2nd Sunday after Christmas LSB #’s 386, 331, 366
Text – Ephesians 1:7, 10
In [Christ] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace… as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven & things on earth.
HEAVEN & EARTH
“Imagine there’s no heaven It’s easy if you try No hell below us Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today Imagine there’s no countries It isn’t hard to do Nothing to kill or die for And no religion too Imagine all the people living life in peace You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one I hope someday you’ll join us And the world will be as one…”
Those are the opening lyrics from the John Lennon song Imagine. It’s ironic that his dream was for world peace yet he believed that it could be achieved without religion. Granted, there are a lot of ‘bad’ religions in our world, & all the world’s religious leaders are sinful. It’s not a pretty system, but Christianity is the only one that our heavenly Father has given us.
It has been perverted, misused, corrupted, twisted & taken advantage of, yet it is the only religion of the world that is based entirely upon the truth. It faces the harsh reality of mankind’s depravity & it does so with honesty. There is nothing that human beings can do to fix this broken world. We can’t imagine away disease, or killing, or religion, or heaven or hell.
The Creator of all that exists has a plan to fix everything & it costs us nothing. We don’t have to earn it, plan it or build it. Jesus came as a helpless baby to the sleepy little town of Bethlehem in order to create & reveal the peace between God & man that our Lord & Master was giving to us as a gift. He only asks that we open that gift.
His gift is a simple plan that achieves everything our world needs to be restored, renewed & re-created. Sin ruined our heavenly Father’s first creation but it cannot destroy the second one, nor can it ruin God’s plan to rescue us from the brokenness of the first creation. Jesus only asks that we open the gift & believe that it’s real. Can you imagine the family being gathered around the tree on Christmas Eve & someone refuses to open their gift? That would be highly irrational & the same is true for anyone who refuses to open the gift Jesus brings to us.
Lucifer’s plan is simple as well. His entire strategy involves nothing more than to deceive us into thinking that God’s plan is not real. Satan’s only hope is that he can fool us into not opening the gift, of peace & of re-creation, that our Savior offers. How many of you refused to open one or more of your gifts this Christmas? It’s a foolish thought, isn’t it?
Listen to St. Paul’s description of our Savior’s gift to us: “Blessed be the God & Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, …that we should be holy & blameless before Him.” That is the gift Jesus came to bring from our heavenly Creator – holy & blameless before Him.
Have you ever thought about that, what that means, how it impacts the way we can live? Have you ever pulled that gift out of the box, read the instructions, installed the batteries? Rather than imagine what the world would be like without religion, how about we imagine what the world would be like if all of us, just us here in this room, would open & use that gift?
No more anguish of guilt & shame. No more feelings of insecurity & worthlessness. No more anxiety or feelings of inadequacy. We wouldn’t be afraid to speak about Jesus Christ & His love for us. We wouldn’t shy away from telling others about all that Jesus has done to create peace in our hearts, whether at work, or at home or at play.
What St. Paul is teaching us in Ephesians chapter 1 is this: In spite of the world’s hatred for Christianity, there can only be peace on earth when people are centered in Christ. He alone brings peace that is authentic & real. It is ONLY in Christ that all things will be reunited in perfect harmony, as before The Fall. He didn’t come JUST to pay for our sins, but to restore all of His creation. Forgiveness heals & restores human beings, but we still live in a broken world. At the Fall, our home was also condemned as unsafe. Earthquakes & fire, flooding & draught, they all hurt, maim & kill not just God’s children, but all creatures of land & air & sea.
The prophet Isaiah paints a picture of heaven quite different from the pearly gates picture most people have in their minds. In chapter 11 he writes: “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, & the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, & the calf & the lion & the fattened calf together; & a little child shall lead them.” That is a picture of the re-created Creation.
Things in heaven & things on earth will be restored & renewed in a way that today we can scarcely imagine. That’s because things in heaven & things on earth will be reunited in Christ. It’ll be far better than a world with no religion. It will be a world without sin, without corruption & without death.
With Christ as its head, the Church is made alive, raised & seated with our Lord. With Christ as its head, the Church is built together & grows together as an organic temple. This bodily temple has the purpose of glorifying the Father. The Church has been united with & built up in Christ. All the while, within this very temple, the Spirit of Yahweh dwells.
“In [Christ] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace… as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven & things on earth.” (Ephesians 1:7, 10 ESV)
The pairing of the words heaven & earth occurs over 180 times in the Bible, all the way from Genesis to Revelation. On this 2nd Sunday after Christmas it is good to remember that Christ’s birth was not simply about rescuing the human race, but about reuniting all of the universe, the heavens & the earth – our Lord’s entire Creation. It is being reunited under the headship of Christ who is God & Man. The Fall into sin separated, not just mankind, but all of Creation from the perfection & harmony that existed prior to Adam & Eve’s disobedience. St. Paul wrote in the 8th chapter of Romans:
“The creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death & decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” (8:21-22 NLT)
Yes, there are a lot of reasons to imagine people living life in peace. There certainly is a great need for the world to be as one, with nothing to kill or die for. However, trying to eliminate heaven, hell & religion, by imagining it is the devil’s answer, not God’s. Our hope & the certainly of paradise for all eternity lies not in human effort, & thank God it does not.
What the Word of God is teaching us in Ephesians 1 is that our salvation, our life everlasting in paradise, our rescue from the suffering & sorrow of this tragic world, comes out of our heavenly Father’s love for us, pure & simple. He determined that before the foundation of the world, in other words, even before, “In the beginning God created the heavens & the earth.”
Our Father chose us in Christ, which is a special state of relationship. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.” “In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.”
For God’s children, there is no urgent need to imagine a better life. We already have heaven as our home. Yes, it certainly is hidden yet today. It’s kind of like the presents that were under the tree just 10 days ago. Most of them were hidden in wrapping paper, or in a decorative bag, but the gifts were no less real for being hidden. Likewise, the eternal life we already possess is certainly hidden, & under far less decorative means than most Christmas presents. Our frail, aging & even broken bodies are nothing to be impressed by. Our human flesh will certainly betray us in this life. It will be resurrected, however, glorious & imperishable for the next life.
This is certain because Yahweh has washed, marked & sealed us by the power of His mighty Word connected to the waters of our Baptism. Not until we experience everlasting life will we fully realize the wonders of these verses written by St. Paul to the church at Ephesus. They are written though, to strengthen & encourage us for our daily work of repentance.
In the meantime, there are only 51 more weeks until Christmas. Won’t you open this year’s gift – “holy & blameless before God,” & believe it before next year’s gift arrives? Amen.
The everlasting Son incarnate deigns to be, Himself a servant’s form puts on to set His servants free. O Zion’s daughter, rise to meet your lowly King, nor let your faithless heart despise the peace He comes to bring. As judge, on clouds of light, He soon will come again & His true members all unite with Him in heaven to reign. All glory to the Son, Who comes to set us free, with Father, Spirit, ever one through all eternity. Amen. LSB 331:2-4, 6
 Ephesians 1:3-4 ESV
 Isaiah 11:6 ESV
 Ephesians 1:7 ESV
 Ephesians 1:11 ESV
Pastor Dean R. Poellet