Wednesday, December 09, 2020

Sermon for 12/9/2020: Midweek of Advent II (Hymns of Advent Series)

Tonight I was the guest preacher at Immanuel Lutheran Church in West Point (Campbell Hill), Illinois. 

RIGHT-CLICK HERE to save the audio file.

Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Rejoice, rejoice, believers,
And let your lights appear;
The evening is advancing,
And darker night is near.
The Bridegroom is arising
And soon is drawing nigh.
Up, pray and watch and wrestle;
At midnight comes the cry.
The Bridegroom is delayed. No one knows exactly when He will arrive, but everyone knows He is coming. All the bridesmaids know how important it is for their lamps to be lit when the Bridegroom comes to bring them to the wedding feast, because the Bridegroom may come in the dead of night, and the light will shine as they wait and shine on their path as they travel to the feast. This is an image of the Church, waiting in eager expectation for the appearing of the Son of Man in glory to judge the living and the dead. It has not been long since we heard that text for the Last Sunday of the Church Year. Like the bridesmaids, we know that our Lord is coming. We have heard His promises, and He is faithful. While the rest of the world is terrified at the prospect of the coming of Christ as Judge, the Church—the Bride of Christ—rejoices. And as we wait, we keep our lanterns lit with the oil of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
The watchers on the mountain
Proclaim the Bridegroom near;
Go forth as He approaches
With alleluias clear.
The marriage feast is waiting;
The gates wide open stand.
Arise, O heirs of glory;
The Bridegroom is at hand.
“The Bridegroom is at hand,” cry the watchers on the mountain. The Lord has sent many watchers to cry to His people. You might recognize some of them: Sean Smith; Timothy Zechiel; John Drosendahl; CFW Walther; Martin Luther; John Chrysostom; Augustine of Hippo; Ambrose of Milan; Paul; Peter; John the Baptist; Isaiah; Moses… It’s hardly a comprehensive list, and yet it helps us understand that the Bridegroom has been promised for a long time—even from the fall into sin in Genesis 3. God sends these messengers, and they, in turn, cry out to His people that the marriage feast is waiting, and the gates stand open to welcome all those who await with joy the coming of the Bridegroom Savior. These messengers are sent to prepare the way of the Lord, just as John the Baptist did. It’s not always a popular message, and it’s not always received with joy—not even by those who should rejoice. In fact, sometimes preaching this message costs the messenger his livelihood or even his very life, as he is attacked by foe and supposed friend alike for preaching the Truth. Even so, he cries out. “Arise, O heirs of glory; the Bridegroom is at hand.”
The saints, who here in patience
Their cross and suff’rings bore,
Shall live and reign forever
When sorrow is no more.
Around the throne of glory
The Lamb they shall behold;
In triumph cast before Him
Their diadems of gold.
One of the most beautiful pictures in all the Bible is the gathering of the saints before the throne of God. In fact, throughout Scripture, the images we see of heaven are images of the Church at worship. In Isaiah 6 we hear the angels crying out in praise to God, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” And in Revelation 7 we see “a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” The angel tells John, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Having been faithful to their Lord unto death, they have been given the crown of eternal life. They will be raised up on the Last Day; for now, they wait. They rest until that day when they shall live forever, nevermore to sin, nevermore to suffer, nevermore to die. That is you. That is each and every baptized child of God, all those who trusted in the Savior, all who have filled their lanterns with the oil of true faith.
Our hope and expectation,
O Jesus, now appear;
Arise, O Sun so longed for,
O’er this benighted sphere.
With hearts and hands uplifted,
We plead, O Lord, to see
The day of earth’s redemption
That sets Your people free!
That Day, the day of earth’s redemption, is coming. We know it. We have seen the signs described by our Lord. We have heard the messengers cry out to us that the Bridegroom is coming. And we pray for that Day to come. We pray for our Savior, our hope and expectation in flesh, to appear. In the meantime, He is the Light who shines in the darkness of this benighted sphere; He is the Light no darkness can overcome. In His light, we see our promised redemption. As we wait for the great Day, we see with clear eyes our Jesus: present in His Word; present in the waters of Holy Baptism; present in His body and blood, a foretaste of that eternal Wedding Banquet. The saints who are living and the saints now at rest both wait with the sure and certain hope of our resurrection to eternal life when He comes. And as we wait here, we are sustained by Jesus in these humble means of water, bread, and wine, combined with the power of the Word. The Bridegroom says, “Behold, I am coming soon.” And His Bride, the Church, cries out in joy, “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 keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.


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