In the season of Advent, it is our responsibility and joy to prepare ourselves to hear again the message of the angels, to go to Bethlehem and see the Son of God lying in a manger. Let us hear and heed in Holy Scripture the story of God’s loving purpose from the time of our rebellion against him until the glorious redemption brought to us by his holy child, Jesus, and let us look forward to the yearly remembrance of his birth with hymns and songs of praise.
When you prepare for your Christmas company, it typically includes a thorough house cleaning. You want your home looking your best when your honored guests come. And yet, dirt and clutter probably would not offend those guests too much. How much more then should we prepare for Christ by cleaning the dirt and clutter out of our hearts! Because the sin we hold in our hearts does offend the Holy One who is coming. How can we say we are ready to embrace our coming Savior in love and joy if we don’t first put down the sins that caused his death… the sins which could cut us off from his love forever? We need to prepare our hearts for Christ’s coming through sincere repentance.
ARE YOU READY FOR CHRIST?
Are you ready for Christmas? Probably not. This time of year, there is so much to do: decorating the home, buying gifts, getting ready for family. However, if you are not ready for Christmas, you shouldn’t fret too much. Frankly, whether you have the perfect gift for everyone is unimportant for the celebration of Christmas. Whether your halls are properly decked is irrelevant to Christmas. In fact, if you think that those things are important, you prove how little you understand Christmas.
Christmas is important for only one reason. Just as Christ came once, bringing salvation, so he will come again, bringing the end of the world as we know it. He came the first time as a weak, helpless baby. He comes again as King and Judge and Lord of all. And so a better question than “Are you ready for Christmas?” is “Are you ready for Christ?” Christmas is important only because a proper understanding of Christmas is what will prepare us for Christ’s return.
In these weeks leading up to Christmas at Our Savior, we are going to spend some time talking about the true meaning of Christmas by wrestling with that question. Are you ready for Christ?
Our theme this week: Christ Will Come Unexpectedly
Preparing for Christmas is relatively easy for this reason – we know when it will be. Christmas doesn’t move. It is always December 25th. That firm and well-known date allows us to prepare. We know when we need to be ready. Preparing for Christ’s second coming is more difficult since no one knows when that will be. It could be 1000 years from now. It could be tomorrow. It is absolutely vital that you are prepared to meet Christ on Judgment Day. Since we don’t know when that is, we must live in a constant state of readiness.
He will come to judge the living and the dead. We confess it every Sunday, but often live like those are empty words. Moses’ psalm on the mortality of man shakes us from our spiritual slumber. Number your days aright and gain a heart of wisdom! Today the Church prays that God keep us ever mindful of the Last Judgment that we might be found in faith, fruitful in both word and deed. Then there’s no need to fear Judgment Day; rather, we can look forward to the day of our redemption. Our Savior is Coming to Judge. Lord, keep us mindful of the Judgment!
How good God has been to each one of us! He sent his Son, Jesus, to live a perfect life so that perfection could become ours through faith. Jesus died and rose to forgive our sins and give us eternal life with him. He brought us to faith through the Gospel. Now, he opens our eyes to see all those living around us who need to hear the good news of all God has done for them. Our gracious God empowers us to boldly and eagerly share all that God has done with our friends, our neighbors, our relatives, and all people we meet in life.
We are living in the end times. Jesus promised that the end times would be perilous for Christians due to the increase of wickedness and the decrease of faith and love. The times are also perilous for those outside the Church, because judgment is near for all. However, God’s Word gives us reason to be confident. Today, we hear that can be confident in these end times because we have seen and heard how God took care of the saints who went before us. Forgiven in our Savior, we can look forward to God’s gracious care here on earth and eternal triumph in heaven.
Today the Christian Church celebrates the Festival of the Reformation of the Church. What does that mean?
The effect of the Lutheran Reformation of the church on the history of the world can hardly be overstated. Quite simply, it caused one of the most profound sea-changes in history. In fact, when US News and World Report ranked the most important events of the last 1000 years, the Lutheran Reformation placed second, right behind Gutenberg’s moveable type printing press. Now consider that for a moment… That means that they considered the Lutheran Reformation to be of greater significance than the discovery of the New World (North America), which was number three.
But why? Who was this Luther guy? He was a monk, a priest, and a professor at a little university in Wittenberg, Germany. Why would a guy like that be listed as the third most influential person of the last 1000 years (1000 Years and 1000 People, Gottlieb and Bowers). More important than Einstein, Edison, or George Washington?
Why? During the dark days of the Middle Ages, the truth of God’s Word was hidden away in monasteries. The Church of that day was not teaching that we are saved by Jesus’ death and resurrection. Instead, people were told that they needed to try and earn their way to heaven—or worse, that they had to buy their way to heaven. The truth of God’s Word was rejected, and the traditions of men put in its place.
Dr. Luther changed all of that on October 31st, 1517, when he nailed 95 Statements for Debate on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. He said that the Bible should be our only source of teaching, not man-made traditions. He showed that God saved us by grace alone, by faith alone. He returned the Bible into the hands of the people and quite literally changed the world.
Today, we are not here to celebrate a man, but what God did through a man. We’re here to celebrate the grace of a God who reformed his Church, and brought back the pure and simple teaching that had been lost: Jesus died and rose for me, so I will be in heaven forever. Period.
By Grace Alone. By Faith Alone. By Scripture Alone.
The Festival of the Reformation
This week we acknowledge that God alone deserves the glory for the rescue he has accomplished for us. 500 years ago people were more likely to give glory to their rituals and behavior than to God. Today people are very interested in how God should glorify us with happiness and fulfillment, but not so interested in finding happiness and fulfillment in the gifts God has already given. Therefore, half a millennium later, we still confess that God has saved us in Christ, and we are more than happy to thank him by saying, "To God alone be the glory!" Still.
This week we learn that God's eternal gifts become ours through a connecting agent called faith. Trust in Jesus connects us to all that he has done. 500 years ago, people put their trust in people (alive and dead), tradition, and anyone or anything that could assuage their fear. Today, the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction, as many teach and believe that belief in God makes no difference at all. Still half a millennium later, the truth lies in the middle: trust in Jesus Christ connects us to all that he has done for us. Still.
This week we see that God's grace accomplished our salvation in Christ, and Christ alone. 500 years ago, people traded grace for self-validation. Today, the same self-help theology is seen in those who, if they admit a need for a Savior, only want part of him. However, where Jesus doesn't work completely, there can be no certainty. Thu, half a millennium later, the Savior who literally calmed the seas at one time, still calms hearts for all time. Still.
THE STORM OF TRUTH THAT BROUGHT ENDLESS PEACE
This week we see that God did what we never could, namely, give us life that lasts and eternal worth. 500 years ago, people banked on the false hope that God would give a little help and you had to do the rest. Today, work righteousness is seen in mantras like, "God helps those who help themselves" or modicums like "All you got to do is..." If true, how could you ever know if you have done enough? We can't. Thus, half a millennium later we still see and hear that God saves by grace alone. Still.
Today’s lessons cause the worshiper to ask: Is God fair? No, he’s not. He doesn’t give us what we deserve, and that’s called mercy. In fact, he gives us what we don’t deserve, and that’s called grace. What is our God like? Our God is inconceivably gracious. Our God is generous to everyone!