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God’s Great 2-for-1 Christmas Special

Isaiah 40:1-2


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Second Sunday in Advent—December 7, 2008

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

It’s become traditional for the stores to have big sales over this Thanksgiving holiday weekend.  The newspapers are filled with advertisements for all sorts of specials: take an additional 10% off; 25% off; 50% off; free bonus gift; buy one get one free.

In today’s Old Testament reading, Isaiah announces “God’s Great 2-for-1 Christmas Special”: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”

Isaiah says that God is going to pay you back “Double For All Your Sins”.  What’s the first interpretation that comes to mind when you hear those words?  When you hear that God is going to pay you back “Double For All Your Sins”, you probably at first assume it means God is going to pay you back double punishment for all the sins you have committed.  We assume that because we know we are sinners, we know we have fallen short, we know we are deserving of God’s wrath and punishment. 

The people in Isaiah’s time certainly deserved to be punished severely by the Lord.  For they turned away from the true God; they did not serve him; they did not trust in him as their God.  God would be justified in commanding the prophet Isaiah to proclaim to them and to us, “You will be paid back double punishment for all your sins.”  But amazingly, God commands Isaiah to announce the exact opposite, to proclaim “God’s Great 2-for-1 Christmas Special”: not double punishment, double forgiveness!

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”  God is indeed paying you back “Double For All Your Sins”, but not double punishment, double forgiveness! 

God says your “hard service” has been completed, meaning God’s Law has been perfectly fulfilled for you by his Son, Jesus Christ.  What you could not do, Jesus did for you.  His perfect, sinless life is credited to your account. 

They have started calling the day after Thanksgiving when the big sales begin “Black Friday,” because that is the day many retailers enter into the black financially for the year.  It is another Friday each year that is the one day the paraments on our altar are black.  Good Friday is the true “Black Friday,” not only because of our mourning over our Lord’s crucifixion and death, but Good Friday is the true “Black Friday” because on that day YOUR account with God entered into the black.  Not just for the fiscal year or the current quarter, but for eternity.  That is why we call it Good Friday, because our Lord’s crucifixion and death brought you the ultimate good, forgiveness and eternal life, for “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross.”  Your sin has been “paid for”, because Jesus Christ died as an atoning sacrifice for your sins.

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for.”  Jerusalem represents the Church, you and all who trust in Jesus for salvation.  The Good News of Advent and Christmas is your hard service has been completed, your sin has been paid for, by the Babe of Bethlehem.  “What Child is this, who, laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping?  Nails, spear, shall pierce Him through, the cross be borne, for me, for you.”  Because he came down to earth and was made man, because he lived a perfect, sinless life, because he died on the cross and rose from the dead, you receive “God’s Great 2-for-1 Christmas Special”: “Double For All Your Sins”; not double punishment, double forgiveness.

As you are shopping for and wrapping up and opening gifts this holiday season, remember what the symbolism of Christmas gifts is: Christmas gifts remind us of God’s gift of salvation.  “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  And when things happen in your life that make you wonder if maybe God is punishing you, remember “God’s Great 2-for-1 Christmas Special”: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”  Not double punishment, double forgiveness for all your sins.

Amen.

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