Populus Zion, the Second Sunday of Advent
Song of Solomon 2:8-14
esus has one message for you: Look up! Lift up your heads! Be courageous! Things will get worse before they get better, but they will get better because your Redemption draws near!
This means today, and really the entire season of Advent one of longing. It was expressed in all three of the Readings. The lovers in the Song of Solomon spoke of their excitement at the appearance of one another and of spring that would soon give way to summer. Paul wrote to the Romans about the coming day when there would no longer be a distinction between Jew and Gentile. But Jesus captured it best: The end of all things is at hand: see the buds on the tree and know that soon the leaves will burst forth and the winter of our sin will take flight.
But to us who are sinking into the longer hours of darkness and the cold gray death of winter, that is, the increasing signs of the world and failing of our hearts, our ability to wait much longer for Christ’s return is diminishing. Because we hear Jesus’ Words of promise, not of fear, that He, our Redemption, is drawing near. Like the faithful Jews of old longing for the birth of the Messiah, we cannot do this anymore. An end needs to come so we are relieved by the Lord’s appearing. It is as you sang a moment ago: “When will You come with comfort strong? Wen will our hearts behold Your dawn?” We see the signs in the sun, moon, and stars. We see the nations gripped by fear. We feel the perplexity, the anxiety caused by a lack of necessary good. We who believe what Scripture says and dare to confess it know what it is to be attacked by the militant soldiers of the devil, the prince of his world. We are tempted to question God, to ask if He has forgotten us, if He will leave us with signs forever and no action on His part. We are tempted into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Our hearts of faith are trembling and feel like they will fail us.
But today Jesus has come to you with comfort strong. The trees are in full bloom. The winter of tour sin, long and dark, is flying because of His dawning. of Jesus, the Light of the World, is on the horizon. Look up! Lift up your heads! Despair no longer, fear no longer, doubt no longer. The impending celebration of Christmas is a reminder that the day is quickly coming when Christmas will no longer be a foreshadowing of what is to come because Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead, to raise the dead from their graves, to send the faithless into endless torment in the fires of hell and the faithful to the endless bliss of heaven. Today Millie was added to that number. Her name is now written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Because she is Baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, she has nothing to fear in these gray and latter days.
Nor do you, you Baptized children of God. Remember those other words of Jesus. He will cut this evil day short so you, His elect, do not fall away. He is calling you to live in repentance and in hope.
Things certainly do look bleak and foreboding, but it is merely the beginning of the joy to come. As painful as labor is, it is a precursor to the joy that the long-expected child is about to be born and loved by its family. That is what today is for you. Look at the signs but know that the signs will soon give way to the thing they point to. Soon the signs will end, the death throes of this world will cease, and Jesus will appear to remove you from the evil days by taking you to Himself in heaven. So look up! Lift up your heads! Be courageous! your Redemption draws near!
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.