Glory in the Temple

Sermon based on Luke 2:22-40 for the First Sunday after Christmas

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

At the time of the birth of Jesus, the Temple with its sacrifices and festivals was the centre of religious life for the Jews. The Temple was the location of God’s presence, and the place where forgiveness came through the sacrifices. Jesus’ presence in the Temple, even as an infant, marked a huge shift that was underway. This shift is prophesied and seen already in the Old Testament.

Before the Temple was built in Jerusalem, the tabernacle fulfilled this purpose. In addition to giving Moses the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, God showed Moses a pattern for building the tabernacle. The tabernacle was a portable tent-like structure that served as the house of God throughout the Israelites’ travels in the wilderness. The tabernacle served as the centre of religious life and as the place where forgiveness came through prescribed sacrifices. At the dedication of the tabernacle, the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle and Moses was not able to enter it (Ex. 40:34-35). The Lord’s presence was visibly manifested through the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night that led the Israelites through the Red Sea and through the wilderness. This cloud would cover the tabernacle when it was time to stay put, and would rise up and lead them when it was time to set out.

After the people of God had arrived in the Promised Land of Canaan, a more permanent structure was built to replace the tabernacle. King Solomon built the First Temple as directed by God (2 Sm. 7:13). At the dedication of the Temple, the priests could not stand to minister because the glory of the Lord filled it (1 Ki. 8:10-11). God once again manifested His glorious presence in His house.

But God gave Solomon a warning connected to the Temple. God said, “If you turn aside from following me, you or your children, and do not keep my commandments and my statutes that I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land that I have given them, and the house that I have consecrated for my name I will cast out of my sight, and Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples. And this house will become a heap of ruins. Everyone passing by it will be astonished and will hiss, and they will say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?’ Then they will say, ‘Because they abandoned the Lord their God who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt and laid hold on other gods and worshiped them and served them. Therefore the Lord has brought all this disaster on them.’” (1 Ki. 9:6-9)

Well, the people of Israel did turn away from obeying God’s Commandments and statutes. They committed abominations in the Temple (Ezek. 8) and followed the rules of the people around them instead of God’s rules (Ezek. 11:12), thinking that God could not see what they were doing (Ezek. 9:9). They turned away from God so the glorious presence of God departed from the Temple and from Jerusalem. Ezekiel saw and recorded for us that the glory of God left the house of God and the holy city (Ezek. 10:4, 18; 11:23). God then gave the people into the hand of the Babylonians and Assyrians and the Temple and the city were utterly destroyed and the people exiled.

When God brought His people back to their land and the Temple was rebuilt seventy years later, the glory of God did not fill this Second Temple as it had filled the tabernacle and the First Temple (Ezra 6). Things were not as they were before; a shift was underway. God did not dwell with His people as He had dwelt with them before. The Lord spoke through His prophet Haggai during the construction of the Second Temple saying, “Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes? Yet now be strong… once more, in a little while… I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts… The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’” (Haggai 2:1-9; cf. also Zech. 8-9).

Also the prophet Malachi writes, “The Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.” (3:1; cf. also Ps. 24)

Here is the huge shift that was taking place. The Lord no longer dwelt in His Temple as He had. He no longer manifested His glory as He had earlier. Yet, there was the promise that the Lord will once again come into His Temple, and this latter glory will be greater than the first.

This is why Simeon came to the Temple in the Holy Spirit. This is why Anna was waiting in the Temple. They were waiting for the consolation of Israel; the redemption of God’s people. They were waiting for the Lord to suddenly come into His Temple as had been foretold.

When Joseph and Mary bring the infant Jesus to the Temple to offer sacrifice according to the Law, Simeon takes the infant Jesus up in his arms and says that he is now ready to die (vv. 26, 29). He is ready to die in peace because he has now seen the salvation of the Lord (v. 30). He has seen the Light of the world (v. 32). He has seen the glory of God in the face of Jesus (v. 32; cf. also 2 Cor. 4:6). The glory of the Lord had once again come into His Temple! The glory of the Lord that had departed because of the sin of the people had returned, and this latter glory is greater than the former.

But again, there is a shift taking place here. The Temple with its sacrifices serves no purpose after the death of Jesus. The writer to the Hebrews writes that if these Temple sacrifices could have taken away the sin of the people they would not have had to be offered continually (10:1-4, 11). These sacrifices were just a shadow of the sacrifice to come (Heb. 10:1). Jesus, the glory of God, came to offer His body as the final and ultimate sacrifice, once for all, perfecting us for all time (Heb. 10:10-14). Because of Jesus’ sacrificial death for us, God says, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more” (Heb. 10:17). Where there is forgiveness of sins and forgiveness of our lawless deeds, there is no more need for sacrifice (Heb. 10:18). The sacrifices of the Old Testament thus no longer serve any purpose, because the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross has paid once for all for all of our sins (Heb. 10:9), and our sins are remembered by God no more.

The Temple has once again been destroyed. About seventy years after the birth of Jesus, the Temple was destroyed by the Romans and has never been rebuilt since. The temple mount where both Temples had been built now holds a Muslim mosque built in their place. But there is no longer any need for the Temple. There is no longer any need for sacrifices. Jesus offered Himself up as a sacrifice so that our sins and lawless deeds will be remembered no more.

This is what Simeon and Anna waited for. They were waiting for the consolation and redemption of God’s people. Jesus came to give us consolation – the consolation of our sins forgiven and peace with God. Jesus came for our redemption – He redeemed us from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil. He took our punishment and made us free, and He has promised us eternal life so that we have no need to fear death.

In Jesus, God came to dwell with His people in a new way. Jesus came as the presence of the glory of God among men. Jesus came as the New Temple; the new place where God dwelt and was made manifest. Thus Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it” (Jn. 2:19). He was speaking of the temple of His body (Jn. 2:21). When He was put to death, He did exactly what He promised. He gloriously rose from the dead on the third day.

The Temple is no more, but the glory of God in Jesus is forever. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we have the promise of being with Jesus for eternity in glory. Then we will be in God’s presence and He will dwell with us in all His glory. Because of this promise, we, like Simeon can also depart in peace, and look forward to the day we will see the glory of God in Jesus face to face. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

The Christmas Narrative According to St John

Sermon for Christmas Day based on John 1:1 – 14

Even atheists believe in Jesus. That is, even atheists accept the fact that Jesus is a real, historical character. The common consensus of society is that He lived about two thousand years ago in the Near East, drew lots of followers and was a religious leader. This they do not deny. What they do not accept, however, is that Jesus is God. In fact, this thinking is a common driver among religions. Take Islam, for instance, which is a religion invented in the 7th century. Muslims regard Jesus as a prophet, but only a man. A more recently invented religion, Mormonism, which is in many ways simply a copy of Islam, also rejects the divinity of Christ, as do the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and so on.

But this is nothing new. Man has been rejecting Christ since the Fall. John wrote his Gospel to address this very issue, for in his time also, there were those who rejected Jesus as the Son of God. John records many incidents where Jesus is rejected by people during His earthly ministry, and His divinity is questioned. That Jesus is the Son of God, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, of one substance with the Father; this is what John seeks to prove in his Gospel.

Before John, Matthew and Luke had already recorded the Christmas story and how it fits into world history with Caesar Augustus’ census at the time of King Herod and even the genealogy of Jesus traced back to Adam. John takes a different approach. He doesn’t start with a genealogy or the infancy narrative, but with, “In the beginning was the Word.” John goes back to the beginning – the beginning of time. He goes back to the beginning of the Old Testament, to Genesis, where it is written, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

John writes, “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” Thus, John is not pointing to the manger as the origin of the Son of God, but he is pointing to the beginning. God the Son was with God the Father in the beginning, and the world was created through Him. There was never a time that God the Father was without His Word – His Word, through which the universe was created. This Word cannot be anything that was created, since all things were created through this Word. It was God’s Word, “Let there be light,” that created light. It was God’s Word, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters,” that created the sky. Everything was created by God’s powerful Word.

John also makes clear that in the beginning, not only was the Word with God, but that the Word was God – fully God, yet distinct from the Father. So here is John’s genealogy of Jesus – Jesus is the great I am. Jesus is “the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rv. 22:13). Thus Jesus says, “Before Abraham was, I am [Jn. 8:58].” In John’s genealogy of Jesus, the Son of God – the pre-existent Word, always existed with the Father, He is the beginning and the end – He is eternal. It is a genealogy of one.

And the Word came to earth. The eternal God came to earth. Matthew and Luke give us the infancy narrative of the stable and the shepherds. Here is John’s infancy narrative: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” It’s a little different from Matthew and Luke, but in no way does he disagree with them. The little baby in the manger is the very Word of God incarnate, the Word of God become flesh.

Here, we have a problem. Our reason cannot comprehend this. The God who created the universe, comes to dwell among His creation, and chooses to be born of a woman, born in the same messy way all of us were born – and in a humble stable, no less! We cannot even wrap our minds around the concept of God’s timelessness, that He has always existed, that He has no beginning or end. And in John we hear that He became one of us!

This is too much for us to handle. This was too much for the Jews to handle. The Jews responded by persecuting Jesus because of this. They persecuted Him because He called God His own Father, making Himself equal with God [Jn. 5:18]. They wanted to kill Him for saying, “Before Abraham was, I am [Jn. 8:59].”

Others respond by rejecting Jesus and making up their own way to God. That’s what all these other religions have done. Whether it’s one of the religions mentioned earlier, or any other false religion, they all seek a way to God apart from Jesus. The true light was in the world, the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him, and to this day does not know Him. Without the Word of God, the world is in darkness, and without hope.

What about you? How do you respond when God’s Word is too much for you to handle? How do you respond when God says something that does not make sense in your judgment? “God must not have meant what He said?” “God spoke to certain people at a certain time, but the Bible is out of touch with today’s world?” “I will use my reason to decide what in the Bible is reasonable and what is not?”

But if reason could keep us on the right road, God would not have given the Scriptures to us. When human reason seeks to decide what is right and true, it seeks to twist Scripture according to its own fancy, thinking that it knows better than God.

But we are speaking of God. Is it a marvel if we do not completely understand? God’s thoughts cannot be comprehended by mere mortals, except for what He reveals to us. We cannot read the mind of God, except what He speaks to us. We know of God only what He has revealed to us in His Word, what He has revealed to us in and through Christ.

In Christ we see God’s love for mankind. In Jesus, we see the face of God. Jesus is God. He came to earth, taking on our flesh. He had to take on our flesh in order to die. He had to be God in order to be the sacrifice for our sins [Psalm 49:7 – 9]. Jesus is the light of the world, He is our life. To all who believe in Him, He gives the right to become children of God.

But this also is too much for our reason to handle. The cross of Christ contradicts human reason most severely. The cross is foolishness to those who do not believe. It makes no sense to human reason that the death of one who is innocent should satisfy the wrath of God against all the sins of the world. But for us who believe, the cross is the power of God to salvation [Rom 1:16, 1 Cor. 1:18]. In faith, we hold fast to the promise of the forgiveness of our sins on account of Christ’s death for us.

We should keep in mind that John wrote his Gospel to ordinary Christians and made the words perfectly intelligible. He gives us everything we need to know and believe. Through faith, we believe God’s Word even if it does not make sense to our human reason.  It is God’s Word that saves.

Jesus, not our reason, is the key to our salvation. He says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me [Jn. 14:6].” Jesus also says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who believes in me shall never die [Jn. 11:25 – 26].”

So human reason be damned! The Word made flesh is our life. And God the Father proved the divinity of Jesus in raising Him from the dead; proving that everything Jesus said is true. The Resurrection also proves the Father’s acceptance of Jesus’ death as our substitute. The Resurrection proves that God the Father accepted Jesus’ suffering and death to be for us. So, regardless of what human reason says, faith says, “I believe. Help my unbelief!”

Today, we celebrate the infancy narrative of Matthew and Luke. We remember the birth of Jesus announced by the angels, worshipped by the shepherds and magi, and that He was born to the virgin Mary. But we also celebrate the infancy narrative of John. We remember that this infant born in Bethlehem is the eternal God in the flesh; the Light who came to shine in the darkness, to make us children of God. We remember that this infant in the manger left the glory of heaven and came to save us, in order to take us to heaven. This truth we can believe, because God tells it to us in His eternal Word. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

We Are the Reason

Christmas Eve Sermon

Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Jesus is the reason for the season. You have undoubtedly seen various signs, billboards, and maybe even received Christmas cards with this message. That’s all well and good. It is true. The reason why we celebrate Christmas is because Jesus, the Son of God, was born of the virgin Mary. God took on human flesh. Christmas certainly is about Jesus.

Christmas is not just about showing up for the Christmas Eve service and doing some carolling. It’s not just about expecting more from Jesus than from Santa Claus. It’s not just about Christmas traditions. It’s about remembering why Jesus came to earth.

Jesus came for us. As promised to Adam and Eve, Jesus came to crush the serpent’s head. Our enemy, the devil, who seeks night and day to destroy us and bring us to hell with him, has been defeated by Jesus. Jesus died for all of our sins on the cross and rose victorious. That’s why Jesus came. He came to save us from our sin.

We should not neglect this forgiveness. We should take the devil seriously and our sins seriously. We should flee the devil’s temptations which entice us to do whatever we like while despising God’s Word that calls us to repentance. We should abstain from the passions of the flesh that wage war against our soul (1 Pt. 2:11).

That’s why Jesus came. He came to save us from ourselves and these passions that rage within us. He came to earn forgiveness for us for all the times we have fallen into sin.

We see how serious our sins are when we see that Jesus was crucified for our sins. Our sins are so significant that it took nothing less than the blood of Jesus to pay for them. For us to be free of our sins, it required the suffering and death of God Himself.

See, we are the reason for the season. We are the reason Jesus came. He came to save us sinners from our sins. Everything He did was for us. Everything from His conception to His ascension into heaven was for us. And He still does everything for us. He still gives us His Law which shows us our sins so that we would turn away from them. He still gives us His Gospel which tells us that our sins are forgiven because of His death. Jesus still gives us His true body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins in Holy Communion.

Like Isaiah writes, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way.” (Is. 53) But Jesus hasn’t left us out there wandering from Him. He has sent His Word to turn us around and bring us back to Him. He brought us back to Himself by bearing our griefs and carrying our sorrows. He was stricken, smitten by God and afflicted in our place. He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities. He was the offering for our guilt. Because of Jesus death for us, we now have peace with God (Rom. 5:1). We no longer have to fear divine punishment for our sins. We no longer have to fear death. The Good Shepherd has brought us back to Himself.

And it’s not just Christmas time that we need reminding of this. We need to hear of the forgiveness of our sins continuously. The devil loves nothing more than to keep us away from God’s Word by all means necessary. No excuse is too weak for the devil. So flee this temptation. Hear and read God’s Word regularly. Receive God’s forgiveness regularly. Receive the strength that God gives through His Word.

We are the reason for the season. We are the reason Jesus came to earth. We are the reason Jesus died. We are the reason why Jesus still sends His forgiveness. We are the reason that Jesus is now preparing places in heaven. So yes, remember that Christmas is about Jesus. But remember also why He came: He came for you. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.


How Will This Be?

Sermon based on Luke 1:26-38 for the Fourth Sunday in Advent

Dear favoured ones: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

“How will this be?” Mary asks the angel Gabriel. Mary is not asking a stupid question. She asks how will it be that she, a virgin, would conceive and bear a son. How will it be that a finite human womb can carry the infinite God? How will it be that God will become man? How will it be that a sinner can give birth to the sinless Son of God? See, there’s nothing silly about Mary’s question at all. It makes quite a bit of sense that she would ask this question.

The angel Gabriel doesn’t rebuke Mary for her question. He gives her an answer. He gives her an explanation of how it will be. He gives her the promise of what will be. He gives her a sign of what will be. And then finally he gives her the assurance of what will be.

First Gabriel gives an explanation: the Holy Spirit will come upon you, the power of the Most High will overshadow you. This is how it can be. This is how it will be. The same Spirit that hovered over the waters and brought forth creation through the Word is the Spirit who will come upon Mary. The same power of the Most High that brought the Israelites through the Red Sea; that conquered their enemies; that brought them into the Promised Land – this same power will overshadow Mary. The same Spirit that would later descend on Jesus at His Baptism; who was poured out on Pentecost so that the apostles spoke in all the languages of those visiting Jerusalem – this same Spirit would come upon Mary. This is how it will be.

Next, Gabriel gives the promise: the child to be born will be holy; He will be called the Son of God. This is the promise of who this Son is. He is the Son of God. This promise is the fulfilment of the Old Testament promise, especially from Isaiah 7:14, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel”. This promise from some 700 years earlier finds fulfilment in the womb of the virgin Mary.

Immanuel means “God with us”. Jesus Christ is God in the flesh; God who came to dwell among us; God who came to give His life as a ransom for many. In Jesus, God is with us. God’s not just some transcendent being far removed from us, but He took on our flesh in Mary’s womb. He fulfilled that Law on our behalf here on the earth. On the cross He died our death. This Jesus, true God and true man is Immanuel, “God with us”.

This is the very promise of the Gospel given to Mary. The promise that the long awaited Saviour has come. The long awaited Saviour is here. Not just anywhere here, but here in Mary’s womb. She is the bearer of the promised Saviour of the world. The Son of God came to save the whole world from sin, including Mary. This promise that Gabriel proclaims to Mary is the Gospel – the Good News of forgiveness in the Immanuel child.

Then Gabriel gives a sign: Mary’s relative Elizabeth, barren and well beyond her childbearing years, has conceived a son in her old age. This sign is evidence of the power of the Most High. It is a sign of what the Holy Spirit can do. This visible sign strengthens the faith of Mary to believe the promise.

And finally Gabriel gives Mary the reassurance: nothing is impossible for God. This is how it can be. This is how it will be – because nothing is impossible for God.

And Gabriel starts out by calling Mary “favoured one”. Mary has been shown favour by God. Mary received unmerited grace from God. Mary has been shown favour – the very Gospel promise has been given to her. She also has the blessing, honour, and favour of God to carry the Son of God in her womb – the very Son of God who would earn salvation for her and for us.

So, how will this be? It will be through the Holy Spirit, through the power of the Most High. It will be because it has been promised by God and now is promised to Mary. It will be just as the sign of Elizabeth being miraculously with child. It will be because nothing is impossible for God.

How will this be? This is a question with which we are very well acquainted. We could ask this question concerning everything that God does by the power of His Word. How will it be that our children receive forgiveness and are received into the family of God by water sprinkled over their heads? How will it be that a word spoken by a sinful man forgives sin? How will it be that this finite bread and wine on the altar will contain the infinite God?

Like Mary, we are given an answer. It is through the power of the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that hovered over the waters and brought forth creation through the Word is the Spirit who will come upon our children in Baptism. The same power of the Most High that brought the Israelites through the Red Sea; that conquered their enemies; that brought them into the Promised Land – this same power will forgive your sin. The same Spirit that descended on Jesus at His Baptism; who was poured out on Pentecost so that the apostles spoke in all the languages of those visiting Jerusalem – this same Spirit will cause the bread and wine to be the body and blood of Christ. This is how it will be.

We also have the promise of the Gospel. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mk. 16:16). “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them” (Jn. 20:23). “This is my body… this is my blood… for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt. 26:26-28). These words of Jesus give to us what they promise.

We also have been given signs – visible signs in the sacraments to which the word of promise is connected. The sign is a sort of picture of the Word; a picture of what the Word is doing. In Baptism we see the sign of water. The water that is poured over the head is a sign of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit; the sign of sin being washed away; the sign of being cleansed from sin. The bread and wine are signs of the spiritual nourishment we receive in the Lord’s Supper; they are signs of the strengthening we receive in eating and drinking Christ’s true body and blood. These signs strengthen our faith because we see visibly a sign of what the Word promises.

Finally, we have the same reassurance Gabriel gave to Mary: nothing is impossible for God. Since nothing is impossible for God, we know that He will certainly do what He has promised. He will certainly give us the forgiveness of sins in Baptism, Absolution, and His holy Supper as He has promised.

As Mary pondered the words of Gabriel in her heart, so you should ponder the words of promise given to you. You should ponder in your heart that you have been shown favour by God. You have received unmerited grace from God. You have been given the promised Holy Spirit in your Baptism. You receive the promised forgiveness of sins in Absolution. You receive the forgiveness of sins and the strengthening of your faith through the body and blood of Christ.

Nothing is impossible for God. The Word of the Gospel has begotten faith in you, as miraculous as that is. God’s Word of forgiveness has transformed your heart from unbelief to faith. God has claimed you as His own through His Word of promise. So you have been given all the answers to your question of “How will this be?”

Dear favoured ones: God has shown you His favour. His favour for you is Jesus Christ our Lord. His favour for you is the forgiveness of your sins. So let us with Mary say, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Waiting for the Promise

Dear people clinging to the promise of God: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

God promised that the offspring of Adam and Eve would crush the serpent’s head. In fact, when Eve had her firstborn son, she thought that she had given birth to the Lord (a literal translation of Eve’s words in Gen. 4:1 is, “I have given birth to a man, Yahweh”.) That of course turned out not to be the case. Not only was Cain not the Saviour, but he did not even believe in the promise of the Saviour (Heb. 11:4). And when his brother Abel’s offering was accepted because he offered it in faith, Cain got angry and murdered his brother (Gen. 4:8). Nevertheless, Adam and Eve had faith in the promise of God that He would send a Saviour to save them from their sin.

Throughout history, God’s promise of a Saviour was awaited in faith. Noah, seeing the godlessness of the world around him, waited for the Saviour. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob waited for the Saviour. Moses preached of the promise of the Saviour to the people of Israel (Dt. 18:15-19). David received the promise from God that his Son would reign forever on his throne (2 Sam. 7). The Old Testament prophets all proclaimed this promise.

Thousands of years passed from the initial promise, but the Saviour had not come. Generations passed. Had God forgotten His promise? Many doubted that God would do what He had said He would do.

But then John the Baptist appears on the scene. The voice crying in the wilderness says that the Saviour has come. He tells those listening to him that the Lord stands among them but they don’t know Him (Jn. 1:26).

And John’s father, Zechariah, filled with the Holy Spirit prophesied that the Saviour had come. Jesus hadn’t been born yet but was being carried inside of His mother Mary, and Zechariah says:

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. (Lk. 1:68-75)

Zechariah proclaims that God has visited and redeemed His people. The Son of David has come. The oath sworn to Abraham has been fulfilled. The long awaited Saviour has come to save us. The Son of God came, born of the virgin Mary. He suffered and died for us, taking the punishment for all of our sins. He has purchased us and made us His children.

But now, once again, we wait. We wait for the promised return of Christ. Once again, thousands of years have passed since the promise of His return but the Saviour has not come. Generations have passed. Has God forgotten His promise? Many doubt that God will do what He has said He would do. The Holy Spirit warns us through St Peter that this is exactly what will happen. Peter writes, “Scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation’” (2 Pt. 3:3-4).

Where is the promise of Jesus’ second coming? Why all this waiting? Peter gives us the answer for this also: “Do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Pt. 3:8-9)

Jesus has not come because He is being patient with us. He is giving us opportunity to repent. He is working in our lives through His Word to show us our sin so that we would turn away from it. Jesus sees how sin has even infested the church. People continue in sin thinking that it is not a big deal. The “everybody’s doing it attitude” doesn’t help anyone. Instead we have the warning from Hebrews 11, “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.” This is a direct warning for us. It says that those who continue to live in deliberate sin are not Christians. This is the reason why I as a pastor am so concerned and my heart breaks when I talk to people who don’t take sin seriously. They live as if God and His Word don’t matter, yet think that they are Christians. They are making a clear statement that they don’t care what Scripture says about sin. For those who live in deliberate sin there no longer remains a sacrifice for sin, only a fearful expectation of judgment.

That’s why Jesus hasn’t returned yet. He’s giving you an opportunity to repent and turn away from your sins and receive His forgiveness. He doesn’t wish that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. He loves you so much that He is being patient with you and giving you opportunity to turn away from your sin. He does not desire the eternal death of anyone. His desire is to give eternal life to you. His love for you is so great, that He is ready to forgive every sin you have ever committed. That’s why He died on the cross – to earn forgiveness of sins for you.

Christ will return. We don’t know when, but we do know that God keeps His promises. So turn from your sins and receive His forgiveness. Then you will be prepared for His coming. Then you will be prepared for death if it comes for you before Jesus returns.

History will go on. Believers throughout all generations will cling in faith to the promise of Christ’s return. So we wait, trusting the promise of God. Christ will return. And with His return, He will take us to be with Him since He has earned the forgiveness of sins for us. Christ did come and crush the serpent’s head as promised so many years ago, and He saved us from our sin. And He will also return again as He has promised. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

What’s the Point?

Sermon based on John 1:6-8, 19-28 for the Third Sunday in Advent

Dear people being pointed to Christ: grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

You are being pointed in many different directions, especially at this time of year. Store windows have signs pointing to sales for those not quite done their Christmas shopping. Bosses point to work that still needs to get finished before the year is done. Spouses point to work around that house that still needs to get done before visiting family arrives. There’s a lot of competition pointing you in a lot of directions.

There are also various kinds of spirituality that point you in different directions. Some point you to your works to please God. If only you would do a few more good things for your neighbour, then maybe God would be pleased with you. Many other religions of the world, including Roman Catholicism, point you to your works. They teach that access to God can be achieved through your personal efforts or attempts to improve yourself. This is so tempting to us because it tells us we have the power to do good. After all, it is a temptation to do good, not evil. The good things you do make a better world.

Of course the problem is that no matter how hard you try to do good; however good your intentions are, the good is never done. You continue not to do the good you want, but the evil you do not want to do is what you keep on doing (Rom. 7:19). It is a continuous battle, but in this life, we will never do enough good. We cannot undo our sins by doing something good. We cannot earn God’s favour by any works that we do.

Other errant fingers point you to your feelings. They say if you want to know God, you have to experience God. Discover God through what you feel. Follow their newfound steps and you can find God in the feelings of your heart. These religions, often calling themselves Christianity, teach that direct knowledge of God can be attained through your subjective experiences of God or something godlike. This is so tempting because we want to feel good. We are always in pursuit of touching, emotional experiences. We’re happy singing hymns with no substance because they conjure up certain emotions in us. Yet the Lord’s Supper isn’t desired every Sunday because it doesn’t give those feelings that are being chased. Why wouldn’t God want me to feel an emotional high? Surely I can feel the good, warm, tingly presence of a good God in what I experience.

Those who point their finger to feelings thus work hard to create the right kinds of feelings in you. They need the right mood lighting and motivational speeches and creative musical arrangements to manufacture these experiences. You need to hear the things that tug at your emotional heart strings. Your feelings need to be manipulated to put you into the right mood.

Third, there are fingers that point you to your mind to find God. Let’s be reasonable and think about it. Let’s observe what we see and come to logical conclusions about God. Everything can be explained by the advances in modern science. If you cannot prove it through science and reason, it cannot be true. This is so tempting because we think that we are smart people. Everything must make sense to us because we’re just so stinking smart.

With our reason, then, we decide what is true and what is not. Miracles cannot be explained through science or reason, so throw them out like the other Lutherans have done. Instead of listening to what God says about Himself in the Bible, we use our reason and logic to decide what God is and what He is not. Jesus’ body and blood must not be in the Lord’s Supper because that doesn’t make logical sense to us. How can the word of Absolution actually forgive my sins? What is sin anyway? I can do whatever I want to do. It’s not reasonable that someone else’s morals should mean anything for me.

All these fingers pointing in all these directions: some point to our works; some point to our hearts; some point to our minds. They all point wrongly. Do not look where these fingers point you. Look to where John the Baptist points.

John the Baptist did not point people to anyone or anything except Jesus. The elite of society came to him asking who he was. They tempted John to take praise for himself and accept the glory of men. But John humbly points to Christ whose sandal strap he is not worthy to untie. He doesn’t even refer to himself as a person, but merely a voice. He is the voice crying in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord.” John pointed to Christ by the Jordan River and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

John did not point to himself, but said he is not even worthy to untie the strap of Jesus’ sandal. He said he must decrease and Jesus must increase (John 3:30). He did not point people to their works as a way to please God. He pointed to Christ with whom God is well pleased. “Good works cannot avert our doom, They help and save us never.” (LSM 555 st. 1)

In Galatians 2(:16) it is written, “We know that a person is not declared righteous by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ.” A little later it says, “If righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” If we could save ourselves by what we do, Jesus died for no reason! But in fact, Jesus died because we cannot save ourselves by our works. They don’t even help us in any way.

John the Baptist also does not point people to their experiences. He points them to Christ. Peter does the same when he writes of his experience on the Mount of Transfiguration. He was an eyewitness of the majesty and glory of Jesus as His face shone like the sun, and Moses and Elijah appeared, talking with Him. Peter heard God the Father’s voice from heaven say, “This is my beloved Son, with Whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.” Peter fell on his face terrified of his experience (Matt. 17:1-5). However, when he writes about his experience, he writes, “When he received honour and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory… we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have more fully confirmed the prophetic word” (2 Peter 1:18-19). The prophetic Word of God is more fully confirmed and reliable than the experience that Peter had. The experience left him terrified. But the word of Jesus to him was, “Rise, and have no fear” (Matt. 17:7). Thus Peter points us to Christ and His Word. So also John points us to Christ and His Word.

There are several problems with pointing to your feelings. Feelings are fickle. Feelings change. Feelings fade. You need to “up the experience” to get the same feelings. You need to find God in something more edgy to get that same feeling. Soon, you are ready to find God anywhere and everywhere except where He has promised to be found. The Word and Sacrament, where God has promised to be found, are cast aside for some feeling being chased. The Bible never tells us to search for God in our feelings or in our hearts. We are not told by God to pursue emotional experiences in search of God.

Finally, John did not point to human reason. Human reason has limitations. Our minds are polluted by sin and we are woefully incapable of understanding God. God says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Is. 55:8-9) Also, Romans 11(:33-34) says, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counsellor?”

Our reason cannot help us find God. Thus John points to Jesus. If you want to understand God, look to Jesus. In Jesus we see God’s heart towards us. In Jesus we see the love of God. Jesus showed you the love of God when He gave up His life for you. He willingly died in your place, for your sins. He earned forgiveness for you and gives it to you freely.

You cannot find forgiveness in your works. You cannot find forgiveness in your heart. You cannot find forgiveness in your mind. You can only find forgiveness in Jesus. And He gives this forgiveness to you in Baptism. He gives this forgiveness to you in Absolution. And He gives this forgiveness to you in His holy Supper.

So in this world where everyone points you somewhere else; during this time leading up to Christmas when there is much competition with pointing in all kinds of directions and to all kinds of things; during this time look to where John the Baptist points. Look to Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Look to Jesus, your Saviour. Look to Jesus, who has earned forgiveness for you and gives it to you freely. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your kinds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Comfort, Comfort

Dear people who have been sent a word of comfort: Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

God’s people had fallen into idolatry, adultery, and all other kinds of sin. They thought that they could do whatever they pleased, and then just turn to the Temple every once in a while and everything would be fine. They conformed to the culture around them instead of conforming to God’s Word.

As a result, God gave them into the hand of the Babylonians in 587 BC. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon defeated them in battle. He destroyed the architecture of their cities. He destroyed the Temple. He even wiped out much of the natural ecosystems in their land. Nebuchadnezzar exiled all the royalty to ensure there would not be an uprising against him. He conscripted the soldiers he hadn’t killed into his army. All the artisans, craftsmen, musicians, and any other skilled trades were redeployed in the conqueror’s service. The rest were left to work the vineyards and the fields to yield revenue for Nebuchadnezzar.

Zedekiah the king was blinded before he was bound and exiled to Babylon. But he was forced to watch one last horrific thing before he was blinded, which was the last thing he ever saw: his sons were slaughtered before his eyes, and his royal line was thus ended.

The exiles saw a future with no hope. They had turned their backs to God and now they were exiled with no hope to ever return home. Their sins had resulted in this horrible situation.

Their warfare wasn’t just with Babylon, it was with God. It was God who brought this disaster upon them because they refused to listen to His Word. There was no hope. They had no one to comfort them. But did God spurn them forever? Did He reject His people forever? No, God did not reject His people forever. He sent them His Word of comfort.

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” While suffering because of their sins, they receive comfort from God. And He still calls Himself their God. He has not rejected His covenant people. And contrary to what would be expected, God does not now speak harshly to these rebels, but tenderly. He tells them their iniquity is pardoned. Their sins are forgiven. They receive double comfort from their God.

No, they don’t deserve it. God used this horrible destruction and exile to crush the pride of His people. He turned them away from their sins back to Himself, and forgave their sins. Let us pray that we do not need such a harsh lesson to turn away from our sin.

Yet this text applies to us. The situation of mankind without Christ is that of warfare with God. Before God made us His own in Holy Baptism, we were His enemies. Before God put His name on us and called us His own, we belonged to Sin and to the devil.

“Comfort, comfort my people” says your God. But comfort is required only where there is affliction. Comfort is required only where there is grief. Comfort is required only where there are those sitting underneath sorrow’s load.

Well, this was our situation. There was serious affliction. We were at war. I’m not talking about a little skirmish that’s insignificant in the overall scheme of things. I’m talking about all-out warfare. We were outnumbered and outweaponed. We were surrounded on all sides. We had rebelled against the King and made Him our enemy. Instead of living in peace and quietness in His Kingdom, we decided to break His Laws. We incited those around us to do the same. Our sins became a stench in the Kingdom.

There was no fight coming. It was going to be an onslaught; a slaughter. We had no chance for anything except to be completely wiped out. We would be no match for the mighty angel warriors. The Angel of Death marched on our weak encampment.

But instead of wiping us out, the King, the Lord God Almighty sent a word of comfort to us. Our King, against whom we had rebelled, did not send harsh words of anger to us as we would have expected and deserved. He sent words of comfort. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned.” No harsh words of judgment. No condemnation. Our warfare is ended.

“Comfort, comfort, ye My people, Speak ye peace,” thus saith our God;

“Comfort those who sit in darkness, Mourning ‘ neath their sorrows’ load.

Speak ye to Jerusalem Of peace that waits for them;

Tell her that her sins I cover And her warfare now is over.” (LSB 347 st. 1)

            It is only through the covering of our sins that we have peace with God. In our sins, there is no peace. Our sins deserve God’s anger and punishment. Our sins cause us sorrow. Our sins cause God sorrow.

“Comfort, comfort my people” says your God. These aren’t empty words of comfort. Since they are God’s words, they do what they say. God’s words of comfort actually give you comfort. They’re not mere words but they concretely do something. God gives His words of comfort because He has concretely done something to give you comfort.

God sent His Son to bear our griefs and carry our sorrows; to be stricken, smitten, and afflicted for us; to be wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities; He sent Jesus to take our punishment on Himself and suffer and die on the cross for our sins, so now we have peace with God (Is. 53:4-5). Now God blots out our sins and pardons us. We are no longer God’s enemies, but His children. God has concretely changed who we are. He is the Judge who has pronounced us “not guilty”. He has brought us into His Church and concretely made us His own through Baptism.

Yea, her sins our God will pardon, Blotting out each dark misdeed;

All that well deserved His anger He no more will see or heed.

She hath suffered many a day, Now her griefs have passed away;

God will change her pining sadness Into everspringing gladness. (st. 2)

            God’s word of comfort will also do something else concrete. When we die, God’s word will raise us back to life at the resurrection of the dead. This is no empty promise or figurative language. It is a concrete promise based on the resurrection of Jesus. Romans 6 promises that those who have been united by Baptism into Christ will also be united with Him in His resurrection (v. 5).

This is true comfort. You also have received double comfort from God despite all of your sins. This is because your sins are forgiven on account of Jesus’ death for you. Your warfare is ended. Your iniquity is pardoned. “Comfort, comfort my people” says your God. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Advent = Preparation

Sermon based on Mk 1:1-8 for the Second Sunday in Advent

Dear people preparing for Christmas: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Advent is a time of preparation. Sure, you say. I’m already prepared for Christmas. My tree is up, my lights and decorations are up. I’ve already done most of my Christmas shopping. I have planned my Christmas parties and dinners; I know where to be and when. I know how much food I need to buy and prepare for dinners I’m hosting.

But that’s not quite the preparation that John the Baptist was talking about. John came preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. People came from all over the countryside confessing their sins and receiving forgiveness. John was sent before the face of Jesus to prepare the way for His coming. He preached, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”

But this is the very reason we want to skip the season of Advent and jump right into Christmas. We don’t want to confess our sins. We don’t want to repent. We don’t want to truly prepare for Christmas.

We will prepare for Santa Claus. We will prepare for parties. We will prepare for the secular holiday season. But we will not prepare for the coming of the Lord at Christmas.

We find this whole repentance and confession thing repulsive. Even when we confess our sins, we want to hold something back – those sins that we want to cling to. We want to hide our sins instead of confessing them. We either think that we don’t need to confess our sins because they aren’t so bad, or we think that they are so horrible that we cannot bring them to Jesus. We either think that our sins aren’t so hideous or we try to mask our hideousness with the external trappings of the holiday season.

We’ve got our Christmas tree, our cute little baby Jesus in the nativity scene. We’ve got lights and parties. All these are supposed to show our celebration of Christmas, but are we really trying to hide the hideousness of our sins behind these things? Or are these things to distract us from our sins; to distract us from what Christmas really is and from what Advent really is?

Back in the day of John the Baptist, priests were relatively wealthy people. John was from a priestly family, but he chose garments of camel’s hair over priestly robes. He chose wild locusts and honey over the delicacies he might have had. He chose to forego the external trappings of celebration and instead focused on the coming of Christ and the true preparing of His way.

“Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” Let’s not pretend our paths have been straight. Let’s not pretend that we haven’t wandered from God’s Law and made our own paths wherever we wanted to wander. Let’s not mask our sins of thought, word, and deed like the world wants to dress up during Advent.

The church has traditionally dressed down for Advent, just when the world is dressing up. Just when the world is decorating and partying and lighting everything up, the church has dressed things down and turned to sombre reflection and repentance. Even in the liturgy, the Song of Praise is omitted. Alleluias were traditionally omitted. Christmas hymns would not be sung until Christmas Eve. The nativity scene would not have the baby Jesus and the Christmas tree would not be put up until Christmas Eve.

So does this mean that it is sinful to have already decorated for Christmas? Is it wrong to have a Christmas tree up already? Is it wrong to go to Christmas parties early in December? No, no, and no. That’s not the point. The point is that there is a reason why the church has traditionally done exactly the opposite of what the world does. While the world prepares for a holiday season, the church has confessed that we are unable to prepare for Christmas. We are unable to prepare for the coming of Jesus.

As we sung during last week’s Advent service, “O Lord, How Shall I Meet You, How welcome You aright?” The only thing we can do is try to mask our sin or pretend it doesn’t exist. But God sees through our masks. He reads our hearts even better than we read them. We cannot cover our sins; only God can cover sin.

The only way for us to be prepared for the coming of Christ is if our sins are covered. And it is Christ Himself who must cover our sin. So don’t hold sins back or try to mask them as something they are not. Don’t try to dress up your sins like they aren’t so bad. Give your sins to Jesus. Confess your sins and receive forgiveness. Jesus’ death has paid the penalty for all of your sins and has earned you forgiveness.

John the Baptist was the messenger sent before Jesus to prepare the way. In the prophets it is written, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way” (Mal. 3:1 cited in Mark 1:2). How is it that John prepare the way of the Lord? Mark writes that John prepared the way for Jesus by baptizing and preaching. Baptizing and preaching.

Doesn’t everything all of a sudden make sense? All those who heard John’s preaching – they could not prepare the way of the Lord. They could not prepare to receive their Saviour. Jesus sent John to prepare the way. John prepared the way by preaching God’s Word and baptizing.

And Jesus still sends messengers before Him to prepare the way for His coming. And we messengers still do it by preaching the Word and baptizing. Except now it is no longer the baptism of John with water only, but now it is the baptism of Jesus – the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus will return as He has promised. And He wants you to be prepared for His coming, so He sends messengers to preach His Word of repentance to you. He sends pastors who preach His Law to convict you of your sin. Jesus wants you to know His will for your life so that you will repent when you wander from His will. He wants to turn you from your crooked ways to His straight ways. He wants you to stop masking your sins or pretending they doesn’t exist. He wants you to confess your sins and be absolved.

Jesus also sends pastors to absolve you in His stead and by His command. Jesus sends pastors to baptize you in His name so that you receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. See, the preparing of the way is done for you. God Himself does it through His Word and Sacraments administered by the mouth and hand of His messengers. His Word turns your hearts away from sin and to Him. His Word of forgiveness covers all of your sins. He has baptized you and made you His own.

So what preparations can you do? All you can do is receive God’s gifts. Hear His Word that He sends to you. Receive the absolution of your sins. Receive the forgiveness of sins that comes in Jesus’ true body and blood. Through these means God prepares you and keeps you in the faith until Christ returns.

Don’t be in a hurry to skip Advent and jump into Christmas early. Advent is a time of preparation and hopeful anticipation. Allow God to prepare you during this Advent through His Word and Sacrament. As we look forward in joyful anticipation to the celebration of Christmas, we also look forward in joyful anticipation to the celebration when Jesus returns.

The season of Advent captures so well what the Church is all about. We know the celebration that is coming soon – the eternal celebration of the Lamb in His kingdom which has no end. We longingly anticipate it. But there is a time right now that the celebration has not yet been realized. We are in this time before Jesus returns. We are in this time of Advent before Christmas.

During this time, as we await the second coming of Christ, He Himself prepares us for His return. He forgives our sins. He feeds us with His body and blood to strengthen us until He comes again.

So, instead of rushing into Christmas, let us look forward with joyful anticipation to the coming celebration – both the celebration of Christ’s first coming and the celebration that will be His second coming. And remember, it is God who prepares you for both. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.


O Lord, How Shall I Meet You?

Dear people waiting for Jesus to come: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

“Come, Lord Jesus” we pray. But then, as we sung in our hymn, we must ask, “O Lord, how shall I meet You, how welcome You aright?” (LSB 334 st. 1) How can we be prepared to meet Jesus when He returns. When He returns, He comes to judge the nations. Why do we pray for the judge of the living and the dead to come? Perhaps we would be wiser to ask Him to hold off for a while. Perhaps if we had more time we could prepare ourselves for His arrival. Perhaps we could clean up our act a bit more and then welcome Him aright.

But alas, more time will not help us. More time gives us only more time to sin, more opportunities to fall into temptation, more opportunities to act selfishly. Time is no solution. More time gives no comfort. More time is no help. Perhaps, after all, we should pray, “Come, Lord Jesus.” But then we must ask what we expect of His second coming.

Of great help in understanding Jesus’ second coming, is His first coming. Jesus didn’t come into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world (Jn. 3:17). As we sung:

Love caused Your incarnation; Love brought you down to me.

Your thirst for my salvation Procured my liberty.

Oh, love beyond all telling, That led You to embrace

In love, all love excelling, Our lost and fallen race (LSB 334 st. 4).

            Jesus came in love to save us. He left the glory of heaven to be born a man. He took on our flesh to procure our liberty. Jesus saw our estate. He saw our sinful condition and came to save us.

Was it because we were ready for His coming? Were we prepared to receive Jesus when He came the first time? No, we were not ready for Jesus to come. From His birth to His death, we did not receive Him. We were not prepared. We rejected Him from His birth to His death. No room for Him in the inn when He was born, we rejected Him. We chose Barabbas over Jesus. We rejected Him. No room in our hearts. We rejected Him. We were slaves to sin and enemies of God. Nevertheless, Jesus did come. He came to accept us even though we rejected Him. He came to save us from our slavery to sin and give us freedom. Our hymn wonderfully words this also:

I lay in fetters groaning; You came to set me free.

I stood, my shame bemoaning; You came to honour me.

A glorious crown you give me, A treasure safe on high

That will not fail or leave me As earthly riches fly (st. 3).

            Jesus came to set free all mankind, imprisoned by the fetters of sin. Despite the shame of our sin, Jesus came to honour us. This He did so that He can give us the crown of everlasting life. Jesus paid the debt of our sins and covered our shame and guilt, securing eternal life in heaven us. In spite of the fact that man was not ready or prepared in any way to meet Jesus, He came. But He came with forgiveness. He came to save us.

Yes, when Jesus returns, He comes to judge the nations. But He is a terror only to His foes. Those who prefer their iron fetters of immorality to freedom and their shackles of sin to liberty will receive the judgment they deserve. But we, the children of God, have nothing to fear. Our sins have been covered by the blood of Jesus. We stand before God as His forgiven children, so we will not get what our sins deserve. As His children, we can look forward to the return of Christ with great joy and hope. When Jesus returns, He returns to take us to be with Him in our eternal home. He comes to take us away from sin, sickness, and death. He comes to give us everlasting life. So, Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!

Will you be prepared to meet Him when He comes again? Not by your own preparations. But Jesus Himself has made you ready to meet Him. Your sins have been covered so now you have no need to fear His return.

Sin’s debt, that fearful burden, Cannot His love erase;

Your guilt the Lord will pardon And cover by His grace.

He comes, for you procuring, The peace of sins forgiven,

His children thus securing Eternal life in heaven.

            Your sins cannot undo His love. The burden of your sins is erased by His love. Your guilt is pardoned and covered by God’s grace. You have peace with God through Jesus. Jesus has secured eternal life in heaven for you, His children. So you can love the Lord’s appearing. You can joyfully look forward to His coming, because He will guide you safely home. So Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.