Saturday, December 30, 2006

C, New Year's Eve - Romans 8:28-39 "The Eve of Eternity"

Part 1 — Introduction: Returning to the Normality of Life

After the almighty high of visiting the Bethlehem Inn and seeing the Son of God, the shepherds return to their pastures and flocks, once again melding back into the normality of life. But life now is not the same, having seen the Christ child and hearing that he was sent “for them — for you”.

But one might ask, “Really how different ‘is’ the normality of everyday life?” After all, the sheep still need water and pastures; the shepherds still need to stay with there sheep and protect them and themselves from the night. What if on returning to their flocks, after going to see the Christ child in Bethlehem, they found the flock scattered or destroyed by wild animals! Would this mean that God was no longer with them or for them?

What about as the years pass and the memory of that overwhelming time waned where the angels lit up the night sky and sang ‘Glory to God in the highest’, and was replaced with the real everyday struggles of life just to keep the sheep and family alive; what then of this God who was born for us and laid in a manger?

What about those in Bethlehem two years after the birth of Jesus? Was God really ‘for them and with them’ as Herod’s men systematically march through their homes slaughtering every boy two-years old and under? Where was the peace and goodwill the angels proclaimed in the following days when death marched through the hills of Bethlehem?

In the reality of life, is the struggle to live. Most of the time living can be down-right monotonous, depressing, and deadly! Year after year the same-old same-old, as the seasons come and go, and as life seems to get harder and harder.

It’s not much different for us either! Like the shepherds, our society is returning to normality of life after the Christmas rush. Following the high of Christmas, comes the reality that everything is still the same. The promises made by the advertisers, and consumed by us, are short lived. The happiness and good will promised in the gifts of a consumeristic Christmas leave most in debt, feeling unsatisfied, flat, and unfulfilled. It’s as if our society suffers from a by-polar disorder, falling into the valley of depression after Christmas until the next big commercial thing comes along promising to give you just what you need to make life a little better.

Where is the gift of Immanuel — God with us — in all of this? Perhaps the pressure of a commercial Christmas high, superficially hiding the reality of everyday struggles, makes you ask, “Is God really with me? Has God really chosen me, or is this just another hollow promise like everything else?” As you stand on the eve of a new year, where is your heart in relation to God? As we stumble from the wilderness and troubles of 2006 into the unknown of 2007, are you cynical about God’s plan for you? Are you pessimistic about God’s presence with you? Is God for you, is it worth persevering in the faith, is God preserving me, is the shepherd looking after the flock?

Part 2 — A Marriage Scenario

There is a husband, completely in love with his wife, 100% unquestioningly devoted! However, the wife questions his love at every moment, saying, “You don’t love me! You’re just saying that you do! I’m not worth being loved! I’m unlovable!” The wife’s life is one of doubt and mistrust even though the husband truly loves her. Over time the husband patiently waits for his wife to respond. All he wants is the wife to trust him and see that his love is genuine and freely given. But his wife is so consumed with herself and her selfish affairs that her trust never turns to her husband. And in the wife’s death the husband walks away from her in bitter anger and wrath.

Who is this husband? Who is this wife? Let me start by saying that the husband is no person sitting or standing in this place. There is not one husband, walking the earth today, who can 100% unquestioningly be devoted to his wife! So who is this man? Let’s return to him in a minute!

The wife! Well she can be identified very quickly! She is the one who stumbles from the wilderness and troubles of 2006 into the unknown of 2007. She is cynical about God’s plan for her? She is pessimistic about God’s presence with her? She questions, “Is God really for me, is God with me! In doubt she becomes so consumed with the affairs of her own troubled soul and in doubt ponders, “Is it worth persevering in the faith, is God preserving me, is the shepherd looking after the flock; is my husband looking after me?”

The church is the wife — that’s you and me. We are the bride of Christ — Jesus is the husband. And what a wayward wife we make for the One who loves us and is 100% unquestioningly devoted to us! We were unworthy, but, like the shepherds at Bethlehem who were also unclean, God came to us and sought us, the church, to be his holy bride. Now having been joined in matrimony through the husband’s sacrifice on the cross, we are called to believe the power of this sacrifice and the vows that Jesus makes to us in his word.

Like any marriage there are always tough times to be had! But unlike our human marriages, which suffer from the sins of both parties, the heavenly union between God and his church suffers only because of the bride and her sin. And this sin is exposed by the First Commandment when we worry; and doubt God, his word, and his ways.

Part 3 — The Call to Believe and Trust

However, in this life, we are being called to believe that God is faithful, persistent, and patient; even despite our sin — because in Christ our sin has lost its power on the cross. But, in our sinfulness we are tempted to think that God’s ways and word are not good enough to cleanse us and forgive us from sin, and as the troubles of this life persist and pile up, we begin to believe that God is not for us; that God is not with us anymore; allowing sin back its power once taken by the cross. And having allowed the doubts and mistrust (that God is with us and for us) to go unchecked and unforgiven, this lack of faith ends up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. So we end up once again becoming rebellious against God and seek to hide from his presence. As you believe, let it be done for you.

But, for us under the cross, what is left if we doubt the faith and the grace which freely flow from the cross; if we mistrust the love of God which comes to us in baptism, in his word, in the forgiveness of sins, and in the body and blood of Christ himself? What is left? Nothing!

Rather than doubt God, his word, and his ways, you and I need ask ourselves, “Why would God forsake me, having gone to such lengths to save me by sending his Son to the cross for me?” Then we need to understand that, “He was born for me, so that he could die for me and save me from my sin and my human nature that yearns to sin. And in doing this he now lives with me, in me, and for me. Together with all others he has called through his word.”

So hear the word of God and don’t hinder the Holy Spirit as he comes to you through it. Let him condemn you of your sin, so that you open your heart to Christ that he can put sin to death where it belongs… on the cross! Then let the Holy Spirit increase faith in you as you hear God’s word written by Saint Paul for the suffering church in Rome and the suffering church today…

28 …we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:28-39)

So rather than have “nothing” through unbelief, God promises that “nothing” will separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. So why then should you or I doubt him and separate ourselves from his gracious action on the cross and the faith giving work of the Holy Spirit?

Part 4 — Conclusion: On the Eve of Eternity

We have come from a year of drought and famine. What does 2007 hold for us… more of the same-old same-old… more drought and famine, maybe flood and rot, or perhaps ever death and destruction… who knows?

But what we do know and are call to believe is that in Christ we have come from a year of living in his eternal presence and today we sit on the eve of another year in God’s eternal presence here in this life and in the next.

If God is for us, who can be against us? As you believe, let it be done for you. Amen.

Listen to this sermon at

Friday, December 15, 2006

C, Advent 3 - Luke 3:7-18 "John the Baptizer"

Used by permisson from Rev William Cwirla’s Blogosphere (web address link at bottom of text). This weekend Friarpuk is flying to diaspora congregations in south-western Queensland and leading Christmas services and preaching his Christmas Day sermon.

A sermon on Luke 3:7-18 (3 Advent C)

John the Baptizer, witness, forerunner, way-preparer. He came in the wilderness to prepare people for the coming of Christ. John was a prophet, standing in the breach, with one foot in the old covenant, one foot in the new. John was a plough, cutting through the hard pack, turning over the soil of people’s hearts to make them ready for Messiah. John was just the beginning - the dawn before the daylight, the appetizer to the main course. John was the prelude, Jesus was the theme. “He must increase,” John said. “And I must decrease.” That’s true for each of us too.

John was a preacher who didn’t pull punches. John had nothing to lose. He wasn’t on anyone’s pay roll. He didn’t aspire to high synodical office. He didn’t have a wife and kids to feed. He didn’t own a house or have to pay a mortgage. He lived on honey-coated grasshoppers; his suit of camel’s hide lasted a lifetime. John was, for all intents and purposes, utterly dead to the world, and therefore, utterly free. He was free to tell the sharp-edged truth.

Large crowds came out to John to be baptized. A good religious show always does. People are always drawn to the new, the odd, the weird. People who otherwise wouldn’t set foot in an established church, will check out a new, non-traditional church, especially if the preacher puts on a good show. People flocked to John to be baptized by him. John’s baptism was something new. But John wasn’t exactly Mr. Seeker Sensitive extending the friendly hand to the masses. He calls them a “bunch of snakes,” a brood of vipers trying to slither out of bad situation.

John saw a bunch of religious looky loos looking for a cheap infusion of religion, and he nailed them. “Bear fruit fitting repentance.” Walk the talk. And don’t start prattling about how you’re a relative of Abraham or how you grew up in a nice Jewish family and how religion has always had a “really special place in your life.” John couldn’t care less. If God wants children of Abraham, He can raise children of Abraham out of a pile of rocks. But as for the crowds, time was running out. The axe was already at the root - chop, chop, chop - ready to cut down every tree that doesn’t produce. To hell with it, cut it down and use it for fire wood.

Amazingly, people actually put up with this stuff. Does that surprise you? It surprises me. I always figure that people hear enough bad news as it is. Why on earth would anyone go out to a grasshopper eating wild man who calls you a bunch of snakes and tells you to clean up your act before it’s too late? And then again, I’m not surprised. Some of the most popular forms of religion today are the strictest and most demanding. The tougher they are, the more popular they are in the mind of some. The more legalistic, the more popular.

The people even demanded specifics. “What should we do?” they asked John. And John told them what to do. If you have two tunics, give the extra one to someone who doesn’t have one. If you have extra food, give it to someone who is hungry. When tax collectors asked John what they were supposed to do, they probably expected him to say, “Stop collecting taxes for Rome.” But instead, John told them to collect only the tax they were supposed to collect and no more. When soldiers came, they too probably expected John to tell them, “Put down your guns, turn your swords into ploughshares, give up soldiering.” But instead, John gives them some very basic, common sense things to do. “Don’t extort money, don’t accuse people falsely, be content with your paycheck.”

You don’t need a wilderness prophet to tell you those things. Hopefully, you learned them from your mother or in Kindergarten, at least. Share your stuff. Be honest. Don’t bully others. Do a good job and be happy you have one.

I don’t know about you, but I would have expected something with a bit more teeth from John. More like Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. John’s law sounds like a yappie toy poodle next to Jesus’ Doberman. Things like, don’t even call your brother a name or harbour hatred in your heart. And don’t even think of looking at a pretty woman who isn’t your wife. If someone takes your tunic give him the shirt off your back. If your enemy strikes you on one cheek, present the other one to him for good measure, and then bless him and pray for him and love him and do good for him. What should you do? Be perfect, as your Father in heaven, is perfect. Now that’s law!

But, as I said at the beginning, John was the warm up act; Jesus was the main event. John was preparing the way for the coming of Jesus. In his own not-so-subtle way, John was retooling expectations. People were waiting anxiously, expectantly, for the coming of the messiah. Some even thought that John himself might be the messiah. The expectation of the day was that messiah would come as a great military, political, and religious figure who would purify the priesthood, restore the glory to the temple, kick out the Roman army and their tax agents, and put Israel back on the map. In many ways the attitude of your basic Israelite toward Rome is much like many Iraqis toward the Western World. Thanks for the plumbing and the roads, now go home and leave us alone.

John’s father Zechariah seemed to have this idea of the messiah. When John was born, Zechariah sang this psalm: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for He has come to redeem His people. He has raised up for us a horn of salvation…salvation from our enemies and from the hand of those who hate us.”

Even gentle Mary in her Magnificat betrays more than a hint of militarism in her Magnificat: He has shown the strength of His arm, He has scattered the proud in the conceit; He has brought down the mighty from the thrones, and has lifted up the humble.”

You see, this idea about the messiah was deeply rooted in the people (and still is among many messianic Jews today). A superman, a saviour who flexes divine muscle and makes the streets safe for the holy. And in many ways, that’s also our expectation of Jesus. We expect Him to exert a little of that divine omnipotence in our favour once and a while. We expect God to put down our enemies, to punish the wicked and to reward the good, and it galls us when we discover that He causes His rain and sunshine to fall on the good and the wicked alike.

We expect the first to come in first, not second or third. We expect prayers to be answered on a dime, and we get downright frustrated when they aren’t. We expect exemptions from the common maladies of humanities. We are, after all, God’s people, right? And if God is the respectable Deity He claims to be, we expect Him to take care of His people.

John’s picture of Jesus the Messiah was pretty hellfire and brimstone. He said, “I’m nothing but a flea compared to the One who’s coming. He’s so powerful, I’m not worthy to be His slave and untie his sandals. I baptize you with water, but you watch. When He comes, He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. He’s coming to judge, to sort the wheat from the chaff, and burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. And that’s what John called preaching the good news! (I’d hate to hear bad news from John!)

Aren’t you glad the Gospel begins with John, but it doesn’t end with him? Aren’t you glad there’s more? I am. When Jesus finally appears in the wilderness, He isn’t anything like John described. There’s no winnowing fork in His hand. No baptism with Spirit and fire. No axe laid to the root. Instead, Jesus voluntary submits to John’s baptism of repentance. The One who John said was so great and mighty he wasn’t worthy to untie His sandals, stoops down before John to be baptized by him. And John immediately sensed that everything was upside down. He should be baptized by Jesus, but instead he’s baptizing Jesus. What kind of messiah is this?

Later on from Herod’s prison, John would ask the $6 million messianic question: “Are you the One we were expecting, or do we look for another?” Jesus was simply not the kind of messiah anyone was expecting. Who expected the messiah of God to be rejected by His own people, by their religious leaders? Who expected the messiah to hang out with tax collectors and all sorts of sinners and criticize the religious for their hypocrisy? Who expected the messiah to be handed over first to the religious court and then to the political court, be tried and convicted and crucified between two terrorists? I can assure you, there wasn’t an Israelite alive and breathing at the time of Jesus - not John, not the disciples, not even Mary - who expected the kind of messiah Jesus turned out to be.

And thank God for it! Thank the Lord that He rearranges our expectations and turns them on their head and spins them around until their dizzy. We’d be putting a band aid on this problem, and a patch on that problem. We’d be inventing religions to try to reach up to God, to get closer to Him, to bribe Him and win His favour. But Jesus takes all our religious expectations, all the things we lay on God, all the ways we have for remaking God in our own image and likeness, and He crucifies them. Jesus took all the messianic expectations of Israel - of power and might and glory - and He did it all under the opposite appearance. A messiah who was despised, rejected, crucified. And there in His dark death, there in the broken man of the cross is God’s messiah, His Christ, the strength of His arm to save you, me, and world from enemies - sin, death, devil, the Law.

John didn’t know (how could he?) that the way to salvation, freedom, peace, and life is not through power, not through military might, not politics, but through the death and resurrection of one Man, the Son of God in human flesh.

John didn’t know (how could he?) that the axe of God’s judgment against our sin would be laid at the root of Jesse, at the root of the Son of David, the promised successor to David’s throne. John didn’t know (how could he?) that the winnowing fork of the Law would judge the Son of God guilty in our place and treat Him as chaff to be burned.

John didn’t know (what we know) that Jesus the Messiah, the Christ, was made to be our sin, though He was sinless, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. John would soon get an inkling in Jesus’ baptism, that the purpose of Jesus’ coming was not to judge but to be judged, not to condemn, but to be condemned, to be God’s Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.

That doesn’t’ mean John was wrong. He was simply farsighted. He saw the long view of the Messiah, but the close-in view was out of focus. Christ will come to judge the living and the dead. We confess that every Sunday, as the church has for centuries. He will sort the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats, faith from unbelief, on the day of His appearing in glory. He has already baptized the church in the wind and fire of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and He will one day blow His fiery breath over all the world and destroy it.

But know this, my dear friends in Christ, and cling to it in faith: The One who comes to judge the living and the dead has been judged for you. The One who comes with baptismal wind and fire has baptized you. The One who will gather the wheat into His barn has already gathered you into His death, and has promised never to let you go. The One who will welcome His believers to His marriage feast welcomes you to His Supper, a foretaste, an appetizer, of the feast that is to come. The One who will judge your works has died for your sins and spoken His forgiveness in your hearing.

That’s why the day of His appearing is something to look forward to with hope, with joy, with expectation.

The Lord is near! Rejoice! Amen. Luke 3:7-14/3 Advent / 14 December, 2003 /Holy Trinity - Hacienda Heights / Rev WM Cwirla

Saturday, December 09, 2006

C, Advent 2 "God is for me!"

Wherever we stand, we stand with a sense of importance. We know that before God we are important, but sometimes our importance is based on our own greatness. Life is all about me. I am...
But who are we in the scheme of things. Today this sermon is going will be mostly spoken by pictures. Look at the point were we stand! Right here at the Children’s Christmas service it’s pretty much the centre of things for us at this moment (for those at home it’s sitting at your computer at this moment).

But let’s move back from ourselves and see where we stand, physically and in the scheme of the bigger picture. As we can see here is the church. We are inside of it. But we are getting small. Even the car looks small, that’s parked outside the manse. Let’s take a few more steps backwards.

Now we can’t even see the car anymore as we look down upon our town. We can see the roads coming to and from Chinchilla, but the church is too small to be seen and so are we.

These next two pictures show us more and more of the big picture, but Chinchilla is now a speck at the end of the arrow. And we are somewhere at the end of the arrow too, in the speck that’s now Chinchilla.

We are getting smaller and smaller, now that more and more is revealed, as we see more and more of the big picture.

Chinchilla is now out of sight. Australia is just a shape on a globe, this globe we know as earth. In fact there are many other globes the same size as us, they are planets. We live in the solar system with many other planets.

When we see that there are larger planets; earth is getting smaller and smaller. It is amazing that billions and billions of people live on this tiny planet. We here in the church are members of the human race that makes up the billions and billions that live on earth. Right now as we sit here the sun is burning and our planet and others are revolving around this golden ball.

But our sun is tiny in comparison with the other stars in the solar system. Some of these bigger stars appear insignificant in our night sky, in fact some are barely visible. But if we got in a space ship and flew to the vicinity of these stars our sun would not be seen at all. Nor would Jupiter or our earth, or Australia, or the Darling Downs, or Chinchilla, or Trinity Lutheran Church, or you and me.
Antares is the 15th brightest star in the sky, it is 1000 light-years away. There are probably more stars out there than we will ever know about! If we look at the picture of Antares our Sun is not even visible!
Is life all about me! If I consider life as much more than the life we as individuals have, or even the collective life of the human race, we stand in a solar system, on a planet, in a country, that, in the scheme of things, is not even a pin prick. But infinitely greater than any of these is God. In comparison to any created thing God cannot be measured or even be seen because of his greatness. In fact life is all about God, rather than us, God is the great I AM!
So when we consider God in his greatness, against our smallness, it comes as a shock that God would even consider us. But he created all these things around us for us. Even though in our sinfulness we turn the universe around and dethrone God, the great I AM, and in his place perceive that I am the greatest!

But because God’s love for us was so great, he came to us. He came to our seemingly insignificant world. He came to a point in time. God who is greater than any created thing came to a place not that far away from us. God came to Israel, to Nazareth, into a girl that was only about 12 to 16 years old. This girl was no one special until God bestowed upon her the highest honour of any woman, to bear a son. Not just any son but the Son of God. Mary gave birth to the One, who was greater than all creation; who was in fact the creator of it.

But when God Almighty came into this girl, she was not married to Joseph. She was the object of shame. Furthermore she and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem according to the law of the land for a census.

When they got to Bethlehem Mary began to give birth. No one took Mary and Joseph in, and so they gave birth to the Son of God, amongst animals at the back of an inn, and they laid him in a manger. God was laid in one place in his creation, not a very suitable place for a king, let alone the King of Creation.

This is how important we are to God. He gave us the gift of his Son and later demanded of him that he die on the cross so that we might once again look away from ourselves and look to God as the most important in all creation.

God is now present before all of us, here in this place, in church, because he came as a baby at Bethlehem and was nailed to one place on a cross outside Jerusalem. Why did God, who is so big he makes us look so small, do what he did? Why did he come; why does he still come? He did it FOR ME, to forgive my sin; so that I am his, and he is mine. God is so big and we are so small, he is without sin and we will die because of sin. But he died FOR ME so that we who are tiny might live in and with him forever! God says, I AM who I AM and now because of the gift of Jesus FOR ME, we will be who he has recreated US to be! Amen.

PDF file of sermon available by request via email at

Friday, December 01, 2006

C, Advent 1 - Psalm 25:1-10 "Good & Upright is the Lord"

There once was a working class man, who became king. He treated his palace staff as though they were royalty; he even refurbished the workers’ living quarters to palace standards. The new king was compassionate and kind; he wanted the best for his servants having been a labourer once too.

But in time his staff became conceited and loathed the king — even his generous rule. They got up to all sorts of revelry in their plush living quarters and after a short time it looked more like a pig sty than the property of the palace. They destroyed their regal residence and the name of the king was slandered inside its wall.

In fact, his servant subjects had completely rejected his rule and they credited themselves with the prosperity which had been bestowed upon them. The king knew about this and was grieved in his heart. But rather than rid himself of these workers, he patiently and continually encouraged them to renew their allegiance to him and his rule so that peace and harmony would return once again to the servants’ living quarters.

In time the king had a son, but the staff had become so rebellious and distracted by their own importance they didn’t even realise the king had borne an heir to the throne. This boy knew nothing of the working class life from which his father had come. All he had ever experienced inside the walls of the palace was his princely life.

So the king lovingly sent his son, to live as a working class servant boy, to experience life outside the palace walls, so he might better understand his father’s kingdom and better lead the country when he became king. The boy went to work and live with the palace staff; no doubt he very quickly got some real life experience.

Picture what this young boy walked from… cleanliness, prestige, excesses, good manners, honour, and respect. Now picture what he walked into… dirtiness, coarseness, hard work, debauchery, drunkenness, disrespect, disunity and fighting. This was hardly an inheritance for a king!

King David was an earthy working class man too. He grew up as a shepherd boy. But God saw that this lowly boy became king.

David seeks God’s mercy in Psalm 25, saying, To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; 2 in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. 3 No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse. 4 Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; 5 guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Saviour, and my hope is in you all day long. 6 Remember, O Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. 7 Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O Lord. 8 Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. 9 He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. 10 All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of his covenant. (Psalm 25:1-10 NIV)

King David knew where he stood with the Lord; he knew he was a sinner. In the very next verse, after what we have just heard, David pours his heart out to God, saying, For the sake of your name, O Lord, forgive my iniquity, though it is great. (Psalm 25:11) David knew the Lord’s way was loving and faithful. However, for a sinner like David to keep the demands of the covenant is impossible, and it brings this cry of contrition from his lips — for the sake of your name, O Lord, forgive my sin, though it is great.

For the sake of God’s name, these inspired words from David among others, needed to be fulfilled in the advent of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. So we do well to see this Psalm, and all Psalms—in fact, the complete Old Testament—fulfilled in Christ. Jesus needed to come into the world as a servant; the creator needed to be created, it was advantageous for us that God make his advent amongst us.

We—like King David and the rebellious workers we’ve just heard about—need a Saviour. None of us can keep God’s covenant, and, therefore, receive God’s loving and faithful ways. All of us left to our own devices become treacherous without excuse; before God our best work still brings us shame. We all need Christ’s coming and his supreme sacrifice. In fact, we do receive God’s faithfulness and loving guidance, but only because of Jesus Christ.

In this Advent season as we prepare for Christmas, the coming and birth of God amongst us, let’s focus on two things. Firstly, the heights from which God the Son came to dwell among us. And secondly, the lengths and depths to which he went, so that we his sinful rebellious and treacherous servants might be saved. In clearly hearing and grasping the sanctity and privileged position of Almighty God over against the utter depths to which we and all people have slumped, only then do we even begin to truly appreciate just what the grace of God is and how privileged we are to receive it!

Look at it from the point of view of the son sent to live in the servant’s quarters. How much would the contrast have struck him between princely exuberance in which he had lived and the squalor and filth into which he was delivered? Think of the shame and despair he must have felt! Had he done something wrong, did his father, the king, still love him? Had he been sent to the palace quarters to die with the sacrilegious servants?

Now let’s use Psalm 25 to see Christ’s advent — from his point of view. To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse. Jesus came from heaven to us, he came from timelessness to a point in time, he the creator was created as a weak baby, he came from infinite knowledge and power, to be born by a mother who was pregnant outside wedlock, and grew to be the son of a lowly Nazareth carpenter. He was handed over to treacherous men, and put to shame because of our sinful ways. It looked as though his enemies had triumphed over him. And yet, he still trusted in his Father who sent him into his fallen sinful creation to save us.

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Saviour, and my hope is in you all day long. God taught him his paths and showed him the way that led straight to the cross. Jesus knew the truth, he was innocent and we are guilty. Yet Jesus’ hope remained in God all day long and now we are called to faith in him who was faithful to his Father’s will for our benefit.

Remember, O Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O Lord. Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. Put yourself in Jesus’ place. How great would God’s goodness and mercy and love “seem to be” if it was you he had sent to die. Our sin and rebellious ways have continued from of old, right back to our youth. God remembered them and placed them on his innocent Son. How good was that for Jesus, who is good? How good is this for us, who are not good? Yet we walk in freedom while the Almighty King of the universe, in all goodness and godliness, walked the way of the cross.

He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of his covenant. Christ came as King and humbled himself and became obedient unto death, death on a cursed cross. This is the loving and faithful way the Lord walked even though he kept every demand of the covenant.

As we reflect on Christ’s first coming, and wait for Christ’s second coming, know that all the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful for us, because Jesus Christ has kept the demands of the covenant. So be humble, repent, seek what is right, and allow him to teach you his way.

By your Holy Spirit, Lord, give us the power to trust your Word, to watch, and to pray. Amen.

Sermon Audio can be found at“good-upright-is-the-lord”-c-advent-1/