The Return of the Lord
The voice of your watchmen—they lift up their voice; together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the Lord to Zion. (Isaiah 52:8 ESV) Small crowds of families gathered in the airport arrival area craning to glimpse their loved one is a familiar sight especially during this holiday season. Isaiah perceives something even more wonderful. Not just loved ones returning home, but the return of the LORD! Today at International Lutheran Church, we celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus and His “return” even as we wait for His final coming in glory!
Much of our lives are spent waiting for people to return. You don’t have to live overseas to experience this joy. I remember how my grandparents would be waiting for our return when we would visit them during the summer months or especially during the holiday season of Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was a special time to be together as a family and share precious moments in the company of one another. I have to admit that this week was especially joyful as we were blessed to welcome home our daughters from college. We weren’t the only ones standing in the arrival hall craning our necks to see them come through the doors. I think that is why Isaiah is especially filled with joy to share this amazing news with us today.
We have been reading through the prophecy of Isaiah during this Advent and Christmas season as we prepare for our Lord’s advent – His coming. Today we hear the good news that Isaiah was commanded to proclaim - the return of the LORD. While much of Isaiah is a warning to the people of their imminent yet justified exile and suffering for their sins, Isaiah also proclaimed the good news that the people of God would return to the Promised Land and once again enjoy His favor and presence. This was another moment for the people of God to experience God’s act to save. For not only would the people of God return to Jerusalem - to Zion - but God Himself would RETURN! This has several meanings for us to explore.
First, the LORD has returned in the Person of His Son – Jesus Christ. In the babe born of Mary, God laid bare His Holy Arm. The shepherds literally gazed upon the beauty of this infant child that was naked and helpless and in need of swaddling. The Word became flesh and made His home with us – Immanuel. This is the mystery of the incarnation that John shares in the opening verses of His gospel. But this was not the only way in which we have seen His salvation. Throughout Jesus’ life, again and again every eye saw and heard His miracles and teaching. God spoke to us Himself, eye to eye, in such a way that we would know His return is for us! He returned to restore us and bring us back. This is the true mystery of the incarnation.
The LORD has returned, yet in His return – He turned, He changed. In coming to execute His justice, He was executed for us. His arm was stretched naked across the wood of a Roman cross for all the world to see, eye to eye, every eye. Here is the Man! Here is Your God! And in His death, He brought what Isaiah would later declare at the end of this chapter and in the next how He would be pierced for our transgressions and become unrecognizable and marred with the ugliness of our sin. Yet only three days later, He returned to life, giving us new life in Him, and making His followers heralds of the LORD’s return!
Even as we still wait, we know with the confidence and faith of Isaiah that the LORD will return. He is coming again. His promise was not just to Joseph and Mary, to the shepherds and Simeon and Anna, but for you and me and for all! He has returned and will return in glory to bring us to Himself. This is the message of glad tidings that we share. Merry Christmas!