24 December 2017

The Light and Life and Love of God in Christ Jesus

Perhaps you have not prayed for Immanuel to come, as you should have done.  And perhaps you have not waited on the Lord in faith and hope, in the way a Christian ought to live.  Yet, even though you have been more naughty than nice all year, He has come to be your Savior, anyway.

The true divine Light has entered into the darkness, and here He shines on you in love.  He has come into the world by His conception and birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and He comes to you now in mercy by the preaching of His Word and with His own flesh and blood here at His Altar.

You cannot see the Light of Christ with your eyes, nor can you feel His presence with any of your senses or emotions.  Your fallen mortal flesh is not capable of perceiving Him under the Cross.  It is by faith and not by sight, and it is only by the hearing of His Word that you believe in Him.

The Lord your God loves you, and He has given His Son in the flesh to live and die for you, to save you from your sins and bring you into life with Himself.  But too often what you see and feel and experience in your life on earth, perhaps even within your family and among your friends, is a lack of love.  Though there may be charity and generosity at Christmas, it does not last all year.

As for yourself, regardless of the shiny façade that you wear on the outside, you live in the terrible fear that your own nakedness will be uncovered; that your hypocrisy, your guilt and shame, and your many faults will be exposed; that you will be found out for who you are behind your fig leaf.

And all the while, there are so many things that you want for yourself, and always such daunting obligations piling up on top of you, that you begin to realize how helpless and hopeless you are.

Surely you must understand that you need help.  And yet, for all of that, because of your sin and your lack of faith, you fear the coming and the presence of the Lord — who is your only hope!

He comes to help and save you.  Even His preaching of repentance is for the forgiveness of your sins, that you might receive His great salvation in peace.  But still you flee and try to hide from Him, because you do not love and trust in Him, and you have not known Him as He truly is.

The Lord, your God and Savior, comes to you and speaks to you in love.  But how often do you let His Word go right on by without really listening to it, taking it to heart, or acting upon it?  Is it not the case that you rather persist in relying on your experience and perceptions of the world; on your own intelligence, knowledge, and so-called wisdom; on your job and your income; on the works of your own hands, your personal achievements and accomplishments; or on your family, your children and grandchildren?  Even though none of these things can save your life from death.

This whole world is full of false hopes which compete for your attention and allegiance.  And the devil lies to you flat out, with all manner of enticements; because he hates you and wants to destroy you, to rob you of life, both now and forever, he beclouds and contradicts the Word of God.

It is a downward cycle of despair and death into which the devil leads you, because you cannot perceive the Truth except by the Word and Spirit of God.  The further you depart from the hearing of the Word of Christ, the less you are able to comprehend or believe the Truth.  The further you sink into the darkness, the less you are able to behold the Light of God in Christ or to live in it.

Bear in mind that, in this fallen and perishing world of sin and death, appearances are deceiving.  So it seems as though the ChristMass were just a silly or childish dream, and as though the world of working and spending and of all your stuff were the only real world.  But that is not the Truth!

You cannot rely on your sight or your senses to discern or understand what is true and what is real.  It is solely by His Word that the Lord shines His Light upon you and reveals the Truth to you.

Praise God that He continues speaking to you — the Father speaking to you by His Son — even when you have not been listening.  If not for His persistence in coming to you with such grace, mercy, and peace, you would be lost in the darkness of death and damnation forever.  And so you shall be lost if you refuse to hear and heed the preaching of His Word to you while it is still day.  Therefore, do not squander this gracious opportunity to seek the Lord where He may be found!

In your sin, subject to death, you have not known the Lord your God, nor could you imagine Him; neither have you loved Him.  But He has known you in love, as He created you in love for life with Himself.  It is likewise for the sake of His Love that He makes Himself known to you now.

God Himself is Love.  From all eternity, to all eternity, the Father loves the Son, and the Son loves the Father, in the Holy Spirit.  And it is from within that divine, eternal Love that God the Father has revealed Himself and His Love for you in the Person of the incarnate Son, Christ Jesus.

The Father has loved you by sending His Son in the flesh to be the Sacrifice of Atonement for your sins, and not for your sins only, but for the sins of the whole world.  And He continues to love you, now and to the close of the age, by speaking to you in Christ Jesus, by giving His Spirit to you in the Gospel of Christ Jesus, and by giving you Life with Himself in the Word and Flesh of Christ.

As you are thus loved by the Lord your God in Christ Jesus, and as you now live in Him by grace, so love your neighbor in accordance with His Word.  As you hear and believe His Word of the Gospel, by which your sins are all forgiven, so live by faith in His Word within your vocations.

Trust the Lord by doing whatever He has called you and given you to do, no matter how difficult it may be, and even when it may seem as though it were doing no good and making no difference.  Do not be deceived by the devil, the world, and your own sinful flesh, but do what God has said.

Hear and heed the Word of the Lord.  Believe it and obey it in holy faith and holy love.  Not as though your life depended on your faithfulness and obedience, but because you are given life by the grace of God in Christ, and your life is safely and securely hidden with Christ in God.  You live and love, not to become His child, but because you are His beloved and well-pleasing child.

Take it to heart that God loves you, that He shines His Light upon you in peace, and that He has given you His own divine, eternal Life through the Gospel of His incarnate Son, Christ Jesus.  The Good News of the ChristMass is not simply the promise of some future pie-in-the-sky, nor the gift of stuff that wears out or gets used up.  It is the gift of God Himself, who comes and gives Himself to you, and binds you to Himself in love.  He lives with you, that you might live with Him.

It is not because you are so pious and faithful and good that He loves you, but in spite of the fact that you are a sinner, and even though you do what you should not and fail to do as you should.  Which is no excuse to be naughty, but all the more reason to be pious and faithful and good.  As the Light now shines upon you in Christ Jesus, do not continue to live and to die in the darkness.

Open your ears and hear this: The Lord your God is here with you and for you in grace, mercy, and peace.  God the Father speaks to you and for you in the preaching of the Gospel; He breathes His Holy Spirit into your body and soul through His Word of forgiveness; and He gives to you His own dear Son in the flesh, whom He has also given for you on the Cross, to save you from your sins.

So does the Lord now shine His Light upon you, and so does He reign over you in Love.  His Word to you is not a fairy tale, nor is it a burden or a threat.  It is the living and active Word of Truth, which delivers you from death and the devil, the Word of Salvation which gives you life with God.

Thus are you beloved of the Lord your God, who created you for Life.  By no means shall you be forgotten or forsaken, since the Lord Himself has sought you out and redeemed you for Himself.  As surely as St. Joseph took St. Mary to be his wife and cared for her in love, so much more does great David’s greater Son, Christ Jesus, have you and hold you and care for you in love forever.

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

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