Wednesday, December 28, 2011

In many and various ways... but NOW His Son!

Sermon for the Nativity of Our Lord, Christmas Morning, preached on December 25, 2011.

    I hesitate to say this because the Lutheran birth rate is already low enough, but, well, here goes.  When you have a child, you lose all sense of spontaneity.  It takes you an hour to get ready for a ten minute errand.  The best laid plans come undone with a baby's whimper, cry, or stuffy nose.  Couples spend their lives wishing for a baby and then spend the rest of their lives lamenting the loss of simple, easy, and spontaneous choices.  Wishes and regrets collide and meanwhile life goes on... Oh, well...
    It is the same about God.  Part of us wishes for a God who is unpredictable and spontaneous.  We hope for an interesting God whom we cannot put into a box.  The thunder of the mountain or the burning bush that is not consumed or the water of a sea parted before us or dreams and visions of ladders to heaven, and the like... But on the other hand, we want to be able to figure God out, to predict His presence and actions, and to know where to find Him when our hearts are laden with cares.  We want to know where He is at all times.  The romance may be in the burning bush or parting waters or thunder or lightening, but the reality lies somewhere else.
    In many and various ways God spoke to His people of old...  Ahhh the myth of it all.  The Old Testament reads like a movie script of scared people who get popped down to size by an unpredictable and powerful God.  But we have read it all wrong.  God was unpredictable only because they lost faith with Him.  This God made Himself predictable through the Word of the prophets.  The glimpses of His plan laid before the foundation of the world were always there.  He did not keep His people in doubt, they chose doubt and fear – an easy choice because of sin.  He was always speaking to them of what was to come but they did not see or trust or believe.  They feared Him as the unknown God but all the while He was revealing Himself and moving toward the day when He would be manifest as plain as a baby’s flesh and blood.
    In many and various ways God spoke to His people of old but all the while He was still pointing to Christ.  That is what the people did not get.  But now He has spoken through His Son unmistakably and clearly.  He has spoken through the Word made flesh to dwell among us full of grace and truth.  He has spoken through the Child who is His own Son, in the flesh.
    This Christ is not the imagined Lord of our mind or memory, but the revealed Lord of the Word and the Sacraments.  He is not some God who is locked in the mystery of unknown but the revealed God who has planted Himself in the means of grace, that we might know Him and receive His grace and mercy.
    The Word that we speak to others, the Word that is read on the pages of the Bible, the Word that is proclaimed from this pulpit is not opinion or thought about what we think but the very voice of God telling us of Himself – the unchanging truth of Himself.  My sheep hear My voice and I know them and they know Me, said Jesus.  That is not some romantic thought of the past but the present reality of the God who still speaks but who says the unchangeable Gospel that is yesterday, today, and forever the same.  The Word of God is the locus of His presence among us.  We are not only hearers of this Word; Christ speaks through our voices too as we speak this Gospel to those around us.
    The Sacraments are not mementos of the past, treasures of what once was.  They are the hands and feet of Jesus who continues to claim us in water as His children and feed and nourish us upon His own flesh and blood.  Here, O my Lord, I see Thee face to face... sings the hymn.  In the bread is Christ in His flesh and in the cup is Christ in His blood.  We commune with Christ and abide in Him that He may abide in us – in this way our faith and life is fed and nourished through trouble, trial, and test.
    The guesswork of God is gone.  God has taken the "what if" from the equation and made it a "because."  He has made Himself utterly predictable.  He is no more hidden in vagaries but concrete, clear and plain in Christ.  The unknown is made known, the hidden revealed, the mystery disclosed in Christ so that we might receive it with faith, respond with obedient hearts, and keep this Word faithfully. 
    Everything else is constantly changing.  Those little babies we held in our arms grow up and leave home and may bring back their own children.  We look in the mirror and we see time’s passage in our own faces.  We cannot stop this change and we are often batted about by this change like a piece of wood floating upon the open sea.  We don’t need a spontaneous God who changes like the world around us.  We need a constant God who is predictable both in message and presence.  We need an anchor for the storms of life and an unchanging refuge of grace amid the changes and chances of this mortal life of sin and death.   We fantasize about a liturgy which is a Sunday morning surprise but what we need is not new and different but the Jesus Christ who is yesterday, today, and forever the same.... whose Word and Sacraments in this liturgy are as unchanging as is the message of grace they deliver to us.
    The world is the same.  They just do not yet know it.... They are still lost in excuses and fears... perplexed by their own questions so that they miss God's answers.  In many and various ways God spoke to His people of old, but no more...  Now He has spoken through His Son.  NOW He has spoken to us through His Son.... now and forever.  Faith is no “who done it” where we wait until the end to see the outcome.  The outcome is revealed to us in Christ... What He is, we shall be... Where He is, we shall be... So, my friends in Christ, do not let your joy become captive to questions that have already been answered.  God is here.  In this place where two or three are gathered in His name... His name in the water of baptism, in the bread and wine of the Holy Supper, in the living voice of the Word... calling us, bidding us, saving us.  Merry Christmas!  Amen

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