Well, then, what are you waiting for? What have you come here to see? And what do you want? What are you hoping to find, to hear and receive? What do you expect to happen?
You have heard of the works of the Lord Jesus Christ — but what has He done for you lately? Where do you find yourself now? What circumstances and challenges are you dealing with?
Beloved, wait upon the Lord. Not by laziness or lethargy, but wait upon the Lord by seeking out His Word and the preaching of it, and by gladly hearing it and learning it. Wait upon the Lord by confessing His Word, and by praying in accordance with His Word, in faith, hope, and love.
Wait patiently in this hard life under the Cross, not grumbling, groaning, or complaining, neither against the Lord your God, nor against His servants, nor against your neighbors in the world. Do not harden your heart against faith and love by rehearsing bitterness or resentment, but persevere in prayer and confession. Speak and sing what is good and right and true, even when you can’t feel it, because God has spoken to you by His Son, who sings to you so sweetly with His Gospel.
It is better to be comforted by the Gospel in your misery, in the midst of sin and death, than to be comfortable and at home in this world that is perishing.
The world is so impatient, precisely because it is dying. Its time is short. But you, dear brothers and sisters of the Son of God, Christ Jesus, wait patiently upon Him and rejoice in the Lord.
Watch for Him, and wait upon His coming, and do not worry. Though you find yourself under His Cross, strengthen your heart by His Word. For He is near, a very present help in trouble — though you be imprisoned by one means or another; though you be deaf, mute, or blind; though you be leprous or lame; though you are mortal, and you mourn your family, friends, and loved ones.
Wait patiently on the Lord, and trust that He will open up His hand to satisfy your every need of body and soul, for this life and forever. Trust that He will do as He has promised and provide you with all good things, despite the fact that you are impoverished in one way or another, and though you would prefer to be wealthy and rich, dressed in fine clothing, and living in a royal palace.
It is true that, in this body and life, you do live under the curse of sin and death. But the Lord Jesus has turned that very curse into the blessing of His Cross, for you and for all the children of man.
Therefore, this desert wilderness in which you find yourself is not a death trap, not really. It is a journey of repentance — from death to life, from slavery to freedom, from Egypt into Canaan.
The Lord disciplines you here in the wilderness, not to be mean, but because you are His own dear child, His beloved son or daughter. He puts you to death by the cross in order to catechize you in His way of life, in the faith, hope, and love of Christ Jesus, in His Cross and Resurrection.
He teaches you to hunger and thirst for Him alone. He teaches you patience and faith. He teaches you to call upon His Name and to wait upon Him in hope.
Your journey through the wilderness with Christ is a kind of classroom, so to speak. But it’s not like a semester of lectures, nor even a science lab. It isn’t like reading a book, reviewing your notes, writing a research paper, or preparing for your final exams. It’s more like the school of hard knocks, a chance to gain some real street cred. But it’s definitely not a do-it-yourself program.
The journey and its catechesis of faith and life do require listening, experience, and preparation. But you are not able to prepare yourself, leastwise not by any reason or strength of your own.
It is rather that the Lord sends His messenger before His face. He comes to you in the wilderness and walks with you there in the way of the Cross, to prepare the way of the Lord, and to prepare you for His coming. It is by the preaching and Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
That preaching, that Baptism, that repentance and forgiveness are your preparation for the Christ, by which the Lord prepares you for Himself. It is His good work, His good and gracious gift.
He does not simply preach it and teach it, nor does He merely offer it and give it to you, but He Himself receives it, undergoes it, and fulfills it for you in human flesh and blood like your own.
So it is that the Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence at the hands of sinful men. The Prophets and Apostles suffer violence, because they preach the Christ, the Crucified One. St. John the Baptist suffers violence, because he is the Lord’s own Forerunner, who points not only with his words but with his whole body and his life to the sacrificial Lamb of God. And Christ the Lord Himself suffers violence, every last bit of it — all that you suffer, all that you deserve, and all that you inflict upon your neighbors — so that, by His suffering and death, by His Holy Cross and Passion, you are brought through suffering, sickness, death, and the grave, into the Kingdom of Heaven.
The fact is that the curse of sin and death has been laid upon childbearing and childbirth, and upon every child born of a woman. It is laid upon you, because you are a sinful son or daughter of the first Adam and his wife. And it has been laid upon the second Adam, Jesus Christ, the Son of God and of St. Mary, because He has come in love and voluntarily subjected Himself to that curse, in order to redeem all the sons and daughters of Adam & Eve from sin, death, the devil, and hell.
And now His Church, His own beloved Bride, in the waters of Holy Baptism gives birth to the children of God in His Kingdom — through the bloody labor of His Cross and by the delivery of His Resurrection from the dead. Whoever is born from that womb is greater even than St. John.
So then, do not take offense at the Cross and Passion of Christ Jesus. Certainly not in the historical facts of the matter, but neither in His preaching to you now, nor in your own life as His disciple.
It is the last of these that is heaviest and hardest to bear, that is, the Cross you are given to carry.
Even so, wait patiently upon the Lord under the Cross, not complaining but rejoicing in His Word and promise of the Gospel. Rejoice at all times and in all places, in whatever circumstances you may find yourself, in the sure and certain hope of the Resurrection.
Rejoice in the Lord, for He does set prisoners free.
Rejoice, for He does cleanse lepers and heal the lame; He casts out demons and cures diseases.
Rejoice, for He does feed and clothe, shelter, and protect the poor; He provides for all their needs.
And again I say it: Rejoice. For He does raise the dead from the dust of the earth to live forever and ever in body and soul, glorious like unto His own glorious Body in the Kingdom of Heaven.
All of this He has experienced, He has done it and accomplished it for you — in Himself — in His own patient waiting on the Lord, His God and Father — by His Cross and in His Resurrection.
And He gives it to you all by grace — into your ears, into your hands, into your mouth, and into your body. He gives it to you by the preaching of His Gospel, by the preaching of His Cross and Resurrection, by the preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of all your sins in His Name.
It is in this way that He makes His Advent and draws near to you — in your own prison, and in your desert wilderness. He is the Coming One, who comes to you now by this preaching of His.
His Word to you is the crescendo of His grace and glory as the crucified and risen Christ. It does and gives exactly what He says! Spoken by and from His Cross, His Word makes all things new!
His preaching opens your ears to hear, and your heart to believe, and your mind to comprehend.
His preaching opens your lips and your mouth to pray and confess.
And His preaching opens up your blind eyes to recognize Him by faith in the hidden Mysteries of His Cross. Thus do you recognize Him and His Victory in the water and the Word of His Holy Baptism, and you recognize His Body and His Blood in the bread and wine of His Holy Supper.
It is the preaching of His Word that provides you with water in the wilderness, with streams and pools of cool clear water in the desert. The waters of your one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins and His ongoing Word of Holy Absolution cleanse you and refresh you in both body and soul.
By the preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of your sins He continues to prepare His way before His face, to prepare you for His coming, to lead you in His paths of righteousness by faith, and to keep you on the straight and narrow “Highway of Holiness.” To be sure, there are dangers aplenty on your right and on your left. And yet, because you are ransomed and redeemed by the Lord, reconciled to God, and righteous in His sight through faith in His Word, the roaring lion who is always on the prowl, always seeking to devour you, and the vicious beasts that would destroy you — they are all kept at bay. The wild things cannot harm you, because the Lord is with you.
It often may not seem that way at all in your present experience. For here and now, in this body and life on earth, you still suffer harm and heartache, hurts and hungers, death and the grave.
But have you not heard? Christ Jesus Himself has also suffered all of these things and more, and everything that you suffer. He has spent His time in the wilderness, where the wild things are.
Indeed, He has also died your death. And yet, God raised Him from the dead for you! Therefore, no hurt or harm, no heartache or hunger, no suffering, sickness, or death shall have you forever.
Rather, taste and see — right here and right now — in the House and at the Table of the Lord, in His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, even in the face of sin, death, the devil, and hell — taste and see the great Feast to which the Highway of Holiness leads you by the Cross of Christ Jesus.
With His Body and His Blood, crucified and risen, the Lord Jesus answers all your questions and concerns. He answers all your prayers, too, with this resounding “Yes!” and “Amen!”
Though you were born of a woman under the Law, under the curse of sin and death, you are now born again of the free woman, the heavenly Jerusalem, the Bride of Christ, the daughter of God. So it is that, now and forever, you are His dear child and heir and a royal citizen of His Kingdom.
Though you have been shaken and stirred by a fierce wind, even so, you are not bent or broken or blown away. Your dimly burning wick is not snuffed out. The Lord stands fast on your behalf.
Though you have been naked and ashamed and are rightly garbed in sackcloth and ashes, here, instead, you are dressed in the fine clothing of your Baptism, which is the righteousness of Christ.
And even though for now you still sojourn through a real desert wilderness, here you also live and abide in the true King’s Palace, in perfect Peace and Sabbath rest at His Festal Board.
Here, then, beloved of the Lord Jesus, eat, drink, and rejoice. For He is with you, and all is well.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.