Sunday, December 6, 2015

Sermon -- 2nd Sunday in Advent (December 6, 2015)



In the name + of Jesus. 

     Although Advent is an ancient season in the Christian Church, there has been a shift in emphasis in recent years.  Understand that in the Church, recent could mean as much as 100 years, or only 5% of the time of the New Testament.  For centuries, Advent was a penitential season.  We heard about John the Baptist in our Gospel who was proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Luke 3:3)  Next week's Gospel has John issuing a stern warning for all who will not repent; for whoever does not repent of his sins will perish in them when the Lord comes again.  It is good to keep a penitential spirit in the Advent season.  If we are kept mindful of our sins, we will long all the more for the Savior who will come and deliver us from our sins.
     Nevertheless, Advent has recently undergone a shift in emphasis away from penitence to hope.  Though we are sorry for our sins, we also know the rest of the story: God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son. (John 3:16)  So, we also approach Advent with a degree of anticipation.  For, we know that when this season ends, our Savior has come.
     These two emphases can be seen in our own congregation.  The paraments and our Advent candles are blue, the color of the sky, from which our Lord will return to deliver us from this world of sorrow to the glories of heaven.  But the banners are violet, which is the color of mourning and repentance.  If we seem to be somewhat schizophrenic about this, like we can't make up our minds which emphasis to have, maybe it is just as well.  It is good that we remember our sins and repent of them, and it is also good that we remember the Savior comes to us to deliver us from sin, death, and the devil.  The King of Glory comes, and that news gives us reason both to repent and to watch in expectation.
     Psalm 24 reminds us why the Lord would come to this earth: It is his.  He created it, and he continues to sustain it.  The Lord is not like some frustrated cartoonist who crumples up and discards a sketch which was ruined.  The Lord loves the creation he has made even though it has been corrupted.  He does not discard it even though its inhabitants are sinful.  Even in its corrupted state, “The earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.” (Psalm 24:1-2)
      Behold!  The King of Glory comes!  But the prophet Malachi asks a worthy question: “Who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?” (Malachi 3:2)  King David asks a similar question in Psalm 24: “Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD?  And who shall stand in his holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.  He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” (Psalm 24:3-5)  While we all want blessing from our Lord, we are not people with clean hands and pure hearts.  We have not earned blessing from God, but wrath.  We cannot stand in God's presence.  We cannot dwell in his holy place.  For, we have lifted up our souls to what is false.  We prefer to alter God's word so that we are not condemned by it, or so that we do not have to purge our lives of our sins.  When we warp or twist or reject God's word to do this, we lift up our souls to what is false and trust what is deceitful.  It has become increasingly common for people who profess to be Christians to confess a Jesus who does not enforce God's Law, but rather gives people license to do whatever makes them happy.  That is deceitful, for such a Jesus does not exist.
     You and I are no different.  When we gossip, we do it to vindicate ourselves.  When we lie, we do it to cover our sins.  When we fail to pray, we blame our busy schedules.  We wish our enemies were dead which, we say, is noble because our enemies wish we were dead which, we say, is evil.  Though we sin against God's Law just as others do, we somehow have believed that our sins do not grieve or dishonor or provoke Jesus to anger..  But be warned.  For, people with clean hands and pure hearts do not need to make excuses, nor do they need to fear the King of Glory when he comes on his holy throne with the hosts of heaven to judge the living and the dead.  Repent!
     The King of Glory comes.  Do not seek excuses before him; for Jesus does not buy them.  Indeed, he can't and he won't.  Rather than seeking excuses, seek him; for Jesus comes to make atonement for your sins.  Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD?  And who shall stand in his holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart...  He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation. (Psalm 24:3-5)  Jesus Christ has clean hands which never did evil against even his enemies.  Jesus Christ has a pure heart which gladly obeyed all of God's commands, even when it meant suffering for the sins of those with wicked hearts.  With his clean hands and pure heart, Jesus earned blessings from God.  He has proven himself righteous.  But he has not come to condemn you in righteousness; he has come to bestow his righteousness upon you.  This is his glory.
     The King of Glory comes!  The earth is his and all who dwell in it, for he has founded it.  He has created it, and he still sustains it.  The Lord loves what he has created, and so rather than discard this world or the people in it, the King of Glory has come to redeem it, to restore it, to cleanse the people in it, and to purify your hearts.  To do this, he who has clean hands and a pure heart ascended the hill called Calvary, where his clean hands were stretched out and nailed to the cross, and where his pure heart was pierced to bring forth blood and water which atones for your sins.  This is where you find blessing and righteousness from God.  In holy baptism, Jesus has cleansed you of all your sin and has purified you of all unrighteousness.  In holy communion, Jesus' holy blood strengthens and keeps you holy and blameless in the sight of God.  Instead of having you rely on excuses that even you don't usually believe, Jesus bestows upon you his innocence and righteousness.  The King of Glory has come to bring you into his kingdom and to promise you a glorious, everlasting life.
     This is why King David leads a song of joyful anticipation about the coming of the King of Glory.  Lift up your heads, O gates!  And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.  Who is this King of glory?  The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle!  Lift up your heads, O gates!  And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.  Who is this King of glory?  The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory! (Psalm 24:7-10)  He repeats himself at the excitement.  Jerusalem will fling open her gates so that he may come in.  The King of Glory comes!  Who?  Yes, the King of Glory!  And if he comes, he brings salvation with him.
     The King of Glory comes!  Jesus Christ—strong and mighty, a warrior mighty in battle—has single-handedly faced our foes of sin and death, and he has overcome.  Therefore, we remove every impediment which would prevent him coming to us with his blessings.  With penitent hearts we welcome him, knowing that he is merciful, that he loves his creation, that he redeems us, and that we are his.  With joyful hearts we forsake our sins and rejoice that our victorious and glorious King is coming.  Who is he, this King of Glory?  The Lord Jesus Christ.  He comes with blessings.  He is the God of our salvation.  He is the King of Glory.

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