Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Advent Evening Prayer - Wednesday in Ad Te Levavi (Advent 1)

Luke 1:5-25; Revelation 5:1-14; Genesis 49:8-12

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The aged Patriarch Jacob was dying. Under inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit Jacob called his twelve sons to his bedside that he might bless them. First he called Reuben, his firstborn and the rightful heir of the lion’s share of his wealth and property. It was expected that God’s covenant promise made to Abraham, and then to Isaac, and then to Jacob would now fall upon the eldest of Jacob’s sons. But no, Reuben would not enjoy preeminence amongst the Tribes of Israel, for he had taken his Father’s wife Bilhah and had incestuous relations with her, defiling her and himself and his Father’s name and house. Thus Reuben, Jacob’s eldest son, who should have received both the priesthood and the kingdom, received neither. Instead, the priesthood was given to his brother Levi, and the kingdom, and the covenant promise of God, was given to his brother Judah.
Now, this is a story and a pattern that repeats again and again throughout the Scriptures in many and various ways. The seemingly obvious choice is passed over and the blessing is given to an unlikely and unexpected choice. Jacob himself was the younger son and yet, deceitfully, received his father’s blessing instead of his firstborn brother Esau. When the LORD sent Samuel to the house of Jesse to select a king form Jesse’s sons, young David wasn’t even brought to Samuel for consideration. Son after strong, virulent, and mighty son paraded before Samuel before the Spirit settled upon the shepherd boy David. Even with the story we are considering this evening there are still more surprises. If not the eldest son Reuben, surely the blessing would go to Joseph whose story makes up over one-third of the book of Genesis. But, no. Then surely Benjamin, the youngest son by Jacob’s most beloved wife Rachel. Still, no.
Instead, the blessing fell upon Judah. Now, not only was Judah not the firstborn of Jacob, but his own life and deeds were far from spotless. Genesis chapter thirty-eight records the account of how Judah committed incest with his daughter-in-law, Tamar, who had disguised herself as a prostitute (so, if you were inclined to excuse Judah because he was deceived, still he had no problem soliciting the services of a prostitute!). Tamar conceived twin sons and, fascinatingly, as she was giving birth to the boys, one of them, Zerah, meaning “sunrise,” reached out his hand. Tamar’s midwife tied a piece of red yarn around his wrist, marking him as the first-born. But then the boy withdrew his arm and his brother Perez, meaning “bursting forth,” was born. After Perez was born, Zerah, bearing the red string tied around his wrist, was born. In great surprise at what had happened, Tamar exclaimed of her usurping son, “Is this how you burst into the world!” Perhaps more interesting still, Judah, Tamar, and Perez all appear in the genealogy of Jesus that begins St. Matthew’s Gospel.
Jacob’s blessing upon Judah was prophetic and was most immediately fulfilled in the glorious reign of his descendant King David. The prophecies, “your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before you,” and “the scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples,” each find their immediate fulfillment in the rise and reign of King David. Nonetheless, there was an even greater fulfillment to be realized in Jesus, descended from both Judah and David, over a millennium later.Whereas Judah would be Like a young lion in might and bravery, the mature lion of Judah would show his strength in King David, but ultimately in the coming of the Messiah Jesus the Christ. His garments of deep purple, reminiscent of wine and the “blood of grapes,” is a prophecy of Messianic royalty, that Jesus would be the King of kings and the Lord of lords. “His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk” is a metaphor for the fullness and the richness of Jesus’ kingdom and reign.
St. John was granted a vision of King Jesus, “the Lion of Tribe of Judah,” reigning over heaven and earth at God’s right hand in the Revelation. What John saw was “a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes.” This was the coronation of King Jesus, the seven horns symbolizing the complete and total power and authority of His reign, and the seven eyes symbolizing His knowledge of all things. In glory and with power, Jesus bears still the marks of His atoning crucifixion and death, a permanent and glorified reminder that all that was necessary to restore humankind to a right relationship with God was finished, completed, and fulfilled in Jesus’ death and resurrection.
In His conception, birth, adolescence and ministry, “He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed him not.” But, the ways of the LORD are not our ways, and the foolishness of the LORD is wiser than our wisdom. We must learn to look not on the outward appearance, but according to faith in the LORD and His Word that never fails. Part of our Advent preparation for the coming of our King is that we might repent of our foolishness and stubborn insistence that God act on our terms in order for us to believe, that we, like the Wise Men from the East might recognize how humbly our King came to us, that we might recognize and be ready to receive Him when He comes again, and that we might receive Him as He comes among us now through Word and Sacrament to forgive our sins anew, to strengthen our faith, and to send us bearing His gifts for the life of the world. Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come. Stir our hearts to bold and fiery faith in you that we may bear Your Light in this world of darkness to the glory of Holy Name.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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