Sunday, December 2, 2012

ADVENT 1 I Thessalonians 3:9-13

For what thanksgiving are we able to repay to God concerning you, upon all the joy which we rejoice on account of you before our God, night and day eagerly we ask to see your face and to restore the things lacking of your faith; and God Himself, also our Father and our Lord Jesus guide our pathway to you; and you, may the Lord cause you to grow and to be in abundance in (God's) love unto others and unto all, just as we unto you, into the firmness of your hearts, blamelessly in holiness in the face of our God and Father in connection with the return of our Lord Jesus with all His holy ones. Amen.  

Happy New Year! Jesus is coming back soon to make all things new. The old heavens and earth we've sadly grown all to accustomed to will all go away. Jesus second-coming in triumph is just around the corner. When Jesus does return, He will restore paradise once again with a new heaven and earth. For some it will be a time of joyous rejoicing. Yet for others, it will be the saddest day of all. Only those who stand blamelessly in holiness before the face of God on Judgment Day will be blessed. 
OK, so how do you know whether you will be blameless in holiness on the Last Day? After all, your brain doesn't always work perfectly. You think all kinds of things that you know you shouldn't. Nor does you always feel the things that are Godly. There are all kinds of attitudes, opinions, emotions, and wrong beliefs that you have, at times. With all these wrong things in your body of sinful flesh, it sure doesn't seem like you are very blameless, does it. With them you don't appear to be very holy.
Praise God that He is not finished with you yet! Like Paul's task with the errors of the Thessalonians, God also wants to restore those things that are lacking in your faith. So He preaches His Law and Gospel to you each week in the sermon, teaches you His truth in bible studies and devotions, and proclaims His love to you in His words of the Sunday morning liturgy. This is so that just as God guided Paul's pathway to Thessalonica, that He would guide your feet as well into the way of truth. 
Yet you still might be concerned about your blamelessness and holiness, because at times you may backtrack, and return to old sinful attitudes and habits. It seems like, instead of growing closer to God, you keep drifting farther from Him, at times. Your relationships with other people aren't at all what you had hoped they'd be. Your focus on God and His goodness tends to drift instead toward the sad, miserable things of this world. You don't feel as blameless and holy as you know you should be.
Again, praise God that He has not given up on you during these occasions either! For God gives you His love in abundance. He feeds you often with the very body of Jesus given for you. He bids you to drink often from His cup of salvation, shed for you for your forgiveness. In that forgiveness, all your sins are taken away, leaving you holy and blameless in His sight. He causes you to grow, and His love fills you up to overflowing, so that God's love for others spills over from you to your neighbor as well!
And still, there is some uncertainty at times as to whether you will keep on being blameless and holy up to the day Jesus returns. It might be a long time yet before He arrives in triumph. As time goes on, your heart may well grow weary from all the burdens, challenges and struggles this life brings to bear. You may fear that your heart will simply grow to week to keep on relying on the Lord, trusting in God. Your confidence may wane, and then you fear that you won't stay holy and blameless in God's sight.
Once again, God comes to the rescue at such times! God provides for you a firmness of your heart in your baptism. Your old stony heart that hardened itself against God and His will is gone. He has created in you a new heart, and placed a right spirit–His Holy Spirit to dwell there. Yes your baptism is for you a heart transplant. Your sin-sick, dying heart Jesus took as His Own at the cross. His pure, righteous, holy and blameless heart, He trades to you now as your very own as a baptized child of God!   
So, how do you approach Jesus return on the last day now? Not with your head hung low as though you are not holy enough or blameless enough to get a good judgment from Him. You lift up your heads, you mighty gates! For Jesus has taken all your blame, all your unholiness, into His body on the tree of Calvary, and it's buried in His death. You now, filled with Jesus' Own righteousness, credited to your account by faith, lack nothing, filled with God's forgiving love, to stand before your God in the firmness of faith, for the holiness and blamelessness of Jesus is yours, forevermore! Amen.

Hymns for the Day from LSB:

#331  The Advent of Our King   music  stanzas
#335  Oh Bride of Christ, Rejoice!  music  stanzas
#332  Savior of the Nations Come!  stanzas (A Luther Hymn)
#341  Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates! stanzas music

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