Online Worship for Advent One, Sunday November 28, 2021
Sermon for Advent One – Sunday November 28, 2021
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father
and our Lord Jesus, the Christ. Amen.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.**
In the Name of Jesus, the Christ,
Whose 2nd Coming we await as we,
Prepare again to celebrate His First Coming,
Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Precious Blood –
It’s official...except for the leftovers...Thanksgiving is done. I guess it’s time to put away the fall themes and put up the Christmas stuff. After all, we are now at the end of the runway leading to Christmas.
It’s the first Sunday in Advent, and Advent is to be a time of preparation. We look forward to the annual celebration of Jesus’ Birth and so we prepare for it. We generally prepare for Christmas in a number of somewhat predictable ways. We listen to Christmas music. We bake certain seasonal foods. We look for gifts for one another to express our love.
We decorate. In fact, yesterday morning some of the Ladies of Calvary gathered here to decorate our place of worship as you can see.
So... why do we decorate this building? Isn’t the cross and the other symbols that remind us of Christ...enough? Is this just another example of our secular society’s celebration leeching into the church? It doesn’t have to be.
If our decorations are to serve any true spiritual purpose, they should direct and remind us of Christ. But, the fact of the matter is that sometimes our decorations don’t have much to do with Christ. Some of our decorations have everything to do with traditions that we have taken up for ourselves. It’s not necessarily wrong or right, I’m just pointing out that if our decorations don’t glorify Christ, they don’t benefit our faith.
What’s more, this morning I want you to consider that often our decorations are only external. What I mean is we prepare for the celebration of Jesus birth by putting things up...like wreaths and trees.
We gather for Christmas dinners and parties and put on Christmas themed clothing. We hang lights and put-up yard ornaments.
We beautify the outside of our homes and lives.
What about the inside? What about our hearts and minds? Do we prepare our hearts and minds for the celebration of Jesus’ birth, or do we think – no one can see inside, why change? Do we just decorate the façade and leave the heart...as is?
Why does it matter? In His familiar Christmas Hymn, From Heaven Above to Earth I Come, Martin Luther wrote (TLH 85:13):
Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child, Make Thee a bed, soft, undefiled,
Within my heart, that it may be A quiet chamber kept for Thee.
This personal prayer of Martin Luther reminds us that the most important preparation to make during Advent, indeed every day of the year, is a real one, to prepare our hearts for Jesus’ Coming by confessing our sins and seeking God’s forgiveness.
It is also our personal desire that Jesus the Son of God come to rule within our hearts as King. So, let’s honestly ask ourselves, if Jesus comes today to knock at the door of our hearts, seeking to enter and rule from the throne of our hearts...what would he find? Would He find a dusty attic of personal sins? Would He find a cluttered mess of personal pride and lust? Would he find some other person or thing sitting on the throne of our heart?
I guess that I’m asking, “Are our hearts and minds a clean place for Christ to live and rule?” I can only speak for myself, but the answer is often, no. Which is why we find the first important preparation for Christmas in Psalm 51:16-17. It’s not a decoration, but a revitalization, a cleansing worked by God through His Law and Gospel.
May God the Holy Spirit grant that we humble ourselves before God and bring the sacrifices that please Him. They are more than decorations; they are broken spirits and contrite hearts. In order for that to happen we pray: “Sanctify us by Your Truth, O Lord, Your Word is Truth.” Amen.
In our Wednesday evening Bible Studies in the Psalms, we have learned that there is very often a context, a situation, which led the Spirit of God to direct David or someone else to write a Psalm. We aren’t always told what led to the Psalm, but we are in the case of Psalm 51.
It had been a dark period in King David’s life. We could say there was a lot of junk in the attic of his heart, skeletons in the closet. He had harbored lust for another man’s wife, which led ultimately to adultery and then murder. He had tried to cover it up, to shove it back in the attic of his mind and cover it with a box or two, but his conscience did its job and gave him no rest.
Finally, God sent the Prophet Nathan to the King, to tell him a story (2 Samuel 12:1-7):
“There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had very many flocks and herds, 3 but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. 4 Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”
5 Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, 6 and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” 7 Nathan said to David, “You are the man!”
God revealed to David what his conscience was telling him all along. God knew about the skeletons in his closet.
It isn’t just David, either. God knows about yours and mine. He knows when you harbor anger and hatred. He knows when you play with lust. He knows when you take pride in yourself. He knows about all the boxes we have taped up and hidden in the closet of our hearts and the attic of our minds.
He knows that we think it’s hidden away and so we put off cleaning up, throwing away those boxes, confessing our sins. We can’t make up for those sins either by concealing them behind the boxes of our ‘promising to do better’ or by ‘giving God a little something’ or ‘doing something for him.’
King David tried. No doubt he went up to the house of the LORD to offer sacrifices, he tried to make up for what he had done, but the blood of animals didn’t take away sin. He learned the hard way what the Spirit of God led him to write here:
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
I know what you are thinking...God prescribed those sacrifices in the Old Testament. God did delight in sacrifice and burnt offering; He says so.
Yes, when those sacrifices were offered in faith. God did accept those sacrifices when people brought them confessing their sins and trusting in God’s Promise that in connection with the shedding of blood there is forgiveness. David wasn’t sorry for his sin. His sacrifices were sacrifices of convenience, ‘going through the motions.’ He went up to offer sacrifice but it was a sham, he didn’t want to get rid of those boxes in his heart and mind.
Let’s not make the same mistake by coming here as a pretense. Let’s not decorate the outside but leave the inside dusty and dirty. God help us to bring the sacrifices that please God.
What sacrifices are those?
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.**
Let’s not cover up our sin with decorations. God help us to come honestly, to confess our sins to Him. God help us to seek his help, because there is no box, no sin that He cannot take up and carry away.
What’s more...that’s what Jesus came to do! He entered the human race at Bethlehem to take up and bear human sin and guilt to Calvary and onto the Cross. He atoned for our sins there and they were forever buried in His Tomb.
Jesus came to give us relief, in heart and mind.
Jesus came to save us from ourselves, from our sins and guilt. He would have us look in the mirror of the Law of God and see who we are – not good enough, not better than some, but people who have sinned against God in heart and mind. When the Spirit of God has worked this ‘godly sorrow’ (cf. 2 Corinthians 7:10) these broken spirits and contrite hearts, it is then that the Spirit of God comforts us as once the Shepherds and others did (Luke 2, 10-11; Galatians 4:4-5; 2 Corinthians 5:19, 21):
“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
“...when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
“...in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation... For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
This isn’t only the message of Lent. We find it’s beginning already in Advent and Christmas. Jesus comes to save sinners, not to pat on the back those who think they are good, righteous people.
Which is why true Christmas Preparations...begin when we stop decorating our hearts but ask the spirit of God to clean and purify them, to prepare them to be a fit dwelling place for the Savior. We might begin the prayer of a penitent King David which we find in this Psalm (51:10-12):
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.”
Now maybe you think: “But my heart and mind is such a mess; I’m a lost cause.” I’ve filled my heart and mind with so many boxes...so much junk.
Listen once more to Jesus’ invitation, it’s for all of us. He wants to trade his light burden for our heavy one (Matthew 11:28-30):
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
We will go on decorating our homes and even this building. God help us that these decorations serve to point us to Christ. More importantly, God grant that we begin each day by bringing broken spirits and contrite hearts to the Lord, for He promises us mercy and forgiveness in Christ.
For so it is written (Psalm 34:18):
The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart,
and saves such as have a contrite spirit.
God grant us both.