Psalm 61:3

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; for You have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Emmanuel Is Coming

Ladies and gentlemen, Emmanuel is coming. The festive cry had gone out through all of Jerusalem. Jesus was on his way. This famous worker of miracles was coming to town. This infamous preacher was marching on the city.

“There He is. No, not that one. Over there. He is the one riding on the donkey. Yeah, that’s Him. Hosanna!” the people cry. “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David. Hosanna in the highest!” Emmanuel is coming.

The excitement filled the air. The people genuinely wanted to meet this Jesus. They wanted to see him, touch him, be healed by him, be ruled by him.

But be careful what you wish for. You might just get it.

You see, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is no regular visit. This is not his vacation. He is coming to Jerusalem on business. And he has two different, yet related items on his agenda. He intends to confront and upset the comfortable. And he will comfort the upset and the confronted. Emmanuel is coming.

He is coming to show those Pharisees and Sadducees who is boss. Long enough have they been theological oppressors. The Pharisees need to learn that they are not so hot. They are not perfect. Their sins are just as great as the adulteress or the thief. They are as much in danger of the fires of hell as those they would not stoop down to help.

The Sadducees were not so great either. They were the high and might ones. They were the intellectual snobs. They were too smart to believe in silly things like the resurrection from the dead. But when Jesus was done with them, they would not be so secure in their knowledge. They would not be so proud of their advanced learning, the letters behind their name, their many titles. Emmanuel is coming.

And then there is the poor widow. This woman had nothing in the world, only two small coins. The Pharisees and Sadducees would have laughed to see such a useless contribution. Jesus sees the trust in God it took to give all that she had to the Lord. And he praises her faith. For the sake of this penniless woman, Emmanuel is coming.

Or the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with ointment. This woman had probably saved her whole life to buy this ointment, and she pours it out at Jesus’ feet. Her faith did not go unnoticed. She had prepared Christ for his burial. For the sake of this generous woman, Emmanuel is coming.

And Jesus is coming back. He has died and risen. He has ascended into heaven to sit on his throne. And we are here waiting. Like those people in Jerusalem, we have heard of this man, and we are waiting for our glimpse. We are waiting to see him, touch him, learn from him. But remember; be careful what you wish for.

Beware. The Pharisees and the Sadducees were not so pleased with their encounter with the Christ. We may not be either. Jesus is coming with business in mind. As it was for Jerusalem, so it is for us today. Emmanuel is coming.

If you feel that Church is just something people do, if you think that just by showing up here every Sunday, or at least once every few weeks, you are going to impress the man upstairs, if you believe that you have covered all your bases, been pretty good, said the right things and known the right people, then beware. Emmanuel is coming.

If you think that you are too smart to get sucked into this whole religion thing, if you believe that religion is the opiate of the people, something to keep dumb people’s minds occupied, if you are sure that God is simply wishful thinking on the part of every culture in every time and place throughout history, then beware. Emmanuel is coming.

If you think that you’ve got it all, that life will be smooth sailing for you, if you think that you have done all your hard work, you have secured your success, you have taken every precaution, if you think that for one minute you are in control of a single thing in this universe, then beware. Emmanuel is coming.

The content ones will be upset. Those who have grown accustomed to their fat and lazy lifestyle, will be confronted. Those who prey on the innocent, as well as those who claim to be innocent, will be stopped dead in their tracks and exposed for what they really are. Beware. Emmanuel is coming.

However…

If you are guilty; if this message has just scared the daylight out of you and you don’t want to be one of those guys; if the sins of your youth are weighing you down, forcing you to wonder if you deserve God’s goodness; if you are looking for forgiveness, cleansing, and peace; then take heart. Emmanuel is coming.

And if you are sad and lonely; if you walk down crowded streets by yourself and pray to God that one of these people might take notice of you; if you wonder if even God Himself cares for you; then take heart. Emmanuel is coming.

If your heart is broken; if your courage is failing; if your faith seemed so much stronger a few years ago because the woman you love is no longer here; if you are waiting patiently, ever so patiently, for the Lord to take you home; if you are looking ahead to that great and glorious day when there will be no such thing as a cemetery; then take heart. Emmanuel is coming.

Jesus is coming for the sick and the poor, for the weak and the oppressed. He is coming for the men and women who cry out in faith, “Hosanna! Save us Lord!” He is coming to right every wrong. He is coming to forgive all sins. He is coming to wipe away every tear from your eyes. He is coming to gather his sheep, to fulfill his promises, to establish his kingdom forever, to raise the dead. Emmanuel is coming for you.

Jesus came into this world a swaddled infant, lying in a manger. He came into Jerusalem riding on a common donkey. The next time, however, things won’t be quite so small. He will come with all the pomp of the God of gods and Lord of lords. He will come to judge the quick and the dead. He will come to separate sheep from goats. He will come to bring to you and to me the full and abundant life that he has promised.

Behold, he comes quickly. O come Emmanuel. Come Lord Jesus. Amen.

4th Commandment

Honor your father and your mother.
What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise or anger our parents and other authorities, but honor them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them. [Luther's Small Catechism]

This commandment signifies that we should not only respect our parents, but also any person or organization who is given authority over us. That could be a family member such as a grandparent or uncle. It could be a governmental authority like the president or mayor. It could also be a vocational authority figure like my employer.
In the Fourth Commandment the Lord bids us to be obedient to these people. We should do what they say as long as it does not conflict with the expressed Word of God. We may not always like what they tell us, but we should comply. This keeps peace and allows the world to function.
But this command is more than a statement that we should obey all the rules that other people make for us. We are also to love and cherish these people. And that, obviously, will not be easy. It is one thing to begrudgingly obey your boss. It is another to always speak well of him, even when he has been a jerk. It is one thing to pay my taxes in protest. It is another to cherish the President of the United States and the Congress who sets the payments.
As Christians we are not only called to acceptance of the rules and mere obedience. We are called to love and service. We are called to pursue good deeds, not simply refrain from evil deeds. This is the new life that we are given in the birth of the Christ child. We now live under the reign of King Jesus where we are freed from sin and death that we might live full and abundant lives, lives that pursue mercy, righteousness, and love.
During this season of Advent, as we anticipate the coming of the Christ, let us anticipate with action. Let us cherish and love those in authority over us and all our neighbors throughout the world.