A sermon based on Isaiah 52:7-10
Monday, December 25, 2017 – Christmas Day
I've got a confession to make. It's mildly embarrassing and a bit disturbing. And it's this: My feet are gross. As pretty as the rest of me is, they're surprisingly unattractive. :) With black church socks, I get fuzz between my toes. My toenails are fungal. They're yellow and look like they're turning into talons. My heels are dried and cracked. And a podiatrist once told me that there's not really much I can do about it unless I want to put lots of expensive creams on my feet several times a day or take an internal medication that would cause more damage to my liver than healing for my feet. So, I haven't done anything about it. I just have gross feet.
In fact, I think that feet are gross in general. Not too many people have pretty feet. Not too many people have sweet smelling feet. But today, this Christmas Day, we're going to talk about… of all things… feet.
In the text that we'll consider this morning, the prophet Isaiah wrote about feet. He wrote about beautiful feet. But they weren't beautiful because they were fungus free with well-trimmed nails or because they were clean and sweet-smelling. But they were beautiful feet because they carried the messenger who brought good news. And this Christmas morning, we rejoice in the beautiful feet in our lives. Our text is found in Isaiah 52:7-10…
7 How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!" 8 Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy. When the Lord returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes. 9 Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. 10 The Lord will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.
Feet are gross. They're often smelly and dirty, calloused and cracked, fungal and foul. I was going to do a PowerPoint slideshow here to prove my point, but then thought, "I don't want to ruin everyone's Christmas." But if you agree with me and think feet are gross, can you imagine how disgusting they must be to God, when you consider all the places our feet have taken us?
Even if you haven't used your feet to kick the dog or punt the cat, to stomp on a rival gang member, or walk out of a bank you've just robbed… Still, your feet have walked right into conversations that you knew would be full of gossip and slander. They've stormed out of the room after you've selfishly screamed at a family member. You've used your feet to run into trouble and to shuffle off quietly into the background when someone needed to stand up for the truth. Your feet have tripped up as you fall into sin again and again. And they've staggered around in your sinful folly.
And as a dad it all reminds me of the country song by Billy Currington, Walk A Little Straighter Daddy, which says in the refrain: "Walk a little straighter, daddy, you're swaying side to side. You're footsteps make me dizzy and no matter how I try I keep tripping and stumbling. If you'd look down here, you'd see. Walk a little straighter daddy. You're leading me."
How gross our feet must be to God. Gross enough that we deserve to hear him say, "Keep those filthy feet out of my house!" We deserve to be forever excluded from his heaven and expelled from his presence.
Now, I don't know what Isaiah's feet looked like, but I imagine that walking around in a mostly dusty, sometimes muddy Middle East land with open toed sandals, left his feet looking a lot like mine. Nevertheless, his feet were beautiful. Likewise, those shepherds that had probably stepped in some sheep droppings, then ran off to see Jesus in the manger, and ran off again to tell people what they heard and saw… well, I'll bet their feet were pretty sweaty and gross. But their feet were beautiful too. Their feet weren't beautiful because they just had a pedicure. But the feet of Isaiah, of those shepherds, my gross feet, are beautiful because of the message they bring.
Imagine this: You're in a dark, dank prison cell. Tomorrow you will either be executed, in which case the jailer with his big, black, steel-toed boots will come to get you and take you to your death, or you will be set free, in which case your pastor will alert you and escort you out of the prison. Now imagine there's no window in your cell, but there's a small gap under the door. So in the morning, you hear footsteps approaching and you can't help it, you just have to know who's coming, so you drop to the floor and peer under the door to see if it's those big, black boots. And instead of black boots, you see my fungal toenails in flipflops approaching your prison cell. My feet, as gross as they are, would be beautiful to you, wouldn't they? See how your perspective of feet would change based on the news that they bring?
Isaiah's feet brought him to the Israelites to proclaim the law, yes, but especially the gospel message of the rescue God would bring about for his people. The shepherds' feet brought them to anyone in Bethlehem who would hear the good news that God had taken on human flesh to carry out his soul-saving work and bring peace on earth and goodwill between God and mankind. And my feet brought me over here and up these steps to preach the good news to you, that you are released from your prison cell, that you have been rescued from hell, that…
"Your God reigns! …the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God."
And you have seen it in the baby born on Christmas day, taking on human flesh, eyes, ears, finger, and yes… feet and toes. The God who created the cosmos, didn't get around by teleportation. He didn't fly around like Superman. He didn't even travel by car or bicycle! But he chose to confine himself to the ground, to walk around from place to place on sore, tired, dusty, dirty feet. What a miracle—the incarnation—where God took on human flesh and human feet!
And how did he use those feet? Well he always walked the straight and narrow path. He always went where God wanted him to go, whether it was walking up a mountain to teach his disciples or walking on the water to prove his divinity. And whether it was walking in the way of the Ten Commandments, perfectly keeping them for you and for me, or walking the long difficult road to Jerusalem where he knew he was to die, he did it all for us.
He showed his humility and love when refused to have his feet washed by someone else, but instead washed his disciples' feet. He showed his love for us when his feet carried him and his cross up the hill called Golgotha and when he let those feet be nailed to the cross to take the blame and the punishment for our every sin and to take our sin away.
Now, I doubt Jesus' feet, calloused and cracked, with the spit and the dirt and the sweat and the blood all caked to them were a pretty sight to look at. But, ah, dear friends, what beautiful feet! They are the very feet of God! They are the feet that rescued us! The feet that marched into hell and back victorious! The feet that walked out of the tomb three days after his death!
And because of those feet, "…the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem… and all the ends of the earth [have seen] the salvation of our God." We are forgiven of every sin. We are at peace with God! (If you'll pardon the pun, he used his soles—s-o-l-e-s—to save our souls—s-o-u-l-s.) And because of those feet we know that our feet will be in heaven someday soon, where the fungus will be gone, the cracks all healed, the toenails will be perfectly restored when we get our glorified, perfected bodies for all of eternity!
And now we look to the sky as we wait for him. His feet were the last part of Jesus that his disciples saw as he ascended into the sky and was hidden by a cloud. And since he promised he'll come back in the same way that he left, his feet will be the first thing we'll see when returns to take us to glory. "When the Lord returns to Zion, [we] will see it with [our] own eyes."
Now, use your feet to show your thanks to God. Offer your mind and your ministries, your treasures and your talents, your skills and your strength all to him. Offer your whole self to him, your soul and your soles, your feet included, as you pray to him, "Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for thee." (CW #469 v.2b)
Use your feet to stand in the back to hand out bulletins and to walk to the front to take the offerings as you serve as an usher. Use your feet to walk over to the church cleaning signup sheet in the narthex and sign up. Then use them to walk back and forth pushing a vacuum, a mop, or a broom. Use your feet to go for a walk with your spouse as you listen and give encouragement. Use your feet to chase after your toddler without yelling or screaming, but showing patience and love. Use your feet to walk across the street to help a neighbor carry in the groceries. Use your feet to do your job to the very best of your ability, not to get a promotion, but to give glory to God.
And most of all, use your feet to carry you into a conversation that gives you the opportunity to share the message of Christmas: That God became man and took on flesh, even feet, to walk the way to the cross, and have those feet nailed to it ,to take away your sin and theirs. Share with them how, "…the Lord has comforted his people, [how] he has redeemed Jerusalem… and [how] all the ends of the earth [have seen] the salvation of our God."
And it doesn't matter if your feet have a fungus, if your toenails are yellow, if your heels are dried and cracked. As you go share that message, your feet will be truly beautiful. They'll be as beautiful as Isaiah's and as beautiful as the shepherds! For, "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!" In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen.