Saturday, December 24, 2011

Isaiah.40.10-11; The Nativity of Our Lord; December 24, 2011;

Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” (Isaiah 40:10–11, ESV)

From a Series by Dr. Reed Lessing, "Savior of the Nations Come"

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

A man was walking through a cemetery late one night when he fell into an open grave. Frantically, he began to feel around the walls of the pit. Pretty soon he began trying to jump out. Exhausted after a few minutes he gave up all hope and sat down. Just then he heard someone say, “Forget it pal. You are stuck!” And guess what? Being totally shocked and surprised, the man was out of that grave in no time!

How does it feel when you are stuck in a pit and can't get out? How does it feel to be stuck in a grave, clawing at the walls, only to fall back down again and again?

You now how it feels and so do I.

As we sit in our pit of disappointment people pass by and offer their help. A sensitive person walks by and says, “I feel for you down there. I’ll get around to sending you some flowers real soon!”

A religious person walks by and says, “Only bad people fall into pits. What did you do so wrong to end up so stuck?”

A math teacher walks by and says, “Let me calculate how you fell into the pit.” So he takes out his calculator and crunches some numbers.

A news reporter walks by and says, “Let me do an exclusive story on your pit.”

An IRS man walks by and says, “Hey, are you paying taxes on your pit?”

A friend walks by and says, “Things could be worse.”

A pessimist walks by and says, “Things will get worse.”

The truth is, most of the time we are responsible for being stuck in our own pit, for digging our own grave. You know how it goes. You can't hold your anger. You can't manage your money. You can't tame your tongue. You can't get along with that co-worker. You can't say good things about your neighbor.

The big problem with our pit comes when we get so used to being there we set up housekeeping. We decorate the walls, hang pictures, and wall paper. A couch here, a chair there, a place to pay the bills and it almost looks like home. But it's not!

Isaiah tells us that God comes with his mighty arm. That's what he always does for his people. He is strong to save, defeating enemies and ending conflict. He comes with an outstretched arm a compassionate arm that cares for our needs. What's great about God's work is that it never ends. God is eternal. He reaches out to save and beneath are the everlasting arms.

Back in the pit, night falls. It is an ordinary night with an ordinary sky. There are some ordinary sheep. You hear them from the pit.

And you hear shepherds, plain old, ordinary, smelly, poor shepherds. They smell like sheep, and look like them too.

It all seems like an ordinary night. But God has other plans. The black night explodes with bright light. The sheep begin to get noisy, too. What in the world is going on?

Jesus is coming into our human hell. Jesus is entering into our deep darkness. Jesus is coming into your pit, right where you are.

His arms feel the burn of the whiplash as he is beaten for our sins.

His arms feel the flaming fire of the nails piercing his flesh.

His arms feel the weight of his body as he hangs on the old rugged cross.

His arms feel the warmth of his own blood as it runs from his open wounds.

He is crucified, dead and buried for you. He suffers the pain of our punishment. He is there in our pit to bring us forgiveness and rescue. Underneath us are the everlasting arms. He jumps down into our pit of death and despair. He reaches out and holds grabs us with everlasting arms. These arms, though, dead, are alive again. They are everlasting!

Our Savior’s arms welcome us, hold us, lead us, and guide us forever. And they are there in our pit carrying us up and out. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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