Thursday, December 10, 2015

Second Advent Midweek Sermon: "The Great Exchange"

+ Advent Midweek Service 2+
December 9th, 2015
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
The Creed and Christ’s Incarnation: The Redeemer Wrapped in Our Humanity
Genesis 3:1-20; Galatians 4:4-7; Matthew 1:18-25

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

At Christmas we usually want our gifts to be thoughtful, elegant, or personal. But we’ve probably all attended Christmas party where people thought Christmas also happened to be a good time of the year to clean out their closet. You know the drill at these kinds of parties: traditional gifts are taken over by the ugly sweaters, surfing Santa figurines, or toy sheep that shoots M&Ms out of its behind.

You may find it fun or unfair. But it’s a gift exchange all the same.

Now, what do white elephants gifts have in common with Christ’s incarnation? According to our Scripture readings and Catechism selection this evening, a joyous word: exchange.
Christ’s incarnation is the greatest gift exchange in history.  

For the story of Christ’s incarnation is the story of his death and resurrection for you. Jesus takes all of your sin, punishment, and condemnation and, in exchange, gives us his righteousness, forgiveness, and life. You may think it unfair - and thank God it is! – but it’s a gift exchange all the same. For here, wrapped in our humanity is the one gift that really matters, and endures. Jesus becomes man for you. Jesus becomes your sin. And you become a son, and an heir of heaven.

What does this mean?

I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord. He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil.

Christ’s incarnation is the greatest gift exchange in history.

Although, there's twist. Unlike our parties with family and friends, we’re not the ones in the room with the best gifts to offer. Quite the opposite in fact. We come before Jesus carrying our old, worn out, ugly gifts. Our flesh, soiled with the filth of Adam’s sin. Our heart, harder than a rock and black as coal. Our thoughts and desires - scandalous enough to make even the Grinch blush. Yes it’s an unfair exchange alright. Even at Christmas, the only gift we can really give Jesus is our sin.

But here’s a Christmas miracle for you, Jesus takes your sin, joyfully. He doesn’t whine or complain that it’s unfair. Jesus gladly exchanges the ugliness of our sin for the radiance of his righteousness.

And just like Joseph, the meaning and joy of Christ’s incarnation must be revealed to us. We fail to understand this blessed exchange until God sends his messengers to shine the light of the Gospel into our hearts. Like Joseph, all we have to cling to is God’s Word. And here’s another Christmas miracle, you are given this Word and believe it, by grace, just like Joseph. God’s Word and water of your Baptism. God’s word of forgiveness in the absolution. The Word made flesh present with you and for you in the Holy Supper.

By grace, God’s Word was given to Joseph, and by grace, you hear his Word too.
And God’s Word comes us overflowing with the greatest news of all.

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.

Christ’s incarnation is the greatest gift exchange in history, and it’s all for you.
The story of Christ’s incarnation is the story of his death and resurrection for you.
And it is unlike any other story, for it is both beautiful and true.

God walked and talked, had thumbs, fingernails, and newborn baby smell. God cried, dirtied his diaper, and ate just like every other human baby in history. The Almighty God who has infinite, phenomenal cosmic power, chose the itty-bitty living space of Mary’s womb. In the God-Man Jesus, God was heard, seen, and touched. All so that God could die for you, God would know you as brother and Savior. His Name is Jesus, for he will save you from your sins. Jesus is our Emmanuel: God with us.

Jesus is our substitute who overcame where Adam was overcome, defeated the devil where Adam was defeated, obeyed the Father where Adam disobeyed…for Adam, and for all of you, sons of Adam and daughters of Eve.

One has the picture of a strong man trying to lift a very big, complicated burden. He stoops down and gets himself right under it so that he himself disappears; and then he straightens his back and moves off with the whole thing swaying on his shoulders…God really has dived down into the bottom of creation, and has come up bringing the whole redeemed nature on his shoulder (C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock, The Grand Miracle, p. 82, 87).

The word in Scripture for this blessed exchange is “redeemer”. To buy back. Jesus was born to redeem you, a lost and condemned creature, to purchased and win you from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil. And not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that you may be his own and live under him in his kingdom.

Is it unfair? You bet it is. But this is God’s gracious gift exchange for you. Jesus takes what we deserved and in exchange he gives us what we didn’t deserve, Jesus justifies the ungodly. Jesus declares the last to be first. Jesus welcomes, befriends, and saves sinners like us. Jesus exchanges our sinful flesh, Jesus drowns it in Baptism and sends the Holy Spirit into our hearts crying out, Abba! Father; out with the old, ugly garments of sin, and in with the new garments of Christ’s dying and rising for you. Jesus exchanges our heart of stone, and gives us a new heart that fears, loves, and trusts in him above all things, and loves our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus exchanges our wicked thoughts and desires for the mind of Christ, captive to his cross. Jesus exchanges our death for his life.

Oh come to us, abide with us, our Lord, Emmanuel. God with us. God who is one of us. God who is for us. God with us in our humanity. God with us bearing our sin. God with us in our suffering. God with us in our hurt, pain, and illness. God with us in death, and in resurrection.

There is no greater gift, no greater joy than Jesus, our Emmanuel. And so today, this season, and always, we rejoice with Joseph upon receiving God’s great gift exchange. And his joy is contagious.

It’s a boy! It’s a boy! And not just any boy…but the boy. The boy promised to Eve and all creation. The boy Isaiah foretold. The boy God said would crush the serpent’s head. The boy who lives, dies, and lives again. The Chosen One. Emmanuel. God with us in this manger. God with us in our flesh. God with us to save us.

Then, without hesitation, Joseph called his name Jesus, for he will save you from your sins.

For there in the crib and upon the cross lies God’s greatest gift exchange for you.

A blessed Advent to each of you…

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

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