by Rev. Brent Kuhlman (Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, Murdock, NE)
“Stir up your power, O Lord, and come.” Who prays like that? The church! She dares to pray that way. Especially during this blessed season of Advent. “Stir up your power, O Lord, and come.” And lo and behold He does! He comes to His lost and condemned creatures. In a way that blows you away! Check it out.
Go ahead. Try to bore a way up to heaven. Peek your head through the clouds. See if you can find the Lord seated on a red-velvety cushioned throne. I’ve got news for you. You won’t find Him way up there! Why? Because the Lord has come way down here!
The Lord Jesus stirs up His power and comes among us with great might. But see how it happens. Scandalous! Outrageous! Illegitimate circumstances! He stirs up His power and comes among us with great might as He is conceived by the Holy Spirit-filled sermon preached by the angel Gabriel in the Virgin Mary’s-engaged-to-be-married-to Joseph-ears. He gestates for nine months in her womb. Born in backwoods Bethlehem. He nurses from the virgin’s breast. He cuddles in her lap. A cattle trough is His bed. Infant holy. Infant lowly. Yes, indeed, this child – the Baby Jesus -- is Lord of all in weakness, a scandalous state of affairs, and great humility.
See how He stirs up His power to come! Who for us men and for our salvation -- Jesus COMES DOWN FROM HEAVEN! He comes all the way down here -- into the mire, muck and total mess of our lives. The eternal Word takes on human flesh and dwells among us so much so “that His skin smokes” as one famous German preacher named Martin Luther once remarked! He comes to seek and to save the lost and condemned. Baby Jesus Immanuel. Immanuel -- because He is God with us (Matthew 1:23). Jesus – because He saves His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). He gives His people knowledge of salvation. How? Through the forgiveness of sins (Luke 1:77)!
No forgiveness without the shedding of blood. And so God With Us Immanuel Jesus offers His Blood as the Lamb of God! Born to die on His Friday afternoon we so aptly name “Good!” See how He stirs up His power! See how He comes with great might! In suffering! In shame! In disgrace! In death! Innocent, yet He is crucified as a criminal. On the earth the cross is His throne! And there He reigns as king.
There He willingly bears the sin of many. Of all. Yours too. You name the sin. The ones you hate. Even the ones you like, love, and don’t want to quit doing. Include the ones you don’t even know. Didn’t even realize you’ve committed. That’s how bad it is with you – and me! But Jesus – Immanuel God With Us – comes and answers for them all. He leaves none out. He is the sacrifice that atones for the sin of the world. Consequently, there is no condemnation for you as far as God is concerned. None! Jesus took the damnation. And you’re forgiven. God is most pleased with you because in the Body of Jesus His Son all your sin and its hellish punishment have been dumped in the black hole of His death. That’s how He stirs up His power. How He comes in great might. He does it save. To save you! To win your salvation.
Now today He bestows what He won for you. He came to you and brought you paradise – heaven – in the water of Holy Baptism. Baptized in the Triune Name you are (Matthew 28:19). And to be baptized in God’s Name is to be baptized by God Himself. You are buried with Christ into His all atoning death (Romans 6). Given the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38-39). Born from above (John 3:3-5; Titus 3:4-7). Washed, sanctified, justified, SAVED (1 Corinthians 6:11; Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21)!
He comes to you in the preaching of the Gospel. When you hear the preacher proclaim that Jesus died for you and that He rose for you and that your sins are forgiven, in those words you’ve heard the Lord Jesus Himself. “He who hears you [the preacher] hears me,” (Luke 10:16) is His promise. He comes in the words of Holy Absolution. “Do you believe that my forgiveness is God’s forgiveness,” the pastor asks in confession (see Lutheran Service Book, p. 293). And in that spoken word of forgiveness you hear the living voice of Christ Himself (viva vox Christi). He speaks to you just as he spoke to the paralytic: “Be of good cheer my son. Your sins are forgiven,” (Matthew 9:2; see also Matthew 16:19; 18:18; John 20:19-23).
And there is more! He stirs up His power and comes in the Sacrament of the Altar. With His words Jesus does and gives what He promises. He bestows His Good Friday Body and Blood with the bread and wine for you to eat and drink with your mouth. And He adds this most remarkable promise: “It’s for you. This is for the forgiveness of your sins,” (1 Corinthians 11:24-25; Matthew 26:28). In this eating and drinking – in this blessed receiving of His last will and testament -- we proclaim that His death is for you, for me, and for all until He comes on the last day (1 Corinthians 11:26).
And on that last day He stirs up more of His power. He will come to judge the living and the dead. But you’ll be ready. Really. No need to be afraid. For you’ve been rehearsing for the last day all your life. After all, every time you hear the Gospel, the Absolution, and receive the Lord’s Supper you’ve heard Judge Jesus and you know His judgment over you. And what is that? That you’re died for, that you are forgiven, and that heaven is yours. Every time you attend the divine service it’s judgment day in miniature – the last day ahead of time. The Lord Jesus comes and stands in your midst (Matthew 18:20) to render His last day judgment: “Acquitted! Set free! I died for you.” So that when the last day comes you will see with your eyes what you’ve always had by faith. And the judgment will be no different for you who trust in Him.
And so you together with the church dare to pray: “Stir up your power, O Lord, and come.” After all, we know the end game. That by the Lord Jesus Himself we are rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and saved by Him who comes in great might: at Bethlehem and Calvary, in the Word and Sacraments, and finally on the last day.
Until then, the Lord Jesus will bless you, defend you from all evil, and bring you to the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. Have a happy Advent and blessed Christmas.