Third Sunday of Advent – Joy
Reading: Isaiah 43:1-7
God’s people had been in exile, far from home. They had lived among a people who did not know God, or care for God. Their lives had been shaped by their absence from the Promised Land. The last time they had seen their homes, they had been marched away as captives. The sinking realization that their sins had finally caught up with them took hold of their hearts and their imaginations. Isaiah’s message comes to them as they are far away from home, and as they feel far away from God.
But now, building on the messages of comfort and peace, God calls out to his people: “It’s time to come home!” More than that, God tells them that he has redeemed them. Redemption meant that all their debts had been cancelled. Redemption meant that their status had been transformed from slave to family member. Redemption meant that their time of exile was over and that they could finally come home again.
But coming home again had its own fears. What if they sinned again? What if they turned their backs on God like they did last time? What’s to keep them from ending up in exile again? If this exile had shown them anything, it was that they could not keep their end of the covenant with God. They were prone to disobey God again and again and again. Going home meant setting themselves up to fail.
Anticipating their fears and doubts, God compassionately assures them: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” God had redeemed them so completely that they would never face the threats and judgments of the covenant alone. God assures them that, in returning home, they would not be separated from God again.
This is the Christmas message as well. God has sent his son, Jesus Christ, to bring us home. In Jesus’ birth, we hear the angels calling out to all God’s sons and daughters that their Savior has been born. Through his death and resurrection, we hear God assuring us that nothing, not even our sins, can ever separate us from God again. “For God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Therefore, we need not be afraid of coming home to God. Rather, the Christmas story of God’s love in Jesus Christ, assures us that God has made a way – the way – for us to come home. Never again will we be separated from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)