Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Sermon -- Advent Vespers: 1st Week (November 30, 2016)


Advent Announced.

In the name + of Jesus.

               Satan is not creative.  He does not need to be.  Every temptation from him echos his first one: “Did God actually say...?” (Genesis 3:1)  The devil was not asking about the Lord's vocabulary or grammar.  He questioned God's love and God's wisdom.  “If God really wants you to be happy, why does he withhold things from you?  If God really loves you, why won't he let you have whatever you want?  Why not think for yourself?  Do what you want!”  With that, he got Adam and Eve to question God's love and wisdom.  With that, he is still effective against us so that we do sins that we know are wrong.  But we do them anyway, because we think that doing them will make us happier.
     Satan is not creative.  He does not need to be.  Satan still leads us into sin because we are sinners.  We have already fallen.  And since we have no strength in ourselves to rally and take our stand against him, he easily knocks us down again.  Satan entices us to believe that sins are good and that God gave his Commandments to squeeze the joy and the fun out of life.  So we go back to our sins, forgetting the regret and the shame that accompanied them before, and foolishly hoping that they will not burden us again.  And if you should not feel any shame over your sins, then be especially afraid—because you are lost.  But whether a person boasts of his sins with braggadocios stories or sits silently in shame because of them, it does not matter.  All are guilty.  We are all worthy of God's wrath.  We have all earned the grave.  We deserve the depraved world we live in, because we have contributed to it.
     Even though Adam and Eve turned their back on God and his word, God did not turn his back on them.  Adam and Eve fled from God in terror, but God sought them in mercy.  As soon as a Savior was needed, the Savior was promised.  Advent was first announced in the Garden of Eden.  The Lord promises the coming Savior.
     It is astounding, though, that when the Lord promised a Savior, he was not speaking to Adam and Eve.  He spoke to Satan.  While Satan was still in the form of a serpent, the Lord declared to him, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)  
     Advent was announced.  The Lord told Satan that Satan's victory over mankind would be undone.  And Satan himself would be undone.  The Lord promised our coming Savior with these words: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”  (Genesis 3:15)  Satan brought sin into the world by deceiving a woman, but through a woman the Lord would bring the Savior into the world.  Advent is announced: The Seed of the Woman would come to crush the serpent's head.
     The Lord promises our coming Savior.  He spoke to Satan, as if the Lord were saying, “You intended to destroy what I had created.  You seduced them into rebellion and sin.  You corrupted their hearts so that they would always be terrified of the Lord and repulsed by his commands.  You have perverted them so that they will never find peace and joy no matter how fiercely they pursue it in this world.  You have taught them to fill their life with money and goods, knowing that they will end up going to the grave empty-handed.  Your rule over them is always with sin and fear and doubt and death.  And you insist that by infecting them with your deadly venom, they are yours forever and will suffer and die forever.  
     “Satan, that is what you intended, but a Savior will come to crush you and to turn all of your plans to dust.  A Savior will come to set mankind free from sin.  Your most fervent accusations against them will be useless.  All their doubts will be erased and all their uncertainties will be made certain as they take refuge in God's clear words and promises.  Their terror before God will be replaced by the Savior who shows them how dearly God loves them, wants them to be with him, and to receive his blessings forevermore.  To that end, even death will be overcome.  Satan, neither you, nor sin, nor death will ever own them.  For you will lie crushed underfoot.  Your power and your kingdom shall be destroyed, but they—my beloved creatures—they shall live and rejoice.  For, they are not only my created people, they shall be my redeemed people.  For, Advent is announced.  Their promised Savior will come.”
     But of course, there is a price to be paid for salvation.  The enmity between Satan and the woman's Seed would not leave him without scars.  The Lord had foretold it: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)  The serpent would sink his teeth into the Savior as he crushed him.  The Savior would take in all the venom Satan had to give.  He would absorb into his body all the sin and shame, all the guilt and regret in the world—even for the people who have no regrets over their sins.  Jesus would take it all, and he would suffer for all—the good and the bad, the Pharisees and the tax collectors, the virgins and the prostitutes, the church-goers and the atheists.  Your Savior would give his life into death to deliver you.
      Advent is announced, and it declares this: Satan cannot harm you anymore.  He will hiss, but his fangs have been kicked in by Jesus.  The serpent has been crushed.  By taking all sin into himself, Jesus has delivered you from guilt and from its judgment.  By dying, Jesus has redeemed you from the grave.  And by rising from the dead, Jesus has burst a hole in the grave so that it can no longer keep its dead.  Advent is announced to reveal that the Father in heaven is most merciful, that he does not delight in the death of the people he has created, and that he has worked salvation for you.  Therefore, you not only have peace of conscience and joy in this still-sin-infected world, but endless peace, joy, and blessing in the perfect glories of heaven.
     Advent is announced.  The Lord promises our coming Savior.  The Lord declares to Satan that his defeat is definite and imminent.  But it was not a private conversation.  The Lord declared this in the ears of the sinners who need that salvation.  Adam and Eve got to hear God's love for them as the Lord announced his plans to destroy the devil, to reconcile the people whom Satan had estranged from God, to redeem them from death, and to rectify the damage Satan has done.  Adam's and Eve's comfort was not from guessing what God might do, but from hearing what God would do.  And he would do it for sinners!  The Lord would restore the Paradise Garden to what he had always intended it to be.  He would fill it with the people he has redeemed.  And he will bring us there to live the life God always intended us to have.
     The defeat God had announced has been fulfilled by Jesus Christ.  That salvation is announced to you today through God's word.  That promise and proclamation of victory rings not just in Satan's ears, but in yours, too.  This is how Jesus saves you.  He speaks to you so that you will hear and believe, and so that you will be sure of peace, comfort, and joy through Jesus.  Just as the world waited once for the Savior to come, so now we wait for our promised Savior to come once more.  Soon he will deliver us from this world of sorrows to the everlasting joys of heaven.

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

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