Thursday, December 1, 2016

Advent Midweek Sermon: "Children of Promise"

+ 1st Advent Midweek Service – November 30th, 2016 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Isaiah 9:1-7; Luke 1:26-38

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

We often think of the Bible as one book, and in many ways, it is. And yet this one book is also full of many books, with numerous authors, in a variety of genres, delivered to God’s people through prophets and apostles. In many and various ways God spoke to his people of old by the prophets, but now in these Last Days, he has spoken to us by his Son.

Like the cords that hold together the pages and spine of a well-crafted book, God binds Holy Scripture with one little word: promise.

This Advent we’ll spend the midweek services hearing God’s promises to us in Christ from his prophet Isaiah. The book of Isaiah is often called the fifth Gospel because of the gracious, comforting, and life-giving promises declared by Isaiah and fulfilled in Jesus’ birth for you.

But this is no abstract, vague, or empty promise. No, when God promises you something, he keeps it; and more than that, God’s promises for you are tangible and visible. God wraps his promises to you in the stuff of his creation. Your ears hear the good news that you are forgiven all your sins. You are washed with water and the Word in Holy Baptism. Jesus feeds you his body and blood for the remission of all your sins in simple bread and wine.

Throughout Scripture, God makes his promise visible in the form of a child.

In Genesis 3, God promised Adam and Eve that a son would be born who would crush the devil’s head. In Genesis 4, Eve thought she gave birth to this promised son. But instead of crushing the serpent’s head, Cain chose to crush his brother Abel. And though Abel’s blood cried out to God from the ground, it was in vengeance, not the redemption. God’s promised Son was yet to come.

In Genesis 17, God promised Abraham and Sarah a son in their old age. Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. God kept his promise. Isaac was born. And after him, Jacob; and after Jacob, 12 sons; and Israel grew as God promised. But neither Isaac, nor Jacob, nor his sons after him would be Abraham’s offspring born to bless all nations. God’s promised Son was yet to come.

In 1 Samuel 1, Hannah prays to God in despair for a son. Through his servant, Eli the priest, God promised Hannah a son. Samuel grew up in the Lord’s Temple, in the presence of the Lord and dwelled there as a priest, declaring the Lord’s promises to the people of Israel. And though Samuel was a faithful priest, who served the Lord in his holy house, he was not the promised Son who would be the great high priest and make atonement for the sins of the world.

In the blood of Abel innocently shed, in Isaac through whom God’s promise to Abraham continued, and in Samuel the priest who served in God’s presence, we see a glimpse of God’s promised child, Jesus. The prophet Isaiah points us to God’s promised Son, Jesus.

For unto us a child is born,
    unto us a son is given.

Our promises are full of conditions, limits, and skepticism. “If you do this…I’ll promise to do that” or, “I promise…just let me do this first.” But not God’s promises. God’s promises are pure gift. No strings attached. No conditions, limits, or fine print. Jesus is born for you. Given for you. The Promised Son for you.

God’s promises are different from ours because he sends us a Son that is, at least in one way, far different from us. Unlike us and Cain, he had no murderous thoughts against his neighbor, but sacrificed his life for ours. Unlike Abraham and Sarah and us, he did not laugh or doubt God’s promises; he was and is a faithful Son for you. Unlike Samuel he did not need to make atonement for his own sin; but this great High Priest became the sacrifice for you.

God sent his promised Son to be born for you and me and for all because apart from God’s Son, we are not children of promise. We were dead in trespasses and sin. We lived in the passion of our flesh. We chase our sinful desires. We were by nature children of God’s wrath, enslaved to sin. We were not sons or heirs; we were outside the family inheritance.

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. 

God sends his only begotten Son to you, so that in Jesus’ cross, you are declared his own dear child. God became man so that man might become sons of God.
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
The Virgin Mary marveled: how can this be since I am a virgin?

We too find ourselves marveling at this mighty wonder. How can this be since I am a poor miserable sinner? What wondrous love is this? Why would God send his only begotten Son for such an impossibly stubborn and unworthy child of Adam like me?

Sounds impossible from our perspective and Mary’s. But nothing is impossible with God. Jesus’ incarnation is one small step for God and one giant leap for mankind. God becomes man to deliver man. God takes on human flesh to redeem you, make you holy, and take you home with him as sons, heirs, and God’s own children.

It is the blood of God’s Son, Jesus, that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. You are forgiven. Your sin atoned for. Jesus is truly your brothers keeper. Always.

Abraham’s greatest son, Jesus is the child of promise, born to be an everlasting King with you as his beloved citizens. And of the increase of his peace there is no end.

Hannah’s prayer for a son is fulfilled in the birth of God’s Son, Jesus. He is your great High Priest. Jesus intercedes for you. Jesus is the sacrifice for sin for you.

In this holy child, we who have walked in darkness see the light of his manger and cross where he was laid for you. In this holy child, all of us who dwell in the deep darkness of this fallen world receive Jesus who is the Light of the world, the light no darkness, no sin of ours, not even the thick darkness of death can overcome. In this holy child, you are all sons of God through faith. For God has sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, by whom we cry out, “Our Father”. You are God’s children of promise.

And the same Holy Spirit that worked faith in the heart of Adam and Eve, the same Spirit that pointed Abraham and Sarah to Christ, the same Spirit of the Lord who called Samuel and overshadowed Mary with the power of the Most High, is sent to you to point you to Jesus, to prepare your heart and mind to receive this infant King this Advent and every day until our Lord returns.

Let it be to us, according to your Word, O Lord.

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

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