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Advent 2016 Devotional—December 21st

Advent 2016 Devotional—December 21st

“Good News For All The People”—Daily Reflections for Advent 2016

THE TWENTY-FIFTH DAY OF ADVENT, December 21st 

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices, together they sing for joy; for in plain sight they see the return of the Lord to Zion. Break forth together into singing, you ruins of J erusalem; for the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.
Isaiah 52:7-10

It’s an original American Christmas carol, passed down orally by slaves from plantation to plantation. We know their song as “Go Tell It On the Mountain”. I sing the song’s first lines and think that slaves toiling in the fields might have felt a close connection to Bethlehem’s lowly shepherds:

While shepherds kept their watching
O’er silent flocks by night,
Behold throughout the heavens,
There shone a holy light:

Go, Tell It On the Mountain,
Over the hills and everywhere;
Go, Tell It On the Mountain,
That Jesus Christ is born.

Those slaves knew their Bibles as their song was based on the first words of today’s Scripture: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news…” They heard this Scripture as God’s command to go and tell it on the mountain.

When the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek in the third century before Christ, the Hebrew word for “good news” was translated as the Greek word euangellion. It is significant that the New Testament’s use of “good news” (euangellion) has its roots in today’s Scripture text. The use of “good news” feeds through into the New Testament’s proclamation of the “good news” about Jesus Christ (e.g. Romans 10:15). It was a formative Scripture for Jesus, the apostles, and early Christians. It was the best news the world had ever heard. They wanted to go, tell it on the mountain!

The first hearer of this “good news” was the nation of Israel. The nation had been overrun and Jerusalem destroyed by the Babylonians. Many of the survivors had been marched off to Babylon as prisoners of war. Jerusalem lay in ruins, as did the hopes of the people. But the prophet Isaiah is transported into the future in which exiles are returning from Babylon. Isaiah ‘sees’ a returning exile, a “messenger”, on the mountains to the east approaching Jerusalem. His feet are “beautiful” because they come announcing “peace”, bringing “good news” of deliverance, announcing “salvation” from captivity. “Your God reigns,” they shout. “Your God reigns.”

The “sentinels” on the wall are the first to see the messenger coming and the first to hear him proclaim the “good news” of salvation. The sentinels cannot contain themselves, but “sing for joy”, calling for all the inhabitants of Jerusalem to join the celebration: “Break forth together into singing, you ruins of Jerusalem; for the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.

As Isaiah is transported into the future he sees redemption not only for Jerusalem, but also for the whole world: “The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” Isaiah foretells the peace and the salvation that the Christ Child brings for all the people.

That is the good news that the angel told the shepherds on that Christmas night, and the good news that the shepherds passed on to others (Luke 2:17). They were like the “sentinels” foretold by Isaiah going forth with beautiful feet. May we, like the shepherds and slaves, Go, Tell It On the Mountain!

He made me a watchman
Upon the city wall,
And if I am a Christian,
I am the least of all.

Go, Tell It On The Mountain,
Over the hills and everywhere;
Go, Tell It On The Mountain
That Jesus Christ is born.

PONDERINGS

  • Who was God’s “messenger(s)” that first told you God’s good news of peace and salvation? Why not take a moment to thank God for your messenger(s).
  • Who do you want to tell today about God’s good news of peace and salvation? Pray for that person!

THE DAILY GOD HUNT: Reflect on where you found God today.

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