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 12, 2012

Advent Midweek II



Advent Midweek II: Blessed Is Everyone Who Fears the LORD
December 12, 2012
Text: Psalm 128

            Since we’ve established that there is no such thing as the perfect family Christmas by the Norman Rockwell, or even the Clark W. Griswold, definition, let’s just give that idol up to be washed away by the blood of the Savior, Jesus Christ.  There is no perfect family Christmas because there is no perfect family in this fallen world.  We can’t manufacture the perfect family by our own striving and effort, certainly not by staying away from the Lord’s House at Christmas in the interests of “family time.”  Family is God’s gift to us.  God establishes the family by His Word; His Word in Eden as He joined our first parents in holy matrimony, His ever-creative Word today as He joins husbands and wives together and blesses them with children, provides for the widow and the orphan and the stranger among us, and sets the solitary in a family.  The Christian family… Not the perfect family, but the Christian family… is a family of sinners who confess their sins and live in the blessed forgiveness we have in Jesus Christ, who died for us, and has been raised from the dead.  So we gather around the very same creative Word by which we were brought into being and placed in a family, and by that Word God sustains us and nourishes us for life together.

            Psalm 128 was sung by families as they made their pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  A song of ascents, it was called, for the family sang it together as they began the daunting climb up toward the holy city.  Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD,” they sang.  Blessed is everyone… who walks in his ways!” (v. 1; ESV).  What does it mean to fear the LORD?  It means to honor Him, to revere Him, to worship Him.  Which is to say, it means to have faith in Him, to have Him as your God.  And having Him as your God, you will walk in His ways, live your life in connection with His Word.  To have this God as your God is to be blessed, as the Old Testament pilgrims sang.  And to be blessed, beloved, is to have this God be for you, to love you, to save you, to direct all things according to His gracious will for you, for your good.

            v. 2 speaks God’s blessing upon your work.  You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands.”  You, yourself, shall be blessed and kept well in the Lord’s keeping.  This is a precious promise for those whose work is dangerous or difficult, for those who find their work mundane and sometimes think it meaningless, for those having trouble finding gainful employment, for those whose working years are behind them.  Notice, the Lord here simply promises your work will be blessed.  He doesn’t say how.  He doesn’t say that it won’t be struggle.  He doesn’t say how you’ll feel about it.  To pray this verse of the Psalm is a confession of faith that God will do with your work what He will do, and that He will provide for you, that your daily bread comes from Him, that you are blessed and well because you are in His hands.  To make such a confession is to fear the Lord.  Blessed are you.  He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for you, to redeem you, how will He not also along with Him graciously give you all things?  Do not be anxious.  Commend your work to the Lord for His blessing.  Do your work for Him, and not just when the boss is looking over your shoulder.  He has called you to be His hands and feet in the world.  He provides for His people and for your family through your work.  Rejoice.  You are blessed.

            vv. 3-4 speak of God’s blessing upon the family, appropriate for families singing the Psalm together on their way to the Jerusalem Temple, appropriate for us singing this Psalm together as we gather around the new and greater Temple, God in the flesh, Jesus Christ.  Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table” (v. 3).  The one flesh union of husband and wife is the vehicle by which God, through His creative Word, brings forth children, expanding our own families, as well as the family of God, the Church.  The blessing of God upon Noah and his sons and their wives in our Old Testament lesson is to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Gen. 9:1), even as God established His covenant with Noah and his offspring after him (that’s us!), the bow in the clouds which reminds God and us that, not only will He never again destroy the earth with a flood, but He is our God, who is for us, and has promised to be gracious to us.  God blesses husbands and wives with each other and with children.  Marriage is a good thing.  Having children is a good thing.  We must always confess this over against a culture of commitment-free sex, over against a culture of death.  Marriage and children are God’s blessing to us.

            But what about those who never find “the one” and get married?  What about those scarred by divorce or marital unfaithfulness?  What about widows?  Orphans?  Children conceived out of wedlock?  Couples who can’t have children?  Children or spouses who are abused?  Is it that this blessing does not apply to them?  Not at all, beloved.  This blessing is precisely for them.  This blessing is precisely for you, no matter what the dysfunction in your family, no matter what the sin that has made your family and your life a shipwreck, not matter what you’ve suffered at the hands of your family members.  Blessed is the one who fears the LORD, who clings to Him in faith, who walks in His ways, according to His Word.  Here is the promise for you.  The Lord will set you in a family.  God gives you family.  God gives you friends.  God gives you community.  Maybe not in the way you expect.  Maybe not in the way you would prescribe.  But He has promised never to leave you, nor forsake you.  He surrounds you with His love.  He surrounds you with His Church.  There are children here present who need you.  We all need you.  And you need us.  We need each other.  We’re a family.       

Which brings us to vv. 5-6.   The LORD bless you from Zion!” (v. 5).  The LORD bless you from His Israel, His Church, as He does, by His Word and Sacraments, wherein He gives you His Son, the fruit of Mary’s womb, our Lord Jesus Christ.  The one who fears the Lord… The Christian family that fears the Lord… comes here to His Church to be blessed with His gracious presence for us, for our forgiveness, for our eternal salvation.  This place, where the Lord Jesus is with His Word and His body and blood, is the place of your spiritual prosperity all the days of your life, the place where God fills you with every grace and blessing.  This place is the place of grace for you and your children and your children’s children.  This place is the place where God bestows His peace in Christ, sins forgiven, eternal life.

Joseph knew this place.  He was a righteous man, looking for the salvation of Israel, the promised Messiah.  Joseph was a man who feared the LORD.  When God wanted to place him into a family, it took a little convincing, an angel appearing to Joseph in a dream (cf. Matt. 1:18-25).  Don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife.  Her child was conceived by the Holy Spirit.  You shall call His Name Jesus, “the LORD saves,” because He is the LORD, and He will save His people from their sins.  Your wife, Joseph, will be a fruitful vine who will bear the Savior of the whole world.  And you get to be His protector.  He needs you.  He needs a family.  You need Him.  You need a family.  You need a Savior.  So Joseph “took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son.  And he called his name Jesus” (Matt. 1:24-25).  Joseph’s work was blessed by the LORD.  The LORD blesses you from Zion, His Church, by the Child Joseph raised as his own.  In a family full of dysfunction, God brings forth the Savior of the world.  This Child, beloved, dwells in your family, too, to save it from its dysfunction.  Jesus comes.  He dwells with you, to save you from your sins.  Blessed are you.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

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