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quod pro nobis traditum est

Thursday, December 22, 2011

An Advent meditation

As we begin this new church year we rely on God’s grace and power to come and strengthen us in the faith. Our sin hinders Jesus’ coming to us. It is more natural for us to go our own way rather than gladly hear and obey God’s word. Although Jesus was risen from the dead, it was only when he appeared to Thomas that Thomas believed and confessed, “My Lord and my God!” It is not that he did not want to believe, he simply couldn’t believe without Jesus’ gracious coming to him first. This is how it is with us. We are hindered by our sins yet God is merciful to us. Hence we need and look forward to Jesus’ coming, that we may know that grace that overcomes sin, death and hell, bringing instead God’s merciful forgiveness. Every opportunity to hear God’s word is an opportunity to know Him and His salvation, to know His grace and power in working out our salvation. Advent reminds us that the Lord is nearer to us than when we first believed. We look forward to Jesus’ return as we look forward to the solemn celebration of His nativity.

We hear the account of Jesus’ birth from Matthew the Evangelist. Before this account Matthew gives a genealogical account of Jesus going back to David and Abraham. Jesus’ coming is foretold by the prophet, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated, “God with us.” The people of God looked forward to the coming Messiah. They lived by faith in the promise of Abraham and awaited Him who would reign forever on the throne of David. The genealogy of Jesus from David comes through Joseph, but it is through Mary that He comes a child of the Holy Spirit, “God with us.” The Apostle Paul calls this baby, “[God’s] Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” We know Jesus is connected to the Cross because the angel of the Lord says “He will save His people from their sins.” Here Paul connects Jesus, born of the seed of David, declared the Son of God, with the resurrection from the dead. Jesus risen from the dead appeared to Thomas and the other disciples and by His grace and power they believed. He ascended into heaven “and He shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.” How can we look forward to Jesus’ return? He has already appeared and come to us in Baptism. Here in the waters of forgiveness of sins is the grace and power, to make confession like Thomas, “My Lord and My God” and “I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.”

God’s grace and power comes to us. Through Christ Jesus we have received God’s grace and power. The crooked shall become straight, and the rough ways plain. Where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation. Jesus comes in fulfillment of God’s promise through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures. Still, He comes to us in the hearing of these same Scriptures and prepares us here on earth for the glory He has prepared for us in heaven. So even at the end of the day, even as we sit in the darkness before another night’s rest, we live by God’s grace and power in the brightness of the saints. Jesus comes and brings to us the brightness of light eternal. We rely on God’s grace and power to come and strengthen us in the faith, the same faith of Thomas who saw the risen Lord. And God’s grace and power keeps coming to us. Soon we celebrate this coming in the flesh. His name is Jesus.