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Archive for December 3rd, 2018

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“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

What do you want for Christmas?  Reminds me of Miss America contests and the question, What do you want for our day and time? “World peace.” A church member asked me once, “Pastor, what do the 4 Advent candles mean?”  I told the fellow member I don’t know and she rather dogmatically stated what they stand for Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. Hope, peace, joy and love are the first things we all want.  She really wanted hope, peace, joy and love.  A Roman Catholic priest, looking at the superficial slappy-happy, sentimental time that Advent/Christmas has become, suggested that the candles should stand for Death, Judgment, Hell, and Heaven!  The last things. The Lord of hope, peace, joy and love went through the last things first, death, judgment, hell  to bring us to Himself and one day to heaven.  Notet hat the First two Sundays point us to the last things:  His triumphal entry to die or the otherGospel reading, His coming again to judge the quick and the dead.

  • When we have been deeply touched by death and the fear of it, or sickness and sorrow,  to start talking about “your best life now” is a slap in the face of a soul in distress. 
  • When we have done wrong, thinking we got away with something bad ‘scot-free’, the Lord’s just judgment is cast aside…but it doesn’t go away. 
  • When someone says, “there’ll be hell to pay”, it means what you did results in the punishments of hell.  This is true, “… we deserve Thy temporal eternal punishment” and equally it is true:   The Lord wills no one to be in hell but to bring us to His mansions.

And yet, we still want the first things first, love, joy, peace, …without pain or struggle, without the Cross, without judgment, without His hard birth. Even His birth has the patina of sentimentality. Joy is not the synonym of sentimentality.  Wanting the first things first, then two things happen:  when we are in the throws of doubt and wrong, then seeing everyone else Facebook happy can cause a deep sorrow and depression:  what’s wrong with me?  Or when we think and feel, “everything’s going my way”, then Hey, I must be pretty good, and I turn my back to the Lord:  I did it!  Both are bad, but the second, self-righteousness is worse because we think my good deeds save.

The sobering quote from   Reformed theologian H. Richard Niebuhr is apropos, 

“A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.”

But we are not without sin and that’s the point of His Advent. The Lord must reckon with that and He has.  The last things do come first, then in joyful repentance we accept our death sentence as true and see the true Lord born in a feeding trough (manger) through His death on the Cross. We accept His just judgment of wrong. We cling to His crib, His cross, His righteousness. The Lord is our righteousness.   Only then do we receive the gifts of Peace, Joy, Hope and Love. The Lord went through the last things and will in the end of all things. The Lord’s last things make the first things last, otherwise it’s all tinsel, and Santa and sleighs and chimneys. A fantasy Santa comes the chimneys but the real Lord came down from heaven and went up on the Cross.  

The Church celebrates the triple advent (or“coming”) of Christ.

First is the advent into flesh, which is despised and humble before the world, of which Zechariah 9[:9] says, “Behold, Your King comes to you, gentle and poor, sitting upon a donkey, on a colt, the foalof a beast of burden,” [cf.] Matthew 21[:5]. The second is the spiritualadvent, which happens daily into the minds of the righteous, since He is present constantly with the Church, hears her, helps and consoles her,concerning which Christ said, John 14[:18]: “I will not leave you orphans, but will come to you.” Again, [v. 23:] “If anyone loves Me, We will come to him and make Our dwelling with him.” The third advent of Christ is His glorious return to judgment, concerning which Isaiah 3[:14] says, “The Lord will come into judgment.” And Matthew 24[:30] says, “And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with much power and majesty.” It is useful always to consider these three advents of the Son of God—into flesh, the minds of the righteous, and for the last judgment—and to have them set forth in the Church for stirring up faith in minds, invocation, and the fear of God or repentance.St. Augustine says thus on Luke, “This time is called the Advent of the Lord for good reason: so that every believer will prepare himself and mend his ways,so that he may have strength worthily to celebrate the nativity of his God.”

—Lucas Lossius,+1582  (From:  The Treasury of Daily Prayer,Concordia Publishing House)

Lossius says  His second advent is  in the “mind”.  Initially, I was taken aback by that but not when we consider that the theme of Advent is repentance and repentance in Greek means “change of mind” and so mend our ways.  We spend much time in preparing our houses, our tables, our church building for Christmas, which is fine but not to the point we forget the real preparation:  our hearts, souls and minds, for without the cleansing of  our souls in His grace for sinners then the rest is just show.

“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Similar to what the angels sang for shepherds to hear and heaven and earth: Glory to God in the highest.

 “Let every heart prepare him room”, we will sing this Christ Mass, as we proclaim His death until He returns… the third and final Advent.  Come, Lord Jesus. Feed on His Word in His feeding trough, manger,this week in the Church. The Apostle Paul’s prayerful benediction is for us as well:

11 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13 so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

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