Let's talk a bit about Christmas Footwear. There are all kinds of options. There's the green elf shoes that curl at the end with the little jingle bell attached to the tip. There's a pair of fuzzy, candy cane striped socks that goes up to your knees. If you are a kid getting ready for a Christmas program or play, you might get a pair of shiny new black shoes.
Or maybe you just get Frozen shoes. Really. Anything Frozen will do.
The kind of footwear you have for Christmas will leave an impression on all the people you meet.
But it's about more than just what you wear on your feet. It's also about what kind of message your feet bring to people. And th truth is that sometimes, yes, even during Christmas, feet bring bad news.
Lots of bad news.
There’s a lot of bad news in this world.The sad thing is that the places people go for some good news --just give them more bad news:
Science, which is supposed to be so predictable, logical ,and rationally help us wrap our minds around our existence says this, “There is no God! God is a nothing! You are nothing more than a bag of bones that accidentally got created, lives a miserable life making other people miserable with your bad choice, only to one day be buried under the ground – rotting, lonely, and forgotten.”
A counselor says, “You feel bad. That’s part of who you are. You need to try better. You need to feel better. You need to get past this on your own. You need a pill for this and a prescription for that. You’re broken. You’re unfixable."
A church says, “You have sinned, you need to do better. You need to win God back. You need to rededicate yourself this New Year and you will eventually earn yourself God’s favor. And if you don’t, if you sin and fail, you’ll be worse off than you were before.”
That's bad news too.
Even you. You might be negative about Christmas. You might remind people "There's presents to wrap, lights to hang, and cookies to make." You give people the impression that if they don't do these things, they have failed this Christmas.
That's bad news.
We need some good news.
For the Israelites in 500 B.C., there was mostly bad news. Because of their sins, God had handed the Israelites over to the Babylonian army. Their cities were destroyed, their way of life uprooted, some were taken into captivity, others were dispersed throughout the Middle East.
70 years. For 70 years these Israelites were taken into captivity. 70 years without their homeland. 70 years without their government. 70 years without the freedom to worship their God in peace. 70 years separated from family. 70 years spending the holidays away from their homes. 70 years unable to celebrate festivals as they had before. 70 years of bad news.
I imagine they were reminded of this often. The architecture of the local schools screamed Babylonia. The dress of the local people reminded them – you are not the dominate culture anymore. The rules, laws, and culture of the land said your way of living is second class to our way of living.
Just imagine the captive Israelite headed to the bar for a drink after work and running into a group of loudmouthed Babylonian soldiers, “You people are so worthless. You were such wimps when we overtook your land. How the mighty have fallen?”
“Speaking of mighty? What about this Almighty God of yours? How Almighty can he really be if he can’t defeat our great king? How powerful can he be if he can’t even provide his people their own country? King of the heavens and the earth? HA! He should be called the king of bread crumbs and a few copper coins. Your God is a NOTHING!”
Maybe. Maybe he was nothing. Or maybe he was still angry. After all they had sinned. The words of the prophets echoed in their minds. They had been warned. “Stop sinning or the Lord himself will abandon you.”
They hadn’t listened. They hadn’t stopped sinning. They hadn’t followed through on their promises to God. But God had followed through on his threats to them.
There was a lot of bad news for these Israelites.
They needed good news.
Perhaps the feet were quiet.
Slowly, quietly walking over to a vase. Reaching inside. Pulling out a scroll. Hurriedly rushing to the front door. Watching out for Babylonians. Stopping quietly at the front door. Waiting for it to open.
Hopping inside. Scurrying to the table. Sitting. Opening the scroll. Reading out loud.
These feet brought “Good news.”
Take a look at an example of that good news that an Israelite father might have read his family in verse 6-9 of chapter 52. "Now therefore what am I doing here," says the Lord, "seeing that my people are taken away without cause? Their rulers howl," says the Lord, "and continually, all day long, my name is despised.” Therefore my people shall know my name; therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here am I. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
Ah! Good news. Did you hear it? It was for the Israelites to be sure, but it is also for you. It’s for your neighbors. It’s for your friends. It’s for your family. It’s for your boss, your coworkers, and even that guy who give your morning coffee with a smile at Starbucks. This is the very good news that your feet have to share with the world this Christmas. It’s the good news you and I have to share with the people of North Raleigh.
Listen and reflect on this good news:
1. Peace with God.
As Isaiah says, “Blessed is the one who announces peace!” For the Israelite it meant that God was waiting for them to return. As they repented, he awaited with an announcement of peace and the good news of sins forgiven. They may have been captives, but they were no longer abandoned. God was at peace with them.
This is the same news that is written in Christmas light displays throughout the triangle. It’s the news that the words of Silent Night speak of. It’s the peace that the you read of as you tell your children what the angels sang on that first Christmas night.
To be fair – this is not just "sitting by the fire, smelling Christmas potpourri, and listening to the Easy Listening Christmas Piano Music station on Pandora" – type of peace.
It’s greater than that.
This is a peace the angels sang on the first Christmas. It’s the peace angels – who are messengers of God – announced to the world. It’s the peace that God has sent a Savior and because of Him – God’s anger against us is gone! Through faith in Him, we are at divine peace with our Savior!
Think of this good news you get to tell your friends. Because of Jesus, their sins are forgiven. Because of Jesus, they are at peace with God. Because of Jesus, they can release themselves from guilt. Because of Jesus, they can have real, everlasting, peace this Christmas.
2. Good Tidings of Joy.
Literally this means good news. The good news of Christmas is that God came to save us.
It isn’t that you might get some cool presents. It isn’t that there’s 50% off sale at Macy’s. It isn’t that you get a holiday bonus. It isn’t that family is coming to visit. It isn’t that there’s one more bon bon left in the fridge.
The good news of Christmas is that your Savior came! He became a human being. He was born of a virgin. He grew up a human being. He was tempted as a human being, but unlike any other human being he was without sin. He died like a human being—a criminal human being though he had done nothing criminal.
But then unlike any other human being ever, Jesus brought himself back from the dead. He returned to life on the third day as he had promised! He promises that through faith in him you will do the same!
This is the good news of Christmas. It’s the good news that you know well. It’s the good news of Jesus’ birth, life, and death that you get to share with your children, your spouse, your parents, even a friend who has never heard the story of Jesus ever before.
3. Salvation from Sin, Death, and the Devil.
The good news grows from there. Isaiah says, “Blessed is the one who announces salvation!” Salvation means “the good news of being saved.”
But what kind of salvation? For the Israelite captives, the good news was that they would be saved from their captivity. They would return to Jerusalem. They would return to their lives.
For those in your world? You too can share salvation with them. Salvation from their captors.
Salvation from sin. It’s consequences no longer hold us down and its power no longer rules over us. In Jesus’ name, the addict defeats his addiction, the alcoholic defeats her alcoholism, the begrudged husband restores his marriage, the depressed breaks free and feels joy.
Salvation from evil. God defeated the devil on the cross. How then can Christmas scrooges ruin Christmas? Tell that to your friend. How can any evil ruin Christmas? God has ruins evil already!
There is salvation over death! Tell your friends and family that. Jesus’ birth means that we too will be born into a new life. An eternal life. Tell them it means more than just sadness, tears, a funeral, and a bag of dirt. Tell them Jesus’ birth means his life and his resurrection to life – and eternal life to all who believe!
4. God Reigns.
What an incredible message this was for the Israelites in captivity to hear. Their captors continued to chant at them, “We reign. Not you and not your God. We are in control of you and all your do.” But the good news is that God still reigned. He had not forgotten them. He was still in control. He would watch over them in captivity and restore them to Jerusalem at the proper time.
This is the same message of good news that you get to share this Christmas. To remind others that God reigns. Not addiction. Not sin. Not the devil. Not hatred. Not evil. Not science. Not racism. Not hatred. Not atheists. Not doubts. Not fears. Not sadness. Not loneliness.
God reigns. The same loving God who restored peace with you, the same loving God who came to earth for you, the same loving God who won salvation for you, is the God who is in control on high. He reigns!
This is good news. This is great news. This is incredible news!
Think of how important that is for the addict who thinks his addiction rules to hear.
Think of how important that is for the financial unstable who thinks money rules to hear.
Think of how important that is for the sick who thinks the disease rules to hear.
Think of how important that is for the guilty who thinks that the one terrible sin they did one time rules to hear.
Think of how important that is for the atheist who think that chance and an unloving nothingness rules to hear.
Good news is super important to tell. Clothe yourself with it this Christmas!
Traditionally at my house Christmas morning gifts can be kind of funny. Gag gifts, if you will. One year I opened my stocking to find that my mother had stuffed it with a pink plastic egg looking thing. I didn’t have any idea what it was. My mom informed me it was a foot scrubber. It helped to keep your feet good looking and manicured as I was getting closer to being married to Julianna.
I thought, "Maybe I’ll just keep my socks on."
You too need to make sure your feet are beautiful this Christmas. But you don’t need to see a pedicurist or buy some fancy shoes. You simply need to TELL the Good News about Jesus.
· As you wear a pair of tennis shoes handing out Christmas service invitations to all of your neighborhood houses.
· As you wear your business shoes, explaining to your coworkers the true meaning of Christmas.
· As you lounge around the house in Crocs, telling your family the good news of Jesus that they won’t want to miss out on at church.
· As you wear your funny Looney Tunes slippers and quietly sing Christmas Carols of Jesus’ birth with your children.
This Christmas. Make your feet beautiful. Make sure your feet travel with the good news of the Savior wherever you go.
The other day my wife's grandfather became very ill. He was in hospice and on his last bed. As my wife called him, she heard rasping and heavy breathing coming from the other end of the phone.
What do you say? I'm sorry I wasn't there? I'm sorry you are sick? I hope it isn't painful. Glad you had a good life!
Not to embarrass her, but my wife's words were simple:
"Grandpa, I love you. Jesus loves you."
After he had passed, grandma spoke to us and said that he had been having such a hard time during his lasts moments on this earth, but when he spoke to Julianna--when he heard what she had to say-- he smiled.
You too. Tell the good news of Jesus this Christmas. Amen.