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Third Sunday of Advent—December 17th

Settle yourself into prayer and get ready to reflect on the Word of

And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became
obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that
is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should
confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:7b-11

“What are you waiting for? Christmas?” I sometimes heard that as a boy when someone was taking his or her sweet time. It felt like waiting for Christmas.

The first Christmas must have seemed a long wait for those in Old Testament times. From as far back as Genesis God had promised the world a Savior. His promise was followed by a long succession of prophets pointing to Messiah’s coming in the fullness of time. The people waited and the people prayed, “O Come, O come, Emmanuel.”

In today’s Scripture the apostle Paul writes as one steeped in the Old Testament’s promises of Messiah’s coming. He has pored over the prophecies of God’s Suffering Servant and His lowliness and glory. Now Paul draws on one particular prophecy of Isaiah. It is remarkable for its precise foretelling of the depths and heights of Messiah’s mission of world redemption:

See, my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high. Just as there were many who were astonished at him—so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of mortals—so he shall startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which had not been told them they shall see, and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate” (Isaiah 52:13-15).

In this striking passage we not only see Jesus’ suffering foretold, but also his resurrection, ascension, and enthronement at God’s right hand: “he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high.” Paul, along with other New Testament writers, sees in Isaiah’s prophecy God exalting His suffering Servant, Jesus, to heaven’s highest place (Acts 2:33; Acts 3:13; Acts 3:26; Philippians 2:9; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 8:1; Hebrews 10:12; Hebrews 12:2; 1 Peter 3:22).

But remarkably, Isaiah expressly foretells Jesus’ exaltation and His suffering as Jesus is “marred…beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of mortals.” Isaiah envisions Jesus as so disfigured in His flogging and crucifixion that He no longer looks human. The human form Jesus humbly took in His incarnation is now “marred…beyond human semblance.

Then, Isaiah proclaims that just as Jesus astounds the world by the horror of His suffering, so He will astound the world in His exaltation. Isaiah emphasizes that the kings of the earth will be struck speechless and “shut their mouths because of him.” They will be rendered silent contemplating Jesus’ suffering and rightful exaltation. All of the world will join the kings to confess Jesus as Lord to the glory of God the Father. That triumphant day may seem a long time coming, but it is coming! And we wait, and we pray!

Advent is a time of waiting and preparing for Jesus’ first Advent in Bethlehem. But it is also a time of waiting and preparing for His second Advent when He will be acclaimed Lord over all. Many people fear we are living in a post-Christian culture that is turning away from Jesus. And it can seem that even in this season for celebrating Jesus’ birth that He is often lost in the shuffle. But God has promised that a day is coming when every knee will bow and confess Jesus as Lord. Just as lowly shepherds and kings from the East bowed in silent worship, so we too will bow before Him. Our hearts will rejoice and celebrate as we sing, “O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!”


  • The apostle Peter explains the long wait for Jesus to come again: “The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). What implications might Peter’s words have for you as you await Christ’s return?
  • Take a few moments to reflect on our humble God being “marred… beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of mortals.” Talk with God about any thoughts and feelings that stir in you as you reflect.

“And now may he who so emptied himself that he was filled with all the
fullness of God dwell fully in us; may he raise, rule, and perfect us in all
holiness; to that end that, bowing before him with every knee both in
heaven and upon earth, and ever more calling Him Holy, Holy, Holy Lord,
we may be, in Him, to the praise and glory of the Father’s Grace Who
made us acceptable in the Eternal Son, world without end. Amen.”
P. T. Forsyth, The Person and Place of Jesus Christ

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