Dec12

Rejoice!

Categories // Sermons

3rd Sunday of Advent

Rejoice!

        Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and His only Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

        The third Sunday in Advent focuses on rejoicing in the Lord our God. The rose-colored candle on our Advent wreath marks the Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is the Latin word for rejoice. We hear about the joy we share in God’s faithfulness through the words of the prophet Zephaniah:

“Sing, O daughter of Zion!

Shout, O Israel!

Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,

O daughter of Jerusalem!” [Zephaniah 3:14]

We hear about our joy in the faith of the Lord through the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Philippi, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” [Pilippians 4:4a] And finally, we hear the words of our Lord incarnate as he brings joy to those who are healed and hear the message of salvation:

“Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them…” [Luke 7:22]

            We celebrate this day with joy because, as St. Paul tells the church in Philippi, the Lord is near; not only in close proximity spatially, but also close in point of time. Therefore, we are to rejoice!

            As children we often count down the days until a special occasion. Usually it is for an occasion where we get presents; like our birthday or Christmas. When that day comes we rejoice and are happy for all the gifts we receive.

When we get older, we count down to other expected joys, such as when summer comes and school is out, or when the day comes when we can go on vacation from work. Around this neck of the woods, people joyfully count down the days to the opening of hunting season. We count down the days of joy while we wait the birth of a new baby just as we count down the days until the birth of baby Jesus.

As Christians we rejoice in the faithfulness of our God. In the beginning, God created everything and placed His most valued possession in the midst of His creation. That was His first gift to us – life! His second gift was the peace and joy Adam and Eve experienced by being alive and in the presence of our creator.

Tragically, the great Adversary, Satan, could not endure having God’s children enjoying the radiance of God’s love while he remained exiled. Satan did not wish us to be happy and tempted the first man and woman into sin. From that moment an irrevocable countdown began; we were doomed to sin and death.

This is where God’s second gift comes to us. He promised to redeem us from our fall into iniquity. He gave us His Son. He literally gave us His Word. This was the second perfect man after Adam. This brand new man came to us as a brand new baby; the Word made flesh.

This fully human baby, Christ Jesus, was also fully God. In this way Jesus Christ would be the atonement for our sins; past, present and future. This man with no sin took our sin from us. He suffered the consequences of that sin for us, all the way to the cross. The holy, righteous and innocent man paid the price for our transgressions.

But he did not stop there. Jesus Christ, the last and only true sacrificial Lamb of God, descended into the depths of Hell to face the great dragon, Satan. Jesus Christ told him that he no longer had power in God’s creation. Jesus told him that all the debt has been paid, we now belong to him and Satan no longer has power over us.

This in itself would be more than enough to rejoice in the Grace of God. This in itself would a great and wonderful gift – to be made righteous and holy before our Lord. But wait there’s more! There is another gift waiting behind the curtain! That curtain is the veil of death.

On the third day, Jesus Christ came out of Hell, and out of the grave, to life! He rose up out of the tomb, the final prison of all people, and walked in his Father’s creation as King of heaven and earth and all things.

This is truly a day to shout! This is truly a day to sing! This is truly a day to be glad and rejoice with all your heart.

“The Lord has taken away the judgments against you;

he has cast away your enemies.

             The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;

you shall never again fear evil.” [Zephaniah 3:15]

        Now a person might think that the countdown is complete. One might think that the waiting is over and all the gifts have been opened; but that is not the case. You see, there is one more countdown – the final countdown.

        Since the resurrection of our Lord and his return to his kingdom, where he sits on the throne of heaven and earth, we have been counting down the days until his return in all his glory. However, in this Second Advent in which we wait, we do not fear what is to become of us.

        In the past we only had the Law of God to justify us. In this Law we could never win. Because of our sinful state we could never balance the scales of our judgment on that last day. But now we need no longer fear because Jesus Christ has declared us righteous by his sacrifice on the cross.

        Just as Jesus told Satan that he no longer had power over us, he tells his Father in heaven, we are now pure and holy and once again perfect creations in His sight. Like Adam and Eve, before the fall from grace, we are God’s most valued possession – a treasure in His kingdom.

        You may ask what we must do while we wait? The answer is simple: do what God has commanded you.

        Give thanks to God – Thank Him for your daily bread, not only your food but your house and clothing; your health, wealth and welfare and all that he provides for you.

        Simple answer, but not always so simple to do.

        Forgive one another – Forgive your neighbor when he slights you. Forgive your brother or sister when they aggravate you. Forgive your sons and daughters. Forgive your mother and father. Forgive your enemies.

        Simple answer, but not always so simple to do.

        Receive God’s forgiveness – Receive God’s forgiveness in the water and the word in Holy Baptism. Repent of your sins and receive God’s forgiveness in the body and blood of Jesus Christ at the altar of our Lord.

        Love one another as Christ has loved you – We are all here by the Grace of God and the Love of Christ. No greater love is this, yet through his love we can love one another.

        The Apostle Paul put it this way:

“Let your gentleness be known to everyone.

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” [Philippians 4:5-7]    

        We await the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To us, he is the promise of our salvation who has already come into the world by the grace of God the Father. We rejoice as we await the next coming or our Lord from heaven.

“Sing, Shout,

       Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,

        The Lord has taken away your judgments,

        He has cast out your enemy.

        The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;

        You shall never again fear evil.” [Zephaniah 3:14–15]

        The Lord your God is in your midst,

a mighty one who will save;

                    he will rejoice over you with gladness;

he will quiet you by his love;

                    he will exult over you with loud singing.” [Zephaniah 3:17]

Amen.