✠ One Message: Christ crucified and risen for you ✠
The Word of the Lord Endures Forever
Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum
Isaiah 63,15-16. 19b; 64,1-3 0218
Ad te Levavi (2. Sunday in Advent) 02
Melchiades, Bishop of Rome ✠ 314
10. Dezember 2017
1. O Blessed Jesus, who opens up the gates of heaven to all believers, give us attentive and obedient hearts in this Advent season, so that we may diligently and reverently hear Your Holy Word, receive it and keep it in our hearts. Amen. (Starck 50).
2. Look down from heaven and see, from Your holy and beautiful habitation. Where are Your zeal and Your might? The stirring of Your inner parts and Your compassion are held back from me. For You are our Father, though Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us; You, O Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is Your Name. We have become like those who are not called by Your Name. O that You would rend the heavens and descend, so that the mountains might quake at Your presence – as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil – to make Your Name known to Your adversaries, and so that the nations might tremble at Your presence! When You did awesome things that we did not look for, You descended, the mountains quaked at Your presence.
3. The Prophet Isaiah exhorts the Lord: »Look down from heaven and see from your holy and beautiful habitation.« This habitation was Israel, specifically centered upon His temple on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. The temple was the focal point of the Lord’s covenant promise to forgive His people’s sin.
4. But Isaiah prophesied at a time when all was not right in Judah (742-687 bc). He proclaims: »Hear, O heavens, and listen, O earth, for the Lord has spoken: I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against Me. Their land is filled with idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their own fingers have made« (Isaiah 1,2; 2,8). Judah’s idolatry lead to other sins: they shed innocent blood, lying became more acceptable, they spoke wickedly about their neighbors and justice was denied to victims (Isaiah 59,3-4). Isaiah and other prophets were sent to call Judah to repentance. The Lord’s wrath would strike them down, but in His favor He would also have mercy on them (Isaiah 60,10). In 587 bc the Lord sent Judah into Babylonian captivity but 70 years later He returned them to the promised land.
5. Isaiah reminded Judah that the Lord is our Father, our Redeemer from of old. Isaiah then exhorted the Lord to rend the heavens and descend so that the mountains would quake at His presence and all the nations would tremble. Jesus uses similar language in today’s Gospel lection: »There will be signs in sun, moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken and they will see the Son of Man descending in a cloud with power and great glory« (Luke 21,25.27).
6. The destruction of the temple did not herald the end of the world, either in 587 bc or ad 70. The heavenly signs Jesus mentions in today’s Gospel periscope point to His 2. advent on the last day. The beauty of the Church Year and the Historic Lectionary is the symmetry between the beginning of the Liturgical Year and its ending. Both deal with the advent of Jesus: His first advent and His second. The first two Sundays in Advent look more at the return of Jesus on the last day, and in doing so remind us of His first advent in Bethlehem at Christmas. There were signs in heaven, Jesus arrived and our redemption drew near. First, an angelic choir sang in the heavens on the night when Jesus was born. The shepherds saw this choir and heard their anthem. They went into Bethlehem to see the newborn Jesus (Luke 2,13-15). The magi also saw signs in the heavens. The position of the planets and stars informed them that a great and glorious king had been born in Judea. They saddled up their camels, gathered their gifts and rode west to Jerusalem to pay homage to the newborn King of the Jews (Matthew 2,1-2). Jesus descended from heaven to earth with power and glory. O it may not have seemed that way. In all appearances Jesus was an ordinary boy born into an ordinary family. His begotten father was a carpenter from Nazareth. His mother was a young teenager who had not long before left her father and mother to marry her husband. The Infant Jesus looked no different than any of us when we were born, but that little baby is the very Son of God with all His Divine power and glory humbled and hidden from the world’s view. An angel of Yahweh told Joseph: »Mary will bear a son, and you will name Him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins« (Matthew 1,21). Months later an angel of Yahweh told the shepherds: »For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord« (Luke 2,11). Jesus was born to save fallen mankind from our sinfulness, and thus Christmas is a celebration of God’s salvation history (Heilsgeschichte) becoming flesh and dwelling among us.
7. The 2. Sunday in Advent helps us to see the continuity between the first and second advent of Jesus to this earth. Jesus’ disciples thought that the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple would be the opening salvo of a series of cataclysmic events that would culminate with Jesus’ return. The answer Jesus gave to their question told them that such an understanding was wrong. There was no correlation between the timing of the temple’s destruction and Jesus’ return. Many well-meaning Christian teachers and preachers make a likewise errant connection with the return of Christ. Their argument goes: Now that Israel is restored as a nation, the return of Christ is at hand. This simply ignores the entire point Jesus put forth in Luke 21. Jesus lists all sorts of spectacular signs as heralds of the temple’s imminent demise, but does not link its destruction to His return and the end of the world. Jesus’ second advent was not connected to the temples’ destruction and it is not connected to Israel being recognized as a nation in 1948. Jesus teaches that His return will catch everyone by surprise, but that once He arrives there will be no doubt that He has returned. The same was true at His first advent. Other than Mary, Joseph and their close relatives, no one expected Jesus’ arrival until the angels announced it and the magi realized the signs in the heaven announced Jesus’ birth.
8. The signs point us to Christ. The virgin will conceive and give birth to a Son and will call Him: God is with us. (Isaiah 7,14). Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? We saw His star when it rose and have arrived to worship Him (Matthew 2,2). There will be signs in sun, moon and stars, and then they will see the Son of Man arriving in a cloud with power and great glory. Behold, there is the Christ! He slept in a Bethlehem manger. He rode an ass up to Jerusalem. He died on the cross and His grave is empty. He now is seated at the right hand of God His Father. All these signs remind us of the mercy and forgiveness of God manifested by Jesus. Just as surely as He arrived on this earth in Bethlehem to save us from our sinfulness, so He will arrive again in majestic clouds to usher us into heavenly eternal life.
9 The heavenly signs point us to Christ. There will be signs in sun, moon and stars, and then they will see the Son of Man arriving in a cloud with power and great glory.
10. Christ’s advent is a glorious event that rends the heavens and quakes the mountains, for His advent makes His Name known unto the nations. His birth, Passion and return are all events of cataclysmic proportions: humanity is redeemed, the wicked are judged and the believers exalted. Be patient, and take heart, for the advent of our Lord Jesus Christ is at hand (James 5,8). Amen.
11. Let us pray. O Christ, our Judge and Savior; judge the world in righteousness and Your Church in faithfulness, so that all see that You are fair and merciful. Amen.
To God alone be the Glory
Soli Deo Gloria
All Scriptural quotations are translations done by The Rev. Peter A. Bauernfeind using the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, 4th Edition © 1990 by the Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart, and the Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 27th Edition © 1993 by Deutsch Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart.
All quotations from the Book of Concord are translations done by The Rev. Peter A. Bauernfeind using Die Bekenntnisschriften der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche, 12. Edition © 1998 by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.
Franzmann, Martin H. „Thy Strong Word“. Lutheran Service Book. Copyright © 2006 Concordia Publishing House.