+ Advent Midweek 3 - December 19th, 2018 +
Isaiah 65:17-25; Revelation 21-22:5
Beautiful Savior Lutheran, Milton
Wouldn’t it be great... if that new car we bought didn’t lose its value as soon as we drive it off the lot? ...if the latest and greatest iphone or gadget wasn't already out of date the moment we bought it? If our favorite toy didn’t run out of batteries or break? If our knees, hips, and shoulders - or even their replacement didn’t wear out eventually?
“Oh well, that’s just the way it is,” we say. Except it wasn't always that way. Something has gone terribly wrong. Things break, rot, rust, decay, and die. Life isn’t supposed to be this way. The creation God once declared “very good” is full of terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days.
And so we long for healing. Rest. Peace. Reconciliation. We long for everything to be right again. For the mended world. We long for something new that will stay new. And this is exactly what our Lord promises in Jesus’ advent yet to come.
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create;
For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing,
And her people a joy.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
And joy in My people;
The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her,
Nor the voice of crying.
“No more shall an infant from there live but a few days,
Nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days;
Sadly, for many Christians, Jesus’ advent yet to come causes panic, dread, and despair instead of the peace, comfort, consolation, and rescue Jesus comes to bring.
So, whenever the End Times comes up, here’s a few quick questions you can ask yourself anytime you hear someone talking about Jesus’ return. Does it point you to Jesus’ promises or away from Jesus’ promises? Does it focus on Jesus’ word and works for you or man’s word and works? Does it give you comfort in Jesus crucified, risen, ascended, and returning or does it cause you fear, anxiety, and despair?
Panicked and afraid, that’s where we find Scrooge near the end of A Christmas Carol as he is met by the spirit of Christmas yet to come. This third messenger - a cold, dark, shadowy, phantom - stretches out his black-robed hand leads Scrooge onward. Pointing him to a sick, lonely, dying man lying on a bed. To a man’s wealth being plundered in death. And finally, to the cold neglected grave of a man who died alone.
Though this 3rd visitor never speaks a word, he reveals Scrooge’s brokenness. God’s Word comes to us in the same way, like the magic mirror in Snow White, only it reveals not our beauty, but the ugliness of our sin. For the wages of sin is death. And, as book of Hebrews says, we are held captive in slavery by the fear of death. This is what sin does, causes us fear, doubt, pain, suffering, sorrow, and finally death.
No wonder Scrooge was surprised when he woke up the next morning. He didn’t know what day it was. He only knew, to his astonishment, that he did not get what he deserved, earned, or expected. Just the opposite in fact.
Christmas changed everything for Scrooge, his past, present, and future – all made new by Christmas. He was no longer a greedy, grumpy, old miser. Now he was generous, joyful, and caring: a prize turkey for Bob Cratchit. A surprise visit to his nephew for dinner. Gifts of charity and joyful greetings. He simply couldn’t contain his joy. He was given new birth, a new creation. “I am quite a new baby” he rejoiced!
The same is true for us too. Christmas changes everything. The birth of Christ for us changes our past, present, and future. In Jesus’ advent past our sins are wiped away, blotted out, covered, cancelled, forgiven; you are redeemed, rescued, and restored. In Jesus’ advent present he comes to us, dwells with us, loves, heals, forgives, restores, and cleanses us, and calls us his children of the heavenly Father. In Jesus’ advent future we dwell safe and secure in the wounds and work of Jesus on the cross.
For Jesus’ advent past set the end of the world in motion. In Bethlehem the judge of the world arrived on the scene, but not as we expect. The face of our judge has a face, arms, and legs like us. His face will bear the blows we deserved. His feet will walk in the ways of the Lord for us. His arms will be stretched out to bear our judgment. For in Jesus our judgment day has already come. It has taken place in his own body on the cross. Jesus has borne it all for you.
The world begins to turn on its hinges in Jesus’ crib and cross. The one who comes to judge the living and the dead is judged for all, in our place…to save us all from Satan’s power when we had gone astray. Like Scrooge we did not deserve, earn, or expect this. And yet Christmas morning comes to change us all.
Behold, I am making all things new, declares our Lord. Christ’s birth changes everything for us, as it did for Scrooge. And so does Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and glorious return. On that Last Day we need not fear or despair. Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again. In Jesus’ advent future, he’ll call us from our graves and we’ll awaken to the resurrection like Scrooge on Christmas Day. Full of joy and new life, a new creation.
For…“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Indeed, in Jesus’ advent God has blessed us, every one!
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.