Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sermon: Wednesday of Rorate Coeli (Advent 4) - 2010

22 December 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Matt 1:18-25

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

The story of the coming of Jesus into the world is compelling, not only in its unique circumstances, but also (and especially) owing to what it says about the God we worship.

For all people everywhere understand that we came from something greater than ourselves. Even atheists understand that mankind did not create himself. Of course, atheists have convinced themselves that it is perfectly reasonable to believe that an entire universe can spontaneously spring into existence out of nothing apart from any Creator, while scoffing at the very notion of the one-time event of a virgin giving birth.

And while today, reproduction from cloning a cell is not only possible, but being done with animal life – what happened in 4 BC remains unique – a woman reproduced a child of the opposite sex and remained a virgin, and there was no-one with the technology to extract DNA from a cell. By a miracle, Jesus was uniquely born as the “Seed of the woman” prophesied in Genesis, and He became the Son, Immanuel, born of the virgin, prophesied by Isaiah.

For wise men and so-called prophets are a dime a dozen. Israel was filled with preachers and rabbis. But this Jesus took flesh in the poor virgin’s womb, and He reclaimed His flesh in the rich man’s tomb. This Jesus fulfilled all of the prophecies of the Old Testament. This Jesus baffled his friends and foes alike with miracles and wonders, with authoritative preaching and with the fulfillment of every sign and prophecy of the Old Testament.

But at this season and place, we focus on our Lord’s entry into our time and space. For before He was born, He was carried in the womb. And before He was carried, He was conceived. And Mary conceived by means of the Holy Spirit and the Word. For ultimately, that is how all life begins – the Holy Spirit is the “Lord and giver of life,” and it is the Word that creates all things with the solemn and explosive power of the Lord’s creative “Let there be…”

And yet this Jesus does not come into our world with a bang, big or otherwise, but with a whimper, with the tender wail of a newborn in search of His mother’s milk, her cradling, protective arm, and the nurturing warmth of her body.

For this God is not made known to us in time and space in His might, His sovereignty, or even His righteousness. Indeed, what is revealed to us first of all is the Lord’s willingness to be small and vulnerable. He becomes small so that He can join us in time and space, so He can speak to us in a voice like our own, so He can experience human life in its fullness, not from the outside, but rather from within. And He is vulnerable, a word that at its root means “woundable.” For that is what this virgin-born Son of God has come to do: to suffer, to be wounded, to bear pain, to shed blood, and to die – all for us.

For not only is this Jesus our Immanuel – “God with us,” He is also our Savior – “God for us” – the God who has come to our rescue, to our aid, to pull us up out of our tailspin into death and hell.

And He does this as a newborn of a poor single mother marked by scandal from even before she gave birth. Indeed, our “most highly favored lady” was nearly divorced by her betrothed as a way to cover her shame of being pregnant before marriage.

And it is Mary’s Son who has come to take away all of our shame – not only shame of the kind that surrounds unwed mothers, but the shame of every sinful thought, word, and deed by every sinful father, mother, and child.

For our Immanuel and Savior is also our Redeemer. Our sins become His sins – and they are taken by Him to death on the cross. His righteousness becomes our righteousness and is taken by us to life in heaven.

And this beginning all came to pass two thousand years ago in the miracle of the virgin birth, the angel’s annunciation, and the rapid events that would announce to the world that the Christ has come. And the world was forever changed in that one divine moment of virginal conception.

For we worship a God who loves, who forgives, who rescues, who redeems, who gives life, who allows sinners to repent, who calls, bids, and beckons sinners to come to the fresh waters of Holy Baptism, to the sweet words of Holy Absolution, to His truly present body and blood in Holy Communion, and to the live-giving Word of God in Holy Preaching. And in the birth of the Savior, we see this life-giving Word, this truly present body and blood, the sweetness of the Christ child, and the freshness of a new birth – all wrapped in a human bundle of swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.

Dear friends, this is what it means that Jesus is our Immanuel. He is with us. He is one of us. He comes to us again and again. He draws near to save us. And He has promised to be with us forever, world without end. Amen.

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

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