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Sermon for the Middle of the Third Week in Advent

Psalm 51:10; Philippians 2:5-11; Mark 7:31-37

James T. Batchelor

Good Shepherd Lutheran Church  
Hoopeston, IL

view DOC file

Wed, Dec 20, 2006
Wed of Third Sunday in Advent

God stood in no time because He had not yet created time.  He stood nowhere because He had not yet created space.  He stood on nothing because He had not yet created matter.  He spoke to nothing because that is all there was and He said, "Let there be light," and suddenly there was THE BEGINNING.  It was the beginning of everything including time itself.  It was the beginning of time and space, energy and matter, and there was light.  Only God could talk to nothing and make something. 

God's Word alone brought forth the heavens and the earth.  The Word separated the water from the dry ground.  The Word hung the stars in the heavens and placed the planets into their orbit.  The Word of life brought vegetation upon the earth, set the birds to flight, and created all creatures, great and small, that live in the sea and upon the earth. 

He saved His opus magnum, His greatest work for last.  After He created everything else, the Word put His hand to the newly created earth and formed a being from the dust.  After He formed this being from the dust, He breathed a spirit into this being and Man became a living soul - a soul created in His own image. 

God created the entire universe for Man and gave Him a special home in the Garden of Eden.  There in the garden, the whole creation lived in perfect peace with the all-creating Word—the Word of truth and life. 

The perfect peace did not last.  Evil entered the perfect garden in the form of a serpent.  The serpent confronted the Word of truth with a lie disguised as a seemingly innocent question, "Did God really say …" The Great Liar had planted the seed of doubt and the doubt spawned sin and death. 

Sin is the result of temptation and temptation is the father of false advertising.  Temptation tells us that it will be alright.  No one will get caught.  It will be fun.  It will make us cool.  It may even make us powerful. 

But sin never delivers as promised.  It is never without consequences, without lingering diseases and worries, without fear and shame, without danger or cost.  A moment's indiscretion, a giving-in to fleshly desires, a bit of selfish indulgence and self-promotion, and we wind up hurting those we love the most and suffering through another failure of our own creating.  Our sin quickly corrupted the Word's perfect creation so that it decayed into a world of moral chaos. 

This world is a lying world filled with deception and death - a world of class warfare with each class struggling to gain power over the other while everyone exploited the weak.  It was that way when Jesus came and today's headlines tell us that the world hasn't changed much.  O, we might have better technology, but all that technology merely spreads the struggle into the air and the sea.  The basic cause of the struggle is still the same - to get ourselves and our associates as close as possible to the top of the cultural food chain. 

Satan, the world, and our own sinful flesh work to convince us that we can make our own peace once we arrive at the top.  They want us to believe that once we arrive at the top, we can take it easy; we can relax; the struggle will be over.  Of course that is a lie.  Those who have made it to the top will tell you that the struggle to stay at the top is much worse than the struggle to get there.  No one ever gets such a lock on the top that they can relax or have peace. 

It is into this lying world filled with deception and death that our Lord came.  However, He did not come to join in the struggle for the top.  Instead He stooped to serve.  He who is the rightful Lord of all made Himself the servant of all.  He placed Himself in a position to suffer the abuse of all.  Even the weakest felt powerful against Him and abused Him with glee.  He made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

While we fought for seats at the Liar's table in a vain attempt to make our own peace, Jesus Christ bought us back at the terrible cost of His own life.  He allowed death to do its worst to Him so that we would live.  He came and endured the hatred of our lies and the violence of our hands as a sheep to the slaughter, always speaking the truth.  He came deliberately, intentionally, to seek and to save, to rescue and to redeem, to give His life in exchange for yours.  It is the Innocent for the guilty, the Truth for the lie, the Righteous for the unholy.  He made for you peace by sacrificing Himself in your place.  And through that cruel execution, He has taken into Himself your guilt, your shame, your lies and deception, and even your death.  He took it all to the grave and buried it there. 

Jesus broke the chains of death.  He stopped the cycle.  He became Sabbath rest.  He stood in the gap and restored His good creation with health and wholeness.  That is who Jesus is.  It is what He does, why He came. 

In the new freedom He gives, we give thanks to God.  As the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write, Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

But there are some who cannot confess because sin's consequences have bound their tongues.  The deaf and mute man by the Sea of Galilee is just such a case.  His friends brought him to Jesus.  They were true friends.  They didn't tell him God wanted him that way and that he should get used to it and get on with life.  Instead, they brought him to where he could get help—to Jesus.  And what did Jesus do? He put His fingers into the man's ears, spit in His own hand, and touched the man's tongue.  The original Greek could even be translated to say that Jesus spit right into his mouth.  That is sort of gross, certainly a very physical, intimate thing.  But that is what it takes to open ears and loosen tongues.  It requires Jesus taking on your filthy sin, washing your feet, touching your tongue, cleaning out your ears, caring for your grossest parts.  At the hand of Jesus the deaf man was set free.  Now this man can join in the confession that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  He would agree with and joyfully join with us as we sang:

14. My heart for very joy doth leap,

My lips no more can silence keep;

I, too, must sing with joyful tongue

That sweetest ancient cradle-song:

During Advent, we rejoice that our Lord Jesus comes and faithfully speaks "Ephphatha," so that ears can hear and tongues can confess the glorious riches of Christ who made Himself nothing and became obedient unto death—even death on a cross. 

"My lips no more can silence keep" because our Advent King comes and crowds into our most intimate space.  Jesus, the very Word made flesh, comes and speaks the Word of truth into our deaf ears.  He takes away whatever would keep us from hearing His Word and tunes our untamed tongues to sing the glorious praises of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.  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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