7 How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”
8 Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices;
together they shout for joy.
When the LORD returns to Zion,
they will see it with their own eyes.
9 Burst into songs of joy together,
you ruins of Jerusalem,
for the LORD has comforted his people,
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
10 The LORD will lay bare his holy arm
in the sight of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth will see
the salvation of our God.

11 Depart, depart, go out from there!
Touch no unclean thing!
Come out from it and be pure,
you who carry the articles of the LORD’s house.
12 But you will not leave in haste
or go in flight;
for the LORD will go before you,
the God of Israel will be your rear guard.

Children, what is the most exciting thing you received for Christmas? Presents are the most fun when it’s something we really wanted, but didn’t have much hope of getting it. Or maybe it’s something we never even thought of, but once we open it, we think to ourselves, “This is perfect.” When we get those kinds of presents, we enjoy telling others about it. God’s Word this morning seeks to reignite that old fashion Christmas feeling in us over the best present ever – the gift of God’s Son.

In our Christmas Eve service, we were reminded that man was created to reflect God’s glory in everything he says and does. That did not last very long. Our first parents brought sin, sorrow, and death into the world. However from the very start God announced His plan to save man. His Son would become the seed of the woman, and through His own death crush Satan’s power and win man back over to God’s side. Through this very promise, God gave faith, and by faith Old Testament believers reflected God’s glory in their lives, though imperfectly; and, as time went on fewer and fewer did this.

Well, it got to the point that there were only eight people left in the world who still believed the promise. And so, God destroyed the world and restarted the human race with just them. Unfortunately man continued his sinful pattern. With each new generation man got farther away from God. So, God formed one that nation that would reflect His glory in the world, the Children of Israel. He even gave them special worship laws and enriched them in every way. He also tested their faith so that they would learn to walk with Him each day at a time.

Sadly, many of the Israelites would not, and in time those who did also got fewer and fewer.

God’s next step was to raise up the Babylonians, who would take His people as slaves to Babylon. Our text was written 150 years before this, and it’s prophesying that after 70 years in Babylon God would bring His people back to Jerusalem. Their return foreshadowed Christ’s coming. The point of comparison was the joy was the same. I mean, put yourself into the shoes of the Old Testament believers. It had seemed impossible Babylon’s power could ever be broken. Yet in a single day it happened. God raised up King Cyrus of Persia who pulled off a coup. The first thing he did, was he ordered that the Jews be allowed to return home and he even gave them money to rebuild the Temple. He did this purely for political reasons, but he did it, and you can imagine the joy God’s people had in announcing this to each other. This was like the joy the shepherds had when they were telling everything they had heard and seen.

However, before Jesus came, the pool of those who wanting to glorify God in the world continued to get smaller. Only a remnant went back to Jerusalem. 85% chose to stay in Babylon and blended in with the population there, which is modern day Iraq. Also, the few who did return called themselves the Pharisees. The name means, someone, who separated himself from sin, which of course is what God wants. But over time the Pharisees began trusting in their own righteousness, instead of in the righteousness God gives through the Savior.

Who was left, then, to reflect God’s glory in the world? Not many. Mary, Joseph, Simeon, a few people scattered here and there. Man was demonstrating the full power of sin. But could that power be broken? Can that power be broken today? Yes! Our text reads, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”Jesus, who became our brother, reflects God’s glory perfectly. From infancy on, He feared, loved and trusted God above all things. You see that in His obedience to His parents at age 12. You see it in His defeat of Satan’s temptations in the wilderness – temptations that similar to what Adam and Eve went through only far worse. We especially see God’s glory in Christ’s willingness to go to cross. There He died in sinners’ behalf, so that death is conquered. Our sins are paid for. Satan cannot accuse us before God anymore!

All of this puts us in a unique position. Through Word and Sacrament God has given us faith to believe this. As a result it is now our joy to tell one another, “Your God reigns!” For example, is there someone in your life who’s discouraged because it’s been heartache and disappointment after another? Keep reminding them, “Your God reigns!” Jesus’ perfection for us, His death and resurrection prove that those are more than just words. But someone might ask, “Well then, why isn’t He reigning in my life?” He is, but He tests our faith so we learn to walk with a day at time, that we may have the privilege of reflecting His glory even more.

And it is a privilege! I mean, compare what we have with what the world has. We are children of the heavenly Father. We are co-heirs with Christ of His eternal Kingdom. It doesn’t get any better than that. Also, we are not slaves of the moronic ideas that are everywhere. We can see right through them. In addition God’s guidance through His Word has protected us from an awful lot of consequences of sin. We don’t have HIV from sharing needles. We aren’t spending half our time in jail for DUIs and non-support. And our children by the time they graduate from high school can answer this question. If x plus two equals four, what number is x. The paper said that 25% of those wanting to enlist in the army are rejected, because they’re can’t answer questions like that. How blessed we are to be able to give our children a solid education both for this life and the next.

I am not saying we’re without sin. And if we ever think we’re better than others, we will become just like that remnant of believers in the Old Testament, who called themselves the Pharisees. But every day we have the forgiveness of our sins. Every day we have encouragement from our fellow believers and from God’s Word to continue walking in His ways. As a result through our faith in Christ,wearereflecting God's glory to the world.

And now, let’s celebrate Christmas by doing so even more. Friday night it was thrilling to have a packed church, we wish it could be so every Sunday. However, I was also saddened by people who weren’t here, because they’re straying from the Lord. You probably have a few relatives and friends like that too. But let’s not let this take away from our Christmas joy. Rather let’s keep reminding ourselves that our God reigns, so that in the joy of what He has done for us, we may worship with our whole being and in that way lead many by our example.

However for this to happen our text tells us two things we will need to do. We read, “Depart, depart, go out from there! Touch no unclean thing! Come out from it and be pure, you who carry the articles of the LORD’s house.” Are we touching unclean things in our entertainment choices for example? Or, do our priorities in how we use our time and money reflect who we really are? If we are to carry God’s Word to the world, we have to watch ourselves! Also, in carrying God’s Word to the world, we need to constantly be praying for the Holy Spirit. But how can we pray for the Holy Spirit in one breath and in the next breath think, say or do things that grieves the Holy Spirit within us?

The second thing we are to do if we are to lead by our example is this. We read, “But you will not leave in haste or go in flight; for the LORD will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” When it was announced that the Israelites could return home, some might have had the reaction, “We got to go now, before the government changes its mind.” They didn’t need to rush, because God was with them, and He wasn’t going to change His mind. In fact by going back to Jerusalem in a well-thought out deliberate way showed their faith in God. In the same way, Christians today can be in the world, but not of it, because the Lord is with us. And just as He guided and protected the Children of Israel to the Promised Land, He is guiding and protecting us. And so, all that’s left for us to “worry” about, and I use that word loosely, is trusting in the Lord for forgiveness, loving one another according to the Commandments, and telling others. Jesus takes care of the rest. Finally, in Jesus’ rest, enjoy your time with family and friends. Get rested up for a fresh start in the New Year. And by the way to help us in that we will be having a recommitment Sunday as we celebrate Epiphany. But may this always be our goal – to joyfully tell the whole world, “Your God reigns!”

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