January 8, 2023: 2nd Sunday after Christmas

Let us pray: Dear Lord Jesus, we know that You don’t look upon our outward appearance as much as You do upon our hearts.  And today, because our hearts are full of the joy, gladness, thankfulness and faith that You have placed within them, we truly are beautiful in Your sight.  Enable each of us to celebrate such beauty and never to hide it.  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR LORD AND OUR GOD!

TEXT:  Isaiah 61:10-62:3

Fellow Redeemed Sinners Basking In the Afterglow Of Christ’s Birth: 

          Every time I gaze into a mirror I see something a bit different—and I’m not always pleased!  I’ll bet most of you feel the same way.  In my case, because I inherited my mother’s rather wonderful skin, I don’t have many wrinkles.  However, the hairline continues to grow  sparser,  the sideburns now white, and if Tori woke us up before 5 a.m. the skin under my eyes is a bit puffier.  Vanity, vanity, all is vanity!

          Some days, as I’m shaving, I see happy eyes full of excitement.  Other days I see the weary eyes of a man age who has had a tough week.  Because I’m so familiar with such looks, whenever I see each of you here at church I usually steal a few glimpses into your eyes, too.  Those glimpses tell me a lot about how you’re doing.  We can hide inner hurt behind a laugh or steer conversation into neutral areas that don’t reveal our inner selves, but the eyes, the eyes are the windows to the soul.  They can be bright, lively, and happy.  Or, they can be sad, weary, and reflect inner turmoil.  My lovely wife likes to remind me that: “The face shows all.”  She’s right.

          Everyone has something to hide.  We try to hide wrinkles and blemishes with skin cream and make-up.  We try to hide hair loss via wigs, or the “hair club for men.”  We attempt to hide a bulge or two with tailored clothes or spandex.  But how about hiding that thing or two inside of you that isn’t very pretty?  You know exactly what I mean.  When you look into your own eyes in a mirror, you know the person looking back at you.  You know the inner shame you carry around.  You know the nasty thoughts you harbor.  You know how you try to hide your prideful superiority complex behind a mask of piety.  And as a Christian, you also know that your inner corruption is ugly to behold.  As a Christian, you’re not proud of it, but it just seems to ooze out of you at the worst possible moment.  As a Christian, you’re immensely frustrated with having to put up with yourself and ashamed that God has to actually see you for what you really are.  And if you don’t feel this way, at times, then you’re not being honest with yourself!

          All this is why today’s lesson from Isaiah is so beautiful and uplifting and comforting!  Perhaps you’ve never thought much about this question: WHAT DOES GOD SEE WHEN LOOKING AT ME?  But, knowing the answer to that question is the ultimate—not in skin care, but in soul care.

I

          Adam and Eve were perfect human beings—no inner blemish or wrinkle, no outer stain or spot spoiled their perfect beauty.—Until, that is, they tasted the sour taste of sin.  We all both know and experience daily the result.  But now, now, to us a child is born and a Son is given.  To us a second Adam has come to transfer to us His ageless beauty.  A sin-free life, a forgiven life, is the Christ-Child’s gift to you and me.  He’s the gorgeous Bridegroom that has come into this world to eternally marry the ugly Bride, the Church, you and me.  However, and it’s a really big “however”, as God Almighty, Jesus has graciously worked a miracle, a miracle of transformation, upon us.  By faith in His love and goodness, He has re-made us into a stunning, glamorous new creation!  His love and inner beauty has been given to us through faith. 

          Isaiah prophesies this amazing transformation when he writes: “I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my god.  For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” 

          So much for the outer transformation in God’s sight, now Isaiah speaks of the inner transformation as well.  “For as the soil makes the sprout to grow up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.”

          That praise from the heart, that inner beauty shines forth from your soul and mine when we praise our Christmas King.  And God both sees and hears it and smiles.

II

          Zion is often spoken of as the city of God.  Since Christ once said: “My kingdom is not of this world” and since the Bible also says: “The kingdom of God is within you” we know that Zion is codeword for Christ’s Bride, for the Holy Christian Church, for all believers like you and me.  So, God, speaking through Isaiah now adds: “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch.  The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow.”

          God the Father sent His Son into the world as a humble suffering servant in order to save fallen mankind.  Christ came as the Anointed one chosen for the task of making us beautiful in God’s sight.  In carrying out that task, He took on another name: Jesus, or God saves His people.  And by doing so, His glorious perfection has now become yours and mine.

          And that leads us to the final words of this lesson.  Since all that our Bridegroom possesses He gives to His Bride, the Church, God’s final words aptly describe both Jesus and also us who live by faith: “You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God.”

          So, WHAT DOES GOD SEE WHEN LOOKING AT YOU?  He sees the beautiful, glorious daughter-in-law that His Son married.  He sees you and me as worthy heirs of heavenly glory, made worthy only by the loving blood of our Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.  And thus, He rejoices over us perhaps even more than we rejoice over Him!  Next time you’re feeling frumpy, think about THAT!  Amen

THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH…..

Pastor Thomas H. Fox