Cruce Tectum

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

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Advent Midweek 1

“God’s Love Covers Me with Christ”[1]
Advent Midweek 1
December 1, 2010
Text: Jer. 23:1-8

The LORD our God demands perfect righteousness from His people. For whatever is not righteousness is sin, and our holy and righteous God hates sin. He cannot abide sin. He cannot abide sinners. And that is a problem. For we are sinners. We are not righteous. We do not live up to the holy and perfect standard of God’s righteousness. We live only for the self. We are self-centered creatures. We are born this way, to look out for number one, to look first to our own safety, welfare, comfort, and pleasure. Scratching our own itches is a matter of first importance to us, satisfying our own twisted hunger, our perverted desires. And so, when weighed in the balance of justice and righteousness, us on one side, and the commandment of God in the other, we are found severely lacking. We stand condemned. God help us. For He alone can.

And He has. That is the good news proclaimed in our text this evening. There is no question, we cannot help ourselves. Once we’re no longer righteous before God, we can never be righteous before Him again in and of ourselves. And we’re sunk from the beginning, because we are born of sinful flesh, sinful children of sinful parents, tracing our lineage of corruption back to our first parents, Adam and Eve. We’re born sinners before we even have a chance to sin. “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps. 51:5; ESV). Sinful from conception. No, there is no righteousness in us. But the Lord has regarded our plight. In compassion and mercy, He has given us a righteousness from outside of us. He sent Jesus, our Messiah, our Savior, as He declares through the mouth and the pen of the Prophet Jeremiah: “And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness’” (Jer. 23:6).

“The LORD is our righteousness.” Jesus is our righteousness. That means that we are no longer weighed in the scales when God judges us. Jesus stands in for us. He is our substitute. And He is perfect. He is perfectly righteous with the righteous perfection of God Himself. He is God, in the flesh. God loves us so dearly, He sends His Son. He sends His Son to live the perfect life that we unrighteous ones, we sinners, cannot live. He sends His Son to die our death, the punishment for our sin, in our place on the cross. He sends His Son to be raised for us, for our justification, the proclamation of our righteousness, and our eternal life. And God has exalted this Jesus, the righteous Branch, the Son of David, to the heaven of heavens, to His own right hand, where He rules all things as God and man for the benefit of His people. This Jesus is our stand in. He is our substitute. He is our righteousness. Now when God looks at us, He no longer sees our sin, which has been paid for in full by the blood of Jesus Christ. Now God only sees the righteousness of Jesus His Son.

We are covered with this righteousness in our Baptism. There we put on Christ’s righteousness as a robe. Remember the scene in the Book of Revelation where the saints are coming out of the great tribulation of this earthly life? And one of the elders says to St. John: “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:14). In other words, they are covered by the Lamb’s blood, and by the Lamb’s righteousness. Because of the Lamb, they are now dressed in white, purity, holiness. Or as St. Paul puts it in Galatians, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27). To be baptized is to be clothed with Christ, covered with Him, so that your sin no longer shows, so that God looks at you and sees Christ’s righteousness.

Of course, the baptismal life is a life of daily battle. Because the righteousness is Christ’s, and not our own, we still have to battle against our unrighteous flesh, putting it to death daily by returning to our Baptism and drowning it there. This is called repentance, and it includes sorrow over our sins and our sinful condition, faith in Jesus Christ for forgiveness, and the fruits of repentance, which is to say, the resisting of temptation and a life of good works to the glory of God and in love toward our neighbor. Repentance is the way we prepare for Christmas. As we heard on Sunday, Advent, which means coming, is a season of preparation for the three-fold coming of Jesus Christ: His coming as the Babe of Bethlehem to die on the cross for our sins, His continual coming to us in the Word and Sacraments, and His coming again to judge the living and the dead. All three comings are matters of our eternal life and death. They are critical. So they merit a little preparation. We prepare by confessing our sins and being absolved, forgiven, by Christ our Lord Himself, by the mouth of His called and ordained servant of the Word, one of those new shepherds God talks about in our text. That is, at the most basic level, what repentance means. Confession and absolution. Which is always a return to Baptism, a drowning of the old Adam, a rising to new life in Christ. In that new life we begin to do good works, never perfectly mind you, always needing repentance, but we begin, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in thanksgiving for our salvation in Christ. After all, if we are clothed with Christ, how could it be otherwise?

But our good works are not the perfect righteousness God demands. And thank God, they don’t have to be. For this is the Name of our Savior: “The LORD,” YHWH, enfleshed in Jesus of Nazareth, “is our righteousness.” We are free of condemnation. We have eternal life. And our righteousness, this Jesus, the Son of David, and Son of God, sits on throne. And He reigns forever and ever. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] Sermon series based on Rev. David Fleming, God’s Love at Christmas (St. Louis: Concordia, 2010).


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