Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Advent Midweek Sermon 1

Advent Midweek 1 – December 2nd, 2015

In the Name of Christ Jesus our Advent King +
This year for our Advent Midweek services, we will be going over one of the great songs of the Church – the Te Deum, which is part of our Matins service. I'm doing this in part because here we aren't really familiar with the Te Deum, which is a shame. The Te Deum is in some ways the most important, most popular hymn in the history of the Christian Church (and I'm not saying that just because tradition says that St. Ambrose of Milan was its author). Luther referred to it as the 4th Creed. Throughout the history of the Church, this was the song of thanksgiving – when wars ended people joined in singing together the Te Deum. And more than that, the Te Deum is a powerful confession of the faith. So, we are going to break the Te Deum up into its main three parts, and we will ponder what it teaches us these next few weeks. Let's dive in.

We praise You, O God, we acknowledge you to be the Lord. One of the things in the Scriptures, especially the Old Testament, is that God is referred to in two different ways. When speaking of God in just His abstract power and majesty – like in Genesis 1, the Scriptures use “God” - Elohim in Hebrew. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. However, there is a second term used for God – His Name. Some people pronounce it Yahweh, Jehovah, Adonai – it's translated into English as “The Lord”. And this is used whenever God is interacting with us people – like in Genesis 2. Then the Lord caused the man to fall into a deep sleep – or Genesis 3 – they heard the sound of the Lord walking in the Garden. So what we have here to start out is an important confession. We praise You, O God, we acknowledge You to be the Lord. This is declaring that God is not just some big, transcendent being that couldn't care less about us. He is the Lord – that is, He is the One who comes and interacts directly with mankind for our benefit. Our God is not merely some being watching us from a distance – He is our Lord, in relationship with us. That's a bold statement – and not many other religions can make it.

Moreover – All the earth now worships You, the Father everlasting. To you all the angels cry aloud, the heavens and all the powers therein, to You cherubim continually do cry. God the Father is praised by all creation. He is worshipped by all creation. To simply behold the world, all the things visible which God has created, is to see His glory. The whole of creation declares the glory of its Creator. But not only that which we see – He is God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. The angels He created, they praise God. Constantly. Continually. All things that exist will ultimately acknowledge their Creator. 
Yet, we do know that in this fallen world, this praise is not as it should be. The world, creation itself, groans under the weight of sin. Some of the angels fell. Things are messy. Oh well – for our God is powerful. Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth, heavenly and earth are full of the majesty of Your glory. Our God is the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Holy, Holy, Holy. And He is the Lord God of Sabaoth – which is the word for the heavenly armies. Are things falling apart – so be it, for God is the One who comes to put it right. Does sin tarnish creation – have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God? Then God will come to restore that glory, to renew creation, to win you forgiveness with the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus the Lord upon the Cross. And what does that mean, what does that look like? The glorious company of the apostles praise You, the goodly fellowship of the prophets praise you. The noble army of martyrs praise You. Now, we can almost want to scoot on by there – sure prophets and apostles and even marytrs praise God. What's the big deal about that? The big deal is this – they are dead. By rights, after the fall, if God left us alone, the dead wouldn't be praising God – they'd be stuck in hell with Satan in misery and torment. Yet God is the Lord, the One who is in relationship with mankind, who loves mankind, who will save and deliver mankind. And so there is redemption and forgiveness – to where even those who have died in the faith, instead of suffering now dwell with God and sing His praise.

But not just those who have died but live with God praise Him – the Holy Church throughout all the world does acknowledge You: - We are part of the Church – we join in our praises along with the praises of the prophets, the apostles, those who have gone before us in the faith. We join in our praises with brothers and sisters in Christ from every continent. It is safe to say that today, this Te Deum, has been sung on every continent, probably in 40 or 50 different languages. Because God has His people, His children the world round – and we gather together to worship the Triune God. And who is the Triune God – The Father of an infinite majesty, Your adorable, true, and only Son; also the Holy Ghost, the Comforter. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, all worshiped and praised together. And here, to close, the first part of the Te Deum makes a transition. For the chief, the center of our worship is Christ Jesus our Lord, who came down to win us salvation (which we will focus on in great detail next week). But now we sing You are the King of Glory, O Christ; You are the everlasting Son of the Father. Christ is King. He is not only true God, son of the Father, but He is true man – the son of David, the promised Redeemer and Savior, who wins us salvation, who restores us to the glory God created us to have.

So then – what do we hear and sing and learn. We learn of the God we praise – who is not merely some distant God, cold and indifferent. No, Our God is our Creator, and when His creation falters, He sends His Son to redeem and restore that creation, to rescue and redeem His people. You don't have a distant God, you worship the Lord. And, as is our especial focus in Advent – your Lord comes to you to be with you, to forgive you, to redeem you. All praise be to our God and Lord, the Father, Son, and Spirit. In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King + Amen.

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