+ Advent Midweek 2 – December 10th, 2014 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
“Jesus is Coming: The Hymns of Advent”
Once He Came in Blessing
Galatians 4:1-7; Luke 4:16-22
In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.
Ever notice how many hymns in our Lutheran Service Book begin with a confession of our sin? Quite a few.
Each Divine Service begins this way too. Before Jesus announces his advent in his Word, and before Jesus makes his advent among us in the Holy Supper, we prepare by confessing that we’re poor miserable sinners.
You won’t find that subject on any book shelf in any store these days, not with all the self-help-this, YOLO-that, and Every-day-a-Friday type books. Even in Christian bookstores you’ll never see a book titled: “How to confess that all our deeds are filthy rags.” Or “The Diary of a Poor Miserable, Loser and Beggar of a Sinner.” Now, that’s true and biblical…but it doesn’t sell.
Instead people say things like: “I’m basically a good person.” “Who are you to judge me, man?” “Yea, I visited a Lutheran church once…everything was great except for all that sin talk.”
People are fine with religion as long as they’re given a short, manageable list of rules to follow, it makes them feel good, and even better if God is kept at a distance. But talk about sin in in general or someone’s sins in particular and all hell breaks loose. We can’t handle the truth.
But without a clear teaching of sin, there can be no clear hope of salvation. If sin is merely a behavioral problem, then Jesus’ birth, life, and death are unnecessary.
To receive a proper treatment there must be a proper diagnosis.
Advent gives us both: Repentance and forgiveness. Because in Advent, Jesus comes to forgive you.
Listen to how this week’s hymn begins:
Once He came in blessing,
All our sins redressing;
Came in likeness lowly,
Son of God most holy;
Bore the cross to save us;
Hope and freedom gave us.
Sin makes us crooked. Everything is bent and curved inward upon ourselves: our thoughts, words, and deeds. Curved inward and away from our family members’, fellow Christians, and even the poor and needy in our community. Our sinful condition mirrors. Creation groans, man sweats, toils, and finally dies. The wages of sin is death. This fallen world is like the twisted, mangled forest of thorns in Sleeping Beauty. That’s what sin does it takes what is good in God’s creation and warps, distorts, and corrupts it. Sin is more than a flesh wound; it’s a fatal curse. We’re enslaved, as Paul says, to the elementary principles of this world: to the devil’s great lie: “you can be like god, you won’t die; you are free.” But it’s a trap. Everyone who sins is a slave to sin. The ancient dragon entices us with liberty but only shackles us in captivity and bondage to sin and death.
Hope and freedom are only found in Jesus.
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
Once he came in blessing, all our sins redressing. Redressing means to set something right. To remedy or repair, even to make atonement. This is why Jesus was born. This was the reason for his Advent in human flesh.
In Advent Jesus comes to forgive you. Jesus comes with something better than a true love’s kiss. To raise us from the sleep of death he joins us in our humanity. Love caused his incarnation. His love for you led him to the cross. The Prince of Peace is born in lowliness to die in lowliness to defeat the devil, and give you true freedom. Jesus dies in lowliness for your pride. He gives you his holiness in exchange for your dirty rags of unrighteousness. Jesus’ cross and death for your sin. Jesus is led captive by the devil, imprisoned in the grave to bring you resurrection, life, and forgiveness. The devil fell for the trap. Took the bait. Went after the wrong Prince. Jesus’ death is Death’s undoing. Jesus defeated the ancient serpent, crushed his head. The dragon is slain. You are free.
In Advent Jesus proclaims liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind. Jesus sets at liberty those who are oppressed. In Advent Jesus comes to forgive you.
Now He gently leads us;
With Himself He feeds us
Precious food from heaven,
Pledge of peace here given,
Manna that will nourish
Souls that they may flourish.
Advent is about Jesus coming. Though we celebrate Jesus’ first coming in human flesh, it’s not like we’re celebrating an annual baby-shower. Even at Christmas, we already know the end of the story. Jesus is born to die for you. It’s not bad to want to see Jesus. That’s our hope. But you don’t need a time machine to travel back to Bethlehem to see Jesus. By his Word, Water, Body and Blood Jesus is closer to us than he was lying in that stable giving Mary and Joseph googly baby eyes. In the Sacrament we have it better for we always have Jesus wherever his Word and Supper and Baptism are present.
In Advent Jesus comes to forgive you. Jesus brings you to a greater Bethlehem – a house of Bread – where simple bread houses his body for your forgiveness. The same blood that pumped through his veins in new born life, comes to give you eternal life. Jesus is laid in the greater manger of the chalice for you. In the Holy Sacrament the same flesh and blood born of Mary is now wrapped and swaddled in bread and wine for you.
The Lord’s Supper is Christmas for you. Jesus forgives you. The Word made flesh dwells among us in the lowly, yet glorious substance of bread and wine. The Eucharist is the best Christmas feast ever. Jesus is precious food from heaven given to you here on earth for your forgiveness; for the redressing of all your sins. Jesus’ body and blood are God’s pledge of peace for you. In Jesus’ death you are at peace. In receiving Jesus’ body and blood you eat and drink peace.
In Advent Jesus comes to forgive you. And not only by his body and blood. But also in the water and word of your Baptism, where you are wrapped and the swaddling clothes of his righteous death for you. And in the holy Absolution where the Prince of Peace declares good news to poor miserable sinners. You are forgiven all your sins.
In Advent Jesus comes to forgive you, and prepare you for his coming, as we sing in the last two stanzas of this hymn.
Soon will come that hour
When with mighty power
Christ will come in splendor
And will judgment render,
With the faithful sharing
Joy beyond comparing.
Come, then, O Lord Jesus,
From our sins release us.
Keep our hearts believing
That we, grace receiving,
Ever may confess You
Till in heav’n we bless You.
St. Bernard once wrote that “In the first coming, Christ comes in the flesh and in weakness; in the second, He comes in Spirit and power; in the third, He comes in glory and majesty; and the second coming is the means whereby we pass from the first to the third.”
Jesus’ advent and incarnation are best and most clearly celebrated among us in the Lord’s Supper. This is how we’re prepared for Jesus’ final advent in glory.
Joy in Christ’s advent in flesh. Joy in his advent in Word and Sacrament. Joy in Jesus’ advent in glory. And what joy that will be. C.S. Lewis once said that “joy is the serious business of heaven.” That’s heaven alright: a grand, never-ending, crowded banquet table full of joyous hymn-singing, a place where sin is no more, and the faithful enjoy eternal communion with Christ, the Lamb who is at the center of it all: the host, waiter, and meal. In Advent, Jesus comes to forgive you.
Come, Lord Jesus. Come in advent to forgive us. Come in advent to release us from our sin and death. Ransom captive Israel. Bring us home. And until then, keep us faithful, keep our hearts believing, our lips confessing, and our mouths rejoicing. Till in heav’n we bless you.
In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.