Woe to you who live on earth, in the midst of sin and death and the devil’s great wrath. Be on your guard, constantly vigilant, sober and watchful.
Satan is a fierce foe, and he hates you with a vengeance. He does not rest in his attacks against you, but day and night he is plotting to entice and deceive you; and at the same time he is always accusing you of your sins. He mocks you with guilt and shame, whether real or imagined; and he threatens you with death and damnation, even with the condemnation of God’s Law.
Pray, therefore, at all times and without ceasing.
Do not rely upon your own wisdom, reason, or strength, but humble yourself before God. Repent of your sins, and seek the Lord where He may be found in His grace and mercy and forgiveness.
And even so, even now, take courage and stand upright.
For here there is One who helps you, who is mightier than sin, death, the devil, and hell.
Here there is Yahweh Sabaoth, the Lord of hosts, who has become the true Man, conceived and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, so that He is your Brother in the flesh. He is your Savior.
This Lord Jesus Christ, true God and Man, has conquered in the fight. Not by the raw power of His Law, which would also destroy you along with your enemies, but by the Holy Spirit of God, by perfect faith and love in His own flesh and blood, by His own Cross and Resurrection.
He has robbed the devil of his threatening might and fearsome power. He has stripped the devil of his teeth, and ripped off all the bars and doors from the devil’s prison house of fear and death.
The devil is done for, because the Cross of Christ has satisfied the Law and perfectly fulfilled it, meeting all its demands and removing all its threats. The Lord Himself has made propitiation and atonement for all sins, including yours; He has reconciled you and all the world to God the Father.
With what, then, shall Satan accuse or condemn you? And what threat or fear of death shall the devil hold over your head? For Christ Jesus has trodden death and hell under His feet, and in His Resurrection He has opened the grave and opened heaven to you and all the baptized.
The Lord your God in His own flesh, the Son of Man, has accomplished this victory for all men and women, all the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. By the way and means of this victory, by His Word and Holy Spirit, He has saved you. He has given you His Name and Himself, with His whole life and His salvation, in Holy Baptism and through the whole Ministry of the Gospel.
Even more relentless than Satan accuses, the Lord Jesus Christ never ceases to speak forgiveness and peace. So long as the heavens and the earth remain, from the rising of the sun to the place of its going down, He preaches His Gospel and thereby takes away the sins of the world. So it is that Satan is cast out and thrown down, not only out of heaven, but also from your conscience.
It is for this purpose that the Lord has so ordained and constituted the ministry of men and angels, unto the life and salvation of all who are called by His Name.
Thus are you, dear child of God, dear “little one” of Jesus, guarded and guided by the Word of the Lord that is preached to you. His Word is a lamp to your feet and a light upon your path, so that you know the way of faith and love, and by His grace you live in safety and in peace.
The Law of the Lord curbs you from your wickedness, in order to protect you from the devil’s treachery and deceit. And even as the Law exposes your sin and calls you to account, the Lord is thereby directing you to the Cross of Christ, and to His sweet and salutary Word of the Gospel.
As often as you stumble and fall, that Gospel lays the gentle hand of Christ upon you and raises you up in His Resurrection with the free and full forgiveness of all your sins. That is the special authority with which He has called and sent your pastors, His messengers of the Word, to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins in His Name; that you not die but live.
As surely as you are baptized in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, so does He also nurture your body and soul and preserve your faith and life in Him — by the preaching of His Word, and by nourishing you in the wilderness with the spiritual Food and Drink of His Body and His Blood.
By that Ministry of His Gospel, just as surely as He named you with His Name in Holy Baptism, so has He written your name with His own blood in the Lord’s Book of Life. For as you share His Baptism, and as you receive His forgiveness of your sins, His Resurrection is also your resurrection from the dead, and He Himself is forever and always your life and your salvation.
It is for this reason that His holy angels surround you, to guard you and protect you in both body and soul, unto the resurrection and the life everlasting. For they see in you — what you often fail to see in yourself and in your neighbor — they behold in you Christ Jesus, the incarnate Son, His Name, His flesh and blood. As a member of His Body and Bride, they love and care for you.
The angels are not given the highest honor of preaching the Gospel to you; for that is done by men of flesh and blood, like that of Christ Himself, who is not an angel but is both God and man. But the angels do guard and protect you for the sake of that Holy Gospel.
The angels preserve your life, in order that you may hear and confess the Word of the Gospel, so that both you and your neighbor may live, in both body and soul, both now and forever.
Of course, the devil doesn’t fight fair. He is a liar and a murderer, by night as by day. And he is crafty, with a serpent’s body that slithers this way and that and strikes in the blink of an eye. By hook and by crook he attacks you on the left and on the right. He tempts you into sins of all kinds, and then he quickly points the finger at you and vehemently accuses you. He assaults your heart and mind with distractions and enticements; with fears and trepidations; with pride at one moment, despair at the next; with envy and jealousy; with guilt and shame.
And when he cannot shake your hope and confidence within, the devil levels all his wrath and hatred against your frail flesh, against your household, family, and friends.
With his lying and murdering day and night, the devil lets you have no peace within or without.
But do not be afraid. The armies of the Lord who loves you surround you. And because they always behold the face of your own dear Father in heaven, they are more fierce and determined in their protection than even Satan in his wrath.
Nothing will by any means injure you. That is the Lord’s promise.
But how can that be so? Given that you bear the Cross — that you are crucified, dead, and buried with Christ Jesus — how shall you not be injured, even to the point of death? For you are frail flesh and blood. You are but mortal. You get sick; you get hurt; you suffer and die.
What is more, you are in fact, as you confess, a poor, miserable sinner. You surely deserve nothing but punishment. Does the devil not have a point in accusing and condemning you?
But, no, you are in Christ, and He abides in you and with you and for you. There is therefore no condemnation that shall stand against you. There is no punishment or death that shall injure you.
The One with all authority in heaven and on earth, who could destroy your soul and body in hell, has named you with the Name of Christ Jesus, the beloved Son, and He has declared that you are well-pleasing in His sight. He judges you righteous, and He gives to you all good things.
If you are crucified and put to death by the Cross of Christ, it is also by and from His Cross that He daily and richly forgives you all your sins. And it is from the same Cross that He also feeds you with His Body and His Blood. And it is by His Cross that He brings you through death into life with God in His own Resurrection and Ascension, through His suffering into His glory.
For it is by His Cross that the dragon, that old serpent who is called the devil and Satan, is even now and forever conquered and crushed under the heal of Christ, the Son of Man, your Savior.
If you and your body and life are marked by the Sign of that Cross, so do you also bear the Name of Christ, and His Spirit, and His Body and His Blood. By these means you overcome. Though devils all the world should fill, all eager to devour you, yet you are kept safe and sound in Christ.
The Lord Jesus Christ, who loves you and has given Himself for you — He sees to it that none of the treasures of His Kingdom shall be taken from you. Nor shall you be snatched out of His hand.
Indeed, the same Lord sends His men to preach and administer His Gospel to you, and His holy angels to guard you round about.
Rejoice, therefore, and bless the Lord. All that is within you, give thanks and bless His holy Name. For as He feeds you here and now with His own Body, so shall He awaken your body from the dust of the earth and raise you unto life everlasting in the never-ending Feast of His Kingdom. And as you worship Him and sing with saints and angels here at His Altar on earth, so shall you continue to worship and sing with all the company of the blessed in heaven forever and ever.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.