This was my sermon from last week. I intended to post it earlier but here it is. Take a look and tell me what you think.
4th Sunday of Advent
Micah 5:2-5 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” 3 Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor gives birth and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites. 4 He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. 5 And he will be their peace. When the Assyrian invades our land and marches through our fortresses, we will raise against him seven shepherds, even eight leaders of men.
Hebrews 10:5-10 5 Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; 6 with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. 7 Then I said, ‘Here I am– it is written about me in the scroll– I have come to do your will, O God.'” 8 First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them” (although the law required them to be made). 9 Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Psalm 80:7 7 Restore us, O God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.
Amid the pageantry of Christmas, bright lights, festive decorations, and all the gold and silver, we come to a realization that the Pre-Existent Christ was born in Bethlehem, for one purpose, to carry the cross to Calvary and die on the cross that we might have life. In a real fashion Jesus was born to die that we might be forgiven and have life in Christ Jesus, our God and our King. It sounds harsh and cold, but it is the reality of this celebration of Jesus birth, the manger points to the cross.
As I have said before that the Church based its celebration of Christmas in the traditions of Easter or Passover. Even the liturgical history of our celebration points to the fact that Jesus has become our Passover lamb.
I. When we hear Easter we do not often think Passover. While we recognize that Passover and Easter often happen in proximity, at times we forget that there are some very specific reasons for this seeming coincidence.
a. In the early Church, Easter was called Passover, and in most non English speaking churches today, it is still referred to as Pascha, a word derived from the Hebrew word for Passover.
b. Easter and Passover have the same origin point, and Jesus is often referred to as the Paschal lamb or the Passover Lamb.
i. Now, I know this is not what you were thinking about this morning, but bear with me.
ii. In Exodus we find the following: Exodus 12:21-23 21 Then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. 22 Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. Not one of you shall go out the door of his house until morning. 23 When the LORD goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.
1. The Passover Lamb was selected and killed, the blood was applied via a hyssop branch to the top and both sides of the door frame.
2. This blood was applied as a sign that the angel of death should Passover the homes so marked and not kill the eldest son, the first born son, in the household.
3. The marking of blood saved the family from what the whole of Egypt experienced.
c. I recognize that this is not a very festive image to be holding in your mind on this the 4th Sunday of Advent but, friends there is a specific reason for drawing on this imagery.
i. Sometime later, Paul wrote the following in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 Hear these words, “Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast– as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.”
1. If you were wondering why the Early Church connected Jesus death to the Passover, we see one of the ways that the Apostle Paul helped people to understand the Passover in terms of Jesus.
a. Very clearly it is marked with some of the same elements, bread without yeast and a Passover lamb.
b. From Numbers 9:11-12 we read “They are to celebrate it on the fourteenth day of the second month at twilight. They are to eat the lamb, together with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 12 They must not leave any of it till morning or break any of its bones. When they celebrate the Passover, they must follow all the regulations.”
2. Lamb and bread are clearly part of the Passover and Paul recounts for us the understanding that Jesus is our Passover lamb, and he has been sacrificed for us.
II. So, what does this have to do with Christmas? This seems like something for a Lenten sermon not an Advent sermon. Yet, it is one of the reasons why Jesus was born.
a. The Author of Hebrews identifies the problem: 5 Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; 6with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased.
i. Jesus proclaims via Psalm 40:6-9 that the sacrifice and offerings did not please God the Father
1. Psalm 40:6-9 6 Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. 7 Then I said, “Here I am, I have come– it is written about me in the scroll. 8 I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” 9 I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, as you know, O LORD.
2. The Author of Hebrews provides for us a window into how the early Church read scripture.
3. And in doing so highlights a problem that has been identified for centuries.
a. Sacrifices are not enough to change the fundamental problem.
ii. Sacrifices and offerings did not accomplish the needed reconciliation between God and Humanity that has existed since sin fractured the relationship between God and humanity as we learn about in Genesis.
1. They may have helped to maintain a fractured relationship but they did not tear down the dividing wall between God and Humanity.
2. So, if they are not addressing the primary problem. What do we do? How do we find Peace with God?
b. Again going back to Psalm 40, the Author of Hebrews reminds us, 7 Then I said, ‘Here I am– it is written about me in the scroll– I have come to do your will, O God.'” 8 First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them” (although the law required them to be made).
i. First Jesus said, Sacrifice and offerings do not please God…
1. So what will please God?
ii. Then Jesus said, “Here I am- it is written about me in the scroll- I have come to do your will, O God.”
1. In his letter to the Church at Philippi the Apostle Paul quoted a bit of material used in worship, a creed, a hymn, a or something along these lines.
2. He quoted, Philippians 2:8-11 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
3. What pleased the Father that sacrifices and offerings never did? Jesus obedience, even obedience to death on the cross.
III. This obedience brings us peace with God. Hear the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to Romans 5:1-6 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. 6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.
a. We have peace with God because of our Lord Jesus Christ.
i. We have gained access by faith into the grace that we now live
ii. So, rejoice!
iii. We also should rejoice in our sufferings: Because suffering helps us to mature.
1. Suffering produces perseverance
2. Perseverance produces character
3. Character produces hope
4. Hope does not disappoint
a. Because God pours out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit
b. All of this because while we were still sinners, separated from God and powerless to change anything
i. Jesus our Passover lamb died for us
ii. And now we have peace with God!
c. This is God’s gift to us in Christ Jesus, as the Apostle Peter reminds us:
i. 2 Peter 1:2-9 2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
ii. God has given us all that we need for life and godliness.
1. We are at peace with God, so use the difficulties of life and pain to mature in Christ Jesus
2. We are promised we may participate in the divine nature and not engage the corruption caused by evil desires
3. We can live at Peace with God because of our Passover Lamb, born in Bethlehem and sacrificed on Calvary