SERMON FOR THE FOURTH SUNDAY IN ADVENT, 12-24-2017
Luther Memorial Chapel, Shorewood, WI
Rev. Michael Larson
In Moses sermon this morning he recalls the day God wanted to meet with his people on Sinai. Here it was not just Moses and a burning bush. It was the whole congregation, all of Israel, and this time there’s no burning bush because the whole mountain is on fire. There was lightning and thunder, the earth smoked, the trumpet blasted, and the whole mountain shook. As they stood at the foot of the mountain, Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord has descended upon it in fire. The trumpet blew louder and louder.
God spoke not just with Moses but with the people. I am the Lord your God. I the Lord your God am a jealous God punishing the children for the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. And he gave the people the ten commandments.
When the people saw the thunder, the flashes of lightning, heard the trumpet blast, and saw the mountain on fire they were afraid. How could they not be! After all, God is not the god of the hallmark channel. He is a holy God, a jealous God, a consuming fire.
It was a sad day when Israel had to back away from that mountain and the presence of God. They begged Moses, saying, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.”
How much like Adam and Eve, the whole congregation was, hiding, frightened at the presence of God. The voice of the law was loud and clear that great and sad day.
No sinner could stand before the holiness of God and live to tell about it. Like Israel, you need to hear another voice besides Moses.
The Lord even acknowledged that their plea was fitting. The Lord said “What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him and he will speak in my name.”
When the priests and Levites go to John in our Gospel this morning to ask him who he is, this is what they have in mind. Are you THE prophet? Are you the one our fathers prayed for and God promised to send us.
The Jewish leaders missed it and brought wrath upon themselves. But Moses gave us a big hint. The prophet, the savior, he comes from among us. A baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. The feet of that little baby would grow to be a boy, run to the temple at Passover amid the blood of the Passover, his feet would walk to the Jordan to be baptized, as John cried out “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
Those feet would be pierced for your sins and from his lips would come a voice of mercy. Father forgive them.
John the Baptist is a voice who points you to another mountain. This mountain too is smoking and set ablaze. Though this fire is not consuming God’s people but rather his own son. He was born, he died, he rose for our justification - It is finished. His pierced and risen feet, whose sandals John was unworthy to unloose, stood up in the resurrection – and now unlooses you from all sins – that you might freely enter into the presence of God.
The congregation of Israel trembled at the foot of mount Sinai, struck with fear, terrified at the voice of the Lord. But this congregation, and you, have nothing to be afraid of.
This morning, in the presence of our holy God, don’t back away like they did at Sinai, don’t be frightened, and don’t even be shy.
This Christmas, the angels have commanded you too not to be afraid. Through faith in Him, enter boldly and confidently into the presence of Lord. Be like the shepherds, peer through the stable doors and see him lying in a manger.
Don’t back away, don’t hide, just enter into his presence. No blasting trumpets at Sinai here. Just angels singing and gentle words of forgiveness. From the wood of the manger to the wood of the cross, behold him, even now, wrapped and swaddled in bread and wine.
Don’t tremble or back away. Just reach out for him and say: “My Lord and my God.” In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Prayer of the Church for Christmas Day, 25 December 2017
To us a child is born, to us a son is given, let us offer praise, thanks and prayer to God the Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
For all who celebrate the incarnation, that the knowledge that their God reigns would cause them to lift up their voices and sing for joy, that they be always ready to tell others about the Word made flesh, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy
For all pastors, that God would work through their proclamation of Christ to bring the good news of happiness and salvation to all who hear them, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For the nations of this world, that they be given a spirit of peace, that conflicts cease and that all see in the birth of Jesus the salvation of our God, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For those who suffer persecution for the sake of Christ, that they be kept firm in their faith as they bear witness to the light of the world, and that they never lose sight of their identity as children of God, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For the destitute, those recovering from natural disaster and those who find themselves in want, that they receive the necessities for daily life, that the agencies who serve them receive generous support, and that those who serve and those who are served come to see God as the giver of daily bread, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For those who suffer sickness in mind or body, those who are homebound and all who have asked for our prayers, especially Lou Gabrielle. that God would grant them healing, peace, patience and faith that endures, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For those who commune, that they receive the body and blood of Jesus worthily with faith in His bodily presence here in the Sacrament for them, and that they depart having received grace upon grace from His fullness, let pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
In thanksgiving for all the people of God who have gone before us and now rest in His presence, that we, too, would be kept faithful until that day when He makes all things new, let us pray to the Lord, Lord, have mercy.
Hear us, O Lord, for the sake of Your Son, the Word become flesh, the Savior of the nations, Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, ever one God. Amen.