05 January 2017

The Heavens Are Opened to You in Christ Jesus

In Christ Jesus, the heavens have been opened.  As at first in His Baptism, and then again at His Transfiguration, so have they been fully opened by His Cross and Resurrection from the dead.

He has done these great things and opened heaven for you — and for all those who believe and are baptized into Him — just as you will surely see, according to His Word and promise.

Come and see, therefore, by following Jesus.  Live and walk according to His Word in faith and love in your vocations and stations in life: As a Christian, by the hearing of His Gospel and the receiving of His means of grace; and as a son or daughter, husband or wife, father or mother, brother or sister, as a worker, a student, or retired, by trusting Jesus and serving your neighbors.

Your labors are not in vain, nor do you bear your children for calamity, no matter how it seems.  For behold, the Lord creates new heavens and a new earth, the home where righteousness dwells, according to His grace and mercy.  He makes you and all things new, and it is very good.

Unfortunately, it is all too easy and far too common to become cynical and pessimistic, perhaps even hardened in despair, because of what you do see and experience for now under the Cross in the midst of sin and death.  It is a world full of weeping and crying, where sarcasm and insult function as humor.  Children die by many causes, including many who are murdered in the womb by their own parents, or beaten and neglected after they are born.  Old people live out their days in pain and sorrow, often lonely and afraid, if not wretched and bitter.  Investments yield little or no return.  The best laid plans go awry.  Buildings, businesses, and families crumble into ruin.

Cynicism begins to reign in your heart and mind, where faith and love ought to hold sway, because you become accustomed to such patterns of disappointment and discouragement.  Your parents, spouse, and children let you down; they do not love you and care for you as they should, but they embarrass you and take advantage of you.  Your friends forget you, desert you, or betray you.  Your boss is a jerk, and your job is going nowhere; or perhaps you are losing your job or have no job to lose.  As often as you have dared to get your hopes and expectations up, thinking that things are finally going to get better, time and time again your dream is dashed and things only get worse.

Can anything good come out of your lot in life?  Can anything good come out of your vocations?

Well, can anything good come out of Nazareth?  The answer, of course, is Yes.  It can, and it has.

For Jesus Christ, the Son of David, though He was born in Bethlehem, He is called the Nazarene.  He is consecrated by the Word and Spirit of God from the womb; and He grows up as a citizen of the city of Nazareth; and He is the promised Root of Jesse (“root” being NaZaR in the Hebrew).

He is the One of whom Moses in the Law and all the Prophets wrote — in the very Scriptures that Nathaniel was searching and studying under the fig tree when Jesus saw him and knew him.

The Word of the Lord does not lie.  His promises are not broken.  Just as He has spoken, so He does and gives to you and to all by the way and means of Christ the Crucified.

It is in Him that Jacob/Israel and every Israelite indeed (each and every son of Abraham by faith in Abraham’s God) find their refuge and rest, their peace, and their true home with God; though they may not know it or realize it at first.  A Rock on the ground proves to be the gate of heaven.

Upon this Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God and of St. Mary, the Lord in the Flesh who is the King of Israel — upon Him the angels of God ascend and descend.  Notice that He is both the starting point and the center of the holy angels and their faithful service unto God and Man.  For in Him, in His Body of flesh and blood, the Kingdom of God is at hand, on earth as it is in heaven.

And He is here for you now with His open heaven — and the Light of the revelation of the Glory of God the Father — in the Holy Communion of His Body and His Blood.  He is here for you, and with you, and is given to you.  Here, then, you are surrounded by all the angels and archangels and the whole company of heaven, precisely because this is where the Lord Jesus dwells in the flesh.

This Lord and God, Christ Jesus, your Savior and your King, He is here — with you and for you — because He has purposed to be here with you and for you.  He saw you and knew you and loved you, before you ever heard of Him or knew Him.  Before you ever prayed to Him or called upon His Name, even when you had no idea how or what to pray, He answered your deepest need with Himself in the flesh, and He acted in grace and love to save you from sin, death, the devil, and hell.

So has God the Father predestined you to be conformed to the Image of His Son, to become one of His many brethren.  So does He seek you out and call you to Himself in Christ Jesus, by the preaching and ministry of the Gospel.  For this Lord Jesus Christ has atoned for the sins of the world by His Cross and Passion.  And in His Resurrection, He has been vindicated by His God and Father, justified and glorified for you, so that you are now justified by grace through faith in Him.  So shall you also be raised from the dead at the last and glorified in Him, unto the life everlasting.

You have entered with Him through death into life, into an open heaven through His Cross and Resurrection, by your Holy Baptism in His Name.  Thus have the heavens been opened to you in Christ Jesus, and in Him they shall never be closed to you again.  Not by sickness, suffering, death, or sadness.  Not by the sins of others against you, nor by your own sins, either.  For heaven itself has come to you in the Word of the Lord, in His Body given and His Blood poured out for you.

Come, eat and drink, taste and see.  Something good, and such great things, have come for you.

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

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