Old Testament: Isaiah 61:10-62:3 (Christmas 1: Series B)

Reading Time: 4 mins

It was because He wore all our ugliness and mockery on the cross that we have this great exchange.

What a fun and challenging text for Christmastide. Some might avoid using this text because they may have felt they just preached on it not too long ago. However, these verses are different in that the speaker in our text for today is different from the one in 61:1-3. Here, Zion itself speaks about the Lord “my God.” Zion responds with praise to the Lord for having cloaked her with His righteousness. Those whom the Lord wraps in this robe experience not only deliverance from unrighteousness and its effects, but also the strength from God to live it out. The Lord commands righteousness, and by His power He is able to provide it. In the first two verses of chapter 62, Jerusalem has become the city that draws the nations to her, as she was intended (2:1-5). The Servant/Messiah’s voice on behalf of the people is what gives them their hope and salvation.

Have you noticed how “Ugly Sweaters” are now a thing in our culture. It used to be a symbol of shame which we were obligated to doff once a year. Now this shameful holiday dress is highly sought after and filled with varied humor and satire. Strange that this Christmas fad is starting to grow on us as a people in a new way. In our text from Isaiah 61:11, it uses the illustration of a “garden” to talk about how God’s righteousness is sown and grown all by God’s activity and design. What a beautiful agrarian illustration to grow our understanding of the power of God’s revealed Word. I could not help, though, to think of the ugly clothes our first parents doffed in the Garden because of sin. These ugly clothes would not suffice to cover the mistakes of Eden. However, God had a plan to first cover over their sin with His grace and mercy (Genesis 3:21) and ultimately to bring forth a savior to clothe us in righteousness and salvation (Genesis 3:15).

This is exactly what our text is speaking of and the source of our contemplation and proclamation with it. Our reading connects the ugly events of Eden to the bitter sufferings of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. There, Jesus prayed and agonized over the cost of the righteous garment you received from His resurrection. Jesus agonized over the cost of death and damnation He would pay at the Cross the very next day (John 18:1, 26). It was in that same Garden where He would be arrested for a crime He did not commit, on our behalf. It was in a garden that Jesus would be buried (John 19:41), and it was in the same garden where He would rise again to  give us the salvation by which we can “greatly rejoice in the Lord, and that our soul shall exult in God, for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation; He has covered me with the robe of righteousness” (verse 10). Jesus, “whom we would suppose the gardener” (John 20:15), has traded our ugly, self-made sin for His spotless and eternal righteousness like a robe this Christmas season. It was because He wore all our ugliness and mockery on the cross that we have this great exchange.

Jesus, “whom we would suppose the gardener,” has traded our ugly, self-made sin for His spotless and eternal righteousness like a robe this Christmas season.

Perhaps revisiting Walt Wangerin Jr’s book, “The Ragman,” might be illustrative of what this can actually look like. But from swaddling clothes to empty grave clothes, He has given you what you could never have taken from the tree of the knowledge of good and of evil. For that great salvation we:

“...will not keep silent, and we will not be quiet, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch. The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God” (62:1-3).

What an excellent Christmas gift from the Lord’s Christ. It is one that you never need to return because Christ returned from the grave for you.

In this instance, a more thematic sermon structure could be helpful. For instance, the “Analogy Structure” could be useful:

“This structure introduces hearers to a theological topic by moving from the known to the unknown. The sermon is based upon an act of comparison as the preacher compares a topic that is familiar to the hearers but of secondary importance (i.e., the analogy or secondary topic) to the topic of primary importance that might be unfamiliar to the hearers (i.e., the main topic of the sermon). By doing this, the preacher moves from the familiar to the unfamiliar and allows the analogy to shed light upon the theological topic. Through a listing of the points of comparison, the hearers move from the known to the unknown. Analogical preaching sometimes includes objects and often is occasional, drawing the analogy from a recent and immediate experience in the lives of the hearers.


In this structure, the secondary topic needs to (1) be familiar to the hearers so that the preacher is not forced to explain two topics at once and the secondary topic might serve as a mnemonic device, (2) be of a different nature than the main topic so that it incites interest for the hearers in the comparison and (3) have a positive effect so that the hearers are not offended by the comparison. Also, the preacher needs to be aware that all analogies break down and thereby prevent his hearers from falling into that confusion, either by clarifying for them the limits of the analogy or avoiding development that would lead toward that error.”[1]


Additional Resources:

Craft of Preaching-Check out out 1517’s resources on Isaiah 61:10-62:3.

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Isaiah 61:10-62:3.

Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Isaiah 61:10-62:3.

Lectionary Kick-Start-Check out this fantastic podcast from Craft of Preaching authors Peter Nafzger and David Schmitt as they dig into the texts for this Sunday!


[1] https://concordiatheology.org/sermon-structs/thematic/analogy/