Sermon, Dec 11, 2016, "Don't give up hope in God’s deliverance"
based on Isaiah 35: 1-10, James 5:7-9 and Matthew 11:2-6

Christmas is coming and we are bombarded with the idea of gifts.
And so buying gifts of all sorts is encouraged, by TV ads and family members.

But if each of us were pushed to ask for a gift that we really wanted,…
I’d guess it wouldn’t be a material thing like new tie or pair of ear rings.
I think the ultimate gift we’d all like would be more profound and deeper than that.
I think what people really would like most of all is to be freed from the things that afflict, or limit, or scare us.

In the bible reading from Isaiah, we hear the prophet predict God’s coming to bring some of the kind of gifts that I’m talking about.

“He will strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees”.
“To those who are fearful of heart;Be strong, do not fear!  Here is your God.
He will come to save you
“The eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped
“Then the lame shall leap like a deer, 
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.”
Later he says the people who have been displaced from their land will return with blessings, singing joyful praises as “sorrow and sighing shall flee away”.

Isaiah predicts that God will bring those gifts through a Savior, whom we believe is Jesus, the Christ; the Messiah.
So when John the Baptist questions whether Jesus is the one Isaiah predicted,…Jesus says for his disciples to 
“Go and tell John…the blind receive sight,… the lame walk,… the lepers are cleansed,… the deaf hear,… the dead are raised,… and the poor have good news brought to them.

Do you notice the connection there?
Jesus pretty much goes down Isaiah’s list to say, ‘Yeah, I am the One’. 
What Isaiah said would happen did, and Jesus brought all that he predicted!

And yet, Jesus did not bring miracles for everyone who needed those gifts.
He did not heal all the sick or give sight to all the blind.
God still does not give those exact gifts for people today who want them.

The wants and the needs of the poor today…. are still not met.
People who have weak hands or feeble knees;…stay that way or get worse.
There are blind people who want nothing than to see the morning light.
There are the deaf, whose only gift wish is to hear a song or kind word.
The lame still wish they could walk, and the speechless wish they could talk.
And everyday news stories tell of displaced peoples who are suffering terribly.
They want nothing more than to live in peace in their homelands.

It seems, then, that there is a disconnect from what Isaiah predicts and the gifts that Jesus brought in his time on earth,…. and our reality today.
The specific gifts that Isaiah talked about and Jesus gave,…elude many in life.
Are we missing something here?

If we think of Jesus as a sort of Santa Claus, we do miss the point of his coming.
Jesus brought those miracle gifts for those he helped for several reasons.

First, he did them to prove he was God’s promised emissary coming to the world.
Even John the Baptist, who announced his coming, was not sure about Jesus.
For those who may have doubted then, or who do so now, the miracles were proof that what God had predicted through Isaiah, did happen.

Secondly, the power of Jesus displayed in his miracles proved that he possessed the power of God.
That power was all encompassing and even included the power to forgive sins.

And Jesus did miracles because he had compassion for the suffering and needy.
He gave those gifts (and more) to show the nature of God is to help the weak and care for those who are hurting.
Also, he did these things to show people it was not their fault that they suffered.
Many then, and today, thought afflictions were deserved for wrongs done.
Jesus’ miracles dispelled the idea that afflictions are God punishing us.

Last but maybe most importantly,…Jesus fixed the brokenness for some people to give all peoplethe gift of faith and hope in these things.
Faith and hope that whatever afflicts them;… blindness, deafness, infirmity or fear…. are not things God wants them to have nor will they last forever.
Jesus’ acts were evidence that God will ultimately fix all that is wrong in life.

You know, for all the miracles and things he fixed for people and power he had,…
Jesus’ life was no picnic for him.
He experienced the bad in life that God did not immediately fix.
He was not blind, but he watched as his friends abandoned him.
He was not deaf, but he heard the insults, taunts and disbelief of many.
He was not lame but, worse than that, he submits to brutal torture and suffering.
And he knew and experienced fear and frustration and pain as we all have.
He even could not (or did not) use his power to escape from being executed.
Jesus, the miracle worker and bringer of good gifts,….knew death.

Jesus goes through the worst the world can dish out to tell us a couple truths.
One, is that this world is imperfect, even for him, and we all suffer as a result.
But second, and more importantly, he did so to prove to us that we should not give up hoping in God’s deliverance.
For, in the end, God’s miracles happened once more and he was lifted up.

And THAT is the primary gift we receive from this Christmas baby in the manger.
Through Christ, God knows and understands and cares about our suffering.
And that, eventually, God’s power, love and compassion will cure all of our ills.
Some of His gifts come now,….but many more will arrive later on or at the end.
Faith and trust in Jesus enables us to have the patience to persevere until then.
Like a child waiting for Santa’s gifts,….we know our hope won’t be disappointed.

Amen