REPENT AND REJOICE
Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. Malachi 4:4
ADVENT has two themes, repentance and expectation, and in that respect this holy season is a pattern for your whole life. As long as you have flesh, and until the great and awesome Day of the Lord's return, both repentance and hope must coexist.
Why repentance? Because the Lord says through the prophet, "remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel." Contrary to the spirit of the age, God's statutes are still binding, and we are not free to disregard them.
Why did God give those laws? In order to regulate the thoughts, words, and deeds of your life, but why did He do that? He did it because we are unable to regulate ourselves. Yes, that statement is a grand offense to our pride, but only because it is true. When sin entered the world, the first thing it did, like a computer virus, was to take out the regulators that God built into us. This should not be a strange concept. The furnace in your house has a regulator called a thermostat. When the house gets too cold in the December winds, it turns the heat on and once it reaches the desired temperature, it turns the system off. It does this automatically, flawlessly, and without a single thought on your part, but if that thermostat is broken, the system is no longer self-regulating and you need to work those functions by hand. You need to turn on the furnace when it gets cold, and it stays on until you get up and turn it off. Then it stays off until you wake up in the middle of the night with icicles on your eyelashes and quickly crank it up to high. That is the difference between internal and external regulation. Once God's system of self-regulation crashed, an external one was needed: the statutes and rules that God gave Israel by Moses.
External regulators are better than nothing, but they never work as well as the original, so during this season of repentance, the church warns us, "remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel."
The church is the New Israel, so what once applied to her now applies to us, though not entirely so. The civil, ceremonial and dietary laws became obsolete with Christ, and so did the sacrificial ones for our Lord fulfilled all righteousness for us by His death and resurrection. Yet the church possesses a body of moral theology drawn from Scripture, both old and new testament alike. We know them today as the Ten Commandments with their Christian explanation, but for all the praise that scripture heaps upon God's statutes, there is one thing the Law cannot do: it cannot save us from sin, deliver us from death or rescue us from the devil who desires to terrorize us for all eternity. It cannot give our conscience peace or make us righteous before God, not because there is anything wrong with it; quite the contrary. St. Paul says that "the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin." What he means is that we are not capable of attaining to it. That is the problem, so the law gives us as much grief as it does blessing, but neither was the law ever given to save us. St. Paul tells us that, "if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law, but it is not." The same apostle teaches us that salvation is attained, life is granted, and death is vanquished by faith in Mary's Son, by faith in Him who was born, "in the fullness of time, born under the law, to redeem those who are under the law so that we might receive the adoption as sons." This is who we are, dear Christians, Sons of God by faith in Jesus Christ. In baptism we are clothed in his righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne. On Christ the solid rock we stand, all other ground is sinking sand. He is the Elijah that Malachi predicts in the closing words of the Old Testament Scriptures, who came to redeem us, and to guide us through all the changing scenes of life. How could it be otherwise? For our Lord's incarnation is the fulfillment of the mystery of the ages! The Creator of all is conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Blessed Virgin so that He might enter our fallen world and carry out history's greatest rescue mission: to rid the world of Satan, the most wicked terrorist of all. Why? Because as we sing in the Service of Evening Prayer, "For you are merciful and you love your whole creation." When our Lord assumed human flesh He did not give up any of His divinity. On the contrary, in Him, divinity and humanity are peacefully joined together. God and man become one in the person of Jesus, and when He ascended into heaven, He gave up nothing of His humanity, but brought us to heaven with Him. So be at peace this holy Advent season, dear Christian, for no one can snatch you from the Father's hand.
Yes, "Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel." May this word lead us to regulate our lives to the glory of God and the benefit of our neighbor; and as often as we fail, to repent and find new strength which God gives abundantly to us, for His mercies are new every morning, but above all let us also eagerly await the coming of the Son of Man in glory. He gloriously comes to us each Lord's Day in the church, clothed in his word, in the bread and the wine. These are His true body and blood that make us true sons of God. He comes to us in the 12 days of Christmas, which we will celebrate with joy, and He will come again in glory to save the living and the dead. We can hardly wait. Come quickly Lord Jesus. Amen.
~ Rev. Dean Kavouras