Advent III – Midweek
December 18, 2019
Rev. Richard Langness
Grace, mercy, and peace are yours this day from our triune God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Now did you get that? Grace, mercy and peace are yours and they are yours now! They are not things for which you have to wait. They are yours now because they come to you from our all-powerful God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is here for you now; giving you the gifts He desires to give to you. His grace? It’s yours now. His mercy? It’s yours now. His peace? It’s yours now.
Oh, but wait. This really isn’t a peaceful season is it? There is a lot of work to be done; presents to buy, houses to clean, cookies to bake, and decorations to put up as we prepare to spend time with our loved ones. Oh yeah, those loved ones, those family members we will see; can we truly say that we are at peace with them? Could it be that we simply will do our best to get along with each other until the party is over?
Now for many, peace is a word heard but not a reality known. Peace may only be a temporary truce. It is not a true oneness, a true coming together, a true agreement. It is not any of these things now or at any other time. And yet, there is the reality that grace, mercy, and peace are indeed yours now regardless of whether you feel or understand them in this moment. Our lack of comprehension, our lack of embracing them, does not change the reality that they are nonetheless given by God to you right here and right now.
As with the concept of here, now is also a fascinating concept. Now is always passing away and yet it is always coming forth. The now of the present moment is constantly becoming a thing of the past while at the same time the future is constantly coming forth in this present moment. One can never really embrace what is happening now for as soon as we reach for it, it has passed. The best we can do is embrace the future with the understanding that it is continually coming forth now. And now all this is for our benefit, now.
The existence of time is a product of creation. You and I are bound by time. We may think we have too much or too little of it and that only confirms the reality that we cannot rule over it. We can only live in it. God, however, created it. He created time. Now another way to think of it is that He created all of the nows of our lives, the nows that have slipped into the past and the nows that are still ahead of us in our future. We may not rule over time but God does.
God in His knowledge knew that you and I as His creation could not grasp the fullness of life without the gift of time to process it. Even before sin entered into the world, Adam did not understand his life or the God who created him. Now if Adam couldn’t understand God in a perfect world, in a perfect moment, how much more difficult is it for you and me who live in a cursed world, a cursed moment, a moment in the now of our sin and rebellion against God?
Now consider the incarnation once again. Consider the humility of God who not only enters the here of our world but also enters the now of our time. Consider our God who lives in the perfect now, the perfect present, and knows all things that we can only understand as past, present, and future. Consider the perfect patience of God who subjects Himself to time and waits 9 months to be formed in the womb of Mary. Consider this Word who was with God and who is God and the frustration He endured as He waited for someone to teach Him how to speak His first word.
Now the fact that God comes into our world is an act of grace. God could have left us to the judgment we deserve. God, being God, could have come up with some other plan for us. He could have left us to be just servants who simply dwelt in a lower form of existence. But God chose to make us His children. God chose to make us one with Him, a oneness that is truly peace. Now again, this peace is yours now. It is yours now because God appointed a time to come into our world and restore His creation, redeem His creation.
As St. Paul says, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Galatians 4:4-7) In the grace of God that is yours now, God has made you His child. It is yours now because the Word of God, the true light, which gives light to everyone, has indeed come into the world.
He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:10-13) This is the grace of God. God has given you a new birth, a birth brought forth by His will and His power. Thus, it is always coming forth. It is a life that is yours now and is yours forever. It is yours now because the God who was, and is, and whoever shall be became one with us in our flesh in a now of the past, the now that we celebrate at Christmas.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ ”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (John 1:14-18)
Grace and truth come through Jesus. Mercy comes through God, who is not bound by time, enduring the time spent upon the cross, enduring all the nows of our every sin and the judgement they deserved. This is why the very peace of God is yours now. It is yours now because God knew this very now as He hung upon the cross for you.
So now we confess that we are always at the same time both saint and sinner. We confess this because we know that our sinful nature is always with us and it is always rebellious towards God, even now! And yet, because God is not bound by time, we can now confess that the blood shed in the past is still the same blood shed now for you. The sin of the now is covered now by the very body of Christ given for you and His blood shed for you upon the cross. Now, you are forgiven even as you now recognize your sin.
Now this is grace, that God, knowing you from before the foundation of the world, knowing your sin and the heartache it causes, nonetheless chose you to be His beloved child. And now this is mercy, that God, knowing the pain that He would endure upon the cross to redeem you, nonetheless chose to be born of a virgin for the sake of enduring the cross in your stead. And now this is peace, that there is no separation, no disagreement, no sin left to your account. For through the work of Jesus Christ upon the cross you are now forgiven. Amen.