First Sunday after Christmas December 29, 2019
102, 90:1-6, Worship Supplement 2000 #709, 90:7-8
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
How beautiful upon the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who proclaims peace, Who brings glad tidings of good things, Who proclaims salvation, Who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Your watchmen shall lift up their voices, With their voices they shall sing together; For they shall see eye to eye When the LORD brings back Zion. Break forth into joy, sing together, You waste places of Jerusalem! For the LORD has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem. The LORD has made bare His holy arm In the eyes of all the nations; And all the ends of the earth shall see The salvation of our God.
“Ah dearest Jesus, holy Child,
Make Thee a bed, soft, undefiled,
within my heart that it may be
a quiet chamber kept for Thee.”
Dear fellow Christ-worshipers, who have come with haste to see those things which the Lord has made known to us about the birth of His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ,
Wasn’t the Christmas Eve service great? A great message our children shared with us. Great music. Great fellowship. On Christmas we are so filled with the wonder and joy of our Savior’s birth, that we feel very close to Him and His love for us.
But what about after Christmas? What about after the echoes of “Silent Night” and “Joy to the World” have faded away? What about after the decorations are packed away for another year and the lights that have brightened our dark evenings have been turned off? What about when that problem which has been in the background over Christmas comes back to the surface? What about when your world seems to be falling apart—will you still feel the wonder and joy of your Savior’s birth? Or will you begin to wonder whether or not God is still reigning?
500 years before the first Christmas, God’s people were wondering that very thing. Isaiah writes of believers saying, “The LORD has forsaken me, And my Lord has forgotten me.” (Isaiah 49:10) You see, the LORD had allowed a heathen king Nebuchadnezzar and the super power army of Babylon to defeat Judah and Jerusalem, leveling the city and burning the LORD’s temple. And then a large number of Jews—God’s chosen people—were taken back to Babylon as his captives. Thus the people would cry out, “The LORD has forsaken me, And my Lord has forgotten me.”The people began to wonder whether their God was still reigning.
Sound familiar? Adversity and trouble comes into our life—maybe it’s mental or emotional anguish, maybe it’s financial or physical—but something bad happens in our lives and we wonder why God isn’t doing anything. Maybe it’s not today, but you know the day is coming when something will happen to you or a loved one, which will cause you to wonder whether God is still reigning on His throne and in your life.
God had not forsaken or forgotten about His people. 70 years after Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion of Jerusalem, God would do what many would have thought to be impossible. Verse 10 of our text, “the LORD has made bare His holy arm.” In the Hebrew, this term is extremely vigorous and forceful. Like a prize fighter showing off his bulging biceps before landing his blows, the LORD would expose His holy arm. He would roll up His sleeve and do something about His captive people. With His holy arm, the LORD would do the impossible. He would conquer the unconquerable super power of Babylon with strength and bring His people back home.
“Your God reigns!” would be the resounding cheer of God’s people. He saved His people once again in the face of impossible odds. This would be the Good News of God’s reign as He delivers His captive people from the Babylonians.
500 years after God delivered His people from Babylon, God rolled up His sleeves once again and did something—He made bare His holy arm. At Christmas we find God rolling sleeves and doing something about our own captivity. The LORD makes bare His holy arm and fights for us—and He does it by becoming one of us. As the angels told the shepherds, “for unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” Because you and I give into the easiest of temptations, the Child born of Mary would battle the tempter in the wilderness and resists sin in your place. Because sin had taken our hearts captive, that Baby in the manger would take our sin on Himself to free us from it. Because our sin earned for us an eternal captivity in hell, the Baby of Bethlehem would go to the cross as our substitute and suffering God’s wrath in our place.
33 years later, when the Babe of Bethlehem would die that horrific death on the cross, His followers once again wondered if God was reigning or if God was dead. On the Road to Emmaus, two disciples tell us despairingly, “We were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel.” (Luke 24:20) But on the third day, God once again rolled up His sleeves and bare His holy arm. Christ rose from the dead, conquering that which we dread most—the grave. He has assured you that the WORST this world can throw at you—death—has been overcome and He has given you that victory through faith in Him. Your God reigns! And we see the good news of this reign as we look upon the Child in the manger.
It is a striking image to think of the Almighty God making bare His holy arm by coming as a Baby—but that’s what the LORD did at Christmas. There’s another striking picture in our text. Isaiah writes of “beautiful feet.” Now, I don’t know about you, but feet kind of gross me out. From toenail fungus to callouses and bunions, feet can be kind of gross. About the only kind of feet that are beautiful to me are baby feet. Baby feet are so clean and kissably soft. Baby feet are so beautiful that parents sometimes take pictures of just their baby’s feet to send on a birth announcement.
But when Isaiah writes about “beautiful feet” in our text, he is not referring to the feet of Baby Jesus. No. The beautiful feet Isaiah speaks of may have had those callouses and bunions, and were likely dirty from walking many miles in sandals. What made those feet beautiful was that they carried messengers with Good News! “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings, of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’” As the captives drew near to Jerusalem on their return home from Babylon after 70 years, runners would go ahead to tell the good news. “Your God reigns!” they would announce. God had freed His people just as He had promised, He had rescued them again, just as He promised He would. The captives headed for home! This beautiful message would make the feet of those runners beautiful.
I can’t imagine the shepherds of Christmas had very clean feet. They had been out doing field work with their sheep, likely wearing open sandals. Yet, after they saw the Christ-child they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning that Child. “Your God reigns!” He had come from heaven to save them and was born that night in Bethlehem. Those shepherds had beautiful feet because of the good news about Christ that they carried.
How do your feet look? Like the shepherds, you have hurried to the Lord’s House to hear of a Savior that has been born unto you. This morning you have heard that this Child has freed you from the captivity of your sin and promised to liberate you from your tomb. Your God reigns and through faith in Christ you too shall reign eternally.
As the Christmas season winds down and you come into contact with people that think God is no longer reigning or that God has forsaken them, take them back to the manger and show them the Child born for them. You know the “good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people.” A Savior has been born for you and for them. “Your God reigns,” we can tell them. Let us join the shepherds in sharing this good news!
We know that soon all too soon that the Christmas season will be over again for another year. The decorations will be taken down and packed away, and we will return to reality. We will return to our daily routines and our daily struggles in this world of sin. But as you gaze in faith upon the Christ-child born for you, know for certain that God has neither forsaken you nor forgotten about you. No, your God reigns. And soon He will bring you captives home. “Break forth into joy, sing together…for the LORD has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem.” Hallelujah! Amen!
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.