Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sermon -- 4th Sunday of Advent / Children's Christmas Service (December 21, 2014)

1 JOHN 3:1

In the name + of Jesus.

     If you are familiar with the King James translation of the angel appearing to the shepherds, you will remember the word, “Lo!”  And lo! The angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. (Luke 2:9)  The “Lo” is repeated in this verse from St. John’s first epistle, except it is a plural form.  Lo! and Behold! are supposed to get your attention.  Lo!  Behold!  Look at this, all of you! 
     Then St. John spells out what you are supposed to be paying attention to: See what kind of love the Father has given to us…. (1 John 3:1)  St. John does not merely say that God loves you.  That can mean anything.  We often use it to excuse ourselves for our sins.  “God loves us” could mean that God simply wants us to be happy.  Well, if cheating people so that I get a bigger commission makes me happy, then God must like it when I cheat people.  Or we reason that God really isn’t bothered about our sins because God is love, and love is love, and love doesn’t judge.  We confuse love with ignorance or permission or senility, somehow thinking that it is a comfort to have such a God who is careless or clueless—or both.
     It is not love to let people get away with anything or doing whatever they want.  Children who have parents who don’t care what they do realize that their parents don’t really love them.  Parents who permit everything don’t even care about their children.  They don’t care what consequences their children suffer.  Parents who truly love their children lay down the rules and enforce them fairly.  Love seeks their good, and that means having to discipline them.  While the children probably don’t like being disciplined, they do recognize that their parents care enough to watch out for their well-being.
     In the same way, God lays down the Law.  It may seem like you are getting away with whatever you want, but God does enforce his commandments.  You may not believe that until Judgment Day, but on that day even the determined atheist will know it.  Daily, your conscience testifies that God enforces his Law.  If you have to work that hard to make excuses for your sins, you know that you have no excuse.  And if your only hope is that God’s love means he will look the other way when you sin, you are fooling yourself and praying that hellfire will not burn.  Repent so that you will not perish in your sins.
     But lo!  See what kind of love the Father has given to us... (1 John 3:1)  That love is revealed in Jesus Christ.  Jesus came into the world to deliver us from the curse our sins have earned us and to soothe burdened consciences.  He became a child so that he could bear in his body the curse of sin, the wrath of God, and the death of the guilty.  Jesus does not buy your excuses; instead, he takes up all your sins.  He was duly punished in your stead.  He endured the wrath of God and died the death for all sinners. 
     See what kind of love the Father has given to us... (1 John 3:1)  God the Father did not send his Son into the world to pay the price for some foolish or wicked thing he had done.  Jesus paid the price for every foolish and wicked thing we have done.  Jesus takes the punishment you had coming.  And if your sins are taken away, then there is no more wrath and no more punishment that stands against you.
     It is even more than that!  See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. (1 John 3:1)  Through baptism into Jesus, you have been adopted into God’s family.  The Son of God has made you all children of God.  And if you are children of God, you bear the status of God’s children—holy and blameless.  If you are children of God, you are heirs of his everlasting kingdom.  If you are children of God, then you will rise from your graves to live forever, just as the Son of God did.  If you are children of God, then nothing can snatch you out of his hand; for the Lord knows his children and is surely capable of guarding and keeping you from sin and Satan.
     That is the kind of love the Father has given you.  He sent his Son, Jesus.  Jesus became a child so that you would be children of God.  These things are worth looking at again and again.  Lo!  Behold!  Look at this, all of you!  For it is your salvation.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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