Loads of Rejoicing!
Third Sunday in Advent Trinity Lutheran Church
13 December 2015 Murdock, NE
+Jesu Juva +
It’s “Rejoice” Sunday. That’s why the candle is pink today. Joy in the midst of somberness. Quiet joy awaiting patiently the coming Savior Jesus.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice! Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand,” (Phil 4:4).
“Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart,” (Zeph 3:14).
“Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!” (LSB #357)
The Christmas season comes with a certain expectation of joy. And rightfully so. Parties. Christmas decorations. Holiday hospitality.
And yet the Christmas season can be overshadowed by a deep sense of sadness and loss, grief and pain, despair and depression. This month is very hard on the widowed, divorced, those grieving the loss of loved ones, those that live alone, those estranged from family or who are thousands of miles away from family and friends.
There are anxieties and fears. Will the kids be all right in the coming year? Will my marriage hold? Will I be able to keep my job? What about my health? Will this be my last Christmas? Such fears and anxieties can overwhelm any rejoicing. They threaten your joy.
Well, brothers and sisters, here is where you need God’s Word gives to you this day from the Old Testament prophet Zephaniah and the apostle Paul. They both point you to a joy that goes far beyond holiday cheer. They direct you to an eternal joy that is anchored in God’s love revealed in Jesus His only begotten Son. They point to the joy that is the fruit of the Holy Spirit from faith in the Savior Jesus.
Here is the good news that Zephaniah brings: “The King of Israel, the LORD is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil.” Paul says: “Rejoice … the Lord is at hand.” Indeed. For LORD King Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit. He takes on human flesh – born of the Virgin Mary – to save you from your sins! That is cause for great joy!
Now in the days when Zephaniah preached there was no joy at all. The times were full of anxiety. Worry over national security and the growing military threat from the north. In fact, God was going to allow the invading armies wipe out Jerusalem and cart off the Judean people to exile. “The LORD will have His day,” Zephaniah proclaimed. “A day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish. A day of ruin and devastation. A day of darkness and gloom. A day of clouds and thick darkness. A day of trumpet blast and battle cry,” (Zeph 1:15). Even Zephaniah’s name tells you something about the days in which he lived. His name in Hebrew means: “The LORD is hidden.” And that was the national mood. The LORD was nowhere to be seen!
Yet, even as the prophet forecasts doom and destruction to the land of Judah, he also speaks of hope and rejoicing. Here is where you can learn something very important from the Bible. It’s this. The Lord chastens but the Lord also heals. The Lord kills but he also makes alive. He brings down but He also raises up. He sent the people of Judah into exile – into a land that was not their own – because they would not fear, love and trust in Him alone. They worship false gods. But then the Lord brought them home again with rejoicing and singing to show that His love and mercy are always greater than Israel’s or your sin.
Zephaniah speaks to you today. You are the new Israel. The church is the Israel of the last days. The church is the daughter of Zion, the Daughter of Jerusalem. The Church of baptized believers here at Trinity are called to sing. To shout aloud. To be glad. To rejoice with your whole heart.
There are three good reasons – eternal reasons for such joy.
First, “the LORD has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies.” That’s precisely what Jesus did FOR YOU. He did battle with your enemies. He engaged Satan, the old evil foe, who brought destruction and death into the world, who lied and deceived Adam and Eve in Paradise, who tempted them to not trust God’s Word just as he does with you today. Jesus came to be tempted by Satan. He defeated the devil with God’s Word. “It is written. It is written. It is written.” Yes, Jesus came to crush the head of the tempter. To defeat the devil at his own game by dying and rising from the dead. That is cause for rejoicing!
Jesus also came to battle death. There is no greater enemy than death. Not the Scythian and Babylonian armies that Israel faced. Nor the threats of our own day. Our culture tells lies about death. Death is not your friend. Death is not something you should welcome or seek. Seriously! Death is the curse against your sin. Death is YOUR ENEMY. But Jesus is its conqueror! And He did that by dying. He gives you His death for your life so that “you shall never again fear evil.”
The second reason for rejoicing is Jesus’ real presence among you His people. “The King of Israel, the LORD is in your midst; … The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save.” The LORD is not an absentee landlord. Distant. Uninvolved. Remote. The LORD Jesus gets involved. He rolls up His sleeves and acts with an outstretched arm. He is a “hands on” God who came to touch us, to be one with us, to be one of us. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” (Jn 1:14) in order to save us!
You know, sin leaves you isolated and alone. Sin segregates you from others. Sin turns you in on yourself. Sin locks you away from God. That is why Jesus is Immanuel, God with us. He is God with us in the most intimate of ways. He is God with us from the crib to cross, from cradle to grave, and then on to eternity. He is with us all the days of our life until the end of days and we will be with Him forever.
This is more than God’s being present everywhere to hold creation together. God is present everywhere. That’s true. However, Zephaniah speaks of a special, gracious presence of God in which He comes to be God FOR YOU. This is what the Bible calls the gospel! It is communion. Fellowship. It is Jesus’ particular saving presence FOR YOU and for your salvation in the rented room of the Virgin, in the manger, on the cross, in the water of holy Baptism, in the preached word of forgiveness, in the supper of His body and blood. This is Jesus’ SAVING presence with you and FOR YOU. There He is mighty to SAVE!
That gives you great cause for rejoicing.
A third reason for rejoicing is that the Lord “will rejoice over you with gladness.” The Lord rejoices over you! What a beautiful sentence to your ears! “He will quiet you by His love,” the way parent tenderly comfort a frightened child. “His will exult over you with singing” like a parent singing a lullaby to a little one, rocking it to sleep.
Yes, brothers and sisters, God delights … IN YOU! Not because of something you’ve done or haven’t done. He delights IN YOU because He sees you through His Son Jesus. Through His Good Friday sacrifice. Through His perfect obedience. Through His suffering and death. You are the apple of God’s eye, as the psalmist says. You are His beloved sons and daughters, His children in holy Baptism. He quiets your fears with His love. He rejoices over you with singing. His song is His Son Jesus! Zephaniah heard the melody. So did Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So did Moses and Aaron. So did all the prophets until John the Baptizer. They all believed God’s song of love. They taught others its beautiful and ancient melody. They watched for the signs of Christ’s coming.
The song of God’s love rang out in Bethlehem. “Peace on earth, goodwill toward men.” It rang out again in the darkness of Good Friday. “It is finished.” God sang it again at Pentecost, “Repent and be baptized.” God sang it to you at your baptism. And here today God sings again His song, His Son. You are forgiven. “Take, eat. My body given for you. Take, drink. My blood shed for you.”
The LORD Jesus has taken away your punishments. He has defeated your enemies. He is with you to save you. He delights in you. He quiets you with His love. He rejoices over you with singing.
In the Name of Jesus.