Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!”  Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.  He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young (Isaiah 40:9-11 ESV).
In the midst of the season of Advent and the Gospel readings concerning the end times, this past Sunday’s readings give us a bit of a “breather” so to speak. Christ’s Second Coming to judge the living and the dead has terrifying aspects. From wars and famines to earthquakes and hurricanes, the descriptions of the signs of the end of the world leave us filled with fear. Even more so, as we observe the very effects of living in a world seemingly hurtling toward destruction. Even Christ Himself, coming in power on the clouds, judging and sending people off to hell, seems terrifying in His role as judge.
We are right to fear a judging Christ. We sinful human beings have every reason to fear a righteous, almighty God. We have fallen short of His standard of goodness time and time again. We have lusted after that handsome actor or beautiful actress. We have relied on ourselves or our spouses over and against God’s provision and work for us. We have spoken harshly about our neighbor. We have disobeyed our parents and despised their counsel. We have despised God’s Word, and skipped out of church on Sunday. We have murdered our neighbor in our hearts. Out of our mouths have come curses and angry words. We are deserving, surely, of the terrifyingly righteous, almighty, immovable condemnation of God’s judgement.
However, this past Sunday reminds us that Yahweh’s might comes in other ways as well. It comes in the might of a Shepherd, who takes His strength and His mighty arms and uses them to fend off the enemy, and to lovingly carry His flock. He uses His quiet strength to lead and to guide, to bind up and rescue. The coming of this loving Shepherd is heralded with joy and thanksgiving. Even as the world around us rages, we are gathered into our Shepherd’s loving arms and His mercy, grace, forgiveness, and life is proclaimed to us in the waters or our Baptisms, the absolution spoken by our pastors, and the body and blood placed into our mouths. For the Baptized children of God, His mighty hand comes in grace and mercy on account of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Lord is mighty to save, and for that we give thanks.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus Christ, You are the righteous Judge, teach us to repent when we go astray, but as our Good Shepherd, lead and guide us into eternal life so that we may stand before You in joy on the Last Day; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.