Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Sermon: Wednesday of Advent 1 (Ad Te Levavi)

3 December 2008 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Mark 13:24-37

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

How different are our Lord’s two advents! At the first Christmas we see a newborn baby, helpless and vulnerable, completely under the protective care of His mother, lying in a manger among the food for beasts. He comes meek and mild, not offensive to anyone, no-one trying to place Him on a cross, no-one seeking to silence the words of the Word.

Well, almost nobody.

King Herod, the servant of the devil, was indeed trying to snuff out this true King of the Jews whose very existence proved that Herod was a pretender.

Like the evil Pharaoh before him, Herod resorted to the vilest of low conduct, to the most base of cowardly acts, the most unthinkable depth of depravity imaginable – to order the murder of newborn children.

Even while in the womb, Satan and his demons sought the Child’s destruction. For the meek and mild would grow up to be strong and potent. The vulnerable and helpless One, through his helplessness on the cross, would turn the devil into the helpless one, crushing his head with a mortal blow that is a true coup de grâce, a blow that results in grace given to all mankind.

For the devil knew full well what we all know – the baby Jesus did not remain a baby.

Satan’s attempt to tempt the Son away from the Father was an epic failure. Satan’s attempt to use an ambitious and selfish bureaucrat like Herod to snuff out the life of the infant Christ, though resulting in bloodshed, was also doomed. Satan’s use of the scribes, Pharisees, priests, and another effeminate Herod – in league with the Pilate, the governor of the realm of the Caesars – likewise failed miserably. For in dying on the cross, our Lord defeated death and gave us life.

Satan could not hold Him in the tomb, could not keep him from proclaiming His victory in Hell, could not prevent Him from rising from the dead, was impotent against the sending out of the apostles with the Holy Spirit, and still is helpless to thwart the divine plan to proclaim the Gospel around the world.

And this is where we are today, dear brothers and sisters. Even as we are surrounded by the purple of the season, by trees and lights, by Advent hymns in the church and by Christmas carols in the world. It seems that even the stones are unable to hold their silence and refrain from shouting “Hosanna!”

And though we look back in time to the baby Jesus, flesh of our flesh, the helpless One given to us to be our Brother and Savior, we also look forward in time, and into eternity, to the conquering Jesus, flesh of our flesh, the mighty One given to us to be our Judge and our Advocate.

And how different that event will be!

Instead of a bright star leading the magi to the Holy Child, we learn that the sky will darken, stars will fall, as the Holy God-Man comes in the clouds with “great power and glory.” Instead of angels coming to see Him, “He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven.”

This earth, to which our Lord came to redeem us, will be destroyed. “Heaven and earth will pass away,” but the Word of the Lord endures forever! We are to be watchful and sober, for these are not trifling matters. As we watch the world crumble around us, fall deeper into evil and chaos, descend into a state where good is deemed evil and evil treated as good, as life is disregarded and where the murder of infants is not only tolerated but celebrated, as the roles of male and female that not only made all of us possible through procreation, but also made our blessed Lord’s incarnation possible, are reversed and distorted – it is easy to lose hope.

But this, dear friends, is the time to have hope! All of this has been prophesied. For even when it looks like the devil is turning things to his advantage, we know that he has already been defeated. He is in his final desperate days, awaiting his final destruction in the lake of fire. And we can see the signs coming, even as we can read the seasons by looking at fruit trees budding and blossoming with new life, re-emerging from the dead of winter and the dreariness of dormancy. No matter what passes away, no matter what we lose, no matter what is taken from us – the Word of God “will by no means pass away.” God’s Word is eternal, it abides, and it pleads for us in the Person of the Babe of Bethlehem.

But for the time being, we, like the children of Israel, must watch and wait. We know the days are short, and we know that the time of our Lord’s Advent is at hand. Listen to our Lords words: “Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.” He is telling us not to drop our guard, to remain ready. For at a moment’s notice, He will appear to usher in the end of time. The time to repent is now. The time to be immersed in the Word of God is now. The time to live in your baptism, in daily repentance, in the life of confession and absolution – it is now!

Our blessed Lord is tipping us off. Hear Him: “Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning—lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!”

Let us keep watch, remain vigilant, and rejoice in just how close our redemption is! It is as close as the flesh and blood that lay in the manger, that hung on the cross, and that descends upon our altar in a miraculous communion for us to eat and drink. It is in this Holy Sacrament that we can indeed “watch” – for the Word made flesh who prepares us to watch for Him, is already here with us!

Let us be watchful and repentant, even as we prepare for our Lord’s victorious Advent, singing:

Lift up your heads ye mighty gates!
Behold, the King of glory waits.

The King of kings is drawing near;

The Savior of the world is here.

Life and salvation He doth bring;

Therefore rejoice and gladly sing.

To God the Father raise

Your joyful songs of praise.

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


Anonymous said...

Wow, now we're REALLY being ecumenical! Isn't that mosaic from the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception powerful?
The glory and majesty of Christ vividly portrayed.

Great comments, Father Hollywood.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Christl:

Thank you, and you're absolutely right. It's a powerful icon of our Lord indeed. One blogger called it "Scary Jesus." I guess it's the corrective to "Buddy Jesus" and is certainly more compelling than "Touchdown Jesus". ;-)