02 January 2015

Like a Bride Made Ready for Her Husband

I baptize you with water in the Name of the Lord, in order to bring you out of slavery in Egypt, safely through the desert wilderness, and, at the last, through the River Jordan into Canaan.

For now, in this wilderness between the Red Sea and the Jordan, I preach to you with the Lord’s Voice, so that you may know the One who stands among you, the Christ, the Lord’s Anointed; and that, knowing Him, you would repent and believe in Him, and thus have Life in Him forever.

He is your Redeemer, the Lamb of God who takes away your sins and the sins of the whole world.  And, strange though it may seem, He calls you by my voice, by my preaching and teaching of His Word.  By this Ministry of the Gospel He woos you and betrothes you to Himself, to be His Bride.

By my baptizing with water and His Word, He has poured out His Spirit generously upon you, and has washed you inside and out with His forgiveness of your sins.  He has cleansed your conscience of all guilt and shame, and has purified your body and soul, so that you are pure, as He is pure.  He has adorned you with His own royal beauty, with His own perfect righteousness.

For His sake, and for yours, therefore, I shall not keep silent, but I shall preach, as I have been sent to preach, until your righteousness in Christ Jesus shines forth in the sight of all the peoples.

For the present time, as we are wandering our way through the desert, it often appears that you have been forsaken, that you are left alone, desolate and desperate.  But you are not.  You are in fact the Lord’s beloved, and He delights in you.

Even now, the Lord Jesus rejoices over you in love, as the Bridegroom rejoices over His Bride; and the Father rejoices over you in Christ Jesus, His beloved Son, as over His own dear, dear child.

Whatever you may suffer, bearing the Name of your Bridegroom, serves to confess the very Cross by which He has won your hand and received you to Himself.  And He shall not permit you to be lost or destroyed.  He guards and keeps you zealously and will not suffer anyone to snatch you out of His hand.  Your own sins, though they are many, are daily forgiven by His grace and washed away by the waters of His Holy Baptism.  And the sins of others against you can finally do nothing but serve the blessed purposes of God in calling you to repentance and strengthening your faith.

But how, then, shall you live?  How shall you speak?  What shall the nations see and hear in you?

Beloved of the Lord: Clear the way.  Make your path straight.  Build up the highway, and lift high the standard of Christ, your Lord, in all that you do and say.

Walk in such a way as befits the Bride of Christ.  Carry and comport yourself with the royal dignity of Christ, as belonging to His Queen, that is to say, His Holy Christian Church.  Live every day unto the righteousness and holiness with which He has clothed you by His grace and in His glory.

For by His Cross He has redeemed you from sin and death and every evil.  In your Holy Baptism He has called you by a new name, indeed, by His own Name, since He is your Husband and Head.  And in His preaching of the Gospel to you, in His Holy Absolution of your sins, He reaffirms His faithfulness to you and your relationship to Him.  He pledges you Himself, His Body and Soul, and all that He has.  He plights thee His troth: His House and Home, His Father and His Spirit, and all of His heavenly possessions are yours to share with Him.  Even death shall not part you from Him.

He does not hold your sins against you.  He does not count them or consider them.  Nor does He punish or divorce you, as you deserve for your unfaithfulness.  But He is always calling you back to Himself, and reconciling you to Himself through His free and full forgiveness of all your sins.

With such forgiveness, you have Peace, and Sabbath Rest, and a place of your own in His House; not only hereafter in eternity, but already here and now in His Church, at His banqueting Table, where He prepares and sets before you the Great Wedding Feast of His own Body and His Blood.  Here and forever He gives Himself to you, to have and to hold, unto the Life Everlasting in Him.

Eat, drink, and be merry in this ChristMass, for you are made ready by your Lord who loves you.

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

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