25 November 2015

The Thanksgiving of Christ Our Savior

The Lord your God is bringing you into a good land through Jesus Christ, the beloved Son.

In order to do so, He has first of all come to find you and has met you in a foreign land, on the outskirts, where you have been cut off and separated from Him and from your neighbors.

Because you are sinful and unclean, you have been subject to death and to every sickness and sorrow of heart and mind, body and soul.  You cannot cleanse or heal yourself, nor can you feed and clothe and shelter yourself.  You cannot raise yourself from death to life.  But you must wait upon the Lord, and listen for His voice, and meet Him where and when He comes to you.

Watch and wait, therefore, in the faith and confidence that He has come near to you, here and now, with tender compassion for you, with grace, mercy, and peace, and with all that you need.

The dear Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son, has come to provide you with all good things and, above all, to raise you up and bring you, in and with Himself, into the good land He has promised, a place of perfect peace and rest, the home where righteousness dwells.  He brings you in His own Body to the heavenly and holy city, New Jerusalem, and into the Temple made without hands, eternal in the heavens — into the very Holy of Holies, the inner sanctum of the Holy Triune God.

He brings you into that good land through the wilderness of sin and death.  And you survive that difficult and dangerous journey, in spite of your frailty and weakness, and even though it is very hard, because He daily and richly provides you with clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, or with tent and shelter of some kind, with family and friends and whatever else is necessary — not only for this poor life of labor, but for your body and soul unto the life everlasting.

This present wilderness is not pointless in the meantime.  It is a pilgrimage of repentance, of faith and forgiveness, whereby you learn to recognize both your own mortality and the Lord’s mercy.  You learn to confess your sin, your sickness and sorrow, but also His salvation.  You learn to call upon His Name in every trouble — by prayer and supplication with praise and thanksgiving — to ask Him and thank Him because He is good and His mercy endures forever.

He brings you through this wilderness, through this vale of tears and death, and He catechizes you in this way of repentance, faith and life, prayer and thanksgiving, all by the way of His Cross — in His own Body of blood and flesh like yours — as your merciful and great High Priest.

Consider that.  The almighty and eternal Son of God has come down from heaven to find you in the wilderness, and to lead you through all harm and danger, even through death and the grave, through the baptismal waters of the Jordan, into the good land flowing with milk and honey.

For He is the very Word that proceeds from the mouth of God the Father, who has become flesh so that you may live.  He has given Himself for you and for all, and even now He gives Himself to you as the true Manna from heaven — the living and Life-giving Bread which neither you nor your fathers could have known or baked up, but God the Father has opened His hand to give you.

But He is more than even all that.

He is more than you could ever have asked or imagined.  He is more than a new and better Moses, and more than a new and better Joshua.  He is more than your Prophet, Priest, and King, and more than the Food and Drink which now sustain you on the way.

He is the Sacrifice of Atonement for all your sins.  His Blood has made peace and reconciled you to God the Father.  Not only that, but His Blood and the water from His side are for your cleansing and refreshment, for the healing of all your diseases and the quenching of your deepest thirst.

And in His Body of flesh and blood, He is also the Sacrifice of Thanksgiving with which you enter the presence of God, a fragrant offering, acceptable and pleasing.

Take this to heart, and rejoice!  Not only does God give Himself to you in Christ Jesus, but He also brings you to Himself in thanksgiving through the same Lord Jesus Christ.  For His own Body is the Temple of God, wherein you approach and draw near, and wherein you live and abide in the glorious divine presence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, both now and forever.

Everything is summed up and centered in the incarnate Son of God, Christ Jesus our Lord.  For He is your God, who is with you and for you in the flesh, and He is the sweet-smelling sacrifice and the incense of your faith and prayer, by which you rise and live unto God.  You pray to the Father in His Name, and through Him you offer thanks and praise — whereas apart from Him even your thanksgiving would fall short and be unacceptable on account of your sin.

You have no access to God apart from Christ Jesus; you would remain cut off and far removed.  But now all the fullness of God dwells with you bodily in the flesh and blood of this incarnate Son.

All of creation is redeemed and sanctified, cleansed and healed and perfected in Him, in His Incarnation, Cross, and Resurrection.  Indeed, all things are made brand new in His Body and by His Blood, the very Feast which is given and poured out for you, here and now, to eat and drink for the forgiveness of all your sins, for life and salvation with God in Christ.

Now, then, with your body, and so too with your heart and mind, soul and spirit, give glory to God, worship Him, and give Him thanks and praise, by receiving this heavenly Manna and spiritual Drink at His Word.  Open your hand to receive what God here opens His hand to give.  Open your mouth and be fed.  And when you have eaten and are satisfied, open your mouth to bless the Lord and praise His Name by confessing the good Word that He has spoken to you.

As everything is a gift of God’s grace to you in Christ Jesus, there is nothing for you to do for Him or give to Him but to return thanks.  And your thanksgiving is joined to the flesh and blood of Christ, also by His grace, through faith in His Gospel–Word and Sacrament.

Your whole life, in fact, is offered as a living sacrifice of thanksgiving to God — that you might praise Him with your body and your whole being — by loving your neighbor, as the Lord your God loves you in Christ.  Therefore, that which you hear and receive from Him, put into practice by speaking and giving to your neighbor in His Name.  Feed and clothe, shelter and protect your neighbor, for the Lord your God daily and richly does these things for you.

Live by faith in His Word, and walk according to His commandments, because He is bringing you into the good land that He has promised to you.  To live in such a way, according to His Word — in faith toward Him and in fervent love toward one another — in Christ Jesus — is already to begin living the heavenly life on earth.

It is to live the life of God Himself, as He has lived for you, in the flesh, on earth as it is in heaven.

And in that same Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son, in His Body of flesh and blood — in His Cross and Resurrection and Ascension — you have already passed out of the wilderness through death and the grave into the life everlasting, by way of your Holy Baptism in His Name.

That is how safe you are, and how safe and secure your body and your life are — hidden with Christ in God.  And that is how sure and certain your salvation is, now and forevermore.

See here, how He so graciously and so generously opens up His hand to feed you with Himself and to satisfy you in body and soul with all that you need.  For He forgives you with His holy and precious Blood, He feeds you with His own Body, and He renews your life by His good Spirit.

All glory, honor, worship, praise, and thanksgiving to Him who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

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