Today we celebrate the third Sunday of Advent. As we have mentioned each week, Advent is a 4 week time in the Christian calendar that comes right before Christmas. It is the beginning of the liturgical year. And Advent means coming. During these 4 weeks in the Christian calendar we spend time slowing down and focusing on the 1st and 2nd Advent (coming) of Jesus. Looking two thousand years in the past to the first Christmas and looking forward into the future (however long that may be) to the second coming of Jesus to make all things complete, all things right, to bring shalom (the way that things should be).
The first week of Advent we looked at waiting for hope. In the Christian calendar the first week of Advent is the week in Advent to center on the second coming of Jesus. We looked at Isaiah 9:1-7 especially verse 2 and talked about the hope that the people of God, the Israelites had in being delivered out of the hand of the Assyrian empire. That longing, that hope, in a messiah and deliverer, that the Israelites had, is also the hope and longing that we have in Jesus second coming. And the crying out for Jesus to come and make all things right. To redeem the brokenness of our lives and of the world, and return the world to the way that it should be.
Last week we took the same text from Isaiah 9:1-7 and focused on verse 6-7 and talked about waiting for peace. We focused on the fact that Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and his coming (both the first and second) are rooted in Shalom, the way things should be. We talked about Jesus coming in the midst of the Pax Romana (the Peace of Rome) which was a “peace established by violence” to set up the Pax Christi (the peace of Christ) by submitting himself to violence, and instead of shedding others blood, he let his blood be shed so that the world would begin the process of shalom, and being made right.
Today the traditional 3rd week of advent is centered around the word Joy. So today we are going to be talking about waiting for joy. We will be looking at Joy through the lens of Isaiah the prophet and the dream/prophecy that he wrote about in Isaiah 65:17-25 about the new heaven and new earth and how Jesus will come and bring us joy, and set all things to right.
Isaiah 65:17-25 says, “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered,nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more. “Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; the one who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere child; the one who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed. They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. No longer will they build houses and others live in them,or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands. They will not labor in vain, nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the Lord, they and their descendants with them. Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.”
So obviously Isaiah is looking into the future and writing about the second advent of Jesus when all will be made well (as the song we song just a few minutes ago made reference to). Because thee things that he has written of, haven’t been fully realized yet. With the first coming of Jesus these things became a now and not yet reality. And will come to their fullness and completion when Jesus returns. But someone once said you should start as you mean to finish and that is exactly what Jesus did the first time he stepped foot on his creation, and that is also what he is calling us to, to live out the Kingdom reality right here and right now, even when it isn’t fully realized, and won’t be fully realized until Christ comes back. But let’s take a deeper look into this text to see what we can see about waiting for joy.
The first thing we see in this passage is God, through Isaiah, making a promise for the future. One that for those who are seeking to follow Jesus, and those who are distressed about the brokenness, sin, corruption, death, destruction, etc.. about the world in which we live in, should bring us much longing and joy. God makes this statement, “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind” Isaiah is saying that the Lord will remake and redeem all of creation. This is the ultimate answer to the broken world in which we live, God, through Jesus life, death, and resurrection remaking, renewing, and restoring all of his creation, and not, like so many contemporary evangelicals believe, abandoning his creation. You see to understand the longing of these words. To understand what Isaiah, and the people of God, the Israelites are longing for and hoping for in relation to the world being made right, you need to know what was taking place when Isaiah was writing these words. His message was directed to the Jewish people who would return to the land of Judah after the Babylonian captivity and the destruction of Jerusalem. After the returned from this exile they were faced with destruction of their homeland, of their temple, of their homes, of everything they had ever known. And so a new heaven and a new earth sounded amazing to a group of people displaced from home and then returned to find their homes ripped apart. God tells them also not to remember their former troubles, places like Egypt and Babylonian.
Isaiah continues and tells them that they to be glad and rejoice because of what God is creating. He is the one that will create the new heavens and the new earth. He is the one who will set things in this broken world right. Jesus is the one who died and rose again and began the process of recreation with started with him, will work its way to us, and will eventually work its way throughout all of creation, so that everything in this world will be made right. As people of God, the Israelites, and now the church, we have our part and roles to play in being about the Kingdom and making things right. But we don’t bring the Kingdom. We don’t ultimately set things right. He does. After all that is really what Christmas is really all about. Jesus stepping into humanity to begin the process of setting everything to right. And that is something that we can rejoice and be joyful about in this advent season. We can be joyful that the world will be set right one day and that we can have a part to play in helping to set it right.
Isaiah continues and says that God will create “Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people” I wonder if this is another way of stating the Abrahamic Covenant found in Genesis 12:1-3 which states, “The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” The people of God are to be a joy to people in the world. We as followers of Jesus, are called in Genesis 12 to be a blessing, and when we live out this calling, this vocation we will be a joy in the wider world and to the wider world. We are to live in such a way that brings blessing and joy to others in their lives and in the community. What are you and I doing in our work places, schools, neighbors, etc.. to bring about blessing & joy, in this season but all the year round?
Notice something else about joy. That we don’t just bring others blessing and joy when we live out the kingdom. No, there is also another joy that Isaiah mentions. Isaiah states that God rejoices over us. Have you ever thought about that before? That God actually rejoices over you? All too often we think God is disappointed in us, mad at us, or somehow that we need to do more, or be better in order for God to delight and rejoice in us. But that isn’t the case. We bring God joy. The other week during one of the readings in the advent devotional I came across Zephaniah 3:17 which says, “The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” If this Scripture text is true, which I believe it is, then God takes great delight and joy in you. He rejoices over you with singing. Maybe you are going through a rough time right now. Maybe this advent season has been pretty rough and you don’t have nay joy in life right now. That is okay. But know this, he has joy in you. He delights in you. He loves you fully and completely and your life brings him joy and that he delights in you.
And speaking about joy. The rest of this passage is all about it. Isaiah is describing a place and a life where joy will be perpetually experienced, both inwardly and outwardly. When creation gets set right by Jesus people will live a long and full life. When creation gets set right by Jesus people will get true fulfillment and meaning from work, building and planting. When creation gets set right by Jesus former enemies will lie down together and not kill each other. When creation gets set right by Jesus Shalom will be the result. Isaiah is highlighting in this get the joy of the holy city as a place without crying or distress, a place of covenant blessing and renewal, and a place of harmony within the whole created order.
If what we celebrate at Advent, the birth of Jesus, the coming of Jesus, means anything it means a transformed cosmos. That everything that Isaiah describes in Isaiah 66:17-25 will come to fruition because of the birth of the Christ child over 2,000 years ago. Jesus came into this world to begin this process of a transformed cosmos and to truly bring joy to the world. But as I mentioned before we are living in the now but not yet reality of the Kingdom of God. And this helps us realize that we must wait patiently for the completion of new creation but while we wait we can also work towards bringing new creation into the present. To bring joy into the present. Imagine if what you read in Isaiah 66 began to unfold, even just a little bit, in our present. What would the world look like if a child didn’t die from disease or from violence? What would the world look like if everyone had access to basic medical care, food, and clean water? What would the world look like if everyone earned a livable wage? It would look like Isaiah 66. And since we know the end of the story, shouldn’t it change how we live in the present? Knowing that Isaiah 66 will come to fruition should lead us to begin the process of seeing it come to pass. To realize that we are blessed and that God rejoices in us and that we are blessed and rejoiced over so that we could bless others and bring joy to others.
But what does it mean to be rejoiced over by God? What does it look like to have joy in your life despite current circumstances? What does it look like to be an agent of joy in the world? Those are the questions that we’ll work on unpacking together in our discussion time.
1. What thoughts, comments, insights, questions, applications, etc… do you have regarding the Scripture text and/or the message?
2. What thoughts, and/or feelings come to mind when you hear that God rejoices over you? Where do you need the joy of the Lord in your life today?
3. What does it look like to be an agent of joy in the world? To whom is God calling you to bring a bit of joy to their life in this advent season?
4. What is God saying to you and what are you going to do about it? What is God saying to us and what should we do about it?