Cruce Tectum

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

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Fourth Sunday in Advent


Fourth Sunday in Advent (C)
December 23, 2012
Text: Luke 1:39-56

            We can almost taste it.  Christmas is almost here.  This is the last Sunday in Advent.  All four candles around the Christ candle are aglow.  Tomorrow is Christmas Eve.  We’ll all hold candles tomorrow night as we sing in the Savior’s birth.  God is giving us our Christmas gift all wrapped in flesh and blood and swaddling clothes, laying in a manger.  We can’t wait to open that Present in the reading of the Scriptures and the joyous singing of carols.  But not yet.  This is still Advent.  Christmas is almost here.  But we have one more day of preparation.  We prepare by heeding the words of John the Baptist, words we’ve heard throughout the season: Repent.  Continue to clean out the old sin that plagues you by confessing it and being forgiven in the Name of Jesus.  Fill in the valleys.  Bring low the mountains and hills.  Make the crooked straight and the rough places level.  Crucify the sinful flesh and live in the new life the Savior gives you.  Hear the Scriptures and the preaching.  Eat the Body of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, including your sin.  Drink His blood, the cleansing flood that brings you life. 
            In our text, St. John the Baptist can hardly contain Himself.  It is shortly before the first Christmas.  Mary comes to visit Cousin Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah.  Elizabeth, now an old woman, has also miraculously conceived and is carrying a child, none other than John.  And when Mary greets her cousin, the baby, St. John, leaps for joy.  By the way, don’t let it be lost on you that this is no clump of cells in either womb of either mother.  These are fully human babies at different stages of development, one already the Redeemer of mankind, God in the flesh, the other already the prophet who prepares His way.  John leaps for joy.  Already, in his mother’s womb, he makes his first prophesy.  He is in the presence of the unborn Savior, who speaks to him by the voice of the Virgin.  Elizabeth is aglow with joyous Advent anticipation.  Herself filled with the Holy Spirit, she exclaims with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!  And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord,” my precious, tiny little unborn Lord, should come to me?  For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy” (Luke 1:42-43; ESV).  Mother and child, Elizabeth and John, in word and in action, make the great confession: Mary’s Son is no ordinary child.  He is the Lord.  He is the Messiah.  He is the One who saves His people from their sins.  The fruit of Mary’s womb is none other than the Son of God.
            The arrival of the Son of God and His presence with us is cause for praise and confession.  John leaps.  Elizabeth exclaims.  And Mary sings.  The leaping, the exclaiming, the singing, are praise to God and confession of the Gospel at one and the same time.  The two go hand in hand.  Praising is nothing other than confessing the good things that God has done in Christ.  Thus Mary sings the Magnificat, which the Church continues to sing as a sacred canticle, especially in the office of Vespers and Evening Prayer.  Mary sings of the great reversal God effects in sending His Son.  He brings mercy to sinners.  He scatters the proud in the imagination of their hearts.  He brings down the mighty from their thrones and exalts the humble.  He fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty.  He helps His servant Israel, His people, His Church, in remembrance of His mercy.  He does what He has so long promised.  He sends His Son, our Savior.  Rejoice, rejoice, for Emmanuel, God with us, shall come to you O Israel, O Church of God.  Sing your praise and confess His glorious deeds to the world.
            And that is what we do as we sing our Advent hymns and Christmas carols.  Like John and Elizabeth and Mary, we leap and exclaim and sing the good news, the Gospel, that the Lord is come to save us from sin and death.  Joy to the world.  Let earth receive her King.  It is almost here.  The Savior reigns.  Repeat the sounding joy.  No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground.  He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.  All that sin has wrought, all that is fallen, all that is dying and dead, He comes to make new, to raise up, to bring to new life.  John couldn’t wait.  He couldn’t hold back his praise, even before he was born, even before Jesus was born.  Elizabeth couldn’t wait.  She could not hold back her confession that Mary’s Son is Lord.  Mary couldn’t wait.  She couldn’t hold back her song of praise to God for His great mercy in sending His Son.
We can hardly wait, either.  Like children who can’t wait to tear into the gifts under the tree, we can’t wait to proclaim that Christ the Savior is born.  And in some ways we don’t have to wait.  Because we celebrate Christmas every time we come to the Lord’s Supper.  Have you ever thought about this before?  Christmas is about the incarnation, the enfleshment of God.  In Jesus Christ, God is a flesh and blood man.  The Second Person of the Holy Trinity, God the Son, is conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary.  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” as the Christmas Day Gospel says (John 1:14).  We celebrate that and receive that reality in our mouths every time we eat His Body and drink His Blood in the Supper.  Every Holy Communion is a celebration of Christmas, because the God who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, who was made man, who was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, suffered, died, and was buried, and who, on the third day, rose again from the dead in His Body… This God gives us this very Body and the very Blood He spilled on the cross.  He gives us these Christmas gifts under the bread and wine of His Supper.  Why?  For the forgiveness of our sins.  They are tokens of our peace with God.  They are morsels of eternal life dispensed to us by Christ Himself.  They are the resurrected Flesh and Blood of Christ becoming one with us as the guarantee of our own bodily resurrection from the dead.
            Since that is true, how can you do anything but sing?  How can you not leap and exclaim, praise and confess this truth?  The Son of God comes in the flesh, to you, for you, to be yours, that you may be His.  As He called Zacchaeus by name, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5), so He calls you by name in your Baptism.  So He calls to you today in His Word, hurry and come, for I must dwell with you.  I must share a Meal with you.  I must become one with you.  I must dwell in your house.  I must dwell in your body and soul.  Today salvation has come to you with my presence.  Now you also are a son of Abraham by faith.  Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel has come to you, O Israel, O Church of God.
            Christmas is almost here.  Not quite yet.  It is still Advent.  And yet, Christmas is already the reality.  For today we will kneel and hear the Words of the Christ who has been born for us: “Take, eat, this is my Body… Take, drink, this is my Blood… given and shed for you for the forgiveness of all of your sins.”  And then He will do it.  He will put His Body, His Blood, into our bodies, the Christmas gift all wrapped up in bread and wine.  We can hardly wait.  We don’t have to.  Come, for all is now ready.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.   

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