O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
This is the Year
This is the Year
Based on Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Preached on Dec. 14, 2014 - Advent 3
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Fellow baptized saints, the food needs to be bought. The gifts need to be wrapped. The cards need to be sent. The house needs to be clean. Are you stressed out yet? Honestly, with all the preparations of this busy Advent season it can be very difficult to enjoy it, can't it? With all the running around, all the events, all the expectations - it is enough to make you want to stop - quit - just give up, because the truth is it wears you out. No, you can't let anyone else know that your spirit grows faint, but it is tiring, isn't it? Sometimes you feel like you just need a break.
Well, your God knows you, because built right into this third Sunday in Advent, this pink candle day, is a rest He knows you need. A moment to stop. A moment to pause and actually rest in the gentle, strength of His good news. For today God's Word gives joy to the weary.
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor; to comfort all who mourn, to give them the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit.
Your King has been anointed to come to you with healing and freedom and comfort and rest. He comes to give you joy. But there is no way to fully understand what this "year of the LORD's favor" really is, unless we go back to the book of Leviticus. No pastor, please! Not the book of Leviticus. That's the book that I always stop at when I try to read the Bible. It's true. The book of Leviticus has stopped many an avid Bible reader with its sacrificial language and mind-numbing detail - which is why I think most of us need a little refresher on what it tells us about the year of the LORD's favor. Listen to this.
Before God led His people out of the wilderness and into the Promised Land, He made land provisions for each tribe and family. That meant God gave every family a specific part of the land to live on and take care of. Much like in the garden of Eden, God remained the owner and His people were His tenants or caretakers. The land could not be sold, only leased. God told the people to take care of His land by giving it rest, or Sabbath, even as He gave His people rest each week. That meant that every seven years the fields were to lay fallow and God's people had to trust Him to provide enough harvest in the sixth year to sustain them through to the eighth. It could seem like basic farming to us, but God was doing much more than meets the eye.
This seven-year farming cycle occurred seven times. Then in the 50th year the people celebrated the year of the LORD's favor, which was called the Jubilee. The Jubilee year was unlike anything else. It was like hitting the reset button on everything God owned. They were His people, and it was His land, and every 50 years He wiped the slate clean. Check it out.
No matter what had happened over that last 50 years, God called every Israelite back to his or her original land in the year of the LORD's favor. Some people might have experienced extreme poverty, lost their land, many even forced into slavery in order to survive economic hardship. But in the year of the Jubilee, all those in slavery were released, and all the land was returned to the original tenant. What's more, God commanded that during the Jubilee, His people should care for the poor among them, lending them money at no interest and selling them food at no profit.
Now, I want you to think about what it would be like to have lost your land, been sold into slavery with your family, but to be only months away from the year of the LORD's favor. You're tired of working for someone else. You're worn out and stressed out and down, down, down, but in a couple of months you will be free. You will have a fresh start. You will be favored by the LORD and given all the things He has promised to those in need. In spite of your situation, you would be filled with joy, looking forward to the fulfillment of God's Word. Even as you toiled in your poverty, or slaved in your captivity, you would rejoice in God your Savior.
Well, by now you've probably realized that these gracious promises of your King bring you comfort not only because you are busy with the pace of the season, but because you are the one to whom your King speaks. You are numbered among the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives. You are the one who is not in your own land, who has been trapped in slavery, the one that needs the Jubilee. And your King has come to you, righteous and having salvation is He (collect match).
Though you are poor in spirit, having no righteousness of your own, Christ covers you with His righteousness, that you might be rich. Though you are brokenhearted in your sin, ashamed of the situation you are in, Christ comes to honour you, to cloth you in His special robe and adorn you in His beautiful headdress. Though you are a slave to your sin, unable to stop yourself from sinning, Christ comes to redeem you, to release you from your prison and set you free.
Christ has proclaimed the year of the LORD's favor. His death and resurrection have sounded an eternal Jubilee, and every person in every place and time, can look with joy upon what awaits them in Christ, no matter how awful things may get during these last "couple months." We know what comes next - a fresh start, a new heaven and a new earth where righteousness lives. This promise is yours now, even as you wait for its fulfillment. This promise is yours, because that is how your King gives you His joy - through His Word.
Your King was anointed to announce this Jubilee. To speak good news. To proclaim liberty. Because His Word accomplishes whatever it says. Let there be light. Lazarus, come out! Father, forgive them. So when He says "Jubilee" - when He says "You are free" - then you are free. And in baptism He spoke the robe of His righteousness upon you in the water. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. That you might be free. That you might be a priest in His service. One in whom He causes righteousness and praise to sprout up before all people to the glory of His Holy Name. You are an oak of righteousness, the planting of the LORD Himself. You are the One upon whom He sees jewels, the One He has decked out for His coming on the Last Day. You are the One He has covered with all His grace and favor, so that no matter what the situation, you may say, "I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God."
Your God knows you need a break. He knows you need a rest. So He anointed His own Son to come and proclaim His eternal favor. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion. I will say it again. Rejoice. For it will not be long before you have all the LORD has promised you. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr