Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Anno Domini

Midweek in Advent 1
December 1, 2010
Luke 4:18-19

A nno
D omini In the Year of Our Lord—Luke 4:18-19
V eni
E mmanuel O Come, Emmanuel—Matthew 1:23
N ovum
T estatmentum New Testament—Luke 22:20

I have just what you need this Advent, a little Latin for you. I’ve taken the word ‘Advent’ and divided it up three ways, for our three midweek Advent worship services. Each pair of letters stands for a Latin phrase that helps us focus on the work of our Lord coming to us with His gifts.

The three Latin phrases we’ll be drawing from are fairly familiar to us, at least the idea behind them if not the exact translation. The last one, Novum Testamentum is so similar to its English equivalent we could easily guess that it’s New Testament. The second, Veni Emmanuel, may not be as easy but we could probably make a good guess, if only for the fact that we’re pretty familiar with the hymn O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. And that’s what it means, O Come, Emmanuel. And the first one, Anno Domini, even though a lot of people may not know the actual translation, will probably know that it stands for the time we’re in now and have been in since the first Advent of Jesus. We’re in the year 2010 A.D. It means “In the year of our Lord,” so the proper way to say it would be: In the year of our Lord, 2010.

The word ‘advent’ itself comes from Latin. It means ‘coming’. The season of Advent has a dual focus, one a preparation for our celebration of Christ’s coming in humility at Bethlehem and one of our continual preparation for His return in glory on the Last Day. It’s quite remarkable that our whole calendar system is based on the entrance of Christ as a man into this world—the time before Christ and the time since Christ was born. There’s nothing in the Bible about it, but whatever year we are referring to in this era is ‘in the year of our Lord’. In other words, in the year of the era of the time when our Lord came to earth. We Christians know why He came to earth. It is the basis not only of a calendar system but our belief system. It is far more important than the basis for how we mark time, it is the very basis of our salvation.

The way the Bible talks about time is as a means by which our Lord brings about His salvation. Our second reading we heard this evening described it this way: when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman. God had it all planned out. Paul goes on to say the reason God sent His Son: He was born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. He brought His salvation into the time of our existence. In that sense, every year in history is the year of our Lord in that history revolves around God and His salvation in His Son Jesus Christ, whether that be in the era God’s people were looking ahead to the time when He would be born of the Virgin, or the time we are in now when we look back on that historical event.

In Advent we look back to the Old Testament and see how what was promised there was fulfilled in Christ. In the first reading we heard this evening from Isaiah we hear of the promise of the Anointed One. The one who was sent to bring salvation. The one who came to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. In the third reading we hear from the lips of Jesus Himself that that Scripture from Isaiah 61 was fulfilled in the hearing of the people who heard Jesus read that Scripture. They had waited for the Lord’s coming and now they were face to face with Him. They were living in the year of the Lord’s favor because Jesus had come. Jesus was bringing salvation, proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor.

Because we live in time we talk and think in terms of time. But think about it from the perspective of God. When He promises in Isaiah and when Jesus says in Luke that He was sent to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, is He talking about a unit of time? Namely, a year? No, He’s talking about eternity. That’s what Christ came to bring to us who are in time and who are mortal. Jesus came into this place of time and space, He who is eternal and spiritual. Jesus came to this place as one who had to get around as we do, by walking or taking some sort transportation. He did this to bring us from this place into the place that isn’t a place as we can understand it. Because it’s heaven, it’s eternal. It’s not a place of time and space. We will rise bodily on the Last Day and live in heaven there but it won’t be a place like we understand being in a place while we’re living in this life.

As Christians we live in this world as everyone else does but at the same time in a different way from everyone else. Like everyone, we are mortal and subject to the laws of time and space. We are born and at some point we die. Perhaps more aware than everyone else, we are sinful and can’t escape the selfish desires that infect our heart.

But we are also people who, as the Bible describes us, are not of this world. We are in the world but not of it. We live here but at the very same time heaven is our home. Even as we have been born here and live out our lives here we are strangers and pilgrims on this earth. While non-Christians are very much at home in this life, we Christians are in one sense out of place. Have you ever heard someone say to you that they feel like they should have been born in another time in history? That they don’t quite fit in in the world of today? Maybe you feel that way yourself. In one sense that’s the way it is for us Christians. We’re here, when and where God wants us to be, but we feel a little out of place. On the one hand, we have been called by God to live out godly lives here on earth, in this time and place, and bring the Gospel to those in our lives, where we’re at in our daily lives. On the other hand, we should never get too comfortable with this world because God has also called us to our ultimate home.

He has called us to this here in time so that we may be with Him in eternity. Jesus, when the fullness of time had come, was born of a woman to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. How He proclaimed the year of the Lord’s favor was by coming as He did, in the flesh. How He did it was by going to the cross as He did, in the flesh to suffer on behalf of the world. How He did it was by stepping forth from His grave as He did, in the flesh, never again to be bound by space or time or death or the grave.

He lives and reigns eternally, but not just to reign. To continue to serve. To continue to grant His gifts, shower down on us His favor, His grace, His mercy, His peace. The year of our Lord’s favor is here and now, eternally present for us in His Word and His Sacraments. The very Body and Blood that walked the earth, that suffered on the cross, that emerged from the grave, given to us in His Holy Supper. Himself preached into us when we hear His Word read and proclaimed. Faith imparted to us in those gifts. Strengthened in us by those very means. In the year of our Lord eternity is the measurement of time. In other words, there is no time. There is nothing finite about it. Nothing that comes to an end. Nothing that can be measured. Nothing that can be defined or described of as time. There is only Christ and our being united with Him forever. Amen.


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