Advent Repentance In Preparation For Christmas!
First Sunday in Advent Trinity Lutheran Church
30 November 2014 Murdock, NE
+Jesu Juva +
Advent. The church is beautifully decorated. All decked out! Blue and gold paraments on the altar, pulpit and lectern. Trees. Poinsettias. Lights. All because Christmas (Oops! Did I say that word? I did, didn’t I? The Tolerance and Love people are going to have a conniption fit!) Too bad. So sad. Let me audaciously say it again. All because CHRISTmas will be here before we know it. The Savior’s birth! (Can anyone say: subpoenaed sermon?). In the meantime, loads of things to do. Parties. Cookies, cakes, candies, fudges, peanut brittles. Turkeys, hams, jams, and prime ribs. Gifts and donations.
In the midst of it all – the hurriedness and unrelenting busy-ness — the Lord sends a prophet. Isaiah. Smack dab in your midst. Right in your grill. Invades your personal space. Nervous? Uneasy? Defensive? Of course you are!
Prophets do that to people – to sinners. You try to shove him out of the way. Tell him to get lost. But he’s like a bad habit. He won’t go away. Can’t get rid of him no matter how often you politely ignore him as if he some kind of Woodstock, hippie dope smoking lunatic. He sticks to his prophetic task. He preaches the Lord’s Word.
And what preacher prophet Isaiah speaks is the last thing in the world you ever expected! The last thing on your mind – if it’s even on your mind! It’s probably not on your radar screen whatsoever. What in the world could that be? Well, I’ll fill you in. It’s the biblical word called: REPENTANCE! Yes, that’s right. Advent-in-preparation-for-Christmas-REPENTANCE.
I know. I know. The “R” word is like the name “Lord Voldemort” in the Harry Potter movies. You dare not speak it! I know. I know. The “R” word has been institutionally, Brave-New-World or Catching Fire or Mockingjay-like banned. No preacher is ever allowed to speak it. Otherwise, it will cost him his livelihood and/or life. The “R” word has become the T-Rex of preaching and the Dodo bird of your Christian life. I told you it’s the last thing on your mind!
However, it’s on the Lord’s mind. And He would REPENT you! Like He did with Israel who would be as good as dead in Babylonian exile. And for that He sent to Israel and sends you the prophet, preacher Isaiah. After all, your life history is Israel’s history. Israel’s history is your history.
And Isaiah’s sermon goes like this: “You [Lord] come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways.” True. Very true. But here’s the problem. Yours. Mine. Israel’s. The world’s. You don’t “do right.” You do what you want. Say what you want. In addition, you don’t have the Lord’s “ways” on your minds or hearts. As if you know better and more than the Lord! And the Lord be damned. Or better yet … strung up … crucified!
Sent by the Lord, Isaiah speaks the truth. Unvarnished. No spin. It’s not pretty. “All of us have become like one who is unclean and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” The Hebrew for “filthy rags” are the cloths women use during their period. Gross! But it’s true. “All of us have become like one who is unclean and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” Did I hear an “Amen”? Or as they say in New Orleans, “True Dat”? I hope so. Otherwise, we not going to get anywhere today.
“All of us have become like one who is unclean and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” This how Isaiah describes the terrible disease of our own making: sin. Rotten to the core sin! The idolatry of the heart. Idolatry that worships the self as God! As if you’re divine. As if your words are divine words. As if you have nothing to receive from the one true God. Refusing to be given to by the Lord!
Again, Isaiah’s got it right. And you are included. The shoe fits. Wear it! As sinners. “No one calls on your name [Lord] or strives to lay hold of you.” Talk about a deadly heart disease! Idolatry of the self dirties, contaminates, and pollutes your heart, mind, lips and hands – your whole self — before the true God! Because we don’t call on the Lord for help – for anything! We rely on ourselves. What rot! What filth! What gunk!
And here are the consequences. Again Isaiah’s got it right. And it’s the last thing you expected. What everyone denies. Or tries to put off. “You were angry [Lord]. … You have hidden your face from us and made us waste away because of our sins.”
The only thing left to say is: “Amen.” “It’s the truth.”
Good! Now we’re getting somewhere! It’s about time!
Wasting away, shriveled up like a leaf, unclean sinners are in desperate need of God to save them. Totally DEPENDENT on the Lord. Anxious to receive salvation as unmitigated gift from the Lord “who acts on behalf of those who WAIT FOR HIM.”
So Isaiah puts the proper words in your mouth. The words of faith – the heart of repentance. Faith that trusts in the Lord whose cup of tea is to save sinners! “You are our Father, O Lord.” When you pray to God as “Father,” you are humbly confessing that you exist only because of Him! When you pray to God as “Father” you are putting your trust and reliance on Him as His children. Children depend on Daddy! Children always ask Daddy for help. And God the Father loves that!
So Isaiah teaches us to pray in faith: “Father, we are the clay. You are the potter. We are all the work of your hand. Do not be angry beyond measure, O Lord. Do not remember our sins forever. Oh, look upon us , we pray, for we are your people.” With such words you confess that you are nothing and that God the Father is everything. He is your Father and that you are His children. And that He is Father FOR YOU and for your salvation.
That’s when you pray the clincher part of the prayer of faith to the God the Father. “Oh, that you would rend the heaven and come down.” Rip open all of heaven! Come among us. TO SAVE US!
The Father does rend the heavens and He does come down to save you and all sinners! Isaiah and Israel fully expected that such a rending and advent of the Lord would make the mountains tremble, set twigs ablaze, water to boil, and nations to quake.
However, His advent of salvation FOR YOU comes so ordinarily and ho-humly. Jesus, His only begotten Son from eternity, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, is conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. God becomes man. True God and true man. Jesus!
Who rides into Jerusalem on a donkey with palm branches a-waving in order to do a Good Friday. He has come to “hosanna” you. Hosanna means, “please, save now.” And that’s His specialty. His forte. His strong suit.
God rends the heavens and rains down salvation upon sinners. But where? Here’s where. It’s as His Son is Good Friday-ly put to death with all your sin and the entirety of its damnation clinging to His graveyard divine and dead as a doornail body.
I’m here to tell you that God the Father’s wrath against you and all your sin has been exhausted and spent on His Son who was numbered with the transgressors and counted as THE TRANSGRESSOR on that Good Friday afternoon. God the Father has turned His face away from your sin because His Son Jesus wrapped Himself with all your sin and all its hellish eternal condemnation on the cross.
In other words, I’m here to preach, like Isaiah did to Israel: God doesn’t remember you sin anymore! He refuses to! He’s blotted it out of His mind because He’s buried all of it in the black hole of His Son’s grave. God is your Father. You are His children. Your sin is forgiven.
Come to the Sacrament today and receive such divine forgiveness all the more. More forgiveness that you’ve got sin. From Jesus Himself. His Body. His Blood. His words. His promise. “Given and shed FOR YOU for the forgiveness of sin.”
Such is the rending of heaven! Such is the advent of the Lord! Does it make the mountains tremble? Set twigs ablaze? Water to boil? Nations quake? I’ll leave that to the Lord. But I do know this. In Jesus who died for you and who feeds you in the Lord’s Supper “no eye has seen any God besides you [Lord] who acts on behalf on those who wait for him.”
So, as the Lord has repented and faithed you today through Isaiah’s preaching, I wish you this: An all the more life of repentance and faith – the life in and from your Baptism – your Baptism into Christ’s death bearing much fruit — during this blessed season of Advent until He returns again in glory on the Last Day!
In the Name of Jesus.