isaiah 61:1-11 and Luke 4:16-21

Many people, including many of us, are in the spirit of rejoicing as we approach this season of Christmas. But there are those who find it hard, and extremely hard at times, to relate to this sense of joy. Today is the third Sunday of Advent and we lit the third candle, the candle of joy.

Back in the days when the prophet Isaiah, or even an unknown prophet writing under Isaiah’s name, the people of God were returning from exile. They had been in an extended period of hardship, and then, when a number of them were returning to Israel and Judah, they saw nothing but towns demolished and everything had been plundered and taken over by their enemies.

They had to build up their confidence and their self-esteem. It wasn’t easy. Then many centuries later, Jesus also takes up the scroll of Isaiah and gets to read these same words that had been documented many centuries before:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives

and recovery of sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed go free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

So when Jesus says this, He actually goes back in history, looking at what the prophets had said in order to comfort the people that had returned from their time in a foreign country, and says that this applies to Him, to Jesus, the Son of God.

Yes, sometimes it seems as though we live in a world that God has abandoned. Terrorism, drought, poverty, climate change, and injustice seem to reign. But this is still God’s world. Amid the future promises are the current realities. We also live in a world where hospitality and acceptance are beginning to blossom.

The children of God are seeking to make God’s New Reality, the reign of God something tangible. Homeless people are given some warm food and shelter. There are those who are addicted to drugs, who are captive to whatever substance has taken a stranglehold on them. Then Jesus is clearly saying “He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives.” Surely this also applies to the person captive to drugs. Others are a very long way from reaching a place where they are free of financial debt. Then there are those in harmful relationships, not knowing how to get out of such a relationship as it could put them in greater danger.

This is truly what’s so wonderful about the Good News that we believe and that we profess that we follow. As Christ-followers, we have entered this New Reality and many of God’s promises are already realized. However, there are some of these promises of God which haven’t been made real yet. We have huge hopes to end poverty in Edmonton. An end to poverty is something that we just seem not to be able to attain. How about world peace? How about peace among co-workers? Peace among siblings is also something that keeps evading us.

These all point to the fact that there are many promises of God that are not realized yet. Will they be realized before the end of this age, this existence on earth. Some of us are hopeful that this would indeed happen. There are others among us who are convinced that it might only happen after this existence on earth.

This leaves us with a tension of living between realized promises and promises that are still to be realized. What makes all of this so wonderful, is that God promised and still promises that the current reality will be overturned and that everything will be made new.

When we look around to see proof of this new realities coming to fruition, we might be looking and searching in vain. Does this mean that we are to give up and relax? Of course not! Christ-followers are here to stand up and make a difference. You and I are called into our direct neighbourhoods and we are to make the difference. We are to uplift those who are downhearted. We are to be the ones who cultivate these new realities that we are striving for.

It doesn’t help expecting these new realities to fall in place spontaneously. I have a hunch that there is more than enough work for us as followers of Christ to start putting things right where they are wrong. Otherwise the the promises of God will remain unrealized.

Our passage from Isaiah concludes with some powerful words: “For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.”

Perhaps we might look with new eyes are God’s capabilities. God is able to work as a gardener among us to bring new growth into our congregation, and into our society at large. God has not given up on us. Just as the spruce tree brings forth new green shoots, in a likewise manner the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations. We have no solid reason to refrain from bursting out in joy. We are actually called to rejoice!

Gods promises aren’t merely maybes for one day, perhaps. They have already become true and will certainly still become true. That’s what Christ life, death and life was all about and still is about. Jesus Christ was bound to the prison cell of this earthly existence. But the walls of that prison cell were smashed once and for all…!

 

Copyright 2016 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church

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