Throughout the Season of Advent, we have called upon the Lord and prayed that He would rend the heavens and come down. And according to His Word and Promise, He has come.
So is He coming to you now. And so will He come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.
Already here and now, the Glory of the Lord is shining upon you; the great God and Savior has appeared in your presence.
Therefore, what sort of person ought you to be? How should you be living in this body and life?
The Lord has taught you by His Word and Spirit: Do what you are given to do, not begrudgingly, but zealous for what is good and right and true, for what is godly, sensible, and righteous. If you are a husband, love your wife. If you are a mother, care for your children. If you are a shepherd, tend your sheep. And whatever you do, whether eating or drinking, waking or sleeping, wherever God has placed you on earth, do all to the glory of God, in peace and with love for your neighbor.
You are quite right to be humbled by the Glory of God and by His Word. And you are quite right to fear His Law, His wrath and judgment, for He shall judge the world in righteousness and truth.
But now also hear and heed His Word of the Gospel, which is for you today. He is your Savior, and He is born for you, to redeem you from sin and death, and to purify you with His forgiveness unto the Life everlasting; that you may live with Him in His presence and serve Him without fear.
This true and greatest Glory of God is hidden and mysterious, because it is not finally the obvious, overwhelming, and irresistible glory of power, might, and punishment, but the gentle and quiet Glory of a voice that speaks forgiveness. It is the paradoxical divine Glory of a powerless little Child, the Word-made-Flesh, who will submit Himself at last to voluntary suffering and death.
The threat of punishment scares you, but you can understand it, and you know it when you see it and feel it. Indeed, apart from this Gospel of the Christ Child, you cannot see or feel anything other than punishment and death — which is all that you deserve on account of your sins.
But the paradoxical Glory of divine humility and weakness befuddles and confounds you. It makes no sense to your wisdom, reason, and experience. Apart from the Word and Spirit of God, you are not able to recognize or comprehend such Glory; you are rather inclined to despise and reject it.
Even so, repent of your sins and failings. But do not be afraid!
Here in this place, on this dark night, you are called by the Gospel, enlightened by the free gifts of God the Holy Spirit, and gathered together with the Body of Christ in His Kingdom of Peace.
He is the Lord your God, your Shepherd, and your King. He cares for you, feeds and waters you, guards and protects you, leads and guides you, in steadfast love and mercy for you. He rules you with justice and righteousness — not that of the Law, but of the Holy Gospel. His own perfect righteousness of grace prevails for you, because He has redeemed you from sin and death, rescued you from every evil, reconciled you to Himself in peace, and sanctified you with His own holiness.
Here is where and how you find Him, because He has come to be with you here in His Church on earth, His Bethlehem, His House of Bread. Here He feeds you from the feed trough of His Cross, from the manger of His Altar, with the Meat and Drink indeed of His own Body and His Blood.
This is the Body of the Baby born of Mary, who shed His Blood for you upon the Cross. He has been wrapped in cloths, both at His Birth and in His Burial, for you and your salvation. And here He is wrapped in vestments and paraments, in chalice and paten; He is concealed in, with, and under the bread and wine — given and poured out for you — the Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
What is there to be afraid of in any of this? It is all for your great joy and blessing, for your life and eternal salvation in the gracious and glorious presence of the Lord your God. There is no threat of punishment in this little Babe who comes to save you; there is only forgiveness and peace.
The zeal of the Lord of Hosts, the God of Sabaoth, has done it. With divine grace, He has done it for you and for all people; and all the angels in heaven rejoice in this free and full salvation. For the Lord has come down from heaven to earth, in order to open up the heavens to you and to all.
So the holy angels praise and glorify the Lord for your salvation. Shall you not also praise Him, give thanks to Him, and honor Him? Not because you must appease His wrath. Far less as though to stroke His ego with flattery. He has no need of anything from you. He showers you with grace and every blessing, with or without your prayer. Yet, how much more shall we, His Church, His people, give all thanks and praise and glory and honor to Him, our Savior and our God.
Receive His gifts, therefore, with thanks and praise, with joy and gladness. Feast upon the sacred food and drink, the flesh and blood of Christ, which He provides and pours out for you here in this place, in this holy house — which is made holy by His presence — in the midst of this dark night.
And rejoicing in His mercy, return again to your office and stations in life in His peace.
Know that both you and your neighbor have such a Savior as this, who comes not with terrors to destroy you, but with gentleness and divine kindness to serve all men everywhere. To serve you.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.