Sermon: Your God Is Not Distant (Isaiah 52:7-10)

Text: Isaiah 52:7-10
Christmas Day
Listen to the sermon here.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Have you ever felt that God was distant and removed from your life? Have you ever felt God was uninterested and unaccessible? We can go through life feeling like God doesn’t care about what happens to us. God is way up there and I am way down here. Maybe God has forgotten about me. He must have more important things to worry about, right? It’s not uncommon to feel like we’ve been left on on own own. Many don’t think that God shows up in their lives, so in return they don’t give him thought. What has he ever done for me? Do you watch the news and scroll through social media, shaking your head, asking, where’s God? 

A Message for a City In Ruins

We live in a world ruled by sin, ruined by injustice, violence, corruption, self-centredness. We live in a corrupted world, filled with despair, sickness, and death. If you are living in fear of violence or in grinding poverty it can be hard to feel like God cares for you. If you’re living in broken homes and  shattered communities, or even locked down all by yourself, it can be hard to think that God is near.  But, these feelings were also felt by God’s Old Testament people. 

The Prophet Isaiah sees a war-torn Jerusalem. The city is crumbling under foreign occupation. It’s a shell of what it once was. It was not so easy for them either. The people of Israel might have thought that God was no longer involved with them, that he forgot about them. Why? When they looked out their doors, they saw their city crumbling and in ruins under foreign occupation. Those who dwell in it are destitute, broken, and without an ounce of hope.  But, these are people that Isaiah the prophet encourages to “Sing!”

From a battlefield, a messenger approaches the city with important news announce. Something has happened, and now, it must be announced. The watchmen on the city walls are anxious to see who is coming and find out the news. Even before the messenger arrives the watchmen recognise what the news will be. Finally, the watchmen cannot contain themselves and burst into song! The the news is shouted for all to hear. Jerusalem is echoing with songs of celebration and shouts for joy. 

Consider why these watchmen cannot stop singing with joy. The messengers come with their good news, and the watchmen take up the message in unison and shout it as loudly as they can to the inhabitants of the ruined city. Not only has a messenger come to announce a victory from the battlefield, but God’s himself is coming. The Lord has returned! “Joy to the world! The Lord is come. Let Earth receive her king!” The message is peace, good news, salvation, all because our God reigns.

When you hear, “our God reigns,” don’t think of a CEO God. Don’t reduce it to “God is in control” or “God is in charge.” The point here is not a distant, CEO God, but on what this God has done for God’s people in the face of all our ruin. God has shown his complete commitment to the promises he made. He has rolled up the divine sleeves to do what needs to be done. He took it upon himself to bring those Israelites peace and salvation. What God had promised actually arrived because he did something about it himself. The city that is crumbling under foreign occupation can now rejoice: God is returning, the city will be restored, and the community will be made whole. God has rolled up his sleeves and peace and justice will be restored. Freedom will be won. He was not distant, he was returning to reign. He cared, and was personally getting involved. 

A Message for Today

This peace and good news and salvation are not only for the Old Testament. This active involvement of God himself is not only for the people of Israel and Judah but also for all the earth. God’s commitment is not just to save one particular people, but the entire world and all people. This peace, good news, and salvation are for you. What these messengers were reporting loudly is something that they will see fulfilled when the Lord returns to Zion—when Immanuel is among them, when the King of the Jews is born. The coming of the Son of God in the flesh is our cause for joy.  God coming in the flesh is our source of peace and salvation. It is the good news that in Jesus of Nazareth our God reigns. God has kept his promises, he rolled up his divine sleeves. God has got involved in our mess. God was made flesh and dwelt among us. 

The child who was born on Christmas morning, and that promise of God coming back to reign, are for all of us who are live among ruins of a fallen world. Just like God got involved and saved Noah from the wickedness of his day and personally took action and brought Israel back from slavery in Egypt, just like God promised to redeem his people from the captivity in Babylon, God has saved humanity by becoming one of us. He cares. He is not distant.

Those Angels on Christmas Eve proclaimed God’s peace to all the earth. “Glory be to God on high, and on earth, peace and good will to men.”  Because the Word was made flesh, that means our God got involved, and there can be peace between men.  Because the Word was made flesh, that means our God got involved, and there can finally peace between God and humanity.  Because the Word was made flesh, that means our God continues to get involved, and there can be peace in your own soul. 

In that infant boy, born to the Virgin Mary, we find our God coming down to us, rolling up his sleeves to save us.. We are saved from ourselves. And this is a salvation is going on within us, growing day by day. We are saved from guilt. Because God himself has taken our guilt away. We are saved from all that evil that is outside us. The Saviour who was born on Christmas Day knows our enemies. That helpless child is stronger than our enemies. That little boy will subdue them under his feet. We and all the world have been freed from sin, death, and hell because God became man. He rolled up his sleeves, and saved us. That is good news of peace in our day. Jesus came to bring salvation to the ends of the earth

Gone are any pious notions of “God up there” and “we down here” or of our reaching up to God. What we cannot do, God has done. God has come down to us in the Child of the manger. We cannot ascend to God, either in our thoughts, our prayers, our dreams, or our faith. We cannot reach up to God, but God has rolled up his divine sleeves. He sent His Son into our Flesh. Gone are any pious notions of our seeking God. God has sought us and found us in the Flesh of His Son, conceived in a virgin Mother and laid to sleep in a manger. Luther once said, “I know no other God than the One who hangs on a cross and nurses at the breast of His mother.” 

Do not think that God is distant and removed from your life. God is not uninterested and and he is not unaccessible. God has shown his complete commitment to promises he made. He has rolled up the divine sleeves to do what needs to be done.  This is the profound mystery of the Incarnation. God became a man to bring you peace and salvation. And God continues to dwell with us. The Word Made Flesh dwells with us in the same humble, creaturely way. He continues comes to you in the preached and written Word. He continues to roll up his divine sleeve in the water of Holy Baptism. He enters your life personally with the bread and wine of His Supper. There you will find Him, swaddled in all His enfleshed glory, offering you grace upon grace. Your God is not distant, He rolled up his sleeves, and saved us. “Hark! The herald angels sing: Glory to the newborn King!”

May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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