Cruce Tectum

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

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Second Sunday in Advent

Second Sunday in Advent (C)
December 9, 2012
Text: Luke 3:1-20

            Prepare the way of the Lord” (Luke 3:4; ESV).  The Lord is Adventing, He is coming.  (M)ake his paths straight.”  How?  Repentance. The coming of the Lord calls for repentance.  Examine yourself.  Search your heart deeply, thoroughly.  Be honest.  Are you the person God has made you to be?  Do you love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength?  Do you love your neighbor as yourself?  Consider your place in life according to the Ten Commandments.  Have you had other gods before the one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?  Have you feared, loved, or trusted other things or other people more than God?  Have you honored His Name as you should in doctrine and life?  Have your worship and prayers faltered?  Consider the questions Luther bids us ponder in the Small Catechism: “Are you a father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, or worker?  Have you been disobedient, unfaithful, or lazy?  Have you been hot-tempered, rude, or quarrelsome?  Have you hurt someone by your words or deeds?  Have you stolen, been negligent, wasted anything, or done any harm?” (St. Louis: Concordia, 1986).  Confess your sins, beloved.  Name them before God.  No more hiding because you are naked and ashamed.  Name the sin so that it might be dealt with, forgiven, in the cleansing blood of Christ.  You are not the person God has created you to be.  You were born in the image of Adam.  You are a sinner.  God has given you new life in your Baptism into Christ, and so now you live each day in that Baptism, which is to say, you live a life of daily repentance, a life of daily crucifying the Old Adam, the old sinful nature, examining yourself, confessing your sins, clinging to the Absolution, the forgiveness of sins, emerging and arising from the Baptismal waters as a new creation in Christ.  How do you prepare the way of the Lord?  Repent.  Confess.  I forgive you all your sins in the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.
            St. John the Baptist came proclaiming a Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  The last of the great Old Testament prophets, St. John was the forerunner of Christ, and his Baptism the forerunner of Christian Baptism and Holy Absolution.  St. John was the voice of one crying in the wilderness, in the place of desolation and death, the place of Israel’s testing and Jesus’ temptation, where Adam and Eve and Cain were exiled, east of Eden, the physical counterpart of the spiritual condition in which we find ourselves apart from Christ in this fallen world.  We’re parched.  We’re starving.  We’re dying.  We’re dead.  God sends His prophet there, where we are, with a word, God’s Word.  It is a Word of life for those in the midst of death: The Lord is coming.  He sends His Word on ahead, but He is coming in the flesh, right here, in the wilderness, where you are, because you cannot come to Him.  He is coming to raise you from the dead.  But first you need to know that you are in the wilderness, and that you are, in fact, dead.  That is the preparation.  If you don’t know you’re dead, you won’t believe you need a resurrection.  If you don’t know you’re a poor, miserable sinner, you won’t believe you need a Savior.  Thus the Holy Spirit must come and do His alien work upon you, holding His holy Law up to you as a mirror, so that you can see the ugly truth, and die to it.  In this way, the Holy Spirit brings you to repentance.  No one wants to do this kind of self-examination.  No one wants to come face to face with their own wickedness.  But as any twelve-step program will tell you, the first step is admitting you have a problem.  Beloved, repent.  Prepare the way of the Lord. 
            It is God who prepares you by the preaching of His prophet and His pastors, Law and Gospel, repentance and forgiveness.  In this way every valley is filled and every mountain and hill made low, the crooked becomes straight and the rough places a plain (v. 5).  The “Valleys may be said to symbolize weakness of faith, discouragement, lack of trust in God’s promises” (William F. Arndt, The Gospel According to St. Luke [St. Louis: Concordia, 1956] p. 110).  These, once exposed, must be filled in by the preaching of mercy in Christ and the certain hope of redemption.  “The opposite extreme would be pointed to by hills and mountains – haughtiness of spirit, pride of intellect and heart, presumptuous judging of God’s will and criticizing His ways.”  Such spiritual pride must be leveled by the preaching of God’s Law.  “The crookedness and the roughness… are apt designations of sinful conduct, taking a person away from the straight, smooth path of God’s commandments.”  Beloved, repent.  Confess.  Be forgiven.  For you, along with all flesh, shall see the salvation of God (v. 6).
            After John has preached repentance, after we have examined ourselves in the mirror of God’s Law and been convicted of our sin, shown our death, then Luther says we must follow the long, bony finger of St. John as he points to Another.  I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (v. 16).  Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).  Having come to a full realization of who we are apart from Christ, St. John now points us to Christ as the once for all atoning sacrifice for our sins.  The Lord comes, there, into the wilderness, to rescue us from it, to save us from sin and death, to bring us into His Kingdom and give us eternal life.
            He is the Word made flesh, full of grace and truth, sent from the Father, to dwell among us, to save us from our sins.  The Lord comes.  He Advents.  For us.  For you.  For me.  For all people.  Prepare the way of the Lord.  We spoke last week of our Lord’s three-fold coming: His coming in the flesh as Mary’s Son, to save us from our sins by His life, death, and resurrection; His coming again on the Last Day to judge the living and the dead; and His coming to us in the meantime in His Word, in Baptism, and in His true body and blood in the Supper.  Well, all three comings merit some preparation.  Of course, He has already come in the flesh as our Savior.  That’s history.  But it is a history in which God has graciously given us to participate in this time of Christmas.  Advent is the preparation for Christmas, the celebration of our Lord’s incarnation, His enfleshment, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and His birth in Bethlehem.  As the Church celebrates Christmas, we join our voices with the angels and the whole heavenly host, singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased” (Luke 2:14), as we receive the Christmas gift of God wrapped in human flesh and blood.  So also, Advent is a time of preparation for our Lord’s coming again to judge.  He will judge all people.  He will judge you.  We must always be ready.  He could come at any moment, and even if He delays, you could die and stand before His judgment seat in the blink of an eye.  So we must prepare.  Repent.  Believe the Gospel.  In Christ, His judgment of you is “righteous” with His very own righteousness.  And to prepare us for His coming as Judge, our Lord has given us His Word and His Sacraments, by which He really and bodily comes to us to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  But this, too, merits a little preparation.  Particularly, St. Paul tells us to prepare for the Lord’s Supper.  Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Cor. 11:28).  Examine yourself.  Confess your sins.  Repent.  And also ask yourself what you believe.  Do I believe that God forgives all my sins on account of Christ?  Do I believe that my salvation comes from Christ alone, by grace alone, without works?  Do I know that here in the Supper, under the bread and wine, my Lord Jesus Christ gives me His true body and blood, in my mouth, for the forgiveness of my sins, my eternal life, and my salvation?  Such preparation is very important.  For,” as St. Paul says, “anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself” (v. 29).  Prepare the way of the Lord. 
            And recognize this: It is really God who prepares you, by the preaching of His Word.  You cannot do this by your own reason or strength.  His Spirit comes to you in His Word and enlightens you with His gifts.  He prepares you, right here, right now, in the preaching of His Word.  He kills you with His Law (repentance).  He brings you to new life by the Gospel of forgiveness of sins in Christ (faith).  So it is that you prepare the way of the Lord this Advent and in all your Christian life by receiving the gifts of the Lord in His Word and Sacrament here in His Church.  Now, it isn’t always pleasant.  Here there is Baptism with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  The Law of God burns.  It scorches.  It kills.  It calls you a brood of vipers.  It exposes your sin and God’s wrath.  But God does not leave you dead in His wrath.  He applies to you the blood and death of the Lamb of God who takes away your sin and the sins of the whole world.  And this brings you to new and eternal life, so that even now, you can go and live joyfully in your vocation, giving yourself sacrificially, knowing that all your sins are forgiven and that you belong to God.  Are you a father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, or worker?  God has made you for this purpose.  Go and love and serve, as Christ has loved and served you.  For your Lord comes to you.  Your eyes have seen His salvation.  Follow the long, bony finger of St. John as he points you to your Savior, Jesus Christ.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.    


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