06 January 2019

To Worship the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness

There is a deep darkness that lies thick and heavy upon you, and really upon all of God’s creation.  The days have not been as dark and gloomy this winter as they typically would be this time of year, but our culture and society have gotten darker in countless ways, regardless of the weather.  And there is a darkness within you, as well, in your heart and mind and in your flesh, which threatens to drag you down into its depths of despair.  It may be the weight of anxiety and pressures at work, or a constant stress and tension in your relationships.  Perhaps it is failing eyesight or dementia.

It’s different in some ways for everyone, but you do have your own darkness of body and soul.  In one way or another, it all stems from the darkness which is sin and death, the heart of which is your ignorance of God.  Your sin is a kind of ongoing solar eclipse, which blocks out and cuts off His Light from your heart, mind, body, and life.   So you are not able to know Him by sinful nature.  That is the real darkness that blinds you to all that is noble, just, beautiful, and true.  Not only that, but it is a darkness so deep that all of your senses are numbed by it, and you do not even know it.

But now the grace of God has appeared in the Person of Christ Jesus, and by this very preaching of His Word He shines the Light of God into the heart of your deep darkness, not only to expose the problem for what it really is, but also as the Lord’s own solution and His great Salvation.  By His Word and the preaching of it, He gives you more than facts and information about Himself; He reveals and gives Himself to you, and He embraces you to Himself with divine and personal intimacy, that you might live in the Light of His presence and bask in the sunshine of His Love.

It is entirely by His grace.  Nothing forces Him.  He is not compelled by any outside agency, nor by any inner need or lack on His part.  He is moved from within by His own divine, eternal Love.

So does He reveal Himself to you by His Word and Spirit in and with His good creation.  For even though this world is full of sin and death and falling apart, nevertheless, all that He has made is still very good, as He has spoken.  Therefore, He does not abandon the works of His hands, but He enters in to redeem and rescue His creation.  He is conceived and born of the Woman, that by His flesh and blood He might sanctify you in body and soul and make all things new in heaven and on earth — within His own Body, first of all, crucified for your sins and raised for your justification.

Thus do we rejoice in the life that He has given to this brand new human being, Fredrick William James, whose conception and birth are sanctified by the conception and birth of the Son of God in human flesh and blood exactly like his own.  All the more do we give thanks that he has here and now been given the new birth of water, Word, and Spirit in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism.  For the same Lord Jesus Christ who has become like us, flesh of our flesh and blood of our blood, conceived and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, has so granted that we should not only come to know Him in His mercy through the Gospel, but that we should become like Him in body and soul.

By the Light of the revelation of the Glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, you are given to know and love the Lord your God.  To receive all good things from Him.  To hear and trust His Word to you.  Even more, to eat and drink His Word-made-Flesh, given and poured out for you.

It is by these ways and means of His grace toward you, in the hearing, receiving, and trusting of these good gifts which are yours in Christ Jesus, that you worship the Lord your God in Spirit and in Truth, in righteousness and peace, and in the beauty of holiness.

It is for such worship of God that you have been created, and it is for such worship of God that you are redeemed and sanctified by the incarnate Son.  Not that He needs anything from you, but that you might live with Him forever, enlightened by His Love for you and glorified in His presence.  To worship Him in the beauty of holiness is to live by His grace as a member of His household and family, as a beloved child of God the Father in Christ Jesus, adorned with His righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, as surely as Fredrick is adorned with Christ on this glorious day.

This true spiritual worship of the one true God not only begins with His revealing and giving of Himself to you, by grace; it likewise continues with His revealing and giving of Himself to you, by grace.  You worship Him because of who He is and what He does, thereby reflecting the Light of His Glory and echoing the Word that God the Father speaks to you by His Son, as you live with Him in body and soul by His Spirit.  It’s not a means to some other end; it is your life with God.

Now, the fact is that, even in the miry bog of your thick darkness — even in your native ignorance of the one true God — yet, because you have been created to worship the Lord, you will worship something or someone in some way or another.  You will worship something or someone, because you are a worshiping creature, whatever else you might do.  That is true of little Fredrick William James, who from his mother’s womb and as a newborn infant has been created by God to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth, in the beauty of the holiness and righteousness of the Lord Jesus.  And that is true for you, as well, throughout your entire life, from your conception unto all eternity.

It is only that, apart from the Word of God and the gracious gifts of His Gospel, it is impossible for you to worship Him by faith.  In the deep darkness of your sin, subject to death and the grave, you do not know Him as He is.  So, instead of worshiping the Lord, you make gods out of other things and other people.  Above all, you make a god of yourself.  And you worship those false gods and dead idols by devoting yourself to them; by trusting them, and fearing them, and loving them; and by despairing when they are lost — for every one of them surely will be lost, sooner or later.

Apart from the Light of Christ, your worship will always be false and misdirected toward that which does not last and cannot save you.  It will be idolatrous and blasphemous.  It will not be a way of life and light and love, but a downward spiral of death and damnation, moving further and further away from the true God, and descending ever deeper and deeper into darkness and despair.

But now Christ has come to shine His Light upon you in love and give you life in place of death.

You and Fredrick and all the children of God worship Him in the Spirit and in Truth, because He makes Himself known to you, and He gives Himself to you, in the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ.  You worship the one true God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in the Body of the incarnate Son.

That you might know where He is and how to find Him, and that you might worship Him by faith, He guides you and directs you by His Word and Holy Spirit, as surely as He did for the Magi.  He shines the Light of His Gospel upon you, that you should know Him and love Him as He truly is, and recognize Him in the poverty and weakness of His Cross, in the mercy of His forgiveness.

It is by His Word and the preaching of it that He calls you and draws you to Himself, as it was by the Holy Scriptures that He identified the significance of the star to the Magi, and by the Word of the Prophet that He pointed them from the capital city of Jerusalem to the little burg of Bethlehem.

But along with the preaching of His Word, He also attaches His Word and promise of the Gospel to signs which He has given, as surely He did in the case of that star.  It was the attaching of His Word to that particular star which signified the birth of a King within Judah.  So was it the Word that God spoke through the angel to the shepherds that gave significance to swaddling clothes and a manger in Bethlehem.  And so has God attached His Word to the signs He has given to you.

He attaches His Word and promise to the washing of water in His Name, and it becomes a life-giving water, rich in grace.  So has the Lord made Himself known to Fredrick this morning, that this little infant son should join with us in worshiping the Lord in the beauty of holiness.  And the same Lord attaches His Word and promise to this unassuming supper of simple bread and wine, that you and all the faithful might receive and eat and drink the very Body and Blood of the Lamb, and thereby worship the true and only God in the Son of St. Mary, in faith and with thanksgiving.

He makes Himself known and gives Himself to you by His Word and through these sacred Signs of His Gospel, all within His Church on earth.  Take to heart what St. Paul has written, lest you suppose that life on earth were nought but misery and drudgery.  For all the heavenly powers and authorities learn the Mystery of God by the preaching of the Gospel of Christ within His Church on earth!  Heaven does not know Him better than you do, because heaven finds out what God is really like in the flesh and blood of Jesus, and Christ Jesus has come to abide with you on earth.

He is with you in His Church, as He is always “with His Mother” in this whole second chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel.  Look and see.  Over and over again, the holy Evangelist is at pains to say, “The Child with His Mother.”  She is indeed the living evidence of His Incarnation, proof positive that He is true Man, of human flesh and blood like yours.  For He is born of this Woman.  But she is also a living icon and a symbol, as well as a member, a preeminent member, of His Holy Church.  The Child is always with His Mother because Christ the Lord is always with His Church.

So it is that He is here with Fredrick, and He is here with you, within His Church.  He is here with you in the preaching of the Mystery of His grace, which was hidden so long but now is revealed.

He comes to you here within His Church on earth, and in the washing of the water with His Word He has made of you a member of His Church.  He has named you with His Name and poured out His Spirit generously upon you.  His God and Father is now your God and Father.  And as the Christ Chid is always with His Mother, so is the same Lord Jesus Christ ever and always with you.

So it is that you worship the Father in His Son and by His Spirit within His Church on earth, as you hear His Word and receive the Gifts of His Gospel.  As He causes His Light to shine upon you in Christ Jesus, His Light is reflected in your words and actions to the glory of His Holy Name.  As you hear His Word, so do you pray and confess His Word.  As you are clothed with the holiness and righteousness of Christ in Holy Baptism, so do you clothe and shelter your neighbor in love.  And as you are fed by Christ in His Supper, so do you feed and care for your neighbor in peace.

You worship the Lord your God in Spirit and in Truth, in the beauty of holiness, in heart, mind, and spirit, and so also with your body, as well, in faith and love.  For your body also participates in the salvation of Christ, and your body also shall be raised from the dead in glory at the last, as surely as Christ Jesus Himself is risen from the dead and lives forever in His own glorious Body.

Thus do you acknowledge the Lord and worship Him with your body, as you enter here into His House and meet Him at His Altar.  Like the Magi, you bow before the Lord your God, the Babe, the Son of Mary.  In His Body and His Blood, hidden from your sight but revealed by His Word, you worship Him as your Prophet, Priest, and King.  And with your gifts, your gold, “your incense and myrrh,” or whatever means you may have, you worship Christ Jesus as your Savior and God.

And then you return from His House, and you go back to your own country, to your own place in life, to your own home and family and neighbors and friends.  But you do so by another Way, a new and better Way.  For you have a new King, who rules over you in grace and love, and who causes the Light of the Revelation of the Glory of God to shine upon you through His Gospel.

He scatters the darkness and disperses the gloom.  Not that you won’t have dark days.  Not that you won’t get depressed and discouraged.  Not that your eyes and your mind won’t ever falter or fail.  But Christ the Lord is with you in the midst of suffering and death.  He scatters the darkness and disperses the gloom by the way of His own Cross and in His Resurrection from the dead, and by His preaching of the Gospel of forgiveness, whereby He gives you life with God in Himself.

Lift up your eyes and see.  Open your ears and hear.  You are not alone.  For Christ is with you here and now, and as you go about all your days and nights on earth.  Not only that, but in Him you belong to the household and family of God.  Indeed, Fredrick William James and every baptized Christian of all times and in all places are your own brothers and sisters and family in Christ Jesus.  For His Church is your Mother, and His God and Father is your God and Father.  His House is your house and home.  And all the treasures of His Kingdom, all the wealth and riches of His heaven, are given to you in His Body and Blood, which are your Meat and Drink indeed, forever and ever.

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

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