Rejoice Evermore: The Lord Will Come Down from Heaven

Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11: The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; . . . I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels. For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.

Luke 1:46-54: And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy.

If we are among those who oppress others, among those proud of our social or political status or of the status we assume we have before God, or among those whose goodness must be legislated (whether by God or human beings), we ought to fear the vengeance of the Lord's coming, both his first coming and his second. But those who are afflicted or who mourn should rejoice, for the Lord came and comes again bringing them good news.

It is a commonplace that the word gospel means "good news," but like most commonplaces, the more commonplace it has become, the more obscured the depth of its meaning. This good news isn't just something pleasant to hear. It isn't merely pleasing. At this good news I rejoice as if it were my wedding day.

This is the good news of liberation from captivity to dejection, sin, oppression, mourning, and death. It is the news that a time is coming when righteousness will not have to be forced on us or legislated, but will come forth as naturally as the seeds in my garden next spring.

The coming of the Lord's justice and succor is so sure that Mary's psalm speaks of it as if it had already happened: God recognizes those whom we do not, and they praise him for the good things he does for them. In a time of political campaigning, it may be good to remember that he puts down those who rule with power and scatters those who have the arrogance to lift themselves up before others. He fills the hungry and sends the rich away, though we sometimes gather ourselves to the rich and deny the hungry.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24: Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.

Joyfully waiting on the Lord we must continue in prayer, in hearts turned toward God and eyes that see the world as his Creation, his gift rather than something merely at our disposal.

Paul admonishes us to be grateful, to live in a way that allows the Spirit to continue with us. His assumption is that the Spirit will dwell with me unless I cast him out. But how often have I cast him out by oppressing another, by my arrogance, by not imitating him in filling the hungry, by not living the life he commands?

Even as we pray and see the world through eyes given by God, we must not be naive. Our first inclinations may be to mistake the bad for the good. We may assume that the status quo or what we have always known or what is intellectually au courant is something to protect and continue. Paul asks us, instead, to test all things and to hold onto only those that prove to be good, letting go of everything else.

John 16:19-22: Do ye enquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me? Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.

12/8/2011 5:00:00 AM
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  • James Faulconer
    About James Faulconer
    James Faulconer is a Richard L. Evans Professor of Religious Understanding at Brigham Young University, where he has taught philosophy since 1975.