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12.24.2020 Let us Listen, Let us Hear, Let us Rise Luke 2.4-20, Isaiah 52.7-10 Homily Summary

by on December 31, 2020

The prophet Isaiah was writing to Exiles who were refugees of war, people removed from their homeland, and who were separated from their sacred centers. It had been about seventy years. He refers to them as, “those who live in the ruins.”

Tonight for us, even though not through war, and not for seventy years, and though not as traumatic, some of us still feel like exiles. We have looked around and much of what we see lies in ruins.

On the threshold of their return Isaiah speaks to the Exiles. It is a message of “good news, peace, glad tidings, salvation, and the triumph of God.” He introduces this passage with the exclamation: “How beautiful are the feet!” Why feet?

One reason may be that the message comes through messengers. And messengers travel by foot. But also perhaps Isaiah imagines the sound of marching feet, of a liberating army ending the war, releasing the captives, and accomplishing God’s will.

When Luke tells the story of Jesus’ birth, angels proclaim the good news of great joy. “In the city of David is born a Savior, the Christ!” It sounds like Isaiah. But the shepherds don’t find this beautiful: They are terrified. I wonder why?

Isaiah, and maybe the shepherds too, expected some kind of instrumental intervention. They envisioned God using an army as an instrument to intervene. It would be “God” in the sense that “only God can do it.” It would not be “God” in the sense that “God’s very self would intervene.”

But the angels from heaven were a different kind of messengers, and they spoke of the very presence of God. This is why shepherds are terrified. This was the first of many ruptured expectations on this night.

Hopes can be satisfied, but not in the way we expect. Light shine in the darkness, but it may be a light within us rather light around us. We may experience peace, but it may be a peace of God’s presence rather than absence of anxiety. And we may be liberated from our enemies, but it may be the freedom to love them rather than to leave them.

And we may find joy, but it is the joy of God’s comfort rather than the joy of overwhelming amusements. God may send an expected message through unexpected messengers. God may fulfill promises of hope and light, of peace and liberation, and of joy in unexpected ways.

The good news, though odd, of Christmas is that God has done these things through the birth of a baby to an engaged couple in an awkward situation from a small village. Beyond odd, this is surprising. So surprising that the shepherds have to see for themselves. And they are so interested because this child is more like shepherds than kings. He is more like David the young sheep herder than David the warrior monarch.

And isn’t that the point of the angelic messengers? God wants to bring hope and light, peace and liberation, and joy not just to the privileged but to all. Not just to those who might expect them but those for whom it comes as a surprise.

In Jesus is God’s hope and light, peace and liberation, joy and all good gifts—for you, no matter who you are.

So let us listen. Let us hear. And like those shepherds let us rise. Let us rise to see this thing that has taken place which the Lord has made known to us: Through Isaiah, through Luke, and through Jesus. Amen.

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