Monday, December 2, 2013

Sermon for Advent 1: "Jesus' Advent in Glory"

+ 1st Sunday in Advent, December 1st, 2013 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series A: Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:8-14; Matthew 24:36-44

 In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come, that by Your protection we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and saved by Your mighty deliverance.

Come. That’s the word of the day. The word of Advent. The word of our Christian life. Come quickly, Lord Jesus. Jesus came in the flesh. Jesus will come in glory. Jesus comes in His body and blood.

Today the church year begins. Advent begins, a season of arrivals and preparation. A season of waiting and expectation. 

The world says: “Hurry up! Buy more. Buy now. Why wait? Only 24 days until Christmas.” And yet our Lord cries out to His Church: “Concerning that day or hour no one knows. Therefore, stay awake for you do not know the day of your Lord’s coming. Be ready, prepared.”
Advent is so much more than pre-Christmas. Advent is an oasis of patience and humility in a desert of consumption and self-indulgence. Advent is a season of hope and joyful anticipation in a world that celebrates and idolizes instant gratification.

In Advent we look forward and backward. Backward to Jesus’ first coming in humility – a Virgin mother, a manger, a home in Nazareth, no place to lay His head, the suffering Servant, the cross. And forward to Jesus’ second coming in glory – the shout from heaven, the archangel’s trumpet, the clouds, the judgment, the resurrection, the power, and the glory.

The first Sunday in Advent is a kind of “back to the future” day. We look backwards to Jesus’ teaching about the future. “For,” as St. Paul writes, “salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the Day is at hand.”

Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come.

But how exactly does the Lord’s power come? What are we praying for? The Lord’s power isn’t exactly safe. It’s like electricity. It can only be used with the proper means to handle it: cables, wires, plugs, outlets – you get the point. So too with the Lord’s power. It’s not safe to handle without the proper means, without a mediator. So, God hides his glory and power in earthly means for your good. Like Moses on Mt. Sinai, hidden in the rock from the glory of the Lord. Like the priests in the tabernacle as YHWH hid himself in the smoke and fire. Like the angels in Isaiah 6, shielding their eyes. Like the Israelites, who walked on dry land as the Lord’s power buried Pharaoh’s army in a watery grave. Or like Noah, hidden in the ark while the power of the Lord flooded the earth for 40 days and 40 nights. 

Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come. 

To pray that prayer is to pray against ourselves. It is to pray a death sentence on our sin. To pray for the drowning of our quarrelsome, jealous, drunken, idolatrous Old Adam. To pray that all our works of sin would be cast out. This is the power of God’s Law: it exposes our sinful heart of darkness; it kills and destroys all that stands between us and the Lord. And that is a good thing to pray for. Repentance is part of Advent. Keep watch. Stay awake. 

Like Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia, the Lord is not a tame God. But he is good. For there is another power of the Lord. 

Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come.The Gospel is the power of salvation for all who believe.” And this is a power unlike any other. This is not the Lord’s irresistible, raw power. But His power hidden, handled in the proper means: water, word, bread, and wine. This is the way of the manger and the crown of thorns and the cross. God’s power comes in weakness, humility, suffering, and death. 

So in our Advent lives we live like Elijah. For the Lord was not in the mighty wind or the earthquake but in the hidden, quiet voice of His Word. That Word who promises: “Behold, I am coming soon.” That Word who calls us to pray: “Come, Lord Jesus.” “Stay awake, for you do not know the day or the hour that your Lord is coming.”

To be sure, there is warning here. But there is also great comfort. Jesus is coming soon. And these aren’t the words of some crank on the street corner with a cardboard sign. These are the words of the One who died and rose again; and the sign over his head reads: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. 

Like Moses, you are hidden in the pierced wounds of Jesus. Jesus is your priest, robed in your humanity. Jesus is your sacrifice. Though your sins were as scarlet you shall be white as snow. Though you were a child of the darkness you’re a child of the Light of the world. Like Isaiah, your iniquity has been taken away at the altar. Your lips have touched the holy coals of Christ’s body and blood. Like Israel you are saved by the power of the Lord as your enemies of sin, death, and the devil lay in the watery abyss of the font.  Like Noah you are hidden in the holy ark of Christ’s church, kept safe from the raging flood. Kept safe by wood and nails and water. 

Want to know your future? Look back to the cross. Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, your sin.

And in looking backwards, we look forwards. Looking back to when Christ came in humility we look forward when he will come again in glory.

Advent is a season of watching and waiting. Our Christian lives during Advent – as in all seasons - are lived like those early mornings, just before the alarm goes off. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. It’s still dark, but there the dawn is piercing the horizon. You may feel like tossing the covers over your head, rolling over, and go back to sleep, but it’s time to wake up. Get ready! Your King is coming to you. Salvation is nearer now than when you first believed. 

After all, what are you waiting for, darkness or light? Condemnation or salvation? You are baptized. You are clothed with Christ. You are children of the uncreated light. Children of an endless Day. Your sin has been put away in Christ’s cross, buried forever in his tomb. Therefore live as a child of the light. 

Rejoice this Advent. Rejoice as we hear about our Lord’s coming in human flesh. His coming in Jerusalem to save you. His coming in glory to resurrect you. But rejoice that he comes even now. There’s a little bit of Advent in every Lord’s Supper. Stir up your power, O Lord, and come. And he does, hidden in bread and wine. His body is here for you, powerful to save and nourish your sin-starved bodies. Take, eat. His blood is poured out for you; it is His power of salvation to quench your sin-parched lips. Take, drink. Our Lord comes for you.

There’s no better way to celebrate Advent than to receive our Lord’s Holy Word and Sacraments. There’s no better way to prepare, watch, and wait than this Divine Service. No better way to await Jesus’ coming in glory than to be here, where Jesus comes for you.
Once He came; soon He comes.

Once He came by way of a Virgin mother; soon He comes with the angels.
Once He came by way of the crib and cross; soon He comes with the glory of heaven
Once He came riding atop a borrowed donkey; soon He comes with clouds descending
Once He came as a beggar King; soon He comes as the King of kings.
Once He came to die; soon He comes to raise the dead.
Once He came in weakness; soon He comes in power.
Once He came to be judged; soon He comes to judge.
Once He came to save us; soon He comes to give us salvation.

Stir up your power, O Lord, and come. Come quickly.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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