12. December 2012
Advent 2 Midweek
The superscription to Psalm 63 reads: “A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.” The wilderness is barren, devoid of life. It is a place of danger, from wild beasts, hunger, and thirst. There is little shelter from wind or storm. Travel is difficult at best.
Our earthly life is a wilderness journey. We have been redeemed by the blood of the lamb. We were baptized into Christ, passing though His Red Sea deliverance and sent towards the promised land. Between us and our heavenly Canaan is wilderness wandering. You have been freed from slavery to the evil and sent forward redeemed to dwell with God again in heaven. But…
“Are we there yet?” the anthem rings out from the backseat. Yes, it’s a long trip from baptism to eternal life. We’re prone to be anxious along the way. “Are we there yet? I’m hungry! I’m thirsty! I’m bored! I’m lonely!” Christian pilgrims are like little children who let our anxiety get the better of us.
The journey is difficult and the labor long. Suffering plagues us. Guilt burdens us. Shame haunts us. Death looms large. We can seek solace in the the things of this world. We try to answer our longing with creature comforts. We stuff our faces and yet are never satisfied. We drink until intoxicated and yet can’t forget our problems. We distract ourselves with entertainment and other excitements but never find the joy we seek. We find companionship in spouse or friends but something is still missing.
We need Jesus. We need Him to come. We get bored with life. We’re lonely in our meandering in this wilderness of sin and death. We get thirsty for righteousness. We need manna from heaven to feed us. And when He comes we need Him to abide with us.
The season of Advent is about walking to our Lord’s incarnation and to the cross and resurrection. It is the beginning of our yearly pilgrimage through Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, and back to Pentecost. This festival half of the church year draws our attention to Christ and His redemption. “Come, Lord Jesus!” The chorus rings out from Christians. “Come, Lord Jesus!”
He has come, comes, and will come again. He came in the flesh to be our elder brother. He comes in the font, from the pulpit, and on the altar. He will come to judge all and take us finally into His eternal dwelling. He comes. As we wander on to heaven we ask Him to abide with us.
David was in the same wilderness. “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” Whether in an actual wilderness or the wilderness wandering of the Christian, we need Christ’s abiding presence. Who but Christ can be our guide and stay? We thirst for Him as we are parched and weary in this journey.
Where do we look for our God? Where is He to be found? Where does Christ abide with us? Even when life is dark or our soul parched where has Christ always promised to be? “I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.” Christ comes to serve us although clothed in weakness and humility. In this sanctuary, Christ speaks but through humble and weak words of a mere pastor. We see simple water and yet it is a saving flood and a washing of rebirth by the Holy Spirit. We eat wafers of unleavened bread and drink wine and Christ says it is His body and His blood, given and shed from the cross into our very mouths for forgiveness, life, and salvation. In faith in this sanctuary we behold Our Lord’s power and glory, although it looks humble and meek.
There’s no need to be anxious though we suffer, though we are weak, and even though we die. Your Lord’s steadfast love is better than life. His love abides. Your soul is already satisfied as Christ fills it with rich food. Christ abides with you and gives you with Himself. This is all grace. It is all gift. Given without merit or worthiness. Given freely. Nothing to do but receive.
Pr. Lyte wrote “Abide with Me” as he suffered with tuberculousis and death approached. He either read or sang this hymn to his congregation the last Sunday he presided there. Surely it was a bittersweet time. As we consider his poetry we know that His hope was David’s hope. He feared no foe for the Lord was at hand to bless. The Lord’s right hand upheld him. Ills had no weight and tears no bitterness. The last enemy to be defeated already was. Where is death’s sting? Where, grace, thy victory? As he said in his farewell sermon: “O brethren, I stand here among you today, as alive from the dead, if I may hope to impress it upon you, and induce you to prepare for that solemn hour which must come to all, by a timely acquaintance with the death of Christ.”
Those who sought to destroy His life were already plunged with Christ into the depths of the earth. The sword of the Word has slayed every enemy. Sin is eaten up with forgiveness. Devil is forever wounded by Christ’s cross. Death is buried deep and only life persists for those in Christ.
What but God’s good gifts can foil the tempters power? Only the King of kings with kind and good healing, a friend of sinners. Only His cross shines through the gloom and points us toward heaven’s morning. In the brilliance of His death all vain shadows flee and only triumph remains. He gives us the sweet fruit of the cross and there abides with us.
Therefore our lips praise Jesus. In His name we lift up our hands in prayer. Our mouths are filled with His praise. We remember our Lord’s gracious giving when the darkness falls. He is the light of man. We meditate upon Jesus Christ through the watches of the night. We rejoice in Christ for He has been our help. In the shadow of His wings we sing for joy.
The darkness deepens. Fast falls the eventide. Life’s little day is swift to close. Earth’s joy’s grow dim. It’s vain glories pass away. But there is light in Christ. The glorious Easter day has dawned up on us. Heaven’s light shines forth and every shadow flees. “Are we there yet?” No bother. The destination is known and life in Christ assured. Lord, abide with us and keep us to the morning light.
In Name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church