Populus Zion (Advent II) 2017
The prayer of advent is “Stir up our hearts, O Lord.” Three of the four Sundays in Advent have that phrase as the opening of the Collect. What does it mean to be stirred up? It might come across as “make us excited for.” These collects in their original Latin begin with the word excita, so that seems natural. In Latin, excita means rouse or awaken. But the English Church has translated this as “stir up.” So, what exactly does “stir up” mean? As Merriam-Webster defines it, “stir up” means to cause something, usually something unpleasant, to happen. That’s a different take on the season, isn’t it? In Advent we pray that the Lord would cause something unpleasant to happen to our hearts. Now, that unpleasantness is understood from a fleshly standpoint. We ask God to make us uncomfortable with the status quo, to make us eager for a completely different situation.
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.