Having grown up in the 80’s I’ve always been fascinated by the one-hit wonders of that decade. One of these is a band called The Proclaimers and their only hit song came in 1988 and was called 500 Miles. Maybe you remember the chorus to that song: But I would walk 500 miles, And I would walk 500 more, Just to be the man who walked 1000 miles, To fall down at your door. The song was a proclamation of love for a gal from the band called The Proclaimers. This got me to thinking about today’s message. Jesus is SENT to proclaim the Kingdom of God. He is the Proclaimer today and He is no one-hit wonder. And what does He proclaim? It’s a message of love to the human race.
Martin Luther once said this: “That the Son of God became incarnate, took on human flesh, became one like us, and came so close to us in such a friendly way is a great story. But if the story stopped there, that is all that it would be: a great story! There is more to this story, though. It is that it has a messenger and a message. Without the messenger all we would have is a story and a story teller, but no message – and no sermon!” Jesus has been sent as the coming messenger.
Isaiah 61:1-4 says, “1The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. 4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.”
Verses 8-11 go on to say, “8“For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them. 9 Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the Lord has blessed.” 10 I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.”
This is the third Sunday in Advent. On the first Sunday we talked about how Jesus is SENT to claim His crown as rightful King and last week we talked about how He came to reclaim His people from exile. Today we will see how Jesus is SENT to proclaim the arrival of the Kingdom of God. We will see how the Messenger is the Messiah, the Messenger Binds the Broken and the Messenger is the Message.
The Messenger is the Messiah.
“August 22, 1741, was a sweltering day in the city of London. An elderly stooped-shouldered man wandered through the streets. His nightly aimless wandering through the streets of the city had become a familiar ritual. His angry mind raced back to the memories of great adulation and then looked at a future of seemingly hopeless despair. For forty years the bachelor had written operatic music which was the rave of royalty in both England and the entire continent. Honors had fallen at his feet. He was in demand everywhere. Then things changed quickly and drastically. Fellow musicians became jealous and bitter. Members of the royal court reacted strongly to his abrasive manner. A rival gained great success, and envy began to grow. As though that were not enough, a cerebral hemorrhage paralyzed his right side. He could no longer write. Doctors gave little hope for recovery.
Gradually his weakened muscles began to receive new life. As his health improved, he once again began to write. Soon, to his amazement, his works were being received with rapturous applause. Honors again began to flow. Life seemed to be heading for the stars. But then Queen Caroline, who had been his staunch supporter, died. England found itself on hard economic times. Wasting heat to warm a theater was viewed as ridiculous. His shows were canceled. And now he found himself wandering aimlessly through the streets once again.
Having wondered where in the world God was, he wandered back home. Opening his door, he found a wealthy gentleman waiting in his living room. The man was Charles Gibbon, who had startled England by rewriting Shakespeare. Gibbon explained that he had just finished writing a text for a musical that covered the entire Old and New Testament. He believed that the gifted musician was the man to set it to music. He gave the manuscript to the composer and challenged him to write. As he walked out the door, Gibbon turned long enough to say, ‘The Lord gave me those words.’
The great maestro scoffed at the audacity of the young man. No one had ever challenged George Frederick Handel to write something he had not thought of first. Handel’s temper was violent and he was a dominating presence among his enemies. Indifferently he began to read. Suddenly portions of the passage leaped from the page. His eyes fell on such words as ‘He was despised, rejected of men…he looked for someone to have pity on him, but there was no man; neither found he any to comfort him.’ His eyes raced ahead to ‘He trusted in God…God did not leave his soul in hell…He will give you rest.’ And finally the words stopped at ‘O know that my redeemer liveth…rejoice…hallelujah.’ He picked up his pen and began to write. Music seemed to flow through his mind s though it had been penned up for years. Putting music to the script, he finished the first part in seven days. The second section was completed in six days and two days were given to fine-tuning the instrumentation. Thus, at the age of fifty seven, Handel completed the Messiah in a mere twenty-four days. Many know that when the classical work was first performed in London, and the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ was reached, King George II stood because he was so moved. To this day people still rise to their feet as a sign of worship of God and admiration of this great work of art.”
The Messiah moves people. Right from the start, Isaiah establishes that the Messenger foreshadowed in our passage from Isaiah 61 will speak from a place of power and authority derived from being “anointed.” Why is this significant? Because the term “anointed” is intimately tied to the title “Messiah.” In the Hebrew language, Messiah means “anointed one.” Isaiah tells us that the coming Messenger will be God’s anointed one, empowered by the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord. This puts this Messenger in line with prophets and kings. But, as we will discover, He will be greater than any of the national heroes that paved the way for Him.
The Coming Messenger is the Messiah. He is God’s SENT ONE, on a mission to proclaim the Kingdom’s arrival. This little baby we are celebrating had a purpose for coming.
The Messenger Binds the Broken.
Jesus took the deaf mute man aside, away from the crowd, stuck his fingers in the mans’ ears and spat on his tongue. What Jesus was doing here of course was touching the affected areas. He put his fingers in the man’s ears because this was the location of his disability. He spat and touched his tongue because it was here that the secondary effect of deafness was located- his inability to speak clearly. He wasn’t completely mute but his deafness had made it impossible for him to speak well.
These were invasive procedures, as healing cures often are. No one likes to go to the doctor and be prodded and probed but we submit to it because our health is at stake and we want to be well again. One pastor met with an orthopedic surgeon regarding his hip replacement and found him impersonal, gruff and downright unlikeable. He mentioned this to his primary doctor who was quite the opposite kind of doctor and he said, “Yes, surgeons are often like that. They prefer their patients unconscious.”
Jesus, however, is the perfect combination of GP and surgeon. He knows how to show understanding and compassion. He prefers his patients, not unconscious, but alive and well. At the same time he knows every medical procedure in the book, and he has all the specialist information to address whatever it is that ails you.
What does it look like when the Kingdom shows up and breaks out around us? The broken are healed, the mourning find comfort, the prisoner is set free, and the captive leaves his chains. The Messenger proclaims the good news to the poor: God has heard your cries for help and He is here to heal you. Who doesn’t need that?
To the broken hearted here today, Jesus has come to bind you up. He is here to draw you close and take your pain upon himself. He is here to walk beside you and lead you in this long but beautiful journey toward healing.
To the prisoners and the captives, your freedom has come. Jesus proclaims that under His reign in His Kingdom, you are released from the chains and the cell block. Even as His Spirit speaks to your heart right now, this moment, the doors are unlocking and opening and coming off their hinges, at the very sound of His voice.
To those in mourning and despair, He trades your ashes for crowns of beauty, your tears for the oil of gladness. To the cut off, uprooted, and rotted out, He calls you oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.
To those whose lives resemble a city in ruins, He has come to rebuild what has been torn down and restore what was once abandoned. Stone by stone He reconstructs and renovates what time and tragedy destroyed. The places long devastated will become filled with life again. Lights will burn in the homes and the streets will be full of joy.
That’s what good news looks like. That’s what happens when the Kingdom comes. Jesus, the coming Messenger, has been sent to proclaim the good news and bind the broken.
The Messenger is the Message.
“Lee, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune and a self-professed atheist was sitting at his desk on Christmas Eve. A slow news day he found himself reminiscing about the Delgado family that he had featured while writing a series of articles about Chicago’s neediest people a few days earlier. The Delgado’s were comprised of a grandmother named Perfecta and her two granddaughters, Jenny age 13 and her sister Lydia 11 years old.
He remembered how unprepared he was when he walked into their two room apartment on the west side of Chicago for the interview; bare halls and bare walls, no furniture, no rugs, nothing but a kitchen table and a handful of rice in the cupboards. He learned during the interview that Jenny and Lydia only had one short-sleeved dress apiece, plus a thin gray sweater that they shared. On cold days when the girls walked the half-mile to school, one of the girls would start with the sweater and then give it to the other at the halfway mark. It was all they had. Perfecta wanted more for her granddaughters and would gladly have worked, but her severe arthritis and age made work too difficult and painful.
Since it was a slow news day Lee decided to check out a car and drive to Chicago’s west side to check up on the Delgado’s. When Jenny opened the door he couldn’t believe what he saw! His article on the Delgado’s had touched the hearts of many subscribers who responded with furniture and appliances, rugs, dozens of coats, scarves and gloves. The girls wouldn’t have to share a sweater any longer. There were cartons and cartons and boxes of food everywhere. They had so much food that the cupboards and closets couldn’t contain it. Someone had even donated a Christmas tree, and under it were mounds of presents and thousands of dollars in cash!
Lee was astonished! But what astonished him the most was what he found Perfecta and her granddaughters doing. They were preparing to give most of it away. “Why would you give so much of this away?” Lee asked. Perfecta responded, “Our neighbors are still in need. We cannot have plenty while they have nothing. This is what Jesus would want us to do.” Lee was dumbfounded. After regaining his composure he asked Perfecta another question. He wanted to know what she and the girls thought about the generosity that was shown to them. Again, Lee was not prepared for the answer. She said, “This is wonderful, this is very good.” “We did nothing to deserve this; it’s all a gift from God. But,” she added, “It is not his greatest gift, Lee. No, we celebrate that tomorrow. Jesus.”
Lee was speechless as he drove back to the office. In the quiet of his car he noted a couple of observations. He had plenty and along with it plenty of anxiety, while the Delgado’s despite their poverty had peace. Lee had everything and yet wanted more, but the Delgado’s had nothing and yet knew generosity. Lee had everything and yet his life was as bare as the Delgado’s apartment prior to the article running. And yet the Delgado’s who had nothing were filled with hope, contentment and had a spiritual certainty. Even though Lee had so much more than the Delgados, he longed for what they had in their poverty.”
Despite the thrill of hope in our verses so far, the most stunning truth is yet to come, because what we experience in Advent is more than powerful words. We experience the Word made flesh. The Messenger is the Message. That is what we celebrate on Christmas morning. Isn’t this a radical thought? That God did not simply commission another prophet to tell us about the Kingdom. He SENT Jesus to show us the Kingdom and He lived out before our very eyes. In every way, Jesus takes our passage and transforms it from future prophecy into present reality. He drags it into the realm of right here, right now. In Jesus, God becomes what He wants to say. He models the culture of the Kingdom and proclaims, “The Kingdom has come.”
The story of the Delgados is an inspiring one. They understood the message of Jesus while Lee did not. They could trust God in their poverty and pass on His blessing. Having Jesus inside, makes all the difference. He is the message of Love that God wants to send to the entire world. And He did. He still sends that message from inside you and me. Will you allow Jesus to proclaim his message of the Kingdom through you this Christmas? Can you find a tangible and creative way to become what God wants to say? How can Jesus use you to bind up the broken hearted and release the captives?
Jesus is SENT to proclaim the Kingdom of God. What was once a far off hope is now a present reality, fulfilled in the arrival of Jesus. He is the Messenger and the Message. And the Messenger wants to proclaim that message through you this Christmas!