My sermon preparation has gotten more enjoyable since I now use Accordance, the premier scholarly bible tool for the Mac. At my fingertips are Hebrew, Greek, John Calvin ($30 upgrade from the base edition), Matthew Henry, NET notes, ESV cross references (free bible unlock with Scholar 8 option).
Here's something neat I found this morning as I studied my passage for Christmas Sunday (just trucking along chapter by chapter in Isaiah. It was next but as usual fits perfectly.)
Is. 33:24 And no inhabitant will say, “I am sick”; the people who dwell there will be forgiven their iniquity.
Calvin comments on this verse:
"It is also worthy of observation, that none but the citizens of the Church enjoy this privilege; for, apart from the body of Christ and the fellowship of the godly, there can be no hope of reconciliation with God. Hence, in the Creed we profess to believe in “The Catholic Church and the forgiveness of sins;” for God does not include among the objects of his love any but those whom he reckons among [he members of his only begotten Son, and, in like Immanuel’, does not extend to any who do not belong to his body the free imputation of righteousness. Hence it follows, that strangers who separate themselves from the Church have nothing left for them but to rot amidst their curse. Hence, also, a departure from the Church is an open renouncement of eternal salvation."
Thus, we see that the blessing of being gathered to Christ's people is not to be taken lightly, and should not be shunned as is common among people who struggle to see Church membership in the Scriptures, since they believe the Invisible Church is the only church that matters.
In this Christmas season as we celebrate the advent of Christ, may we join together as the people to whom was promised Jesus, whose name means "He will save his people from their sins."