Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. [v. 17 NASB]
IN NOMINE JESU
Christ is risen! HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!
Next Sunday is May 25th. You might be wondering why I’m mentioning this. In case you’re wondering, Next Sunday will mark seven months before Christmas. Before you know it, you’ll be shopping for Christmas presents. And within a month or so, fabric and craft stores will have yarn, material, and other things needed for Christmas-themed blankets, sweaters, and other items, many likely to be given as gifts. At some point, we’ll be finding out what our loved ones might want for Christmas presents, perhaps even starting to make those presents. The goal is to give a gift that the one receiving it will love. There are always exceptions. I remember one Christmas, when I was a child, my grandparents dropped off our Christmas presents—left them in the door for us. My sisters and I each received a Rubik’s Cube. I was about 8 or 9 years old. My oldest sister was 3 or 4, and my twin sisters were about 2. Imagine a two-year-old with a Rubik’s Cube! The stickers on it would not survive for very long, and I’m sure my dad didn’t appreciate my using one of his screwdrivers to “solve” the cubic puzzle. When my dad asked his parents why they gave us each a Rubik’s Cube for Christmas, they said they didn’t know what to get us. Such reasoning was, to say the least, puzzling.
What is not puzzling are the gifts that come from above, the higher things. God is the Giver of all that we are and have. Every gift—every good thing given—comes to us from above, from God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth—our Father, who art in heaven. We are the blessed recipients of His First Article and Fourth Petition gifts. Before we continue, it’s important that we know (and believe, teach, and confess) what these terms mean. When we examine the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer in Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, we see that the First Article of the Creed is similar to what we find in the Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer. In the Creed we confess that God has made us and what He has given us, “all that [we] need to support this body and life.” In the Lord’s Prayer we ask God to give us this day our daily bread, “everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body.” In the Lord’s Prayer we ask God to continue providing for us, giving us
food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.
When we confess the Creed, we confess our faith in our heavenly Father, the Giver of every good gift from above,
that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.
And yet we still need to confess our sin. Despite everything God gives us under the First Article and the Fourth Petition, we are still ingrates, not “a kind of first fruits among His creatures” (v. 18b). We want more than what God has given us. We do not always live with thankful hearts before God. Instead of being quick to hear and slow to speak, we are quick to speak and slow to hear. When we get angry, our anger is not always righteous. We get mad because someone has inconvenienced us or bruised our egos, and our anger, the anger of man, “does not achieve the righteousness of God” (v. 20b). We continue to show our lack of gratitude to God as we continue to break His Ten Commandments. We are not meek but filthy and wicked, “for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment” (Fifth Petition). As we confessed this morning, we are poor, miserable sinners who deserve God’s temporal and eternal punishment. We have ever offended God not only by our thanklessness for His good gifts but also for His perfect gift: His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Our sinful pride doesn't want to hear that we cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ or come to Him, that we cannot “earn” our way into heaven, leaving us with nothing in ourselves to boast about.
When we get a gift, we like to tell others about it, as long as we like it and it’s important to us. God has given us many good things, giving us this day (and every day) our daily bread. God has given us an even greater gift, the greatest gift of all—so great that it’s perfect: His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Jesus came down from above—from heaven—to be born in our likeness (in human form), to bear our sins and be our Savior. God’s love for us is so great that He offered up His own Son to be the payment for our sins. How is this the perfect gift? In the Greek, the word for perfect in our text shares the same root with the word Jesus spoke just before He died on the cross: “It is finished.” That one Greek word can also be translated “It is completed” or “It is perfected”! Only Jesus could make and be the perfect sacrifice to pay for our sins and the sins of the whole world. Only Jesus paid for those sins, giving His body over to be crucified and shedding His blood to be the atonement cover for our sins and for the life of the world. His blood, and His blood alone, cleanses us—purifies us—from the curse of sin. Even more, Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the third day to give eternal life to all who believe in Him, opening the kingdom of heaven to all believers. That life is for you and me. Christ Jesus rose to give you His perfect gifts: forgiveness and life in His Name. The writer of James tells us every perfect gift is from above. This is most certainly true because your Lord and Savior Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, comes down to His house—comes down to YOU—today to give you His perfect gifts through His perfect means of grace, the perfect gifts God first gave you at your Baptism, given again in His Absolution, placed into your ears as His Word is read and proclaimed in your hearing (the word of truth, implanted in you to save your soul), and touching your lips with Jesus’ body and blood. Hear what Doctor Luther once said in a sermon almost 500 years ago:
When you are baptized, partake of Holy Communion, receive the absolution, or listen to a sermon, heaven is open, and we hear the voice of the Heavenly Father; all these works descend upon us from the open heaven above us. God converses with us, provides for us; and Christ hovers over us--but invisibly. And even though there were clouds above us as impervious as iron or steel, obstructing our view of heaven, this would not matter. Still we hear God speaking to us from heaven; we call and cry to Him, and He answers us. Heaven is open, as St. Stephen saw it open (Acts 7:55); and we hear God when He addresses us in Baptism, in Holy Communion, in confession, and in His Word as it proceeds from the mouth of the men who proclaim His message to the people. [LW 22:202]
So “Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel” (Is. 12:6 ESV), for He comes down from heaven to you, for you, and for the life of the world. “Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth” (Is. 12:4-5). Why do we get to sing God’s praises? As Isaiah says, “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation” (Is. 12:1-2), the perfect Gift come down from heaven for us, for me, for you, for the life of the world, thanks be to God!
Christ is risen. HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA! AMEN!
SOLI DEO GLORIA
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