171206 Midweek Advent 2

Last Updated on Thursday, 07 December 2017 Written by Pastor Pagels

Theme: As Angels Joyed With One Accord

"Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue." According to tradition a bride is supposed to wear those four things on the day of her wedding. It is possible, however, to apply those words to more than just marriage. "Something old, something new, some borrowed, something blue" can also be used to describe our midweek Advent devotions this year.

The paraments remind us that blue is the color of Advent, and we are borrowing from the tradition of singing Christmas carols this time of year by singing (and studying) three different Advent anthems. Last Wednesday it was "Hark! A Thrilling Voice Is Sounding" (CW 15), a Latin hymn that dates all the way back to the 6th century, and so it definitely qualifies as "something old." Next Wednesday Pastor Schlomer's devotion will focus on another hymn, "My Soul Now Magnifies the Lord" (CW 274), which borrows its content from Mary's song of praise know as the Magnificat (see Luke 1).

The only thing we still need is "something new," and as we begin paging through the Advent section of the hymnal it doesn't take long to find what we are looking for. Only a few pages in the fifth hymn was written in the latter half of the twentieth century, and as far as hymns go it couldn't be much newer. The author is pastor and poet, Werner Franzmann, who wrote five hymns in Christian Worship including the Advent anthem that that we will focus our thoughts on tonight. I invite you to follow along in your hymnals as we meditate on the words of Christian Worship 5...

AS ANGELS JOYED WITH ONE ACCORD

The opening verse takes us back and forward, back two thousand years and forward eighteen days to the eve of Jesus' birth. That night there were shepherds in a field outside of Bethlehem. Some were watching sheep. Some were probably falling asleep when all of the sudden the skies lit up with angels, a great company of angels who brought the stunned shepherds good news of great joy.

Joy wasn't just what these angels were sharing. According to the hymn's opening line "joy" is what these heavenly creatures were doing: "As angels joyed with one accord Upon the advent of our Lord." Dozens of joy-filled voices united into one voice to give glory to God in heaven, to announce that peace had come to earth, to proclaim: Joy to the world, the Lord is come!

As angels joyed with one accord Upon the advent of our Lord, So laud we all and bless the name Of him who from the Father came." If you were listening closely, you probably noticed that Werner Franzmann sets the bar pretty high. He equates the angels' praises on Christmas Eve with our praise this evening. There is no distinction. There are no degrees. As the angels did, so do we...at least that's what the words of the hymn suggest.

The angels were filled with overwhelming joy that night, but you might be filled with something else. Perhaps you are overwhelmed with guilt. You feel guilty because you know that you are no angel. You are feeling guilty about something you have done. You are feeling guilty about the good things you haven't done. Maybe you feel guilty because you don't feel all that joyful.

It you aren't overwhelmed with guilt, maybe you are feeling just plain overwhelmed because Christmas is only a couple weeks away! There are so many things to do, and there isn't enough time to do them all. The planning, the preparations, the presents, the parties, we fill our schedules and our minds with so much stuff that we hardly even notice that our souls are running on empty.

That's what the season of Advent is for. That is what these midweek Advent devotions are for, to refocus our minds, to refresh our spirits, to be reminded that our Savior has come, to remind ourselves why he came. Verse 2: He came not clothed in majesty Nor pow'r that suits his deity. In lowly state he walked till he In dying set us captives free.

In the coming weeks we will review the circumstances surrounding the Savior's birth. It's good to do that. It's important for us to remember that Jesus came into this world in humility, but we also need to keep in mind that Jesus' humble beginning was only the beginning.

It was a humbling experience for the perfect Son of God to submit to the authority of his less-than-perfect parents. It was humbling for the King of all creation to be obedient to the authorities that he himself had appointed. It was humbling for Jesus to have to walk to get from Point A to Point B just like everybody else. It was humbling (and we might add, humiliating) for the world's only innocent man to be mocked and ridiculed and tortured and executed like a most-wanted criminal.

And it is humbling to think that Jesus subjected himself to all that abuse and more for one reason and one reason only: to set us captives free. Jesus died to set you free, and that is exactly what you are. Jesus has removed the heavy chain of guilt from around your neck. Jesus has broken the chains of sin that Satan used to make you his slave. Jesus has destroyed the chain of death that threatened to hold you forever in your grave. By his sinless life and sacrificial death your risen and ascended Lord has set you free, but he has not left you alone.

Verse 3: This done he soared to God's right hand Yet orphaned not his chosen band, For he, not bound in grace and pow'r, Attends his own each day and hour. The night before he was crucified, Jesus promised his disciples, "I will not leave you as orphans" (John 14:18), and he is still making good on that promise today. Children of God are never alone. Even when you are alone, you are not alone. Jesus says: "Surely I am with you always" (Matthew 28:20). God promises: "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" (Hebrews 13:4).

Those promises come straight out of God's Word, and they remind us that is one of the ways God comes to us, through his Word. Verse 4: In ev'ry age--let praise abound--He comes; we hear his voice resound. His glorious gospel does not cease To bring us comfort, joy and peace.

Many different authors wrote the many different books of the Bible. In Advent we sing the psalms of David. We hear the prophecies of Isaiah. We are called to heed the warnings of John. So many different books, and yet there is one message. So many different authors, and yet there is one voice. The voice of God. The voice of the gospel. A timeless message of comfort and peace and joy.

Jesus wasn't speaking exclusively to a crippled man when he said: "Take heart...your sins are forgiven" (Matthew 9:2). Jesus was addressing more than a dozen of his followers when he said: "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). In God's Word God speaks to us. He calls us to repent, to believe, to trust in him, to pray to him, to follow him, to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them. And when we go out and do that, God comes to us.

Verse 5: He comes in water to the child And cleanses it, from birth defiled. This washing seals his pard'ning grace And shows the Father's kindly face. Remember Jesus' baptism. Remember that when Jesus came up out of the water the Spirit of God came down on him in the form of a dove. And then the voice of the Father came down from heaven: "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17).

That was a special event, but it wasn't totally unique. The triune God was present at Jesus' baptism, but then again the three persons of the Trinity are present at every baptism. Every time a family approaches the font, the Spirit is there, working through the water and the Word. Every time a baby is baptized, Jesus is there, washing away sin. Every time a person is baptized in the name of the triune God, God the Father is there, smiling down from above and saying: "This is my child, whom I love."

The Lord still comes to us today. He comes through his Word and sacraments. He creates faith in Holy Baptism, and he strengthens faith in Holy Communion. Verse 6: He comes to us in bread and wine To give himself--and gifts divine. Oh, praise him for this sacrament, Redeeming love's great testament.

In communion Jesus gives us forgiveness. Lutheran Christians believe that. In fact, we make it a special point to emphasize that. When the pastor passes by with the cup he says, "Take and drink; this is the true blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, given and poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins." Forgiveness would fall under the general heading of "gifts divine" in this verse.

Maybe we don't think about it as much, or maybe we need to give it more emphasis, but the hymn writer mentions something else the Lord gives us in the Lord's Supper. When Jesus comes to us in bread and wine, he gives us himself, the blood he shed on the cross, the body he sacrificed in our place. There is no greater mystery. There is no greater love. There is no greater gift.

Well, maybe there is one gift that could be classified as greater. There is one blessing that we have not yet experienced. There is one more promise of God that is yet to be fulfilled. If you want to know what it is, if you want to know where it is, all you have to do is look up. Verse 7: Lift up your heads! All grief and pain Shall vanish when he comes again. Where we shall see him face to face, There joy alone shall have a place.

When Jesus comes again you will see him face to face. When Jesus comes he will take you to a special place, the place he has prepared for you, a place where there will be no pain or grief or death. With all of those blessings to look forward to, with the hope of heaven in our future, it's fitting that our hymn ends the same way it began, with joy. As angels joyed with one accord, so do we. Amen.

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Compelled by the love of Christ, St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School seek to reach out to our families, community and world, using Law and Gospel to make disciples, growing and nurturing them in their Christian faith and life.

 

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