Your Light Will Break Forth Like The Dawn

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Advent begins in the dark”? Essentially it’s a way of saying that the season of Advent is a time of consolidated anticipation. This means that Advent focuses our attention for hopefulness toward that evening long ago when the Savior of the world would be born, the dreadful day on Golgotha’s hill when that same Savior would go into the darkness of sin and be crucified, and finally the Last Day when the Lord returns and the world is judged.

Each of these points is one that bears hopefulness, but each also has the sense of a tinge of blindness. In a Law sense, the blindness is the sin nature. The Word of God is clear that without the recreating work of the Holy Spirit by the Gospel, we’re not able to wait because we don’t really want to wait. We’re not even the slightest bit interested in seeking the love that God is bringing. But that right there is a wonderful doorway for a Gospel transition. Shakespeare said it well. “Love sought is good, but giv’n unsought is better” (Twelfth Night, III, i, 170). We did not seek the Lord’s love, but He reached to us in Jesus and gave it anyway. When that message has its way with us, it changes the nature of the darkness we’re in—at least as far as the message of Advent is concerned. We’re in the darkness of anticipation, now, rather than sinful ignorance. We’re waiting for Christmas. We can’t see it yet, but we know it’s coming. We’re waiting for Holy Week. We’re not there yet, but we know it will arrive. We’re always watching for the Last Day. It hasn’t arrived yet. But still, “Your light will break forth like the dawn,” the Prophet Isaiah says of these things. He means to say that even as we are in the dark, each of these moments sits at the edge of arrival. Believers know this. We’re past midnight and the blackness of night is turning into day. As time is concerned, Christmas and Holy Week will be here soon enough. As far as the Last Day, Jesus said, “Be ready.” And so, by faith, Christians are ready.

I know I’ve mentioned to you before that I love the liturgical color blue that adorns the Lord’s house for Advent. It’s because of everything I mentioned already. The deep, dark blue that we use here at Our Savior is the perfect color for communicating this hopeful anticipation. Still, this is the last year in our three-year cycle for blue. We’ll return to using violet next year. Violet’s a good color, too. In fact, I often get razzed by fellow Lutherans because we’re using blue when violet is the more traditional color. Well, okay.

Anyway, no matter the liturgical color, my prayer for you is that the season of Advent will carry you in these wonderful theological currents. For the one who trusts in the merits of Jesus, each current ends in a good place. Each ends one brings us to the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross and the wonderful reward of eternal life given, whether that be when we die or if the Lord returns first in glory.

Even the Sun Will Blush

I hope you had a wonderful and restful Thanksgiving time with your family. I know I did. I had a chance to play with the kids, do a little reading and writing, and enjoy the Christmas décor we managed to get into place the weekend before.

Speaking of reading, if there were ever a reason to read from Luther besides his theology, it would be because of his practiced handling of language. He sure has a way with words.

I recently read a small devotional portion from one of his sermons from 1532. In particular, he was dealing with the text of 1 Corinthians 15:42-44 in which Paul describes the resurrection at the Last Day:

“So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that was sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.”

Luther said a lot of things about this text. Still, there were two parts that peeked through to the forefront. The first was the following:

“If we stand firmly in (Christ) and do not waver, our righteousness is so great that all our sins, whatever their name and nature may be, are like a little spark, and our righteousness is like an ocean…”

Did you catch that? He just set forth a most splendid image of what it means to be counted righteous before God at the Last Day because of Jesus. Imagine the ability of a tiny spark to maintain its life let alone grow to become a fire while the entirety of an ocean’s vastness is washing over it. That spark is anything and everything pertaining to your Sin. Covered in the ocean-sized righteousness of Christ, it doesn’t stand a chance.

Simply wonderful.

The other portion that resonated with me was this:

“Further, our shame which we shall bury so ingloriously is covered with a glory that is called ‘The Resurrection of Christ,’ and with this it is so beautifully adorned that even the sun will blush when it sees it and the angels will never be able to turn their eyes away from it.”

Wow. Even the sun will blush. Even the angels will be entranced, their attention held captive.

All of this matters to us as we come up and out of the Last Sunday of the Church Year in preparation for the holy season of Advent. Both of these have as their focus the return of our Lord in glory, but also the fulfillment of the promise that we, too, will see the resurrection of our bodies at the Last Day and will stand before the throne of Christ and behold him with eyes of flesh. Not with failing eyes, but rather with perfected and gloriously restored eyes. We will be united with our bodies that went into the ground, but in an instant, they will be changed and fashioned as unto the Lord’s own body for all eternity. Luther says that the glory of this event and all who comprise it will be an astounding emittance, a shining of magnificence that outpaces the sun in its brightness. Even the angels will be amazed.

Again, wow. Can you imagine it? By the inspired Word of God through Saint Paul we know it’s true. With Luther’s skillful help, we can almost see it.

I pray that this wonderful Gospel brings you peace as you enter into a time in the new Church Year designed to remind you of your salvation while at the same time setting your heart in anticipation of the coming Lord, not only in Bethlehem, but at the Last Day. I pray that your anticipating heart is filled with a faith that stands firmly in Christ and the knowledge of His immense love. I pray that by that same love, you will be stilled to know by faith you have a place with Him in the glories of heaven when your last breath comes.