Today is the Kids’ Christmas program which is the one time a year that the kids get to do the main part of the worship service. They’ll be in charge of teaching the message – granted, it’s the same message that I’d teach – only a lot cuter. (Maybe it’s the beard).
To be fair: It will be cute.
The girls will be wearing cute little dresses.
The boys will be wearing cute little sweaters.
The singing will be cute – cuter if it’s offkey.
And it’ll be cute when that one kid shouts the entire program.
It will certainly be a cute program.
But you need to approach this as more than cute.
Isaiah 61 says this, “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is one me, because the LORD has anointed me!” Focus in on that word “Anointed.” Back in the day Israelites would anoint people with oil in order to identify them being appointed to a special position. They’d pour oil on the head of the future king. Oil on the head of the general. Oil on the head of prophets.
Here someone is anointed. But not with oil.
Here someone is anointed, but not by another human.
Someone is anointed with the Holy Spirit by God Himself.
What kind of a job do you have when you are anointed – not with oil – but with the Holy Spirit himself?
The LORD anointed me…To preach good news. (v.1)
Does this not seem a bit strange?
Because I would think that if God had a message for me it’d probably be less pleasant:
I saw what you did earlier.
I saw that fight with your wife.
I heard that foul language.
I know what you did last Christmas.
I know all of you filthy, guilty, no good, very bad sins that you have done.
And when people do wrong – I do much worse than coal in a stocking.
No. Not good. At all.
Did you know this isn’t the only time this passage is in the Bible?
In fact, 700 some years after this passage was prophesied…Jesus preached a sermon on this very passage.
It wasn’t very long.
One sentence only.
He said this, “The LORD has anointed me to preach good news. Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
In other words:
I am the anointed.
I’m the One on whom God poured His Holy Spirit.
I’ve got the good news.
I will perfectly when you can’t.
I will die innocently in your place.
I will rise triumphantly for the forgiveness of all your sins.
This is good news.
Good news from God.
Good news from God to you.
Good news Jesus taught his disciples.
Good news that his disciples wrote down.
And years later, 2017 even, here we are looking at it – God reveals it to us.
It’s like unwrapping a gift all over again.
What is that good news?
A half-off sale at Macy’s?
No. Much deeper than that.
Take a look at how Isaiah says it next:
God has anointed me…
…To preach good news to the poor, To bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim freedom for the captives, to release the prisoners, To comfort all who mourn. (61:1-2)
And you might be looking at that and thinking:
I’m feeling pretty poor. It is Christmas season. Hopefully by the end of this service my bank account will grow a couple hundred.
And I’m feeling broken hearted – I’ve been dealing with this divorce for a while now. It’d be nice to be reunited with my loved ones.
And I’ve got a cousin in prison. He’s been there long enough. Can you release him please?
And this will be my first Christmas without Grandma. Can you bring her back?
If you think that’s what Jesus is talking about, that’s too physical. Too earthly. Jesus came to deal with the spiritual. He speaks about the heavenly.
Which is WAY better.
To the poor – Jesus says, “Here is priceless treasure that money cannot buy: a luxurious penthouse in heaven and the golden jewelry of forgiveness to adorn your neck.”
To the brokenhearted – God says, “I’m sorry they left. But I won’t. I will always love you. And I will always be faithful to you. And I will never leave you.”
To the captives – God says, “That addiction will not overpower you! It does not own you. I own you!”
To the prisoners – God says, “You are free. Don’t let that guilt imprison you anymore! You are free because you are forgiven.”
To the believers who mourns – God says, “I know what it’s like to spend Christmas apart from a loved one. My Son actually…and He. But 3 days later…he came back to life. And because he lives, your loved one will live; and you will live too.”
Good news, right?
Really good news.
And I love the last way Isaiah describes it in verse 2 “To proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,” and this is not just talking about Christmas Day. No. The day the Lord brings us home with Him. The day of His grace. This is more than, “Hey, it’s Christmas Day, you can open up the presents underneath the tree.” No. Under the tree you find God’s grace. Under the tree you find His forgiveness. Under the tree you find your Lord’s love for you.
Isaiah in this passage loves describing how wonderful this good news is. And now he gets into three word pictures.
In verse 3, “to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”
Look at the first one, “A crown of beauty.” Have you ever worn a crown before? Like an actual crown? To wear an actual weighted crown with gold and jewels, that would be impressive.
Have you worn ashes before? Sweat and grime, not very pretty.
What’s the point?
As humans, we know what it’s like to sit around in ashes – in our sin, in our yuck, in the wrong we’ve done, and in our guilt. And Christmas comes as a reminder of it.
But the good news of Jesus…God comes around and places a golden crown of righteousness on your head. He removes all of the dust, all of the dirt, all of the ashes, cleans you up, and there you are – royalty. You’re a part of God’s kingdom now.
The oil of gladness instead of the oil of mourning. Oil was used back then a way of appearing better than you were. We cover ourselves with sadness (oil of mourning) as we’re sinful, but Jesus covers us with the oil of joy (gladness). Words of forgiven. Words of love. Words of in my kingdom.
And “a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” Spiritually speaking, our clothes have holes in them. Not holy, but full of holes. Spiritually speaking, we’ve got sin after sin after sin! And here God comes along and He covers us with His garment of praise. He covers you and me and all the sins and all the stains and no one can see them. Before God’s eyes they are nonexistent.
A garment of praise! That changes our lives, right? That’s why we’re singing “Joy to the World” at Christmas instead of “Gloom to the World.” “Joy to the World” because of what Jesus has done.
And here’s the result “They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of His splendor.” (vs. 3)
Oaks are strong. Oaks are large. Oaks grow nice and tall. Oaks are sturdy. Raleigh is the “City of Oak Trees.”
Do you ever feel like an oak of righteousness, spiritually speaking? Do you ever feel like that, “Man, I am strong! Nothing can sway me at all! My faith is great!”
I don’t. I feel more like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree. Not very strong.
But Jesus says, “I will make you oaks of righteousness.” God says this; this message will build you up. If you go a little farther in Isaiah, verse 11, it says, “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.” Part of the way He does that is by turning you into an oak of righteousness. He fills us with forgiveness, His gospel, again and again and again. He grows our faith and continues to grow our faith.
If you’re feeling like you aren’t an oak of righteousness, then you need to get into His Word, and He will continue to grow your faith. He says, “That’s how I view you already, allow me to make that faith vibrant in your life.” So, suddenly like an oak tree you stand tall and you stand firm, no matter what happens.
And then – His praise will spring before all nations!
How do oaks spring up everywhere? Well they plant their little acorns and more oaks spring up!
And leads us to our final big truth today. Here’s what God tells us this Christmas:
As an oak of righteousness, you’ve got Good News. We’ve got Great News to share.
Share that Good News!
Share that Good News with anyone who doesn’t know it – family member, friend, Starbucks Barista – anyone! God will make it grow; that’s not up to us. Plant that acorn as an oak tree of righteousness.
That’s who you are and that’s what you do! Share it!
This is the message of Jesus.
This is the message of Christmas.
It’s more than cute.
May God implore than on our hearts this Christmas and always.