Monday, December 1, 2014

Look up to the One Who Made the Earth and everything in it.

LIFT UP YOUR HEADS

Justin Hamel Public Domain
The earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for He has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.  Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD?  And who shall stand in His holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.   He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation.  Psalm 24:1-5

Hear the Word of the Lord, dear Christians: the earth is the Lord's and fullness thereof!  Everything in it belongs to Him, and everyone who dwells on it is His.  You are His!  He is the One who divided the water from the dry land.  It was an act of goodness so that men made in His image might have a safe place to live and to flourish, and what He established He also upholds by His boundless mercy.  Of this there can be no doubt, for when all things turned against us, when it looked as if the mountains might be swallowed up by the sea (Psalm 46), He did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, to be our righteous Savior.

The earth is the Lord's!  It does not belong to the kings of the earth or the giants of industry, but to the Lord alone, so if we should ever speak of what is "ours" without humbly acknowledging the source and giver of all good gifts, the ones "from whom all blessings flow," we are guilty of profaning the greatest commandment; guilty of fearing, loving and trusting in some one other than the holy and righteous Lord.

In this matter none of us has the pure heart or clean hands required to stand in that holy place the psalmist praises so highly, the place that every son of earth longs to dwell in more than any other, the venue that is far removed from the sin and sorrow of the earth away from the deceit that marks this world, that promises us great joy in all the wrong places, but disappears like a mirage the moment we take the bait.  There is no such deceit in Christ.  In Him there is no darkness at all.  He is the Righteous Branch predicted by Jeremiah.  He is Hosanna, the Royal Descendant of King David, the Blessed One Who comes in the name of the Lord, the Highest One, raised to the holiest place of all, the cross: where he gave his clean hands for our soiled, His pure heart for our corrupt, His truth for our deceit, so that by this unblemished sacrifice we should be emancipated from our wretched slavery to sin.

On this first Sunday of Advent let us remember that as Christ "once came in blessing, all our ills redressing," (TLH #74) that He still comes to us today.  He told the disciples before His ascension, "Behold!  I am with you always, even to the end of the age."  This was no empty promise, or mind game, or theory, but He is factually present among us, no longer in human form to be sure, but in the concrete form He chooses none the less.  Jesus is with His church now in the Word, which is the verbal icon of Himself.  As often as we hear the scriptures, which is all we ever hear in the church, it is the voice of Jesus we are hearing.  He is the actual liturgist (Heb.8).  He is the One Who gives the absolution.  He is the One who consecrates the elements and Who feeds us with His body and blood under the forms of bread and wine.  Your eyes see the pastor and hear His voice.  He is perhaps the notes on the score, but Jesus is the music!

On this first Sunday of Advent let us remember that He who once came will come again, this time in recognizable form and as evident as the lightening which flashes across the sky, as unmistakable as the sun that rises in the east and burns away the darkness of night.  It will be both a good time and a bad:  bad for all who refuse to believe, to repent their sins, to humble themselves before the church's gospel, to hear the Word of the Lord and live their lives to His glory; and a good time for sinners like us, who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  For on that glorious day all of our enemies, which are also the Lord's enemies, will be conquered, never to trouble us again.  It will be as David declares in the ninety-first psalm:  You will ... see with your eyes the recompense of the wicked.

Therefore whatever is troubling you today:  sin, death, devil, evil people, contrary circumstances, illness, poverty, things present or things to come, know on this first Sunday of Advent, that they have a limited shelf life, an expiration date.  Know, too, that even now you can pray for a down payment of the future glory, for relief from the one whose "scepter is pity in distress."  (TLH #73)

The first Sunday of Advent also breathes new life into us.  It re-energizes us to cast off the works of darkness, and to put on the armor of light, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.  It urges us to walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy, but rather to put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Good works and holy living within our various vocations are the things that should occupy our time as we await the Lord's final intervention in the affairs of men.  Not only are they meet, right, and salutary for the children of God...but they will so fill our lives with profitable living, that they will crowd out the anxiety, disappointment and frustration that always want to own us.

Like the mighty gates of Jerusalem did at their Lord's royal entrance, let us, too, lift up our heads! for our redemption is drawing near!

~ Rev. Dean Kavouras

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