Sunday, December 3rd, 2023

Thy People Long to Greet Thee

Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God our Father through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. Let us pray. O Lord, send forth your word into our ears that it may bear fruit in our lives, in Jesus’ name, Amen. Well, you may have noticed that the celebration of Thanksgiving has grown over the last few years, last generation maybe. What used to be one day set aside for giving thanks has turned into a full weekend, and then some. It started with Black Friday, a day set aside to get a jump on your Christmas shopping, take advantage of all those door buster deals. For a while Black Friday was incredibly popular, a huge deal, although the popularity has faded somewhat over time. I don’t see as many news stories about people lining up outside of Walmart at 2:00 in the morning to get that TV. But it’s not just Black Friday is it? There is small business Saturday a day set aside to make sure you’re supporting your local mom and pop shop instead of just always going to the big box stores. Then there’s Giving Tuesday, the day to support charity, to support their work in the community, and of course cyber-Monday, cyber-Monday, the day of online promotions and deals beyond compare to match the growing popularity of online shopping in general. I don’t know if you participated in cyber-Monday this year. I know I’ve bought my fair share of stuff on Amazon, but it’s usually just on prime day, but let’s be real. I bought a lot of stuff off Amazon when it wasn’t prime day too. I don’t remember the last time I bought a book from an actual brick and mortar bookstore, ordered T-shirts, sweatshirts, socks, shoes, furniture. Just about everything I buy, anymore, I buy online somewhere, aside from groceries, and maybe the stuff that I get at Home Depot. I pretty much only shop online. I don’t know if you shop online, but if you do, you know there’s that window of time between when you click “complete order” and when you actually have the thing in your hand. When you click “complete the order” they charge your card, they draw the money from your account, the website or the vendor isn’t going to ship you something that you haven’t actually paid for, and so you have to pay first before you actually get the product. So, there’s this window of time where you own the thing which you ordered, it belongs to you, but you don’t actually have it yet, you’re waiting for it, you’re waiting for the day of its arrival, the day when you can hold it, or wear it, or watch it, or read it, whatever the thing may be. The time of waiting, and that’s the waiting that we observe during this season of Advent, that’s the waiting that marks our life as the children of God. It’s part of what we do during Advent, to set aside time to remind ourselves that our lives are lived waiting. So, Paul’s talking about the opening verses of his Epistle to the Corinthians, verses we heard just a few moments ago. He says, “I give thanks to my God, through Jesus Christ, for you, for the grace that was given to you in Christ Jesus.” Now when Paul uses the word grace in this way is usually using it as shorthand for the whole gospel, the full message of Jesus. He’s giving thanks for the work of Jesus, and for the gifts of the Spirit that had been given to the church in Corinth. The gift of forgiveness, the gift of a clean conscience before God, the gift of knowing that their worth in God’s eyes is not determined by their success or failure as Christians, but by the robe of righteousness that was given to them in the water baptism. He’s giving thanks for the gift of hope, the assurance of things not yet seen, the confidence that what is unseen now will be revealed one day when the Lord comes again in glory. Now in one of his sermons on this text, Luther commented that we, as the children of God, lack nothing except, this one thing, that blessed day when Jesus comes again, when He will reveal himself to us, with all the heavenly gifts that we now possess only by faith, things that are ours right now, even though we don’t see them fully, even though we don’t have them fully, just like the Christmas gifts you ordered off Amazon, but are still making their way to your front door. In the Large Catechism, Luther puts it like this. He says we’ve already received creation, we can look up there and see it, and redemption too is finished, Jesus has been nailed to the cross, has died and risen again for us. We have redemption but the Holy Spirit carries on His work throughout creation, without ceasing, until the last day, till the day Christ comes again. And Advent puts this reality squarely before our eyes. This is the season of preparation, this is the time of waiting, a season of reflecting on the coming of our Lord, the way He came to us as an infant, came into his own creation, even though His own received Him not. The way He continues to come to us today, the proclamation of His Word, the gift of his sacraments, and the way He will come again one day to take us into the new creation, to rescue us from the threatening perils of our sins, and to save us by his mighty deliverance. In the words of Luther, this is the one gift we have yet to have. This is the one that we’re waiting for. It’s already ours through faith. One day it’ll be ours by sight. So, until then we wait. While we wait, Luther says, we live here by the gifts and grace that we do have. We live in the gift and the grace of our baptism. We live knowing that God has set us free from the Egypt of our sin, through that precious water. We live knowing that He has brought us into the promised land of His Church, that He has cleansed the leprosy of our sin, that He has recreated us through the flood of those waters, and that through daily contrition and repentance, the old Adam in us is daily drowned and put to death, that a new man will one day emerge to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. That grace is already ours by faith, we live in it each day. One day it will be ours by sight. And we live in the gift and the grace of our Lord’s Holy Word. His Word of law that restrains our sinful urges, that reveals our sins to us so we might see our great need, that guides us in the way of Godly living, His word of gospel that proclaims the life death and resurrection of Jesus in our place for the forgiveness of our sins for the salvation of our souls. Luther says what more could we possibly desire than the knowledge that regards children through baptism, and the Word of God that we have in our hands, for our comfort and our strength and weakness in sin. And while I try not to make a habit of contradicting Luther, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also add the gift of the sacrament the Lord’s body and blood, given to us for the forgiveness of our sins, and the strengthening of our faith, the gift and the grace of the Lord’s Supper, the pardon and peace that He gives us in this sacrament, the gift of Jesus himself, come to us from this very altar. The body of Jesus among us, so that as He arrives here to deliver our salvation, we greet Him with the same exact words sung by the crowd in Jerusalem when He arrived there to win our salvation. “Hosanna. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” So, what was true of the Church of God in Corinth, is also true of the Church of God here at Grace in Albuquerque. Like the Corinthians, we are not lacking in any spiritual gifts, we have them by faith, and as we wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain us to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, we wait, with hope, we wait with confidence. Like the things you bought online, these spiritual gifts are ours today, even if we don’t possess them as fully as we will one day. What is ours now by faith, will one day be hours by sight. And we have confidence in this because, like Paul says, it does not depend on us, it does not depend on our abilities. It rests in the hands of God, and God is faithful, and none who trust in Him would be put to shame. So, this season of Advent, we are reminded that our lives are lived remembering the ways our Lord has revealed himself to us in the past, rejoicing in the ways He reveals himself to us today, and waiting for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ on the last day. And that last day will come, so rejoice, O daughter of Zion, and shout out loud, O daughter of Jerusalem. Behold your King comes to you righteous and having salvation. He comes to give you His righteousness. He comes to deliver to you your salvation. These things are yours already today, but how much better will it be on the day of delivery, when we see our Lord face to face, when He wipes away every tear from every eye, when He welcomes us into the Father’s house with its many rooms, when we celebrate the marriage feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom which has no end. So, stir up your power, O Lord and come, that by your protection we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sin, we may be saved by your mighty deliverance. In Jesus’ name, Amen.