Watching and waiting for Jesus

Visitation of Mary and Elizabeth carving

Visitation of Mary and Elizabeth / at Cloister’s Museum, New York. Artist unidentified

Thank you for coming to read this message. It means that you want to keep Christ in Christmas. And you know Christmas has meaning only because of a truth your church may affirm in the communion service:

Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ is coming again.

This season of advent, we mostly prepare for the coming of the Christ child, but it also provides a time to prepare for his return, his second advent.

God’s judgment and his grace are joined at the hip. He freely makes his grace available to anyone at all, but only those who repent of their sins can ever receive it.

People and societies who refuse to recognize the reality of sin and neglect the grace that God offers will find themselves under God’s judgment. It’s a very painful, unpleasant place to be.

For God has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He [the Son] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. — Colossians 1:13-23

The meaning of Jesus’ coming

Bible opened to John 3:16

Bible opened to John 3:16–why Jesus came

Jesus came to live a perfect life, a life like none other ever lived on earth, a life without sin. Jesus came to die in order to pay the just penalty for all of the sin ever committed by all of humanity.

He rose again from the dead and rejoined God in heaven, but he did not leave us alone. Not only did he send the Holy Spirit, but he established the church to be his body on earth until he returns to claim his final victory.

Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, is the firstborn over all creation and also the firstborn from among the dead. Only begotten means Jesus is unique. Firstborn means that others will follow and form the complete family.

And what does God get out of doing all this? Paul says it is pleasing to God for all the fullness of deity to dwell in Jesus. The fullness of deity doesn’t rest on Jesus. It doesn’t hang around with Jesus for a while. The fullness of deity has taken up permanent residence in the man named Jesus.

And why does that give God pleasure? Because in becoming a human, the creator became intimately united with his rebellious creation.

He will show no mercy to the devil, who knew and had experienced God’s goodness before he decided to rebel. But all of the stench of sin that started on Earth when Adam chose to side with the devil will be cleaned up through what Jesus accomplished on the cross, and all will be reconciled with God.

The meaning of waiting and remembering

Agnus Dei window

Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) Detail, stained glass window, All-Saints Church near Martin, Hampshire, Great Britain

What did I say earlier? Grace and judgment are joined at the hip.

We cannot make any sense of God’s grace in becoming a man, in forming a body for himself from repentant humans who turn to him as savior, without remembering the judgment that took place on the cross.

Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. – Isaiah 53:4-6, emphasis added.

Grace is still available to anyone who survives God’s wrath, but why wait that long to accept it?

Photo credits:
Visitation. Some rights reserved by Sharon Mollerus
Open Bible. Photo by Amandajm. Public domain from Wikimedia Commons.
Agnus Dei window. Some rights reserved by Trish Steel.

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