Sunday, December 22, 2019

Sermon for 12/22/19: Fourth Sunday in Advent

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“Peace on earth…”

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

The best time to hear about a Savior is when you are a prisoner. No one is more receptive to the promise of freedom than a slave. Most of us will never know the feeling of being bound by iron chains, but there is more than one form of bondage. It is easier to bend metal bars than to free yourself from lust or selfishness or malice. Nothing locks you down as firmly as guilt. As heirs of Adam’s rebellion, we are all enslaved—not only by sin, but by the decay of death which corrupts every aspect of human existence. Life on earth is not the garden of delights it was meant to be.
It is a sign of wisdom when a person begins to know the world for the cruel, merciless place it is. And this awakening, without the context of Christian hope, is devastating. You won’t achieve most of your goals; you won’t realize most of the things you hope for; people are essentially selfish; the world does not care. These are the realizations that drive people to drugs or alcohol or illicit sexual encounters, to gambling and addictions, to other forms of escape.
For several weeks or months, we have been preparing for Christmas. For many of us, that means spending money we don’t have. Soon we will be gathered around trees in our living rooms: exchanging gifts, drinking eggnog, taking pictures while we gush over clothing and trinkets and gadgets we don’t need and will never use. Then the excitement will be over, and for many of us there will be a sense of letdown as we go back to our routines. We do not see peace on earth; there is no goodwill toward men.
The Christian never feels truly at home in this world. We are always strangers in a strange land, pilgrims journeying to a better destination. But there are many signs along the way to tell us that we are getting closer to our destination. And by the grace of God, we see indications of the beauty and glory of that future home.
Everything in this world that can be called good is a glimpse of something better. Music that makes you tap your toe, strong coffee on a cold morning, being hugged unexpectedly, the inviting comfort of a soft bed, being entranced by a well told story, seeing your child’s face light up, the loyal companionship of a dog: all those things are merely shadows of something more substantial to come.
John the Baptist lived to point us to Jesus, the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” There is no recorded incident of Jesus turning a sinner away. Jesus never refuses a sincere plea for deliverance or redemption. He will never turn you away. He gives you all you need for this body and life. He gives you all you need for the life of the world to come. He hears your prayers, and He answers them for you in the best way possible. His good and gracious will is always done, and it is always best.
God has seen your situation. He has heard your weeping. And He has answered. The eternal Son of God has stepped down from His mighty throne to become one of us. He had no sin of His own, but He took upon himself the full guilt of the sin of all—a scene so repugnant that even the sun turned dark and the earth shook. All this Jesus did willingly, out of supreme love for you. The Father’s wrath has been extinguished, exhausted upon the Son, so that we who are in Christ would be pardoned and cleansed, set free from all condemnation. Truly He brings “peace on earth, goodwill toward men.”
So come to the Lord’s Table. Receive the medicine of eternal life. Sing praise to God, for Jesus is coming! He is coming to set you free. He is coming to take you out of the valley of the shadow of death, and you will dwell with Him in glory forever. 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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