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  • Writer's pictureHenry Rafferty

Advent, Joyful Justice

Old Testament Reading- Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

New Testament Reading- Luke 1:46-55

By Henry J. Rafferty CLP -December 13, 2020

We live in a world that is fallen, when compared to what the Lord intended for us. We live in a world that can be cruel, deeply sorrowful, full of greed, and hate, where people can be very ugly towards each other. It happens all over the world and we often think that the worst happens in other corners of the globe, but unfortunately, it happens right here under our noses. How often do we notice? How often do we care? Not our problem? Let’s ponder those questions.

Two sisters are growing up in an area where poverty is rampant. School, what is that? They have heard about it, but they don’t even know what it really means. They have no concept of education, but what they do have a concept of is hunger and sickness. They live in an area no one goes into; it is too bad. Run down would be an understatement, it is more like squalor. Disease is everywhere, people of every age are so malnourished and unclean that sickness is a way of life and death has a real presence in everyday life. The sisters don’t know it any other way, it has always been this way. They drink from the same puddles of water that the dogs drink from and often get bit when they try to take food from the same animals. It is a hellish place.

An elderly man has lost his beloved wife of sixty-five years. He is all alone; they had no children and the years have taken all the family they had left. These two were everything to each other. They were each other’s help, their caregivers, and each other’s dearest friends. The man finds that he spends each day the same, he wakes up alone, he eats alone, and he sleeps alone. He has become almost a permanent fixture in the cemetery where his wife was interred. If you could define broken hearted, this man fits it to a tee. Grief and mourning never leave him. He can’t talk to a living soul without breaking down in tears.

A young boy of eleven years old, from a suburban area was on his way to school one morning when he was picked up by two men and thrown into the back seat of a car. Later on, he was bound, gagged, drugged, and sold, yes, I said sold to someone who would use him in ways that I wouldn’t talk about anywhere let alone in a sermon. Kept in what can only be deemed a dungeon; cold, hungry, and terrified. So deplorable, I can’t even imagine the horror he must feel.

Sometimes, I just want to run away from all the ugliness in the world...

How can this be happening? How can people treat anything like this, let alone another person? I remember when I was in the hospital after my accident, I could not watch the news. I don’t know what it was, whether I was under a heightened sense of emotion due to my condition at that time, or whether it was just because I was stuck in one place for so long, but any type of violence, crime, or any other thing that caused others harm or suffering, I just couldn’t take. To this day, it is awfully hard for me to watch the national news, it is just so full of what sells: pain, grief, suffering, discord, and death. Sometimes, I just want to run away from all the ugliness in the world and I know that I am not alone in that thought.

We live in a world that has been this way since the beginning, the first murder recorded in Genesis was Cain and Abel, two brothers, and I am afraid sometimes of how accustomed we have become to it all. We must not do that, we must not become accustomed to this kind of madness, but we certainly must not combat it with more of the same. God calls us to not think as the world thinks. Paul tells us in Romans 12:2, Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Our Scripture reading today from Isaiah says,

"The 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, 3 and 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.

Luke 4:14-21 states,

"Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.

16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus has been sent to right all the wrongs, but not only that, but to make all things new again, including us. God really does care immensely about what happens to us and how we treat each other, He sent His Son to show us the way for He is the way, the truth, and the light. Jesus said that He chooses His followers and that they should not conform to this world or what the world teaches. We are to talk, act, and conform to what God teaches us. What does He teach us? Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. We must pray continually for God’s help in this for our lives. This is a busy world and often we don’t get to things or forget about things that can hurt others. This is a reality, even for the best of Christians. I pray that we bear with each other in this and in other areas. If we can’t do that with each other as Christians, how can we teach others to do it?

Often life deals us or others a bad card, one that is not any fault of the victim. Job had that happen to him. Although his friends blamed his misfortune on something he must have done against God, Job’s suffering was not of his own making. We, like Job’s friends, have also wrongly assumed that people’s misfortunes are always a result of their own misguided lives, sometimes it is because of that, but we do not know for sure, God does know and He expects us to have compassion and commands us to help anyway. We have all been in that situation and needed help. God shows us in our Scripture that He oversees every situation and is able to help where we may not. The Lord provides wonders for us regardless of what the world does. The prophet Isaiah tells us,

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.

Our New Testament reading for today is known as Mary’s Song and it records the feelings that a young Mary, the mother of Jesus, felt after she was told by the angel that she would give birth to a son, and not only a son, but the Son of God.

And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. 50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. 51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful 55 to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”

Mary reminds us that God does not deem the same things important as the world does. He looks into our hearts and knows our innermost thoughts. She reminds us how important it is to be humble and God-fearing and that God is very aware of who is wronged and in what ways. The Almighty has promised us justice and He never fails in keeping His promises.

Scripture tells us that the Messiah would be acquainted with sorrows and Jesus was very aware of all the suffering around Him. This suffering is still a constant presence. We still need Christ to save us and show us the way that we can live for others and ourselves, to help be a light of Christ to the world. The song says, “Joy to the world the Lord is come,” Jesus is that joy, the joy that only God can provide, the joy that brings good news to the poor, that mends the broken-hearted, frees captives, removes prisoners from darkness, comforts those who are mourning, and that provides for those that grieve. How great our joy, praise we the Lord in heaven on high. Amen.

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