In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Isaiah prays, “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of Yahweh; awake, as in days of old, the generations of long ago” (51:9). As in days of old, when He stretched out His right hand and delivered His people from Pharaoh, bringing them through the Sea on dry ground. “His glorious arm went at the right hand of Moses, who divided the waters before them to make for himself an everlasting name, who led them through the depths” (Isaiah 63:12) When He revealed His mighty arm in the sight of all the nations and the nations were dismayed. Terror and dread fell upon them because of the greatness of the arm of Yahweh, but Miriam sings. The nations will tremble until the people of God pass by them on the way to the Land of Promise; the people whom God Himself had purchased at the price of the firstborn of Egypt (Exodus 15:14-17).
Put on strength, O arm of Yahweh. Because the people still dwell in darkness, even within their own land. As in days of old, awake and deliver Your people. The arm of the sower sows, and the Seed is buried in the womb of the virgin. The Seed of the Woman germinates and grows, in order to crush the serpent’s vile offspring. He awakes, clothed in the strength of a baby’s arm, a tiny hand that can barely close around His mother’s finger. He has revealed His arm in the sight of all the nations; His mighty arm, wrapped in helpless flesh and blood and bone. The messengers of God appear on the horizon, bringing good news of great joy, publishing salvation. They say to Zion, “Your God reigns.” As Miriam had sung so many thousands of years before: “Yahweh will reign forever and ever” (Exodus 15:18).” God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne in the lap of Mary. Yahweh reigns; He is robed in the majesty of swaddling cloths and manger hay. Today, in Bethlehem, a Savior is born to you, who is the promised anointed one, the Lord Himself. And the watchmen of Israel go—Let us go and see this thing that has happened!—they hurry with their sheep and their staffs, lifting up their voice before anyone who will listen. They make known the words that had been spoken to them concerning the Child, and all who heard it marveled at what the shepherds told them. Together they sing for joy over all they have heard and seen: for eye to eye they see the return of Yahweh to Zion. The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light.
But though the light shines in the darkness, those who love the darkness despise and turn their backs on the Light. Our bowing before the thrones of earthly powers, of governments; the thrones of stuff and things, bought and paid for, lost and broken; the throne of family, leaving the Holy Family alone around the manger and the Christ alone on the cross. They have not rejected you, God says to Samuel, “they have rejected Me from reigning over them” (1 Samuel 8:7). Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of Yahweh been revealed? For he grew up before Him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and as one from whom men hide their faces (Isaiah 53:1-3).
I looked, but there was no one to help; I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold. “Then Yahweh said, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of my people… I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them’” (Exodus 3:7) “But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go” (3:19-20). We love our slavery too much. Our flesh holds us fast. Death pulls us down. Our wars never cease. Our suspicion casts accusations and aspersions, blame and bitterness. He must do His own wonders. His power must be cloaked in weakness. Behold, Yahweh’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save (Isaiah 59:1). There was no one to save, so my own arm brought me salvation (63:5). “As I live, declares the Lord Yahweh, surely with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out I will reign over you. I will bring you out from the people and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out. … And you shall know that I am Yahweh, when I deal with you for my Name’s sake, not according to your evil ways, nor according to your corrupt deeds, O house of Israel, declares the Lord Yahweh” (Ezekiel 20:33-34, 44). For His Name’s sake, they shall call Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins. “His own arm brought him salvation” (Isaiah 59:16; 63:5) “I was the first to say to Zion, ‘Behold, here they are!’ and I give to Jerusalem a herald of good news… Behold, my servant, whom I uphold” (41:27; 42:1). I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins (43:25). He claims a people for Himself, at the price of the firstborn Son of Mary.
Behold, my servant, who reigns from the cross. Behold, my outstretched, mighty arm, suspended by nails. Yahweh will reign forever and ever! “Behold, upon [Calvary’s mountain], the [pierced] feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace!” (Nahum 1:15) “Get you up to a high mountain, herald of good new to Zion; lift up your voice with strength, herald of good news to Jerusalem; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’ Behold, the Lord Yahweh comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him and his recompense before him” (Isaiah 40:9-10). Behold your God! His mighty arm, wrapped in the weakness of flesh. His wrath is poured out. Lifted up, He gathers the nations to Himself. All the ends of the earth have seen His salvation. Yahweh has comforted His people. He has redeemed Jerusalem, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. The Lord has stripped back the sleeve from His arm in order to do His holy work.
Today, again, waste places of the earth; today, devastated and dry deserts; today, thirsty ground, break forth into gardens and streams and pools of water. Break forth together into singing. “The whole earth is at rest and quiet; they break forth into singing” (Isaiah 14:7). “The mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing” (55:12). “Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For Yahweh has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted” (49:13). Comfort, comfort, says your God. Your warfare is ended in the Child who dies; your iniquity is pardoned because He becomes your sin. The way in the wilderness has been prepared, a highway in the desert for our God, whose dusty sandals we are not worthy to untie. “Make a joyful noise to Yahweh, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises” (Psalm 98:4)! His mighty arm has been revealed in the Baby. Conceived, born, crucified, risen, ascended, and returning to make Zion, His dwelling place, cover the whole earth. Today we sing again, with all creation, the Gloria of the angels. Today, again, the watchmen of Israel cry out. The messengers publish salvation; they make heard peace in Yahshua, the salvation of God. All the ends of the earth shall see the Jesus of our God.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 12/21/16