Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Advent Midweek 3

Advent Midweek 3

In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King +
Tonight, we move to the end of the Te Deum, the great hymn of the Church. So far in the hymn we have praised our Creator who is involved with us, who is not a distant god but is in fact The Lord, the God who dwells with man. We have proclaimed the plan of salvation that the Triune God has, namely sending Christ Jesus down to become man, true man. Indeed, Jesus' incarnation, His taking up human flesh, is the chief thing we celebrate this Christmas. And Jesus, being true man, goes to the cross, confronts sin, suffers and dies and then rises so that we are forgiven and given life everlasting.

So now what? The last part of the Te Deum shifts from the story of salvation to the here and now. Right now, in our lives – so what? What does all this stuff about the Father and Jesus and the Spirit – what does it have to do with me, living here in Herscher in the middle of December? Or, if I might ask the question in the traditional Lutheran fashion – what does this mean? Hear now the answer that the Te Deum gives. We therefore pray You to help Your servants whom You have redeemed with Your precious blood. This is what it means. We have all this stuff in the Bible, 66 books of things that happened thousands of years ago – Revelation is the closest to us in time, and it's over 1900 years old. But here is the impact it has now. You are God's servant, and when God views you, when the Lord God who has a relationship with you looks at you, He always sees you through the lens of the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus. You are washed in the blood of the Lamb, you are clothed with Christ's righteousness. When God the Father sees you, He sees all the joy and love and obedience and holiness of Christ Jesus. Because you are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. So God will help you. You realize, God isn't sitting up in heaven debating whether or not to smite you because you let a frivolous “Oh God” slip out this afternoon. As Paul in Romans says, There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Of course not – He used all His condemnation up upon the cross! Because of Christ, the relationship between you and God is fixed, is healthy. Now, we're still sinners in a sinful world – at least until He returns, and so we do need help. Our own sinful stupidity can get us into a lot of trouble, but God will aid us, help us.

Now when I say that – I don't mean, “Pastor said God helps me, so I'm going to drive 120 mph on icy roads.” No, this is what we really mean by help. Make them to be numbered with Your saints, in glory everlasting. Help us get through this mess of a world, dear Lord, and preserve our faith in You. Help us get through the temptations that Satan and the World and even our own sinful flesh toss at us that would make us forget you, make us forget that we are indeed Your servants who have been redeemed by Your precious blood. Make us remember who we are in You, remember who You have made us to be.

This gets spelled out in verses 8 and 9. You might have noticed that they are in italics – they aren't in the earliest version – that means they've only been sung for 1000 years and not 1500, oh well. They are still fantastic. O Lord, save Your people and bless Your heritage. You are God's heritage, His legacy, His enduring joy. He's not going to treat you like junk. No, He will save you, preserve you. Indeed, He will govern them and lift them up forever. God doesn't leave you to face the temptations of this world alone. He is your king, your ruler; He governs you. His Word instructs, guides, chides, and reshapes you. And indeed, His Word lifts you up when you have fallen. You are forgiven on account of Christ – now let's go have the Supper and receive His Body and Blood for the forgiveness of sins – lift up your hearts... and this He does forever.

Thus, our response is this: Day by day we magnify You and we worship Your name forever and ever. I like that word “magnify”. It's so old fashioned – but it's part of Mary's Magnificant. To magnify means to make something big and great, to make it magnificent. And this is what we do as Christians – day by day we worship God – that is we consider what He has done for us and we look at seen just how great and wondrous it is, and we proclaim it. And seeing how wondrous our God is, we pray. Grant, O Lord, to keep us this day without sin. God, keep us from messing up. It's the Alan Shephard prayer from the first space mission. Protect us from ourselves, O God. And yet, the Te Deum is realistic – even if outwardly our day seems virtuous and full of good works, we remain sinful, and so we cry out O Lord, have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us. O Lord, let Your mercy be upon us as our trust is in You. Three times we call out for mercy – give us great and full and complete mercy, O God, for we need it. Indeed, we do not trust ourselves, for if left to our own devices and on our own, we would surely ruin it all. Instead, we cling to You. O Lord, in You have I trusted; let me never be confounded. You have give me the gift of faith, O Lord, so I trust in You. Never let me lose that faith and trust.

And there is. A great confession of faith, a great hymn, declaring, dare I say magnifying once again all that God has done for us in creating us, in redeeming us, in giving us faith and keeping us in the faith. It's the same pattern as we confess in the Creed, it's the same lessons taught in the explanations to the creed in Luther's Small Catechism. And thus, we do praise God, for all His benefits that He richly and freely showers upon us, with no merit of our own, but solely on account of the love He has for us and has shown us in Christ Jesus. All thanks be to Christ Jesus our King. In the Name of Jesus Christ, our Advent King +

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