Sermon for the Third Sunday in Advent based on Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Dear people with broken hearts that have been bound: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
We know broken-heartedness. We have lost loved ones over the years. Yes, our hearts have been broken by death and loss. Oftentimes, this broken-heartedness is felt most strongly at Christmastime.
That is why during Advent, the Church waits not just for Christmas, but the return of Christ. Our Old Testament lesson from Isaiah promised us that Christ will bind up the broken-hearted, and that He will comfort all who mourn.
These are not empty sentiments. Christ binds up broken hearts with the promise of the resurrection. When Christ returns, He will raise the dead, and give eternal life to all who believe in Him. We will be reunited with all our loved ones who have died in the faith.
In addition to death and loss, we also know broken-heartedness from sin at the hands of others. Other people have sinned against us and our loved ones. Our spouses have sinned against us. So have close family members, dear friends, people we loved, even pastors we trusted. We know the broken-heartedness of trust that has been betrayed, secrets that have been revealed, lies that have been told, sin that has wreaked havoc in our lives and the lives of those we love.
We are delusional, however, if we are not aware of the broken-heartedness we suffer from our own hand because of our own sin. We have sinned against others. We have sinned against our spouses, our family members, our friends, the people we love, and our pastors. We have betrayed trust, gossiped, and wreaked havoc in our lives and the lives of others around us. We have held grudges, had sinful thoughts, spoken sinful words, and acted out the sinful thoughts of our hearts that we ourselves have broken.
It is one matter to speak of being broken-hearted by sin you have committed against another human being, and another matter to be broken-hearted by sin you have committed against God. Of course, all sin is a sin against God, because He is the one who has given us the Commandments to follow. He sees all our actions. He hears all our words. He knows all our thoughts. Nothing is hidden from His sight.
We can try to justify ourselves to our neighbour. We can lie about our motives for what we have done or left undone. We can make up excuses for our sin. We might even be able to convince ourselves of our excuses.
Before God, however, our mouths are stopped. His Law condemns us. He is not tricked or fooled by our attempts to excuse or justify ourselves. God sees our sins, and His Law causes us to be broken-hearted because we realize that we have once again failed to do what is right. In our weakness, we have again sinned against God.
We have lived as if God did not matter and as if we mattered most. Our Lord’s name we have not honoured as we should; our prayers and worship have faltered. We have not let His love have its way with us, and so our love for others has failed. There are those whom we have hurt, and those whom we have failed to help. Our thoughts and desires have been soiled with sin (see Individual Confession and Absolution, LSB 292). We have broken others’ hearts with our sins, and we have broken our own hearts with our sins.
We need our broken hearts bound. We need comfort in our mourning. We need the Gospel proclaimed to us because we are poor in spirit.
When Jesus preached on our text from Isaiah in the synagogue of His hometown of Nazareth, He said that Isaiah was speaking about Him. Jesus says that Spirit of the Lord God is upon Him; that He has been anointed to bring good news to the poor, that He was sent to bind up the broken hearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, and comfort to all who mourn (Luke 4:16-21).
Jesus came to bring the good news of victory for poor sinners. He was sent by God the Father to preach forgiveness of sins to miserable sinners held captive by their sins. He was anointed to proclaim the bursting of the gates of hell to release all of us captive to the devil. He was sent by God to bind up our hearts that have been broken by death and loss, by the sins of others against us, and by our own sins. Jesus came to proclaim comfort to those who mourn over sin and mourn over death.
There is no greater comfort than the forgiveness of sins, because through the forgiveness of sins, Christ’s righteousness and perfection cover our sins. Through the forgiveness of sins, we have the promise of life and salvation. Our sins are removed from us as far as the east is from the west because Jesus has taken our sins away from us onto Himself. Jesus died for our sins so now we will live forever. He rose from the dead so that we would know that we also will rise from the dead.
With our sins forgiven, we have no fear of death or the grave; we have no fear of hell or the punishment of sin. With our sins forgiven, our broken hearts are bound. We are comforted in our mourning.
And we wait.
Yes, Jesus says that this Scripture is already fulfilled (Luke 4:21). It is fulfilled because Jesus came and did what the Scripture says He would do. It is fulfilled because we don’t have to wait for the forgiveness of sins; we already have it now. We don’t have to wait for our sins to be removed form us; they’re already gone. We don’t have to wait for comfort; we already have it.
We do, however, wait for Christ to return and take us from this vale of tears to Himself in Paradise. We wait for our illnesses and losses to have an end. We wait for the final enemy, death, to be defeated. We wait for the tears to be wiped from our eyes, the end of death, the end of mourning, crying, and pain (Rev. 21:4). We wait for the day that we will no longer sin; when we will no longer cause others to be broken hearted, and when we will no longer feel the pain of our own broken heart.
We wait for Jesus to return as He has promised and make all things new. Then we will not just have hearts that has been bound, but we will have new hearts that will know no suffering or brokenness, but only joy and gladness forevermore. We will have new hearts that will desire no sin, but will only desire what is holy, and righteous, and good.
Jesus promises three times in the final chapter of Revelation, saying, “I am coming soon.” We trust Him and know that He will return at the right time, because He gives His promise to us, “I am coming soon.” He says, “Surely, I am coming soon.” And we pray, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.