Wednesday, November 28, 2012
The Turn of the Church Year
We are at the end of another church year and the beginning of a new one. The end of the church year as well as the beginning of Advent is a time in which we meditate upon the end of the world and the second coming of Jesus. We sing hymns like “The Day is Surely Drawing Near,” or “Wake Awake, for Night is Flying.” It is a constant reminder to live our lives in daily repentance.
Jesus is certainly coming. He is coming to judge the living and the dead. He will come as a thief in the night. He isn’t going to secretly snatch away all the true believers while everyone else gets left behind. No, He is going to raise up all the dead, and He is going to open the Book of Life and read from it who the righteous ones are. He is going to separate the goats from the sheep, casting those who are unrighteous away from His sight while taking those who love His appearing with Him to live with Him forever. This is expressed so beautifully in the last stanza of Paul Gerhardt’s hymn, “Oh Lord, How Shall I Meet You:”
He comes to judge the nations,
A terror to His foes,
A light of consolations
And blesséd hope to those
Who love the Lord’s appearing.
O glorious Sun, now come,
Send forth Your beams so cheering,
And guide us safely home.
Jesus is certainly coming. His Kingdom is coming. And Paul says that it is the lovers of Jesus’ appearing who will receive the crown of righteousness when Jesus comes again (2nd Tim 4:8). But how are we lovers of His appearing? We can only be lovers of His appearing if His kingdom comes to us, and it is already here for those who believe in His Name and trust Him alone for their forgiveness, life, and salvation. This is what we learn in the Catechism (Lord’s Prayer, 2nd Petition):
How does God’s kingdom come? God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father give us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.
We enjoy the
right here when we hear His holy
Word through which the Holy Spirit sustains us in our faith in Jesus. So when we pray to our Father in Heaven, we
aren’t praying to some remote place with clouds and cupid angels. Jesus doesn’t live on some planet far
away. No, heaven is close to us who
believe. Why? Because heaven is where God is, and those who
trust in Jesus alone and in His merits, His suffering and dying in your place,
His forgiveness – those who trust the God who justifies the ungodly, their
faith is counted as righteousness, and their God is not far from them. Heaven is high above us, because it is above
our understanding, as God says through the mouth of Isaiah: Kingdom of Heaven
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9)”
But if God has revealed His mercy to us in the suffering and dying of His Son, and if God sends the Word of Christ into our ears and into our hearts, then despite our small understanding we can know for certain that our heaven is actually very close to us.
And Heaven is close to us for our benefit. God’s presence among us is not known in any other way than through His Life-giving Word of Truth. We experience God not by getting warm fuzzies or when things are going our way at work or in our lives. No, we experience God when His Kingdom comes through the Word of peace and forgiveness of the crucified and risen Lord Jesus. We know Jesus because He continues to come to us in His Word. So when we keep dwelling in His Word, we get to know Him better. It is through faith in Him alone that we are lovers of His appearing.