The Third Sunday of Advent is here! This day should be marked with Joy and Rejoicing. We have much to rejoice over because the King of Kings is drawing near, the Savior of the World is here. So take joy dear Christians, Christ has overcome the darkness.
Song: Lift Up Your Heads
Text: Isaiah 35
Hello and welcome to episode #3 of the Anno Domini Podcast. A podcast dedicated to the supremacy of Christ over all things including our days, weeks, and months.
Join me as we explore how Christ is revealed through the cyclical life of the church calendar year. We’ll discover how this calendar once structured culture and how it can again. We’ll also discuss practical ways to observe and celebrate these holy days in our quest to glorify God and live the good life in the midst of all good He has given us.
Welcome back to week 3 of our year-long journey of following the liturgical church calendar. My name is Joe Stout and I will be your host today. My wife and I and our 7 children decided to spend a year following the liturgical calendar. Since the church new year started on Dec. 1st 2019 with the First Sunday of Advent we are now at the Third Sunday of Advent which is sometime called Gaudete (pronounced GOW Day Tay) Sunday which I will explain my understanding of later. This day should be marked with Joy and Rejoicing. We have much to rejoice over because the King of Kings is drawing near, the Savior of the World is here. So take joy dear Christians, Christ has overcome the darkness. Just a quick housekeeping note that Christians are called to keep one holy day only and that is the weekly Lord’s day. These days, weeks, and seasons of celebration are merely intended as a way of worshipping God with our entire being and provide communal focus to our lives as one body in Christ. We worship together, rejoice together, weep together…the Church calendar provides an opportunity for this and nothing more. This is the new covenant and if celebrating Christmas or Easter or Lent afflicts your conscience then by all means abstain. We all get to spend eternity together celebrating whichever way you choose.
This podcast is divided into four parts. We start with practical ways to celebrate the holiday. We then move on to a biblical portion connected to the celebrated day chosen from the Lectionary, (see podcast #2 if you would like more information on the Lectionary). Our third section looks into historic ways in which the Church and our forefather’s have followed the calendar and the tools, traditions, and insight that has sprung from that. We finish the podcast with an in depth look at an ancient hymn that can be tied to the holiday.
Let’s get started.
On the practical side of Advent celebrations I’ve got to say that celebrating holidays is a ton of work. When we look at the plethora of ways the Jews angered Yahweh in the old testament we often see a refusal to celebrate his commanded feast days at the forefront. In other words, God told His people to rest or party or somehow tried to bless them by giving them good works to do, they complained, corrupted the work, or simply ignored the feast day all together. While I certainly don’t want to condone their sin, I can also understand why not resting or celebrating is tempting. There is usually a lot of preparation that goes into the feast or celebration. This can make it hard to want to obey because what we think of as a blessing is usually self centered. We want peace and quiet, we want to veg out, we want to do our own thing and not be hindered by intentionally resting. We can sometimes conflate resting and relaxing. While they seem similar they can reveal themselves to be very different in their acts. Relaxing is like taking a long shower or sitting in a hot tub. It requires nothing from you and only offers benefits. Resting on the other hand usually requires discipline. The Jews understood this as they set aside the Friday before Saturday as the Day of Preparation. They were preparing for rest that paradoxically required work to achieve. This is not unlike our own journey of faith. We are accepted by God through the blood of Christ and we respond to this acceptance with faith. This faith results in good works. Lots of them. Good works that God has planned out long before the world began. These good works culminate when our temporal life ends and our eternal life begins which is referred to as “entering His rest.”
So what is the difference between relaxing and rest? One requires nothing, the other requires work and obedience to something outside your own desires. With all that in mind our family of 9 found our celebrations of Advent while encouraging also not for the faint of heart. Celebrating the liturgical calendar should not be thought of in merely a romanticized way. In other words, celebrating is work in a way and should not be only done when it feels nostalgic or postcard-esque. We continued our nightly celebrations by turning out the lights and then marking some way in which our own lives are dark without Jesus. We are constantly reminded of the victory of the gospel as each night another candle is lit and the darkness flees a little more as we approach the birth of our Lord.
The lectionary passages this week are Isaiah 35 which we will be discussing. Our psalm will be 146, our epistle will come from James 5:7–11, and our gospel reading is found in Matt. 11:2–15. In keeping with the theme of the last two weeks we will look at the passage from Isaiah 35. Let’s read it now, remember this is the very word of God.
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;
it shall blossom abundantly
and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
the majesty of our God.
Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down,
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
And a highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Way of Holiness;
the unclean shall not pass over it.
It shall belong to those who walk on the way;
even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.
No lion shall be there,
nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
but the redeemed shall walk there.
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain gladness and joy,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
In Chapter 34, Isaiah has been prophesying some pretty grim destruction on the people and the land of Edom. But now in Chapter 35 and new hope is foretold. It is promised that the wilderness will no longer be in sorrow but will be glad and shall blossom and rejoice with joy and singing. The ground, cursed not only by the Edomites but by the sin of Adam will begin to reverse with the coming of the King. Just as the Christmas carol promised “no more let sin or sorrow grow or thorns infest the ground. He comes to make His blessing known far as the curse is found.”
Verses 3 through 6 speak of the work that will be done in that day. Weak hands will be made strong, knees that are shaking will be made firm, anxious hearts are calmed, blind eyes are opened, deaf ears are unstopped, lame men will go about leaping, and the tongue of the mute will sing for joy. Does this remind us of anyone in particular? Was there perhaps a new Adam who was both fully God and fully man who set about on earth with this work in mind? A mind to accomplish what the first Adam could not? You see the first Adam plunged the garden into wilderness and His rebellion cursed the ground. The second Adam watered the wilderness and made it bloom once again. On the day of His resurrection, When Mary, seeing Jesus, assumes Him to be the gardener. She wasn’t wrong at all. Christ is the true Gardener the one who is making the wilderness bloom again. This passage ends with the promise that the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing and that everlasting joy shall be upon their heads. We are promised that these ransomed will obtain gladness and joy because the sorrow and sighing that was previously a part of their life will flee away. This Joy is both something in our hearts that we experience and it is the Savior of the World, Christ.
As I alluded too in the opening of the show the 3rd Sunday of Advent is regarded somewhat differently that the first, second, or fourth. As a church we have called this day Gaudete (GOW day tay) Sunday because the historic passage read publicly during this day of worship has always been Philippians 4:4-6 which begins with Rejoice in the Lord always. The ecclesiastical latin word for Rejoice is Gaudete and therefore the theme surrounding this day is one of rejoicing. Interestingly the gospel reading shows John discouraged or perplexed in prison sending word via his disciples to Christ asking if He was the one promised. Jesus responds encouragingly that the words of Isaiah are being fulfilled. By extension we can say that he was building up the broken hearted. Building them up with what? Joy of course.
One note before we jump into this weeks hymn is that I am getting this podcast up very late in the week because I’ve spent an enormous amount of time getting the album that will contain all of the songs we’ve been discussing and that we will discuss in coming weeks finished and released. Well the good news is that it has been released to all the major streaming services such as Spotify and iTunes and should be available on those platforms in the next few days. If you would like to listen to and download it now, I also have it available for free on my bandcamp profile page. I will have a link in the show notes that directs you to the music. There are six songs in all two of which were highlighted in episodes 1 and 2 and 4 additional songs as of yet unheard. I hope you are blessed by them and I will be glad to get a break from working on them now that they are finished.
Okay back to the topic at hand. The last two weeks we’ve examined ancient hymn from the 4th century. This week we are going to jump ahead over a 1000 years to a german hymn written in 1642 by Georg Weissel. The translated title of the hymn is “Lift up Your Heads” and while originally in German, was translated by the very prolific hymn translator Catherine Winkworth in 1855. Let’s get a look at the words.
Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates,
Behold the King of glory waits;
The King of kings is drawing near,
The Savior of the world is here;
Life and salvation He will bring,
Wherefore rejoice and gladly sing:
We praise Thee, Father, now!
Creator, wise art Thou
The Lord is just, a helper tried,
Mercy is ever at His side,
His kingly crown is holiness,
His scepter, pity in distress,
The end of all our woe He brings;
Wherefore the earth is glad and sings:
We praise Thee, Savior, now,
Mighty in deed art Thou!
Oh blest the land, the city blest,
Where Christ the ruler is confessed!
Oh happy hearts and happy homes
To whom this king of glory comes!
The cloudless sun of joy He is,
Who bringeth pure delight and bliss:
O Comforter divine,
What boundless grace is Thine!
Redeemer, come! I open wide
My heart to Thee—here, Lord, abide!
Let me Thy inner presence feel,
Thy grace and love in me reveal,
Thy Holy Spirit guide us on
Until our glorious goal is won!
Eternal praise and fame
We offer to Thy name.
This hymn is set around Psalm 24 which describes that the earth and everything in it belongs to God and so we should be reading for the coming of the King of Glory. We sing that the Savior of the World is here. What a wonderful thought, God set out to save His elect but that elect includes eventually, all of creation. No not everyone will be saved. Many will reject Him but many more will come to Him and unto salvation. With this salvation and life that He brings, and with the keeping of the theme of this Lord’s Day we remember to REJOICE and sing with gladness for God is indeed wise. An oft used device in hymns writing is to conclude the song with a doxology to the Triune nature of God. This hymn takes a different approach and focuses the first 3 verses on the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit respectively. This first verse focused our praises on the Father.
The second verse, focused on the work of the son, describes Jesus as just and a helper. Mercy is at His side and He wears a crown of holiness and yet carries a scepter of pity or compassion for those who are in distress. He ends our woe and so the earth is glad and sings! Therefore we praise Him our savior who is mighty in deed.
Verse 3 begins by affirming the promise that the land and the city will be blessed where Christ is confessed as ruler. Oh how we need the reigning presence of Christ in our country and in the hearts of our rulers. I often hear Christians take the very secular argument that Christianity is a private relationship with Christ and therefore shouldn’t be brought into the public square. I couldn’t disagree more. Without Christ, our rulers have been driven insane by their own degeneracy with every imaginable lust of the heart and flesh. Without Christ as King our civic life can only exist for a time and then will come judgement. Happy hearts and happy homes are the vision for those to whom the King of glory comes and is received with Joy. The Holy Spirit of Christ is the cloudless sun that brings pure delight and bliss. Therefore we praise the Holy Spirit, here called the Comforter Divine for the boundless grace He bestows.
When I first played this song for Elizabeth, she was surprised by verse 4 as it sounds much more Evangelical than the previous 3 verses or any of the other songs we will be discussing. It focuses on the heart of the believer which is a very common theme in modern music. We sing asking the redeemer to come and abide in our heart. We ask that we might be able to feel his presence and to have His love in us revealed. We ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in our glorious goal of glorifying and praising Him during this earthly life and we promise our praise and fame to Him. Now shifting to sing to God about ourselves is certainly not bad. The psalms do it all the time and we shouldn’t be afraid to sing about us to God. However, I think it becomes an issue when the main focus of most of our worship is on us. Our devotion to God, our faithfulness, our feelings, our needs, our wants. These are important but need to be put in their proper place. In verse 4 after we have spent 3 verses giving God the glory due His name.
And with that I will go ahead and finish up by playing a new version of the nearly 400 year old hymn Lift Up Your Heads. Again don’t forget this is track 3 of the new album called Advent. You can go to the podcast website annodominipodcast.com and find a link to the album there or just check your favorite streaming service in the next few days and it should show up there as well.
I hope everyone has a Joyful 3rd Sunday of Advent and I will see you all next week.