Sermon Text: Advent 3B: Rejoice in the mystery of the gift.

December 12, 2020 Church Blog, Sermons, Sunday Message0
Sermon Text: Advent 3B: Rejoice in the mystery of the gift.

Advent 3B: Rejoice in the mystery of the gift

  1. This week is the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday in the old lectionary
    1. Gaudete means “Rejoice;” in what is historically a penitential season (Advent has been called the “Little Lent”) this Sunday is a day of joy
      1. The naming of day comes from the first words of the historic introit from Php 4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.”
      1. We light a pink or white candle instead of another purple or blue candle
      1. For a brief time, our attention moves from sorrow over sin and our need of a savior to celebrate the joy that the Messiah brings
      1. In the Church Advent is a season of anticipation and preparation for the gift of God to be revealed in the birth of the long-awaited Messiah.
    1. Advent is a season of anticipation and preparation in the secular world, too, though they don’t recognize it as that.
      1. What does the world do in the weeks leading up to Christmas – decorate, shop, travel, etc?
      1. It’s a busy time building up to Santa’s big day with gifts, lights, and trees, but devoid of any mention of the One for whom the holiday is named – Christ.
      1. For kids (grown up kids too) it’s a season of anticipation as excitement builds about the gifts: what am I going to get this year?
      1. It’s a season of waiting for the gifts to be revealed.
    1. But reimagine yourself as a child and your disappointment if the Christmas gifts had to stay wrapped,
      1. You’ve got them, but you don’t get to see them, they remain a mystery.
      1. It wouldn’t seem like much of a gift, if you don’t know what it really is or what it’s supposed to do.
      1. You’d never be satisfied; you’d always want to tear the wrappings off to see what’s inside – part of the joy is the joy of revelation.
  2. But with the gift of Christ, it’s the other way around, in order for the gift to be given it had to stay wrapped.
    1. Jesus had to veil His divine essence, become wrapped in human flesh, to reveal Himself as the God who had come to save His people.
      1. Our lesson from Isaiah is one of the clearest OT passages about the Messiah
      1. Speaking of our lesson Luther writes, “It is because of His humanity and His incarnation that Christ becomes sweet to us, and through Him God becomes sweet to us. Let us therefore begin to ascend step by step from Christ’s crying in His swaddling clothes up to His Passion. Then we shall easily know God. I am saying this so that you do not begin to contemplate God from the top, but start with the weak elements.”
      1. We rejoice in the mystery of the gift not the revelation!
    1. If you want to know who God is and what He does you start at the manger not in heaven because we can’t approach Him in heaven.
      1. Paul says in I Tim, “He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see.” (1Ti 6:15-16)
      1. As humans we have a desire to understand God from the top, in all of His glory, we want to start with the unveiled – like seeing who’s behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz.
      1. We want to unwrap the gift to reveal the mystery – just like kids on Christmas,
      1. But this season is a time to rejoice in the mystery of the Gift!
    1. Christ veiled His divinity at the incarnation, when He was born of Mary, the incarnation allowed God to approach us safely
      1. In the OT God used a number of coverings that allowed Him to approach His people, but they did not fully reveal His nature
      1. He appeared as a fire on the top of Mt Sinai, as a column of smoke by day and fire by night through the desert, in the glory cloud above the ark
      1. But none of these allowed Him to fully dwell among His people, there was always a separation between God and man.
      1. But at Christ’s birth, as Charles Wesley profoundly wrote in Hark the Herald Angels Sing, “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail the incarnate (in flesh) deity!”
    1. And our passage from Isaiah also clearly tells us what our incarnate God has come among us to do.
      1. Isaiah writes, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound
      1. Some argue that Isaiah was speaking about the message of reconciliation that he wrote for the captives in Babylon.
      1. But Jesus quoted this passage at the beginning of His ministry in Luke 4 in the synagogue concluding, “Today this is fulfilled in your hearing.”
  3. For most of the world including the Jews of His day this idea was scandalous
    1. Luke records their reaction upon hearing Jesus read these words, “Is not this Joseph’s son…And they rose up and drove him out of the town…”
      1. For them they thought they knew Jesus and His parents, it was an outrage to them that He claimed such an office for Himself
      1. He had grown up with them; He looked like an ordinary individual, there was nothing that appeared divine about Him
      1. That’s the scandal, the gift was wrapped, if He was all that He claimed to be shouldn’t there be thunder and lighting and an awesome display of power?
      1. But what did they see, a carpenter’s son from a backwater village claiming to be something He didn’t appear to be.
    1. And yet Christ IS the fullest expression of who God is that we can handle on this side of heaven!
      1. The writer of Hebrews says of Jesus, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.”
      1. Everything you need to know, everything that God wanted to reveal about Himself, is revealed in Christ.
      1. He became human to fulfill God’s Law perfectly as a human for all of us then die in our place on the cross for our sins that we would be forgiven for His sake!
      1. The great victory of God over sin, death and the devil won under the appearance of weakness and death
  4. That is the way that our Lord has always worked among His people, veiled to ordinary eyes, scandalous to sinful human thinking
    1. Just as the people of His day rejected Jesus because He was too common to be divine, so most people reject His work among us today.
      1. Our God is not content to dwell only in unapproachable light, He always comes near His creation to be with His people through ordinary means:  
      1. When we gather in His Name, He assures us that He is there among us
      1. He washes us clean and makes us His children through ordinary water at the font
      1. Even our Catechism asks, “How can water do such great things?” to which it answers, It is not the water indeed that does them, but the word of God which is in and with the water, and faith, which trusts such word of God… For without the word of God the water is simple water and no baptism
      1. Or as He delivers to your mouth His own body and blood veiled under ordinary bread and wine saying, “Take and eat this is my body…take and drink this is my blood.
    1. Resist the temptation to tear off the wrapping of your gift too soon, to peer behind the curtain – understanding will come in due time
      1. For now, let the words of Isaiah be yours as we wait, “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness.”
      1. The gifts of God given through ordinary means as He works His salvation among us – rejoice in the mystery of the gift!
Pinnacle Lutheran Church Advent Christmas