30 December 2010

Believing is Seeing

If seeing is believing, and if what you see is what you get, then you're in trouble. Because what you see, in yourself and all around you, is sin and death.

But what you hope for is not yet seen. Why would you hope for it, if you could already see it?

Indeed, it has appeared in the Person of the incarnate Son of God, Christ Jesus, the Babe, the Son of Mary, the Man crucified under Pontius Pilate. It has appeared in His flesh and blood, in the humble form of a servant, subjected to the Law and put to death for the sins of the world.

To be sure, in His face shines the Light of the revelation of the Glory of God, and in His Resurrection from the dead He has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.

For He has appeared in order to take away sins, to destroy all the works of the devil, to conquer death, and to make you a child of His own God and Father, by His grace, in His mercy and Peace.

And yet, again, that is not what you see. For it has not yet appeared what you will be.

You know that in Him there is no sin. He is pure, and He is righteous. Therefore, no one who abides in Him sins — and by the same token, no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. The one who is born of God does not sin — and cannot sin — because He is born of God, and His Seed abides in Him. By contrast, the one who practices sin is of the devil, whose works Christ has come to destroy.

This hardly gives you any cause for joy, nor does it give you peace in the face of death. For you know that you are sinful and unclean, impure and unrighteous in all your thoughts, words and actions. Surely what you deserve is nothing but punishment, here in time and hereafter in eternity.

What, then, is your hope? It is Christ Jesus, who has appeared in humility, an obedient Servant of God for man; who hides Himself under the Cross and conceals Himself in weakness, in order to reveal and give Himself to you in love.

In Him there is no sin of His own, but He has come and taken all of your sin, and the sins of the whole world — away from all of us, upon Himself, even in His own Body unto His death upon the Cross.

He is pure, and He is righteous, but He submits Himself to the Law, to all of its demands and all of its judgments; He keeps all that it requires, suffers all its punishments (for the sins of others), and fulfills it perfectly, in order to purify you by His sacrifice, and to justify you in His Resurrection.

Beloved, now you are a child of God, because He has called you so by His Gospel. He has adopted you in mercy and by grace through the forgiveness of all your sins.

Daily and richly He forgives your sins with His Word of Absolution, by His cleansing blood, so that as often as you sin, your sin is being washed away and removed from you and put to death in Christ. There is no sin counted against you, because the Righteousness of Christ covers you and avails for you before His God and Father, as though you had no sin whatsoever.

Though you are dying and your flesh is growing weaker and wasting away every day, yet you live and shall not die, because Christ and His Life abide in you. His Spirit breathes in you by His Gospel.

His purity adorns you with His Glory and His princely beauty as the Son of God. While He, for now, appears so small and weak, so helpless and hopeless, so cursed and crushed underfoot, condemned by the Law and put to death on a Cross.

What you see is actually no more obvious than what St. Simeon saw with his eyes — nor any less: a Babe in arms, or bread and wine; a mom and dad, or a pastor in vestments.

It is not your eyes, but the Word and Spirit of God who reveal the Christ to you and grant you the faith to fix your hope on what you cannot see, to believe and trust what you cannot feel.

You are righteous and devout, you are pure and holy, by such faith in Christ; not because you have sought Him out and found Him, but He has sought you out, and He has found you.

Here today, by His Holy Spirit through His Word of the Gospel, He has brought you to His Temple to meet Him in His flesh and blood, to take His Body into your own, to be forgiven and at peace, and to live in the Light of His revelation to the praise of His glorious grace.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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