Greetings in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today is the First Sunday in the Season of Advent.
We recognize that in this world there are times when we find ourselves downcast or sorely oppressed in body or spirit. We thirst for the Lord to enact justice and vindicate us. We desire alleviation from our griefs and miseries. We groan as though our hearts were among the Hebrew slaves languishing in Egypt under Pharaoh, desiring God to look upon them in their lowliness and visit them with deliverance in their captivity.
Speaking to the exiles of Judah languishing in captivity in the Land of Babylon, God uttered these words of comfort and promise through his Prophet Jeremiah:
“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord. Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord.
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’
“Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when they shall no longer say, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ but ‘As the Lord lives who brought up and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.’ Then they shall dwell in their own land.”
Jeremiah 23:1-8 (ESV)
Our Lord, in the days of his earthly ministry in Galilee, preached in the synagogue on the Sabbath from a passage in the Prophet Isaiah about his ministry to the oppressed, the afflicted, and the downtrodden:
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Luke 4:16-21 (ESV)
Our Lord’s ministry and mission was and is one of deliverance from sorrows and from oppression in body and soul. Death’s shadow and the dark night of the soul will at last be done away in the light of Christ, a light that the darkness can neither comprehend nor extinguish. The Apostle John bears witness to this great hope in these words:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Revelation 21:3-4 (ESV)
We await the fullness of this Blesséd Hope which is the glorious Second Advent of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).
Therefore, hear and heed this charge to defend our Blesséd Hope:
But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.
1 Peter 3:14-16 (ESV)
Receive now the benediction of hope in our Lord:
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (ESV)