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Worship Theme: The Savior Is Coming: Rejoice and Confess Him
Sermon Theme: Advent Is a Season to Give and Take
In order for any relationship to work, there has to be give and take. Guys if you want your wives to watch that war movie with you, you probably have to watch a few romantic comedy movies with her. If you want her to go to the game with you, you probably will have a ballet in your future. That’s the way it works. It’s give and take. Friendships are often based on give and take as well. If you show up every day at your friend’s house and help yourself to their food and then just sit silently on the couch, before you know it, the locks are going to be changed and you are going to be minus one friend. It can’t be all take; you have to contribute something to the relationship. Your job is a give and take relationship. If you only show up at work for 10 minutes every other Friday, so that you can take your paycheck, pretty soon your boss is going to stop giving it. If you want to stay employed, you have to give your time and effort to the good of the company.
Today we are going to look at how Advent, and really a Christian’s whole life, is a Season of Give and Take. As we continue to look towards and celebrate the arrivals of our King, we’ll see today how our relationship with our King is a give and take relationship. The only difference, Jesus is the one who does both. Today we’ll rejoice that Jesus takes the bad away and gives us the promise in our lives of eternal good.
The prophet Isaiah wrote these words 800 years before they came to be. The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
News has meaning to you in proportion to how much it impacts your life. If I told you that the Milwaukee Bucks had their first preseason game on Saturday, you’d only consider that news-worthy is you are a fan of the Bucks and are planning to follow them this season on their quest for another championship. If I told you that the price of cable TV is going up, you would only be concerned about that if you subscribe to cable TV! What they charge for property tax on the other side of the state is not that much of a concern to you, but what they charge for property tax on your property – the bill that you will actually have to pay – that has a real impact on your life! If I told you about a cure that’s been found for a rare disease that impacts a small percentage of the people that live in Australia, you might be interested in that it’s always a good thing when medical advances improve or even save a life. But if I gave you an update about the coronavirus vaccine, then your ears would really perk up, because that news will impact, if not specifically your health, for sure your livelihood and our economy.
Knowing that the Lord has anointed one to proclaim good news to the poor... to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, only makes a difference to you if you think that you are any of those descriptions. If you have convinced yourself that those words don’t apply to you, then those verses are probably inconsequential to you! And that is what much of the world has done. “Poor, brokenhearted, captive!! That’s not me!! I know some people who are, but not me!!” John the Baptist encountered people like that, and he had a one-word message for them! “Repent!” And his message still speaks into our ears and into our hearts. John the Baptist continues to bid us to be ready for our King, and he tells us how with his one-word command! “Repent!” It’s easy to read words like poor, brokenhearted, captive and look in other places, but God wants us to look to ourselves. God wants us to acknowledge that we are all three by nature.
Though our bank accounts or the places where we live might not necessarily show it - we are poor, spiritually poor. Spiritually bankrupt, really, unable to buy or bribe our way into God’s favor. We bring nothing to the table, nothing except our hollow, empty and sinful way of life. Though our medical charts might show that we have healthy hearts – spiritually our hearts are sick and broken. We are sick with a terminal disease, which, if left without intervention will lead to spiritual death. Though I’m guessing that no one is attending worship today on a release program from prison (and probably not many listening from a jail cell) – yet we are all spiritual captives and prisoners. We are bound by the sinful natures that we inherit and the sins that we continue to commit each day. We are powerless to break free from sin’s bondage. We are in rough spiritual shape, and are incapable of bringing any improvement into our sorry states of existence.
Even though we are powerless to give anything, our God gives us everything! The headline of his grace speaks this meaningful breaking news into our lives. The Lord has anointed (one) to proclaim good news to the poor…to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. That’s you and me. That was you and me, until our God extended to us his grace. And the Scriptures tell us exactly how. Jesus read these exact words to the people at a Nazareth synagogue, and after he was done, he looked up and said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing (Luke 4:21).” Jesus is the one who was anointed by God. Jesus is the one who makes poor folks like us to be rich in his forgiving grace. Jesus is the one who heals our sin sick hearts. Jesus is the one who shook free the chains of sin and grants us freedom and forgiveness. He did it for us, by faithfully proclaiming his love, like he did in that synagogue. He did it by always being patient, even with those who were trying to trap him. He did it by laying down his perfect life on the altar of God’s wrath. He became the sacrifice that our sins required. His blood was the price that was paid for forgiveness. His life - broken by our sin - made our broken lives whole. His free body was bound to the cross, so that our captive souls could be set free, and could live free with him forever. Jesus was the one who came to preach and to deliver the good news of our salvation.
Jesus gives us so much! We would certainly expect him to take from us as well. It would be only natural that he would take some good from us, in exchange for the good that he provided. But that is not the way it works. Jesus gives us only good things and takes only bad things away from us. He demands nothing in return for his love. The list of things that Jesus has been anointed for continues: to bestow on (us) a crown of beauty, instead of ashes, the oil of gladness, instead of mourning, and a garment of praise, instead of a spirit of despair. Jesus sees the bad in our lives and he takes it away. He replaces it with nothing but good. He sees the ashes of sorrow and suffering and he gives us something better for our head – a crown of beauty. He sees the tears of mourning, and blesses us instead with oil of gladness to run down our cheeks in blessing. Instead of the sackcloth of despair that we would otherwise be wearing, our Savior gives us a garment of praise!! Our loving Lord takes the bad from our lives and gives us his good. Even when we struggle or suffer through what we might call bad, Jesus promises to use even those things for our eternal good!
Our gifts to God play no part in our salvation. And they aren’t really even our gifts – they really are God’s gifts. He’s the one who gives them to us. He’s the one that sanctifies us through and through. He’s the one that cleanses our gifts, which on our own are filthy rags. He’s the one that enables us with the desire to give him thanks and praise. I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God… For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations. Even the things that we give and the praise that we offer to God are another example of God giving to us. He gives us the opportunity to give. He works in our hearts the desire to praise his name. He causes the seeds of our faith to grow and to spout forth a garden of faith fruits.
So, let’s take advantage of this opportunity that God gives us. Let’s serve the Lord right where we are. We have opportunity to return to him first fruit offerings of time, talent, and treasure. We can give in thanks to the one who so graciously gives to us. God grants us contentment and satisfaction in faithfully carrying out our calling to him. Let’s serve those who are around us – family, neighbors, friends –thankful for the opportunity to give to others in a meaningful way! As God opens doors to gospel proclamation, let’s rejoice in the opportunity that we have been given to share with others the joys of a relationship with Jesus.
Our relationship with Jesus is unlike any relationship that we have here on earth. It’s a give and take relationship, but Jesus does both because that’s how much he loves us. This Advent season, prepare for his coming with humble repentance and await his return with an eager expectation. He gives us a sure promise of forgiveness and everlasting life with him in heaven. In heaven we will celebrate an eternal give and take. There all sorrow and sin will be taken away, and an eternity of riches and glory will be given to you and to me and to every believer who has ever lived. We’ll praise then, so let’s praise now, the one who both gives and takes - Jesus Christ our Lord!! Amen.
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