The Light of Jesus' Face (Advent 4C)

December 23, 2018

“The Light of Jesus’ Face”

4th Sunday in Advent, Year C - December 23, 2018

By Fr. Guillermo A. Arboleda

 

 

 

Psalm 80:1-7

1 Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock; *
shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim.
2 In the presence of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh, *
stir up your strength and come to help us.
3 Restore us, O God of hosts; *
show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.
4 O Lord God of hosts, *
how long will you be angered
despite the prayers of your people?
5 You have fed them with the bread of tears; *
you have given them bowls of tears to drink.
6 You have made us the derision of our neighbors, *
and our enemies laugh us to scorn.
7 Restore us, O God of hosts; *
show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

 

Luke 1:39-55

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord."
And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever."

 

We are less than two days away from Christmas. We are preparing to spend time with family and friends, eating festive meals, opening presents, playing with new toys, and relaxing together. I hope that many of us are also preparing to join us again for worship tomorrow night and/or Tuesday morning. But what is it that we are really waiting for? What do our hearts long for when they are set right by God’s grace?

 

Our Psalm this morning gives us a beautiful and concise answer to this question. The refrain rings out three times in the complete psalm, and twice in our short selection: “Restore us, O God of hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved” (Psalm 80:3 and 80:7). Restore us. Show us the light of your face. (Countenance is just an old-fashioned way of saying “face.”)

 

This verse is key to our celebration of Advent and Christmas. It’s so important that I want you all to memorize it and recite it over the next few days. I want this verse to be written on your hearts because it’s such an effective prayer for us to pray. And the easiest way to remember words is to sing them.

 

So I’m going to teach you a song to help you remember this one verse of Scripture that will change your whole view of Advent and Christmas as we enter these holy days together.

 

Restore us, O God of hosts
Show us the light of your countenance
And we shall be saved

 

As we think about Christmas and the birth of Jesus, the Son of God, this psalm takes on a whole new meaning. We aren’t just waiting for the metaphorical light of God. We are waiting to see God’s face in the face of baby Jesus. We are waiting to see God through the Word of God who has become flesh for us. It’s the same light of God that reflected off of Moses’ face like the moon reflects the sun. And we know that seeing God will make all the difference in our lives. Seeing God will save and restore us.

 

What was once broken will be fixed. What was once sick will be healed. What was once damaged will be restored. What was once in danger will be saved. And so as we wait for Christmas, as we look ahead to tomorrow and the next day, Psalm 80 should be our prayer:

 

Restore us, O God of hosts
Show us the light of your countenance
And we shall be saved

 

Mary is waiting for God to appear too. She waits with Elizabeth, far from her hometown of Nazareth because, despite God’s gift to her, her pregnancy is also a burden. Mary has dealt with ridicule and shame. Her fiancee nearly broke off their engagement. Things look bleak.

 

But at the same time, the angel Gabriel told Mary that her baby son “will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32-33). Elizabeth calls her son “my Lord” (1:43). Her son is going to be a king and a lord and her son is going to be chosen by God to save the people of Israel.

 

But I don’t even think Mary knew that her son would show us the very face of God. She didn’t expect that he would be the light of God in the world. Jesus blew away everyone’s expectations because no one ever expected God to become a human being. And yet God was willing to stoop down to our level, to get involved in the mess of our world to answer our prayer:

 

Restore us, O God of hosts
Show us the light of your countenance
And we shall be saved

 

So as we continue to wait for Jesus to arrive in the manger, sing this prayer. As we wait for Jesus to heal our sinful and broken world, sing this prayer. Advent prepares us for the holiday of Christmas, but the spirit of Advent will never leave our hearts as long as we continue to see the ways that God wants to restore us and save us through the light of Jesus’ face. Amen.

 

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