The Advent of Our King

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Fourth Sunday in Advent

The Advent of Our King

        Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and His only Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

        Before the existence of time, before the existence of the earth, the sky or the universe, there was God. Unlike the gods created out of the imagination of men, this one true God is a living, all-powerful God. Although we are a creation of this almighty deity, we can in no way comprehend him completely.

        This almighty God is so powerful that a mere word created all that is known and unknown to us. The universe, this earth, our bodies, all came into being by thought and through His Word. As you may well imagine, this almighty God rules over His creation in righteous and true power.

        Out of His grace and love, He created man from the dust of the earth and from his rib He created woman. God was pleased with His creation and blessed this man and woman, as it is written in Genesis 2:9, with “every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” [Gen 2:9]

        But into the garden came Satan in the form of a serpent. We are told through the revelation of John from where this serpent came:

And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. [Re 12:7-9]

The Devil told the first lie in God’s earthly creation, which led to the first sin of all humankind. To say the least, God was not pleased.

So the Lord God said to the serpent:

     “Because you have done this,

     You are cursed more than all cattle,

     And more than every beast of the field;

     On your belly you shall go,

     And you shall eat dust

     All the days of your life.

     And I will put enmity

     Between you and the woman,

     And between your seed and her Seed;

     He shall crush your head,

     And you shall bruise His heel.” [Gen 3:14-15]

        We may think this time of Advent, which we celebrate, is something new and recent. We may think, because this story of the birth of our Savior is written to us in the Gospels of the New Testament, that the incarnation of our Lord, Jesus Christ, is a modern story a mere 2000 years old. It is not.

        From the fall into sin that day in the Garden of Eden, at the beginning of our time, the one true God of all creation, power and grace, knew of the birth of His Son as a human infant. In those first days, He told of the coming of the Redeemer who would save all who repent of their sin and believe.

        This truly is a great day to rejoice in the grace and mercy of the living God, who rules over heaven and earth. Yet not all will be saved. Those who deny the Christ deny His father in heaven. Those who do not believe in the forgiveness of sins through Christ crucified will not gain eternal life.

        Approximately 25 centuries after Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden, a king over the chosen people of Israel fell into unbelief. This king ruled in the land of Judah where God had delivered his people so that they may live in peace. The king, Ahaz, was under great fear of the king of Assyria.

        Although King Ahaz was told, by the prophet Isaiah, that God would protect him and the kingdom of Judah, he did not have faith.

Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem; and he did not do what was right in the sight of the Lord his God, as his father David had done. But he walked in the way of the kings of Israel; indeed he made his son pass through the fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had cast out from before the children of Israel. And he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places, on the hills, and under every green tree. [2 Kings 16:2-4]

Isaiah was sent before the king, under the command of God, to give him a message of promise so that the king might repent from his ways and return to the one true God. Ahaz did not want to hear the message because he had already made a pact with the king of Assyria in hope he would be dealt with mercifully.

        The message given to the king by Isaiah was this: “The Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” [Isaiah 7:14] The King did not put his faith in God and he and his lineage soon died out from the house of David.

        Two hundred years later, the prophet Zechariah came to the land of Judah to repeat the call for repentance. The word of the Lord came through Zechariah:

‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Return to Me,” says the Lord of hosts, “and I will return to you,” says the Lord of hosts. “Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets preached, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Turn now from your evil ways and your evil deeds.” ’ But they did not hear nor heed Me,” says the Lord. [Zech 1:3-4]

The people of God’s creation still wandered from the truth of His word refusing to change their ways. But He did not forsake His people. He did not forget His promise made long ago. To those who sought His mercy and forgiveness, He once again gave His promise of a Savior.

“Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” says the Lord. “Many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you. And the Lord will take possession of Judah as His inheritance in the Holy Land, and will again choose Jerusalem.” [Zech 2:10-13]

The promise was fulfilled half a millennia after Zechariah’s prophecy. At that time, God came to His people; conceived by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary.

        The words from the Gospel of Matthew speak of the sign once told by the prophets. The hope of the deliverance from sin and death was coming to fruition. This hope came from a plan that started long ago, from before the foundations of the earth was laid. Before the earth’s peaks and valleys were made, God had ordained what would happen.

        In our Gospel text, God speaks to Joseph in a dream and in the dream Joseph is given a sign. The sign is similar to that given to Ahaz, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” [Matt 1:21] Once again, the sign is the beginnings of a new life, a pregnant woman who will bear a son. But not only will new life come from the mother, but new life will come from the son. This time, the son is not only a sign of the promise, but he is the sign and fulfillment of the promises of God.

        Unlike Ahaz, Joseph was a righteous man who did what the Lord commanded him. He did not fear the rulers of the world but the ruler of creation. Joseph believed in the promise of the coming Messiah. When the angel of the Lord tells Joseph that his wife is carrying the child conceived by the Holy Spirit, he knows that God has come into the world.

        The revelation of God to both Ahaz and Joseph was the same. Ahaz rejected the Word of God while Joseph believed. The birth of this child was the beginning of the completion of God’s promise so long ago. Remember the promise?

And I will put enmity

     Between you and the woman,

     And between your seed and her Seed;

     He shall crush your head,

     And you shall bruise His heel.” [Gen 3:15]

With the birth of this child, Satan no longer has power over us. His power through sin and death is undone. It is now the Devil’s turn to be displeased.

Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.” [Rev 12:7-12]

        As the angel of the Lord said to Joseph, “Do not be afraid.” The Devil is angry and he will continue to tempt us from the righteousness of God, but he cannot prevail. For God is truly with us. Through the Messiah’s sinless life, He defeated the power of sin over us. Through the Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection from the tomb, death no longer prevents us from eternal life in the kingdom of heaven. This good news from God declares that Jesus has risen from the dead. Death had no power over him. We receive this new life because we belong to Jesus Christ. That dead sin inside of us has been buried with Christ and now, through the Spirit, we have new life. Eternal life.

        The Devil is angry because he knows his time is short and he cannot snatch us from God’s hand. The salvation of our Lord has been secured. We are now heirs to the kingdom of heaven. Christ will come again in glory; that is His promise. Hear what the Lord of hosts says:

“Return to Me, and I will return to you.” [Zech 1:3a]

“Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” says the Lord. “Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you. And the Lord will take possession of Judah as His inheritance in the Holy Land, and will again choose Jerusalem.” [Zech 2:10-13]

Rejoice that our Lord has come into our midst. Amen.