Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Advent Midweek 2

In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King +
Tonight, we will be looking at the second part of the Te Deum, verses 5 and 6. And these are some wonderful verses, they teach, they proclaim what Christ has done – indeed, the whole point of Advent, of Christ's coming is shown here in these verses. The point is that Christ Jesus comes down from heaven to be our Savior. And before we get to the text, this is a prime example of music, of melody and harmony, teaching in concert with the words. The beginning of the Te Deum, where we are praising God for creation is high, lofty, in a major key. (Dan, would you play a line?) It's bright, it's bold. But then we get to the second part – and there is a key change. We move into the relative minor – the notes shift down. (Dan, again, would you play the opening line). That's intentional. Why? Because this section, this passage is about what happens when Christ Jesus comes down from heaven. If you remember back to your Catechism days, you might have heard this described as the “stages of humiliation” - where Christ humbles Himself, where He doesn't use His divine power, but lets stuff happen to Him. Was incarnate by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. And to key in to this – our tones which we sing drop down as well. It's kind of neat, in a music nerd sort of way.

And what is it precisely that we sing? When you took upon Yourself to deliver man, You humbled Yourself to be born of a virgin. This is a wonderfully profound statement, of beauty and wonder. It drives to the heart of what we call the Incarnation, the truth that God becomes a man. You see, with sin and the fall and all that, mankind messed things up. Man dug the pit, as it were. So thus, for mankind to be redeemed, a man would have to fix things. Only one problem with that – none of us on our own would be able to do that. We're sinners – we excel at messing things up, not fixing them. And so, in order that there would be a righteous man, a holy man, a perfect man – God takes matters into His own hands, and He becomes man. Jesus is true man – man as man was meant to be. Man who lives perfectly righteously, who loves totally and completely. We call this is “active” righteousness – that Jesus actively does everything that God requires of man. But here's the thing – He has to be a real, true man for this to work. So when Jesus becomes man, He doesn't get to take any short cuts. He doesn't just say “poof” and appear one day all fully grown. He becomes man in a fallen world, and puts up with all the junk that we people in a fallen world have to put up with. He humbles Himself and accepts all our junk. Like being born.

You see, not only does Christ show forth an active righteousness, He shows what is called His passive righteousness. He suffers – He takes it all. Even when He doesn't deserve it. All the problems of life in a fallen world, He takes up. Now ponder this with me for a moment. There is Jesus Christ, God almighty, the Word by Whom all things were created. And He, for our salvation, comes down from heaven, and is born of Mary. So there's God, the creator of all things... and He can't talk. If He's hungry, He has to wait on Mary. When He pees or poops, He sits in it until someone changes Him. He humbles Himself. When He comes to deliver us, He comes and takes up all the junk we get in this life, all the humiliating things we deal with in a fallen world. He had baby teeth fall out, He had shin splits and pimples and His voice cracked when He hit puberty – because He humbled Himself to become a man. And yet, through all of this, He remains utterly perfect and righteous – doing all that God commands. It's a wondrous thing.
Yet, not only that – When you had overcome the sharpness of death, You opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers. Let's be honest about what all this junk in life we face is. St. Paul notes that the wages of sin is death. All this junk, all this humiliation is just bits of death popping up before death comes in full. Stuff falls apart. The body doesn't work right. That's just little bits of death. You know that ache in your bones – that's a little preshock of death. That sickness, that cold – just a reminder that your body's defenses fail – a bit now, but one day in full. Why? Because the wages of sin is death. And yet there stands the man Christ Jesus – who had no sin. And what does He do? He lets the wages of sin come crashing on to Him – He takes up in full the punishment, the burden, the cost of sin into His own body – even to the point of death, as cruel and harsh and humiliating a death as you can think of. It doesn't get more embarrassing than to be hung up naked on a cross and left to suffocate. That's a sharp death. Yet what does this do – Christ is actively and passively righteous – everything in the Law He does, its commands, its threats, its punishments. And what remains for you and I? The Kingdom of heaven. The i's are dotted, the t's are crossed, and only salvation for you who believe in Him is left. Death has lost its sting, for we will rise and be with Christ.

The proof? You sit at the right hand of God in the Glory of the Father. Christ has risen, Christ has ascended. He has triumphed over death and rules all creation from heaven. And more than that – We believe that You will come, to be our judge. Does that sound scary? It shouldn't. Jesus is a good judge for you – if the judge has paid your fine, He's not going to levy any more for you. If He's served your punishment for you, He's not going to add anything. Instead, He will come, and say, “Because of My own work for you, I declare you not guilty – now come, My eternal Kingdom waits.” This is what Christ came down to win, to set up, to establish – and He shall come again to see that we have it in full.
And so my dear friends, it is an awesome, wondrous thing, that Christ Jesus comes down from heaven so humbly to rescue us. It is the heart of our faith, that which we confess and proclaim, the reason we give thanks and praise. Christ has humbled Himself for our sake, and now He is exalted, and He shall come again to raise us up unto life everlasting, that we may share in His exultation, all thanks and praise be to Him! In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King!

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