St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Burst Into Songs Of Joy This Christmas

Christmas Day Sermon on Isaiah 52:7-10

Text: How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” 8 Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy. When the LORD returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes. 9 Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. 10 The LORD will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.

Some of the most beautiful and dearly loved music has been written for the Christmas season. There are some songs that are quiet and reflective, such as “Silent Night,” “O, Little Town of Bethlehem,” and “What Child is This?” Often, those songs highlight the observance of Christmas Eve, as we quietly observe the wonder of the birth of our Savior. There are also some songs that are exuberant, full of joy. Here we might think of “Joy to the World,” “Angels We Have Heard on High,” and “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.” As we sing these songs, we are reminded of the joy that fills our hearts as we celebrate the birth of our Savior. Often, these songs are reserved for Christmas Day. With that in mind, let us BURST INTO SONGS OF JOY THIS CHRISTMAS. The reasons for this exuberance are 1. The Message Brings Tiding Of Great Joy For All People and 2. The Lord Has Come.

Our text for this morning comes to us from the book of Isaiah. Isaiah lived approximately 800 years before Jesus came to the earth. As a prophet of the Lord, part of his duty was to call the people of Judah to repentance for all of the sins that they had committed against God. He warned them about what would happen to them, if they did not repent. They would be conquered by the Babylonians and taken away into exile. Yet, Isaiah also had words of comfort and encouragement for the people as they would be sitting in exile. In the chapters that precede our text, there is news of the fall of Babylon. There is news that the exiles would return to their homeland. Everlasting joy will overtake them and sorrow will flee. Just as the Lord had rescued his people from their slavery in Egypt, he would bring his people back from their captivity in Babylon.

It is this good news that is spoken about in verse 7, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” These messengers had come from Babylon with the good news that the captivity had come to an end. The good news of the deliverance from Babylon through king Cyrus would shouted from the mountaintops. The feet of the messengers are called beautiful because those feet bring them and the message they carried. They bring good news. They bring a message of peace. They proclaim salvation from the hands of their captors. The message that these messengers proclaimed brought joy and happiness to their hearers.

At Christmas, it is easy for us to remember the messengers who brought the good news of peace and salvation. We think of the angel who appeared to the shepherds the night that Jesus was born. The angel said, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” There was salvation; deliverance. After the angel shared this news, the angelic choir could not hold in their praises. They burst into the song of praise, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” When the shepherds heard about the birth of the Savior, they hurried into Bethlehem to see the Christ child for themselves. After they had seen it, they could not help themselves. We read that, as they returned to their flocks, “they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child.” They were too excited to keep it to themselves. The last thing that we hear about the shepherds is that “they returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” They burst into songs of joy. They had been told and they, in turn, told others.

We pause at this time to think of those people who shared this Christmas message with us, as well. We thank God that they knew that, what they had heard was so important, that they had to share it with us. It might have been our parents or grandparents. We think of pastors and teachers who shared the wondrous news with us. We think of the children who said their Christmas parts again this year, telling us the familiar, yet wonderful Christmas message. We also ask God that he would help us to be messengers of this wonderful news, sharing what we have heard and seen with those who do not yet know it or are feeling a sense of sadness and being overwhelmed by life. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if some day, when people were talking about us, they said, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation.” The message that is brought brings joy to all people.

The message that we bring that causes us to burst into song this Christmas is that the “LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.” Again, remember the context of this portion of the Scriptures. Isaiah was prophesying to people who had been overtaken by the Babylonians. They were devastated. He speaks of the “ruins of Jerusalem.” It was to these people that these messengers were to proclaim comfort, for the Lord had redeemed his people.

This is the essence of the Christmas message today, as well. We were ones who were devastated. We were ones who were held in captivity. We were the ones who were living in the ruins, the ruins of our lives and our relationship with God. Just as Judah had abandoned God and run after idols, we also have run after other things in our lives. We have made things more important to us than God. We put more effort into obtaining them than we do in making sure we are rich towards God. We have sought and held our relationships with other people higher than our relationship with God. Because of the sin into which we are born and the sins that we commit every day, we deserve to be exiled from God’s loving presence for all eternity.

However, the Christmas message of comfort is still told today. “He has redeemed Jerusalem.” We have been redeemed. Redeemed or redemption, as you might recall, means to buy back or to ransom. We were held captive, but Jesus has redeemed us. He did this through the life that he lived. He came to the earth to be perfect in our place. Jesus had his priorities straight. His relationship with his Father was always of the utmost importance. He was not afraid to tell even those nearest and dearest to his heart when they were going astray. He lived the perfect life for us. Then, to ransom us, he paid the ultimate price. He laid down his life on the cross. Peter reminds us in his First Epistle, “You know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” Indeed, we cannot look at the manger bed of Jesus without seeing the cross looming in the background. The little hands would one day be pierced with nails so that our sins would be paid for. We also know that we look beyond the cross to an empty tomb. Jesus did not stay dead, but rose again, assuring us that sin, death, and the devil’s hold on us has been broken forever. We burst into song, because the Lord has come. He has redeemed us and made us his own.

As further reason for bursting into songs of joy is the fact that “Your God reigns!” Jesus, as our King, reigns over all things. What a comfort, when all the world seems to be spinning out of control, that our King, Jesus, is still in control. He will make all things work out for the benefit of his believers. There is nothing that can happen to us, without our Savior’s say so. That little baby in Bethlehem’s stall is the King of kings and the Lord of Lords. Your Lord has come to reign over all nations.

More than that, he has come to reign in your heart. We pray that what we do gives honor and glory to our King. When we are reminded of all that he has done for us, we cannot help but want to serve him. He gives us so many different ways to do so. When we see someone that can use our help, whether it be for a physical, emotional, or spiritual problem, it is so easy for us, according to our sinful nature, to turn the other way and say that it does not concern us. May we, instead, look for ways that we can be of service to others. Paul reminds us in Galatians 6:10, “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” What a beautiful way to reflect the love that Jesus showed to you in coming to the world to be your Savior. Your Lord has come to reign in your heart. May our lives be ones that are bursting at the seams with love and joy for all that he has done for us.

The music of Christmas is so beautiful, and can touch so many emotions. There are the secular songs that may tug at the heart strings, such as “I’ll be home for Christmas.” There are silly Christmas songs, such as, “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth.” These have their time and place. However, we know that these songs fail to capture the essence of what Christmas truly is about. There are those quiet songs that cause us, like Mary, to ponder it in our hearts. Yet, as we hear the Christmas message, we cannot help but also follow the example of the shepherds, who told everyone what they had heard and seen. My dear friends, as we return to our everyday lives, may we not put Christmas in a box to be opened next year, but may we also return, “glorifying and praising God for all the things” that we have “heard and seen.” News this good cannot be kept to ourselves. Burst into songs of joy, not just at Christmas, but every day of your life. Amen.