Joy to the World

Scripture: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

Key Verse(s): I will greatly rejoice in the Lordmy soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations. (v. 10-11)

Observation: This passage from the book of Isaiah speaks of salvation and mission. In its historical context salvation is freedom from Babylonian captivity and mission is the rebuilding and restoration of Jerusalem. Those who have been saved are now free to go back to Zion and not only repair the city (v. 4) but also repair or rebuild those who mourn in Zion (v. 3). The rebuilding of the city and the restoration of the people is not for Israel alone but is intended to be seen by the nations of the world. Israel’s salvation solidifies her identity in God and her mission to represent God to all the nations of the world. Israel’s acts of rebuilding and restoration are templates to be repeated by every nation in order to bring joy to the world. Isaiah makes two references to this truth, “I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth,” (49:6) and “I am coming to gather all nations and tongues.” (66:18) Israel’s salvation and mission are not intended to isolate or glorify Israel but instead point to God’s love and intent to bring joy to the world!

Analysis: The theme for the third Sunday of Advent is joy. We light the pink candle which symbolizes this joy that we have in knowing that our salvation has come in the form of a vulnerable, helpless little baby born in Bethlehem. Isaiah 61, reminds us that we are as helpless as the baby Jesus and that in our acceptance of this helplessness we are saved. As we depend on God totally and completely we are saved from our attempts to save ourselves. Moreover, our salvation leads to mission. We join the God of salvation in spreading the gospel that all people have access to the same salvation we are experiencing. Our salvation story must bear witness to the God who makes our righteousness spring forth (v. 11). Our missional acts of mercy and justice must reflect the truth that God is the source so that we do not take credit and receive glory that belongs to God. We rejoice greatly because we know that God has saved us and covered us in righteousness and out of this joy we rebuild cities and restore people. As we continue to prepare for Christmas morning, let us find ways to bring joy to the world so that our salvation leads to joyous acts of mission.

Prayer: God of salvation we pray that Jesus Christ will be born in us once again. Move us out of the way, oh Lord, so that righteousness will spring forward and all the nations will join together in praising and glorifying your wonderful works of salvation. In the name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.


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