Saturday, December 5, 2020

Advent Evening Prayer In the Week of Ad Te Levavi (Advent 1)
















Matthew 28:16-20; Isaiah 40:1-5

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The image of Jesus on the mount of Ascension evokes the image of Moses on Mount Sinai. Whereas Moses directed the children of Israel to the authority of the Lord’s Commandments, however, Jesus proclaimed to His disciples that the LORD had given all authority in heaven and on earth to Him. He had fulfilled the Law and had reconciled the LORD to men by His atoning death and resurrection. As Moses and Elijah stood by as witnesses on the Mount of Transfiguration that all was finished, Jesus then charged His Apostles, His Church, on the Mount of His Ascension to “go and make disciples of all nations,” not by coercing them to obedience and works under the Law, but by baptism into Jesus, which is 100% pure Gospel.

Becoming a Christian is not a choice or a work that men do any more than is being born, but one is made to be a Christian through baptism into Christ. “Go and make disciples,” Jesus commands. How? By “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” How can water do such great things? It is not the water, we confess, “but it is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s word.” Who is Jesus, after all, but the very Word of God spoken into the void in the beginning of the creation of all things, through whom all things were made? This Word is a creative and live-giving word, bringing into being what it says. Thus, Jesus’ command to go and make disciples by baptizing has the authority of God, and baptism does precisely what it says – it makes disciples – by the authoritative, creative, performative, and life-giving power of His Word.

When the Law has done its work with us and we are crushed, left despairing of salvation on our own, from where does our help come? “[Our] help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” He brings us comfort and ends our warfare with His Law, proclaiming our iniquity pardoned and blessing us with double for all our sins. He who holds the authority of heaven and earth, who redeemed us by His blood, now reaches out to claim us again as His own and return us to Himself. How does He do this? By Holy Baptism. Holy Baptism is the Lord’s command and Word in and with the water, delivering Christ (with the entire Trinity) to us by His Name.

Holy Baptism is not simply a first step or a Christian duty we fulfill out of obligation and obedience, but it is God’s action to bring us into Christ and His Church - into a lifelong relationship and status as His disciples. In Holy Baptism the LORD blesses and keeps our “coming in” and our “going out,” thus, our entire life as a baptized Christian is lived in learning to observe all that He entrusted to His disciples, to prize the Gospel in faith, and to grow in love for all of life.

Your baptism has made you a son of God as St. Paul taught the Galatians, “You are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Moreover, each of us is baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection, the many into the one. Thus, everything that can rightly be said to belong to Jesus He shares with the baptized, with you and with me: Sonship with the Father, righteousness, holiness, and innocence, everlasting life. These describe and belong to the baptized even as they rightly describe and belong to Jesus, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” So we sang in our hymn this day, “In Baptism we now put on Christ, our shame is fully covered with all that He once sacrificed and freely for us suffered. For here the flood of His own blood now make us holy, right, and good before our heavn’ly Father.”

“He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” To be a Christian is to be baptized. To be baptized is to remember and delight in your baptism, to strive to observe all Christ has commanded you, to return daily to your baptismal grace through repentance, and to find comfort, hope, peace, and perseverance in His promise, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

“O Christian, firmly hold this gift and give God thanks forever! It gives the power to uplift in all that you endeavor. When nothing else revives your soul, your Baptism stands and makes you whole and then in death completes you.”

“So use it well! You are made new – in Christ a new creation! As faithful Christians, live and do within your own vocation. Until that day when you possess His glorious robe of righteousness bestowed on you forever!”

To God alone be all the glory, in the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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