Sunday, December 27, 2009

First Sunday after Christmas Luke 2:22-40

And a branch comes forth from the stump of Jesse, and a sprout from its roots bears fruit. And leads upon Him the Spirit of Yahweh, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of Yahweh. And He is pleased to smell upon the fear of Yahweh, yet not in the sight of His eyes does He judge, and not in the hearing of His ears does he pass sentence. But He judges in righteousness, the poor, and He decides in fairness toward the afflicted of the earth. And He strikes the earth with a rod of His mouth, and in the breath of His lips He slays the wicked. And righteousness is a belt of His back, and truth a belt of His waist.

There are some wonderful smells at Christmas. The fresh pine scent of a live tree, the aromas of food cooking for Christmas dinner, the fragrant holly of the Christmas wreath, and the sweet smells of baked treats fresh from the oven. In today's Lesson, Isaiah describes a different smell, one that is pleasing not to us, but to God. An odd aroma, one we wouldn't think would be so pleasant. It is the smell of fear! But, for some reason, the aroma of our fear of the LORD is a fragrant aroma to Him.

For us to understand this, we have to back up a bit, all the way to the very first commandment. There, God forbids us from fearing any other god but Him. "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me." From the Hebrew, God is forbidding any other god from being placed, literally, *before His nostrils*. Why? Because all other gods stink in the nostrils of the One true God. Likewise, all those who fear those false idols as though they were real gods are themselves a malodorous offense to God's nose!

So...have you been smelling badly to God? Whenever you fear, love, or trust anyone or anything more than God, you are an offending odor to the LORD. Have you loved money and the Christmas gifts it can buy, more than you've loved God recently? Have you craved authority, responsibility or power more than God's love? Have you placed your wants, your ideas, and your plans above God's will? If so, your loving, fearing and trusting other things or people has been an unpleasant odor to Him.

Not unlike a familiar Christmas figure, God sees you, and knows if you've been bad or good. He has heard your sinful grumblings and complaints against His providing, and has seen your following the earthly gods of mammon. He has plenty of evidence on you for His fair judgment. He could easily pass sentence against you condemning you to dwell eternally with the prince of this sinful world, since you've so often fell into his temptations and followed his evil ways of sin and death.

But that's when God surprises you. He could (and probably should) judge you according to the sins His eyes have seen you commit. He could (and probably should) pass the sentence of condemnation upon you for the gossip, lies, and hurtful words He has heard you speak. But instead, He chooses to look past the sins He has seen you do. It's as though He chooses to turn a deaf ear to those reputation destroying words He has heard from your mouth. With a new righteousness/fairness He judges you!

How? Through that young sprout from the stump of Jesse's tree, Jesus. Though so young so soon after His birthday, He would grow strong with the very Spirit of the Lord upon Him. He came to fix the problem of your sinfulness by becoming sin, your sin, on the cross. There He took the burden of your sin completely on Himself, bearing all your guilt and punishment in full on the tree, even though that meant being forsaken by His Father, for there He became the very stench of all your sin and mine.

Yes, you were the afflicted of this earth, suffering the horrible afflictions of sin, that eternally deadly disease. But Jesus came to decide in your favor by means of a new kind of fairness, giving up his innocent body unto death in your place, and shedding His blood for you so that you could live on! This same body and blood which He willingly paid as your ransom price at Calvary is given to you this day for your forgiveness, for your eternal life, and for your everlasting salvation from sin and death.

You were the poor, completely destitute of God-pleasing righteousness, in and of yourself. So Jesus judged you with a new righteousness, His very Own, credited to your account by faith. You were blessed to be created in Christ as a believer at your baptism, one who by faith, since that day, now has the fear of the LORD! And as a believer who fears Yahweh, you have been made by Jesus into a pleasant aroma to His nostrils, for you are blessed to fear no other god than the LORD, Jesus!

Indeed, the priest Simeon is right as He speaks of this Righteous Branch, that through Him, hearts would be revealed. He reveals the hearts of all believers to have the fragrant fear of the LORD.

Hymns from LSB:
#381 Let Our Gladness Have No End
#389 Let All Together Praise Our God
#937 Lord Bid Your Servant Go In Peace

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