The Sermon for the Middle of the Second Week in Advent
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church; Hoopeston, IL
December 13, 2006, James T. Batchelor
And thus, dear Lord, it pleaseth Thee
To make this truth quite plain to me,
That all the world's wealth, honor, might,
Are naught and worthless in Thy sight.
I remember a bumper sticker that was very popular a few years ago. I haven't seen it recently. It reads, "He who dies with the most toys wins." That is more or less the world's view of material possessions. Get as much as you can as fast as you can and keep it as long as you can.
The world honors those of wealth, power, prestige, and popularity. Even when these people die, they receive a larger than average funeral. More people wish to pay their respects. We still remember the names of Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and so forth. Never the less, as famous as these men were, they all now share the fate described by Solomon [Ecclesiastes 5:15-16] As he came from his mother's womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand. This also is a grievous evil: just as he came, so shall he go, and what gain is there to him who toils for the wind? The Psalmist says, [Psalm 49:10-12] "Even the wise die; the fool and the stupid alike must perish and leave their wealth to others. Their graves are their homes forever, their dwelling places to all generations, though they called lands by their own names. Man in his pomp will not remain; he is like the beasts that perish." Eventually, even the wealthiest, the most powerful, and the popular all receive the same inheritance. They will all die. People have even honored men and women by naming things after them - streets, towns, schools, parks, and so forth. Never the less, those honored people are still dead. In spite of all the toys we have, we all share the same physical fate. How sad are those people whose only reward is the reward they receive in this life.
Ah, Lord, who hast created all,
How weak art Thou, how poor and small,
That Thou dost choose Thine infant bed
Where humble cattle lately fed!
God's plan of salvation is the opposite of what the world expects. God's power is expressed in the weakness of a baby. His riches are expressed in the poverty of the manger. His majesty is expressed in a stable. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write: "God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God."
The kingdom of God is built upon the humiliation of Christ. When we are weak, lowly, nothing, poor, sad, meek, hungry, and thirsty, then we are His. We have a reward, but it is hidden because for a time His kingdom is hidden, but not forever. The Holy Spirit inspired John to write: "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." God will comfort us . We will inherit the earth. We are the Children of God. For with God, nothing is impossible.
The world looks at all of this and sees only foolishness. Human wisdom invites us to trust in ourselves, what we can measure and calculate, what we can earn and invest, what we can control and manipulate. God, on the other hand, chose the foolish things, the weak things, the lowly things, the despised things, and the things that are not, to bring to nothing the things that are.
The world sees God as foolish and mythological. After all, who could believe that God created Adam from the dust and then Eve from Adam's side? Does it make any sense for God to choose the slow tongue of Moses rather than the nimble tongue of Aaron to be His holy mouthpiece? What kind of a strategy is it to choose a youthful Gideon with a band of three hundred to go against the hordes of Midian? Most of all, who in their right mind would choose a peasant virgin to bear the Son of God. How repulsive that God would use the despised things of the world—the lame and leprous, tax collectors and sinners, prostitutes and harlots—to reveal His glory.
Surely the Son of God would be a fool to endure the humiliation of this world. A fool when they taunted Him, laughed at Him, whipped and spat on Him. A fool stripped of His clothing, pinned upon the cursed tree between common criminals. A fool as they offered Him bitter wine to drink. He was weakened by the flogging that tore His flesh and the oppressive crossbeam of execution. He was Lowly in being joined to the flesh of Mary's womb, having no earthly possessions, finding no place to lay His head.
Is this the King of Glory? Is this the King we welcome?
His thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways. Yet He is one of us, and He willingly became sin for us. He allows the sinful wisdom of this world to do its worst to Him. He will suffer the foolishness, weakness, lowliness, and despising of our sin. All that He created despised Him. Despised and cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree - despised in becoming sin for us - despised even by His Father in the final moment of death.
Although our welcome of Him is poor, He comes to share our misery in order that we might share His wealth.
Welcome to earth, Thou noble Guest,
Through whom the sinful world is blest!
Thou com'st to share my misery;
What thanks shall I return to Thee?
We are poor, miserable sinners. Yet, He comes to bless us. He blesses us by sharing the misery of our world. [John 1:10-12] He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. You are baptized. You are Christian. You are blessed. Yours is the kingdom of God, now and forever, delivered and bestowed in time and in eternity by grace. Now is the peace that passes all understanding. You belong to Christ. You are a holy one, a saint.
You live in this kingdom of grace by faith. It cannot be seen with mortal eyes. But faith knows and trusts that Jesus died and rose again, that the victory of God over hell was won by suffering violence in meekness and poverty, by being falsely accused and betrayed, by pain and sorrow, hunger and thirst upon a cross, and finally by being overcome to the point of death in an execution reserved for the guilty but foisted upon the innocent.
Rejoice and be glad. Your suffering will not last. Your tears will be wiped away. Even now the saints in glory pray for you. A great cloud of witnesses surrounds you. The saints have been delivered and enjoy their rest because Jesus rose. So will you. God be praised. Amen.
This sermon is based on the sermon notes for "From Heaven Above, A Christmas Service for School-age Children," Copyright © 2006 Concordia Publishing House, 3558 S. Jefferson Ave., St. Louis, MO 63118-3968, 1-800-325-3040 • www.cph.org
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