We live in an era where people make promises every day and don’t fulfill those promises. So, no wonder people are cynical about promises that are made to them; they have been let down by public figures, church leaders, sport stars and even people in their own personal lives. You could say our era is one of disillusionment and discouragement, but who are we disillusioned with and who are we discouraged by? Maybe we are disillusioned and discouraged with ourselves, because once again we have allowed ourselves to be taken in by ordinary people who are sinful and flawed like us. 

We are not the first people to be disillusioned and discouraged by the era we live in or by the people in our lives. The problem is not with them it is with us because we have placed our hopes and dreams in the wrong place. Ancient Israel placed her hopes in the promises of sinful and flawed kings.

Those promises went unfulfilled. But God promised he would take back his kingship and the prophet Isaiah gave the promise to Israel, “Be strong, fear not! Here is your God he comes with vindication with divine recompense he comes to save you.” (Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10) Israel learned not to place her hopes and dreams in the empty promises of earthly kings and princes.  

Isaiah prophesied that we would be able to recognize that the promise that God gave through him would be fulfilled  by the signs of this good and just King. “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared: then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing.” (Isaiah 35:1-6a,10) When John the Baptist was arrested, he sent a message to Jesus through his own disciples, “Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another?” (Matt. 11:2-11) John the Baptist would have known of the passage from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah and when Jesus sends his message back to John, it is that passage which Jesus quotes, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.” (Matt. 11:2-11)

Jesus is identified as the Messiah by others through his public ministry; the signs that Jesus performed helped others see that God’s promise was being fulfilled through Jesus. Those signs point to Jesus being the King and Messiah. 

The people of Israel waited for generations for that promise to be fulfilled. The genealogy of the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 1, gives us the lineage of those people who had to patiently wait for the promised Messiah, “You too must be patient. Make your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand.” (James 5:7-10) We wait with patient expectation for the coming of the Lord in the fullness of his glory. 

But we do not wait with a passivity, rather Matthew gives us a means by how we will be recognized as disciples of Jesus. In Matthew 25, we are given the corporal works of mercy. Those works identify us in the same way Jesus was identified by his works. Those who live out these works of mercy among the least among us, are identified with Jesus.

The Third Sunday of Advent is known in the Latin as Gaudete Sunday, a day of rejoicing. We rejoice because our Lord Jesus Christ never leaves us disillusioned or discouraged. The promise God makes is fulfilled in Jesus Christ and lived out in our lives. “Those whom the Lord has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing crowned with everlasting joy; they will meet with joy and gladness; sorrow and mourning will flee.” (Isaiah 35:10)