Sunday, December 02, 2018

Sermon for 12/2/18: First Sunday in Advent

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Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Even if the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak. The flesh is terribly difficult to subdue. The things we would not do, the things we hate—those we do. Our flesh betrays us over and over. Our flesh is the seedbed of lust, gluttony, and avarice, and all our deepest sorrows come from our own sins.
The years sweep by, and looking back only shows a list of crimes: a catalog of lies we’ve told, of promises we’ve forgotten, of slander that has risen up out of our hearts. Is it any wonder that our families are so broken; that our lives are so complicated; that the prisons are so full? And as we look back, we also see the signs of God’s wrath and the temporary character of this earth. Terrorists, earthquakes, divorce, and war all serve as warnings of the judgment to come. Nothing on earth is the same today as it was a year ago. All things are in decay; all things are dying. We are in constant turmoil and change. Death is having its way. Only the Word of God never changes.
This should fill us with fear and reform our behavior, but instead we hatch plans. We can build bigger barns to store our crops. We can delay paying our debts. We can kill our enemies—or at least, destroy their reputations. These plans are vain. Our pretending at wisdom is a mockery of the Wisdom which comes down from above. Repent.
If you have ever eaten so much that you had to loosen your belt, you have proven that the flesh is weak. Overeating is not necessarily the desire of your body, which gives you signs that you should stop, but of your fallen mind, which seeks ongoing pleasure, ignoring the clear warnings of fullness, eating even though it hurt. Our will craves such pleasure and vice. We are broken and sick, rotten and dying.
It is for this that our Lord has come. He has taken up the weakness of our flesh. He has become one of us—body, mind, and spirit—in order to redeem our fallen flesh and corrupted wills. He did not leave you alone to suffer in your weaknesses. He has come to rescue you. He is one of us in every way, but He is not weak. He does not sin; the Law is His will. Yes, He is humble and lowly, but He is not weak. He takes up the same human flesh which is prone to alcoholism, homosexuality, cancer, weariness, and, most significantly, death. He comes in the cursed flesh of Adam’s inheritance. He enters into the chaos of our dying lives, to endure our hatred and betrayal, our violence and our phoniness. He is tempted in every way that we are, but He does not succumb or fail. His flesh is as willing as His spirit. He endures all that we do to Him without a desire for vengeance or reputation or even success. He endures in perfect love. He is at one with His Father’s will. He comes to serve as the fulfillment of His own unbending Law. Our Lord, who knows no sin, became sin to free sinners from sin and death.
Jesus rides the donkey into Jerusalem. He comes to be a sacrifice. That crowd of sinners which adores Him is inspired by the Spirit—sinners shouting, “Hosanna! Save us!” They carpet His path to the cross with palms and garments. Soon we will shout as He goes to His death. But we are not ashamed; we do not feel sorry for Him, for we sinners need Him to do it. We are the sinners who shout for the Messiah to be Himself: to save us, to keep His promises. And He does what He says. Shouting sinners are transformed with a Word. By grace He makes them praying saints: saints whom the Lord loves; saints with whom He is well-pleased; saints whose weakness has been washed away, forgiven. The Lord, who came to be born in Bethlehem, who came to Jerusalem to die in payment for our sins, comes now as God in the flesh, present in His Word and Sacraments. Soon He shall come again in glory. Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

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