A Note from Pastor

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And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (Isaiah 35:10 ESV) While the days leading up to the Christmas season have often been described as the “happiest time of the year,” for some this is a time of personal sadness and loneliness. Today we reflect on the “joy” that comes with our Savior’s advent as the children of International Lutheran Church share with us the Christmas story and we experience again His Joy – Our Jesus! 

Sometimes we see Biblical prophecy as primarily predicting the future with a kind of wow factor meant to instill and create faith in us. No doubt, God’s prophetic Word does create faith in our hearts. But today we want to look at how God’s prophetic Word speaks into existence the very thing that we lack most of all – joy. It may seem ironic that this time of year can be filled with sadness, but we can easily be weighed down with the worries of this world or overcome with the reality of our situation. Its constant drag on our spirit can turn even happy occasions and personal family time into moments of regret and depression. We may long for the experience of some nostalgic scene or feel the pressure of creating the perfect experience for ourselves. These often leave us feeling even more empty and alone. Yet, in the midst of this “wilderness,” God’s Word breaks in and wraps us with His Joy – our Jesus! Isaiah’s words point to this good news that joy is a gift of the Holy Spirit that comes upon us with our Lord’s visitation. Joy is not an emotion stirred by our actions. Instead, this joy is something that God brings into existence even in the place where there is none. At God’s command joy springs forth like streams in the dry and dusty wilderness. 

Joy is also the strength that gives us the ability to move forward. Jesus reminds John’s disciples of this joy in Matthew 11. Though John is in prison and filling with despair and starting to question if Jesus is really the Promised One, Jesus points to the very good news that His presence brings. The blind receive their sight. The lame leap, and the captives are released! Hearts are set free. Feeble knees are steadied. Weak hands are strengthened. Joy, God’s Joy, has come in the flesh. And that Joy took on our desert. Real Joy, our Jesus, took our sins upon Himself and died that we would be made alive anew, alive again! Hebrews 12:2 puts it like this: For the “joy set before Him, He endured the cross.” This is what God’s Joy can do. His Joy fills us with Himself and makes His home in us. We are brought into a new and very different land. We are made right to walk on His path, His royal highway safe from all our foes – the world, our flesh and the devil himself. In Jesus, we are kept safe. In His hand, we are secure. In Him we, too, can endure even when we face our doubts. Though we are bombarded with a thousand fiery arrows of the devil, they are all extinguished in Jesus. His death and resurrection have changed everything.

And finally, joy will overtake us. Like a friend or family member that we haven’t seen in years, we are suddenly and surprisingly overtaken by the welcome of home and family that we are a vital part of. This is the joy of Luke 15, the singing and dancing and carrying on that welcomes the lost home. This is the joy of Isaiah 35:10 that suddenly overtakes us with such an exuberant squeeze that all our breath is rushed away and all our sorrow is forgotten, our sighs of despair are evaporated and must depart.

Like all prophecy, the prophetic ministry of Isaiah was meant to instill and communicate the joy of the Lord. Only God’s Word spoken in the darkness can enlighten and lift us from our self-pity or self-aggrandizement. As we light the Candle of Joy on this third Sunday in Advent, we are wrapped with His Joy – Our Jesus!

Pastor Carl