Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Advent Evening Prayer - Wednesday in Populus Zion (Advent 2)

Luke 1:26-38; Revelation 14:1-5; Deuteronomy 18:15-18

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Sometimes it’s tempting to think, “If only God would speak to me personally, then I’d be certain that He exists and I’d do what He says.” Don’t be a fool! Many experienced such a personal encounter with God, and, without exception, they were simply terrified! When God spoke with Moses on Horeb, His glory was accompanied by earthquakes and thunder and fire such that the Israelites cried out to Moses that he should speak to them instead of God, lest they die. They were right in what they had spoken, therefore the LORD gave Moses as an intercessor to the people, a prophet, to be His mouthpiece, to speak His Word to His people in His stead. And, the LORD promised that, after Moses, He would raise up a prophet like him from amongst the people. The LORD would put His Words into His prophet’s mouth and he would speak to the LORD’s people saying, “Thus saith the LORD.” And, so began the line of the prophets of the LORD, all the way from Moses to Isaiah to John the Baptist to Jesus, whom we may reckon the fulfillment of the Mosaic and prophetic line, even the New Moses who not only spoke the Word of the LORD, but who is the Word of the LORD made flesh and dwelling amongst us.
Each of the prophets was a foreshadowing and type of Jesus, even as each was rejected, persecuted, and killed so that Jesus wept over Jerusalem calling it “the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!” Likewise, Jesus warned His disciples that, as they did it to Him, so they would do them, and that the one who rejects them rejects Himself and His Father who sent Him. The prophets were intermediaries, if you will between God and man. Their calling was to proclaim God’s Word to His people in truth and purity, whether they liked it or not. And yet, they were but types, foreshadowing Jesus, who is the one intermediary and intercessor between God and man, in human flesh as a man, the Word of God made flesh.
It is Jesus, the Lamb of God, we see once again in Revelation, along with the terrible voice of God “like the roar of many waters, and like the sound of loud thunder” just as it was heard by Israel when Moses met with God on Horeb. And yet, there was something different about this voice. John describes it as a “new song” that only the faithful followers of the Lamb could learn. The new song is a song of victory for the Lamb and for God over the enemies of sin, death, and the devil, defeated in Jesus’ selfless, sacrificial death on the cross and in His glorious resurrection. All the prophets foretold this victory in many and various ways, but they all find their fulfillment in the Lamb and Son of God, Jesus Christ. It is this song that the angels sang at Jesus’ birth, proclaiming peace between God and man through in the Christ-child born of Mary.
Mary, too, was troubled at the Word of God spoken by His angelic messenger Gabriel, wondering what kind of greeting this might be. Thus Gabriel’s first words to her were an absolution and a word of peace, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” Literally, Mary found herself in God’s grace and favor, not because of anything that she had done, but because of who God is and what He was about to do. But, the LORD’s grace, favor, and Word are not empty and void, but they are life giving, performative, and creative, bearing fruit. “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his Name Jesus,” the angel continued.And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” It was not a question of doubt, but a question of means. And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” And, that was it. That was the moment of Jesus’ incarnation. Martin Luther famously said that the organ of conception for Mary was her ear, for as the angel Gabriel spoke, God’s Word brought into being what it said, and Mary conceived Jesus by the Holy Spirit working through God’s holy Word.
The Word became flesh through the spoken Word of God heard in faith by a young Hebrew maiden. Not with earthquakes, thunder, fire, or smoke, but by the power of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, salvation came to humankind. St. Paul wrote that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ.” The Word of life that must be heard also bestows upon us the ability to hear it. Even faith itself is God’s creation and gift. God comes to us who could not come to Him, and He comes to us in a way in which we can receive Him: Veiled in the flesh of a newborn baby, in the humble appearance of carpenter, through Word and water, bread and wine, proclaimed and distributed by the sons of the prophets in these latter days. No, God does not speak to us directly and personally – thanks be to God! But, God speaks to us through Jesus, His Word made flesh.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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