Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Advent Midweek I

Advent Midweek I
“The Light of Christ Scatters the Darkness of Sadness and Despair”
December 2, 2009
Text: Is. 9:1-7

Beloved in the Lord, Jesus Christ is the Light of the world (John 8:12). Apart from Jesus Christ, the world is shrouded in the darkness of sin and its wages, death, temporal and spiritual, and eternal death in hell. Advent is about the coming of the Light that is Jesus Christ into this world of darkness. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).

Remember that the darkness itself is sin, original sin, the disease with which every one of us, as the children of Adam and Eve, is infected. We’re born that way. Two sinful parents always and only make sinful children. Our text, from the book of the prophet Isaiah (9:1-7) says that the people “walked in darkness” (v. 2; ESV). Not only do the people of the world live in a state of darkness, original sin, they, we, walk around in that darkness, which is to say we commit all manner of actual sins, “evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matt. 15:19), all the things that proceed from an evil heart. And it is these things, beloved, this walking around in the darkness, and the darkness itself, that cause us gloom (Is. 9:1), sadness, depression, despair. That is to say that gloom, sadness, depression, despair, are symptoms of those who grope around in the darkness, unable to find their own way, ignorantly slamming themselves into each other and into the walls, unaware of the dangers around every corner, the sheer cliffs, the monstrous demons, the sinister traps of the devil.

We sinners walk in the darkness of sin, which is the root of all sadness and despair. It has been said, probably correctly, that depression is the common cold of mental illness, which is to say, many if not most of us go through it at some time. And even those who have never suffered with depression must admit that all of us, without exception, go through times of spiritual and emotional discouragement, call it what you will. Oftentimes this sadness and depression is brought on by specific events, sins that we have committed, sins that have been committed against us. Broken relationships, illness, injury, death, loss, loneliness, all these things can cause very deep grief. Sometimes sadness and depression do not have a specific cause, but result from the overwhelming sense of the truth that we live in a fallen world and in this fallen flesh. And left to ourselves, this sadness and depression can lead to despair. Despair is the absolute loss of any and all hope. To despair is to give in to the sadness. To despair is to surrender to the devil without a fight. And of course, on our own, outside of Jesus Christ and His Light, we might just as well despair, because left to ourselves, the fight is hopeless.

Beloved, outside of Jesus Christ, we walk in utter darkness. And so sadness and despair should not surprise us. What else should we expect? But we should recognize this sadness and despair for what it is: It is the devil and his lies, trying to convince us that we are outside of God’s love, that the forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation are not for us, that God has forsaken us. Beloved in the Lord, nothing could be further from the truth. The good news of Advent is that “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” (v. 2). “(T)here will be no gloom for her who was in anguish” (v. 1). Why? “For unto us a child is born” (v. 7), Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Mary. “(T)o us a son is given,” the Messiah, the Christ, the very Son of God. “(A)nd the government shall be upon his shoulder,” for He is God in the flesh and possesses all divine authority. “(A)nd his name shall be called Wonderful,” miraculous, “Counselor,” the One who knows what is best for His people in all circumstances and directs all things for our benefit, “Mighty God,” coequal and co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit, “Everlasting Father,” with a love for His people that surpasses that of any earthly father, “Prince of Peace,” for He alone brings peace between God and man by His holy, precious blood and His innocent suffering and death.

This is the Light that breaks into our darkness. And notice what He does when He breaks in upon us, according to our text: He increases our joy so that we rejoice and are glad (v. 3). He lifts our burdens off of us, all those things that because of sin and the fallen nature of our flesh and this world weigh us down. He breaks the yoke of our burdens and the rod of all that oppresses us (v. 4). He defeats our enemies, the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh, and delivers us from death (v. 5). Our Lord Jesus Christ has come into the world to deliver His Israel, His Church, holy believers in Christ, out of darkness, into His everlasting Light.

Now, beloved, as those who have been brought out of the darkness and into His marvelous Light, we have true joy, joy in the Lord, joy that lasts, the joy of knowing that Jesus has conquered the darkness at its root, by crushing the devil in His death on the cross, burying sin in His tomb, ripping death to shreds by His resurrection, and ruling all things for the good of His people by His glorious ascension into heaven and session at the right hand of the Father. This is not to say that as long as we live in this fallen world and this fallen flesh we won’t have sadness. This is not to say that some of us won’t struggle with depression. This is not to say that all of those things that cause sadness and depression will not afflict us in this earthly life. But it is to say that we will not despair. Because walking in the Light of Christ, we have eternal hope in Him. Certain hope. Not the kind of hope for which there is any possibility of disappointment, but hope that knows its fulfillment now by faith and in the future at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ on the Last Day. So even in the midst of sadness, we have great joy. Even in the midst of depression we can rejoice. Christ has come. Light has dawned. That Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.

So you see, dear Christians, the answer to all sadness, the answer to every earthly affliction, the answer to all our problems is Christ Jesus, the Light that scatters the darkness. And the place to be in affliction and sadness is in the midst of that Light, basking in that Light. That Light shines on you through the blessed means of grace, the Word of God and the Sacraments. When you are sad, remind yourself, as Luther did, “I am baptized!” That is to say, the Light of Christ shines upon me… I am in that Light and that Light is in me. What can the darkness do to me? I am God’s own child, united to the death and resurrection of Christ! When you are sad, read again the blessed Word of the Gospel in Scripture. Hear it in preaching and absolution. For darkness cannot overcome the Light of the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins. When you are sad, come to the Supper of our Lord’s body and blood. For there Light incarnate, Light in the flesh, is placed into your mouths, bestowing forgiveness, life, salvation, joy. The Light has come into the world. That is what Advent is all about. That is what Christmas is all about. Jesus has come. The Light of Jesus Christ scatters the darkness of sadness and despair. Let not your hearts be troubled. Trust in God. Trust in Christ. He will deliver you. “Hence, all fear and sadness! For the Lord of gladness, Jesus, enters in. Those who love the Father, Though the storms may gather, Still have peace within. Yea, whate’er I here must bear, Thou art still my purest pleasure, Jesus, priceless treasure!” (LSB 743:6). In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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