09 December 2015

By the Word and Spirit of God

All of these things are from God, by His grace, according to His Word — delivered to you and accomplished for you by means of His Word.  Indeed, it is the Word of God — the only-begotten Son, begotten of the Father from eternity, by whom all things are made — who is conceived by the Holy Spirit in St. Mary’s womb, and from her flesh and blood becomes flesh and blood Himself.

Therefore, do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God, who comes to you in mercy and speaks to you in peace.  He has given His Son to be conceived and born of this Blessed Virgin, to bear your sin and to be your Savior.  So is He named Jesus.  For Yahweh saves His people from their sins, and He calls you to be His own, to be one of His beloved people, to live with Him in His Kingdom.  And as He lives and reigns eternally, so shall you also live and abide with Him forever.

To be sure, these are incredibly great and precious promises that are given to you by the grace of God, and a truly remarkable Word that is spoken to you by the mouth of the Lord.  It is seemingly impossible that a virgin should conceive and bear a Son; that the very Son of God should thus become true Man; and that He should save you and all His people from the devil, death, and hell.

All of this seems impossible.  And it is impossible for you to believe and trust these words and promises of God, except by the power of His Word and the work of His Holy Spirit in your heart.

Blessed are you who thus believe this Word of God, according to His grace.  And blessed is she — to speak as Elizabeth will sing of Mary by the Spirit of God — blessed is she who believed all that the Lord had spoken to her, every Word that proceeded from His mouth into her ears, into her mind and heart, into her body and her life, all for the sake of our life and salvation in her Son.

In all of this, aside from everything else, St. Mary is and remains such a beautiful example of faith.  Behold the handmaiden of the Lord, who prays and confesses so rightly and well, “Let it be to me according to Thy Word!”  God grant that you should also have such faith and speak in this way.

Indeed, to have and confess such faith is perhaps the most miraculous and incredible grace of God, above and beyond all of the other miracles at work in this Holy Gospel.  But so it is, according to His steadfast love and mercy, that you trust His holy Word and boldly confess what He has said and promised in the face of all adversity, even (and especially) when it all seems so impossible.

The way and the means by which the Lord God grants to you such faith are, in fact, the very way and means by which He bestows His gracious gifts upon you.  And in this He deals with you in the same way and by the same means as He dealt with dear St. Mary.

He sends His servant, His messenger, to speak and proclaim His Word and promise to you.  The Liturgy confesses and declares this point each time you hear the Salutation from your pastor, the very same Salutation that St. Mary received from the Archangel Gabriel: “The Lord be with you!”

With that greeting He announces not only His gracious presence, but also His works of mercy for you, and His good gifts of the Gospel.  He speaks the forgiveness of all your sins, and He bestows the salvation of your body and soul by the body and blood of the Incarnate Son, Christ Jesus.

It is that Word of God — that Word of Christ, the Word of His Gospel — that Word by which and through which the Holy Spirit is actively present and at work — it is that Word which opens your ears to hear, your heart to believe and trust, your mind to understand the Truth, and your lips to confess the same Son of God, your Savior, Jesus Christ.

So do God’s Word and Spirit also embrace and comprehend the chosen elements of His good creation, as the Word and Spirit embraced and comprehended the body of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in order to manifest and give His Salvation “in the flesh” unto His creatures of flesh and blood.

As the Son of God was conceived and born of St. Mary, so are the children of God conceived and born by the washing of water with the Word and Spirit of God in Holy Baptism.

And as the Son of God took flesh and blood from St. Mary’s body, in order to become flesh of our flesh and blood of our blood as true Man, so does He give that same Body and Blood to you when His Word comes to the bread and wine of the Holy Communion and He unites Himself with them, in order to be “conceived and born” in you, as it were, as you eat and drink at His invitation.

In these means of grace, within the Holy Christian Church, the Incarnation and the great Salvation of God continue to happen — for you — to the praise of His glorious grace.

Beloved of God, the Son of God has come in the flesh to cast away the works of darkness and to destroy the works of the devil; He has come to purify you in body and soul, for now and forever, that you should live no longer in sin but unto righteousness, by His grace through faith in Him.

As He has prevailed over sin, death, and the devil in His Body of flesh and blood, by His Cross and in His Resurrection from the dead, so does He accomplish His purposes in your body and life — not by your own reason and strength, but by His Word and Spirit.  Though it is not yet obvious to the world, nor even to your own perception, nevertheless, you are the Lord’s, and He is yours.

And so it is that, as St. Mary presents you with a beautiful example of faith within her vocation as the Mother of the Son of God, so do you now live by faith within your vocation as a child of God.

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

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