Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Jesus Has Come to Bring

Midweek in Advent3
December 19, 2012
 Advent is in many ways like life. It encompasses both repentance and joy as well as expectation and confidence. It is a time of preparation and a time of waiting. Except for maybe Lent, Advent like no other time shows how the Church really is different from the culture. For this whole month the culture has been talking about the Christmas season and we’re still here in the Church in Advent. We’re still waiting. We’re still focusing on things like repentance and hope and expectation.

But just like in life that it’s not all waiting and solemnity, so in the Church we observe and celebrate and rejoice in the now. We began three Wednesdays ago noting how Jesus has come. He came at Bethlehem. He went to the cross. He came out of the tomb. Last Wednesday we looked ahead to that Day when He will come again. It won’t be to one little town like when He came as a baby. He will come for all to see. All will know. There will be no mistaking His Second Coming. His return in glory will be glorious and it will be when He in His eternal will sees is the right time.

And so we wait. We prepare. We repent. We meditate and ponder. We rejoice even as we hope. We look back to His birth and death and resurrection and we look ahead to His coming again on the Last Day. And as we wait—as we prepare, as we repent and ponder—we receive. Because not only has Jesus come to fulfill, as we saw three weeks ago; not only has He come to deliver, as we saw last week; He has come to bring.

While we wait He brings. He has fulfilled and delivered and now He brings. You see, it’s not just a waiting game. It’s not just us sitting around. It’s us receiving. That’s what happens when someone brings; when they give. When they bring the goods to you they’re yours. You have them. You have received them because they have been brought to you; they have been given to you.

And so we see that the waiting we do is far from a waiting around. It’s a waiting in which we are just waiting for the icing on the cake. The cake He brings to us now. He brings. He gives. As He has delivered salvation in His suffering, death, and resurrection, He delivers to us the forgiveness of that salvation to us in the Gospel and in the Sacraments. He brings. He gives. We receive.

The Ten Commandments showed us how we need this. The Creed showed us how that need is met. The Catechism now moves us into what flows out of this—holy living. A life of prayer. A life in which we live in the grace of our Lord; receiving, repenting, rising to new life, waiting in hope and confidence.

The Lord’s Prayer teaches us this. Our Lord did not give us the words to say for prayer so that we’d simply have words to say when we pray. He was teaching us to pray. Prayer isn’t just telling God what’s up, what He needs to know so things can get better for you. Prayer is living the life your Lord has called you to.

Now how do we understand this this way? 1Thessalonians 5:17. An amazing verse. Pray constantly. A short verse. A thought-provoking verse. Pray constantly. All the time. Without ceasing.

How does one go about this? How does one pray without ceasing? Becoming a monk? That may give you more time with folded hands, but even monks sleep. So they don’t pray without ceasing any more than we do. No, it’s more than folded hands and being engaged in the actual activity of speaking or thinking your words to God. It’s something that is done constantly, without ceasing, because it’s something that God brings about in you. That’s what the Christian life is, God bringing you to new life and giving you the will and the ability to live in that new life.

The Holy Spirit is helpful here, interceding for you with groans that words cannot express. If prayer were just up to you, and it consisted only of you speaking or thinking words to God then you wouldn’t have much of a prayer life. You wouldn’t have what you in fact do, a life of prayer. The key to all of this isn’t to carve out more time in your busy schedule to pray more. The key is to live as your Lord has called you to live. It is living a life of prayer.

The key, then, is to entrust your life to God. He, after all, has come to bring. And He brings you exactly what you need to live a holy life, a life of prayer. Entrust your life to what He brings you. He gives you His Gospel. He gives you new life in Baptism. He gives you His body and blood in His Holy Sacrament. The key to this is just as it was with the first two, in which we see that Jesus has come and that He will come again. The pattern emerges that it is all about Him. It is fully reliant on Him and His coming. He has come in the flesh, He will come again in glory.

Now when we talk about Him coming to us now, it is the same thing. It is about Him and the fact that He comes to us in grace and mercy. So while the world, and even the Church, emphasizes Jesus’ coming at Bethlehem—and it should, and this is good—it sadly doesn’t pay much attention to the fact that the babe that was born in Bethlehem comes to us still. And in the flesh!, just like at Bethlehem. That’s His body and His blood He is coming to you with when He invites you to His Supper. That’s His very self He is uniting you to when you are washed in the waters of Baptism. That’s Him that is being delivered to you when His Gospel is proclaimed and His Absolution is pronounced.

This is sadly not emphasized much at all in the Christian Church today. The Church will proclaim that Christ is going to return in glory—and it should and this is good. But when it comes to proclaiming that He comes to us now, it’s often spoken of with a message that we know that He’s always with us or in directing us to the conviction that He lives in our hearts. While this is true and good, it falls short of how our Lord has promised to come to us and how He actually does it so that we have certainty of it. He comes to us in specific ways, just like He came in a specific way the first time—born in a stable, and laid in a manger. And just like it will be specific in His coming again on Judgment Day, everyone will know.

The specific ways He comes to us are what we refer to as the Means of Grace, the Gospel and the Sacraments. It’s so easy to think of Jesus as a cute little baby. It’s easy to picture Jesus dying on the cross for our sins and stepping out of that tomb, conquering death once and for all. These are the core actions of Christ in fulfilling and accomplishing salvation. He came to save and He delivered. Now, what do we do with that while we wait; while we prepare; while we live holy lives? We receive. We partake of the Gospel and the Sacraments. These are the means, the vehicles, in which the Holy Spirit delivers to us the forgiveness, life, and salvation Christ accomplished on the cross.

What has our Lord given us to pray? Hallowed by Thy Name. His name is hallowed when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity and when we as the children of God also lead holy lives according to it.

Thy Kingdom come. How does God’s Kingdom come? God’s Kingdom comes when He gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we may believe His Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.

Thy will be done. How is God’s will done? God’s will is done when He breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature, so that His Kingdom may come and His will may be done.

We do not pray so that these things may happen. They do. His name is holy, His Kingdom comes, and His will is done—even without our prayer. We pray in these petitions that they may be so among us. That His name may be kept holy among us, that His Kingdom may come to us, that His will may be done among us.

He has come, He will come again, and He comes to us even now in the Gospel and the Sacraments. Because, after all, Jesus has come to fulfill, and He has. He has come to deliver, and He has. He has come to bring, and He does. For you, now and eternally. Amen.


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