Text: Hebrews 5:5, 10
Date: Advent IV + 12/23/12
Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord, because it is the way in which he came that makes His coming a blessing to us. That is, though this is the God who once came to speak with Moses in a burning bush and who came to lead His people out of Egypt in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, the Lord of Hosts Isaiah saw in the temple with great fear and trembling, now He comes to us as one of us. The Spirit of Christ says in Psalm 40, “a body have you prepared for me.” Today we prepare to celebrate that moment in time when the Father fashioned a sinless body for the Son as the fruit of Mary’s womb. Today our Epistle tells us the reason He was given a human body, namely so that He could be the “once for all” offering and sacrifice that takes away your sin and the sin of the world. Amid our Advent praises there begins already today the lilting rhythms of carols of the season, saying, Joy to the world! Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Come, Lord Jesus!
The Letter to the Hebrews says that Christ “came into the world.” The rabbis used this expression simply for being born. The difference, of course, is that when you came into the world you came as a brand new creation of God that never before existed. Christ, the Son of God, on the other hand, came into the world the same way we all do except for one thing. He existed in eternity, as He said in His high priestly prayer, speaking of “the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (John 17:5). We confess this mystery in the creed saying that the Son of God is “begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.” Then we describe His coming into the world in the words, “for us men and for our salvation He came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man.” It is because God has so honored our human nature by taking it on Himself in the flesh of Jesus that it has always been the practice of the Church to bow at those words.
Why did Christ come into the world in this way? John the Baptist, when he first laid eyes on Jesus out in the wilderness where he was baptizing, said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Holy Church has repeatedly sung John’s words as Jesus comes to us today in the Holy Communion, “Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us and grant us peace.”
Yes, Christ came into the world to take away our sin, to release us and set us free from the deathly burden of sin, from the wrath of God and from the impossible obligation to atone for our sin on our own. Hebrews mentions Christ coming into the world as the fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrifices and offerings commanded by God. These instilled faith in God’s people not as taking away sin themselves, but as pointing forward to the great and one and only sacrifice of Christ. “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me,” a mystery first spoken by King David. He continued to write in the Spirit of Christ, “in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God.’”
This is the only measure and certain sign of God’s love for us and for the whole world, that He would so greatly humble Himself and honor us, taking on the form of a servant, becoming perfectly obedient to the Father for us and for our salvation. It was then that His obedience led Him to His willing sacrifice of Himself on the cross. Our text says, “by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
Advent, Christmas and the entire Gospel is all about body language. That is, because the Son of God came into the world and became one of us, took on our human nature, He will never give it up again. So in God there is now His divine nature together with our human nature. This is not to bring down or diminish God in any way but to exalt the whole human race.
The result of His offering our text states is to be that “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all,” that is, the offering once for all and our sanctification or salvation once for all. Now as often as you hear these words of our Lord spoken over the bread, “This is my body given for you,” and over the cup, “This is the new testament in my blood which is shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins,” He unites Himself with us and we are assured of the forgiveness of sins through His body and blood that is the expiating sacrifice.
The greater mystery is that this sacrifice is for the forgiveness of all sin. There is no more payment, nothing more to be done to win God’s love and favor by anyone. But I say it is a greater mystery because the fallen, blind, dead, sinful nature that hangs on just won’t believe it. Believe what? Well believe that I don’t owe God anything; that I don’t have to “make up for” my sins; that forgiveness, life and salvation is really and truly an absolutely free gift from the God who so loves His world.
The Embodiment of God’s Love, then, is not just a concept, a formula of words, a system of rules and laws meant to lead us, to show us the way to gain salvation. The embodiment of God’s Love is in a Person, in the body of the incarnate Son of God, the Son of Mary, Jesus of Nazareth. And it is solely by faith in Him, and communion in Him, in everything God has said about Him and in His atoning work that the wondrous gift is given.
Beautiful Savior, King of creation,
Son of God and Son of Man!
Truly I’d love Thee, Truly I’d serve thee,
Light of my soul, my joy, my crown. (LSB 537)
Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!