Advent Midweek 3 LSB #’s 348, 341:1-2, 4; 350
Text – 2 Peter 3:13
But according to His promise we are waiting for new heavens & a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
PRAYING, COME LORD JESUS, TO HIM WHO WILL COME AGAIN
TO BRING FINAL VICTORY
Have you noticed? There are lots of opportunities for worship this time of year. Even though it’s not yet December 25th, in many places various forms of Christmas worship have been going on for some time. Right now I’m thinking of one particular example.
It is quite traditional. It’s been around a long time. It is heavily promoted. The houses of worship are filled. Music is always playing. The sanctuaries are adorned with impressive holiday color & beauty. This particular example of Christmas worship consistently proclaims a gospel that promises relief from cares & hope for the future.
But there is a problem. Even though it’s popular, though it claims to celebrate Christmas, it is Christmas worship without Christ. With this type of so-called worship “Jesus is NOT the Reason for the Season.” I’m thinking of the worldly version of Christmas that promotes money & material possessions as the ultimate source of relief & hope.
Jesus described money as one of the world’s gods. In his Large Catechism, Luther said a false god is something that people ultimately look to in time of need. Anything besides the true God that we trust in becomes for us a false god. Money, & the things it buys, is always near the top of that list for many people.
From that perspective, we could say this false god’s houses of worship might be stores & shopping venues. You can even worship online through the temple of Amazon. The marketers & advertisers are evangelists for the god money & its worship known as materialism. You could even play around with this image & say that cash registers are like altars of sacrifice which promise blessings if our offering is large enough. This is a materialistic approach that could be called, “Christmas worship.”
Now, merely shopping for Christmas presents is not in itself worship of money. Rather, it is the fallen world’s approach, & our fallen nature’s approach, to money that makes it worship. We can buy things, including Christmas presents, for good reasons. Our Christmas shopping does not have to be a materialistic practice.
But make no mistake about it, the devil will tempt & our sinful nature will often fall for such false hope. Jesus was well aware of this. So in the parable of the Sower He warned against what He called “the cares of the world & the deceitfulness of riches.” He said that these can choke out the word of God.
In these Advent services, we’ve been listening to Jesus’ words in the parable of the Sower to help us focus on God’s word, especially on daily devotions with God’s Word. So far we’ve considered how Jesus came & still comes to overcome the devil & our sinful nature. Today, we focus on Him overcoming the sinful world. Hear His description in the parable:
“A sower went out to sow, & as he sowed, some . . . seeds fell among thorns, & the thorns grew up & choked them.” Then He explained that the seed represents the Word of God: “As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world & the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, & it proves unfruitful.” (Matthew 13:7, 22)
That is to say, when the world’s cares & false hopes close off the word of Jesus from us, it is like plants being choked out by weeds. Worldly cares & false hopes can take various forms. Earlier I described materialism in the world’s false Christmas. Another is atheism & false beliefs that seek to discredit God’s word & teach empty, human centered philosophies.
There is also the most basic form in the worship of self, which the world fully promotes.
God declares that someday He will return to put an end to it all. Jesus will come back in power to judge the living & the dead. There is no negotiating with the sinful world, it must be destroyed before a new one is created to replace it. In his 2nd letter, the apostle Peter writes,
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, & the earth & everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy & godly lives as you look forward to the day of God & speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, & the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with His promise we are looking forward to a new heaven & a new earth, where righteousness dwells” (3:10–13).
And a new thing is coming. Christmas advertisers tell you to buy the latest new thing. Our Lord promises to give us the last new thing – the new heaven & the new earth. This will happen when He returns.
It was our Creator’s plan from the beginning. The promise of a new world was given through Isaiah in the OT. As prophesied, Jesus came to redeem His people in the fallen world so He could take them to a new one when He returns, a new & better world, called “the home of righteousness.”
Jesus could do this because He & His kingdom are not of this world. When He came that 1st Christmas, promising to bring peace on earth & good will to man, it was not the world’s fleeting form of peace that He promised. As He said during His ministry:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled & do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)
God’s Son made available to us this peace when He took up the sin of the world & carried it to the cross. It was through the peace of His cross & resurrection that true hope was given right in the face of the world’s lies. You know these words of Jesus: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33) This peace, that we know now only by faith, will transform every part of life in the new world – the new world Jesus will bring when He returns. In the Book of Revelation, John prophesied:
“Then I saw ‘a new heaven & a new earth,’ for the 1st heaven & the 1st earth had passed away, & there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, & He will dwell with them. They will be His people, & God himself will be with them & be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy & true.’” (21:1-5)
It is the promise of God’s word that is “trustworthy & true” which wipes away our fears of this world coming to an end. After God judges the world for its unbelief, He will take us to a new world where peace with God & with one another abounds.
That’s why we gather together to encourage one another in communities of faith as we wait for Christ’s return. That is what the church does in its worship. It forms people into the community of faith that draws hope from the word of God amidst the sinful world.
But let me ask, “Is weekly worship enough?” I would say, “No.” The world calls us to take part in its false worship seven days a week. Therefore, we need to receive guidance & strength from God’s word each day. This Advent we’ve been stressing daily devotions. They are more important than ever today. Every day we need the life given by God’s word.
This is also vital for raising children. They experience the world’s messages 24/7. It has access to their heart, mind & soul through social media, TV, YouTube & video games. What messages are they getting? Certainly not all are evil, but some are. To counter those daily messages they need forming in the faith each day as we read God’s word & pray with them.
Children also need the Word of God’s law to show them their need for a Savior, & they
need the good news of what Jesus has done for their salvation to give them faith. When they leave home for school or work we want them to be well-grounded in a faith that will not allow the world’s cares & deceitful desires to choke it off. Daily devotions in the home, on top of weekly worship at church, help to make this happen.
Does that mean devotions are just for children? All households need daily devotions; married people with an empty nest, single adults at every stage of life. We need support from one another with the word of God. Music can be heard through technology to support singing the faith.
New communication technologies can help us stay connected to God’s word & one another, as we’ve seen through live streaming our services. In addition to older inventions like the printed word, we now have Bible apps that can read God’s word to us. There are even Bible apps that enable people living in different homes to engage in daily devotions together.
Technology isn’t for everyone so fortunately all you really need is a Bible. There are many resources out there that can be used to encourage us with the good news of Jesus Christ. So, this Christmas, don’t let the world’s worship push Christ out. Keep coming to God’s house where our focus is on the true Lord.
Keep Christ in your home through daily devotions, & encourage one another, all the more as you see the day approaching, finding strength in knowing Jesus will come back & bring in the new “home of righteousness” where true joys abound. Amen.
Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates! Behold, the King of glory waits. The King of kings is drawing near; the Savior of the world is here. Life & salvation He doth bring; therefore rejoice & gladly sing. To God the Father raise your joyful songs of praise. Fling wide the portals of your heart; make it a temple set apart from earthly use for heavens employ, adorned with praise & love & joy. So shall your Sovereign enter in & new & nobler life begin. To God alone be praise for word & deed & grace! Amen. LSB 341:1, 4.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet