Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Homily for Advent Midweek Evening Prayer in the Week of Populus Zion (Advent 2)
Luke 1:26-35; Micah 4:1-7
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The Mountain of the LORD is the temple. But the temple in Jerusalem was not the Mountain of the LORD. Jesus was, and is, and ever shall be both the Temple built without human hands, and the Mountain of the LORD.
The LORD first sanctified His Holy Mountain by providing a substitute for the sacrifice of Abraham’s promised son Isaac. When the boy asked his father, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham answered saying, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” The LORD did indeed provide a sacrificial substitute, first a ram caught by its horns in a thicket, but ultimately the sacrificial Lamb of God, His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. After sacrificing the ram that the LORD had provided as a substitute for his son Isaac, Abraham called that mountain “The LORD will provide.”
About one thousand years later, David purchased the very same land, known then as the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, and built an altar to the Lord so that a “plague may be held back from the people.” After David’s death, his son King Solomon built a glorious temple on the same site. Solomon’s temple lasted for over four hundred years until it was destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar’s armies in 587/586 B.C.
Seventy years later, the temple was rebuilt on the same site by the Jews who returned to Jerusalem following their Babylon captivity. Then, around the first century, King Herod made a significant addition to this structure, which then became known as Herod’s Temple. It was this temple that Jesus cleansed of the money changers.
However, all the various renditions of the temple, David’s threshing floor, and even Abraham’s mountain of sacrifice served to point to but one thing, and it wasn’t the mountain, but the sacrifice the LORD Himself would make there in His Son Jesus Christ. In fact, upon Mary’s conception and the incarnation of Jesus, the Spirit of the LORD no longer remained within the Most Holy Place of the temple in Jerusalem, but the Spirit of the LORD and His glory had taken up residence within the womb of the Virgin Mary, in the infant Son Jesus whom she carried. Within Jesus’ infant body, from the very moment of conception, the fullness of the Godhead, the Holy Trinity, dwelt bodily. Think about that the next time you ponder the question of when “life” begins and when a fetus is to be considered “human.”
For the next thirty-three years, the priests of Israel carried out their sacrifices in the temple believing that the glory of the LORD was behind the curtain in the Most Holy Place. However, when the Jews challenged Jesus to produce a sign as proof to His Messianic claims, Jesus challenged them to tear down the temple saying that He would raise it up in three days. However, the Evangelist informs us parenthetically that Jesus was referring not to the temple with its impressive walls, buildings, and towers, but to the temple of His body, the place where God’s Spirit and glory dwells. And, so it was that, when Jesus died upon the cross, the curtain in the temple that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place so that the glory of the LORD would be veiled and not consume the priests and those who served in the temple, that curtain was torn from top to bottom. The priests tore their robes and began to wail, for they knew that the LORD was no longer with them in the temple. In truth, the LORD had not been with them in that temple for thirty-three years, but the LORD dwelt amongst them as one of them in the person of His Son Jesus Christ, the true temple of the LORD built without human hands or works or cooperation.
Gabriel’s greeting to Mary says it all: “The Lord is with you!” This was not merely a greeting, but it was a proclamation of a truth and a reality – The LORD was really and truly with Mary. This is the same proclamation your pastor declares to you in the Divine Service: “The LORD be with you.” To which your reply must be, “And with your spirit.” As with Mary, the Mother of our God and Lord, the Lord is really and truly with you in the Divine Service, in Word and Water, and in Body and Blood, with His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation. The LORD was with Mary, and the LORD is with you. Both you and Mary have found favor with God. What a wonderful expression! You have found favor with God, the way you may have found a hundred dollars in your winter coat pocket or a precious item you thought was lost. It wasn’t lost, but it was there all the time! You didn’t merit it, earn it, or deserve it, but you found it – it was there when you weren’t looking, when you didn’t know it was missing, when you never thought of it being returned. You have found favor with God! What a wonderful, pure and perfect gift. This is grace – pure, unmerited, and holy grace. Grace with no strings attached. Grace with no gotchas. Pure gift. Pure grace.
The infant child in Mary’s womb was none other than the Mountain of the House of the LORD that God has established as the highest of the mountains. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High,” Gabriel proclaimed to Mary, “And the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and he will reign over the House of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” “Many nations shall come, and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us His ways and that we may walk in His paths’.”
Jesus is the Mountain of the House of the LORD that God has established as the highest of mountains. Jesus is the Temple built without human hands. Jesus is our Great High Priest who has made one final and perfect sacrifice to take away the sins of the world. Jesus is the sacrificial Lamb that the LORD has provided. Jesus is the only-begotten Son of God. Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. In Him there is no Greek or Jew, male or female, master or slave, for all are one in Him, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of our one God and Father, born of our one Holy Mother, of which Mary is a symbol and type, the Church. Here in the Church, our swords are beaten into plowshares, and our spears into pruning hooks. Here in the Church, nations do not rise up against nations and there is no war.
“O come, Desire of nations, bind in one the hearts of all mankind; Bid Thou our sad divisions cease, and be Thyself our King of Peace. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!”
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.