Here is the third and final Advent Devotion this year as next week you’ll be getting the sermons for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in your emails.
This one is on a lesser sung hymn in our Advent section, “What Hope! An Eden Prophesied!” LSB 342. It reminds us that God’s plan for our salvation was not something He thought up on a whim, but something He had put in place way back in the beginning. He knew exactly how He would bring us back to Him, and when the time was right, He put His plan in motion.
What hope! An Eden prophesied Where tame live with the wild; The lamb and lion side by side, led by a little child.
We gather here tonight to continue to prepare for the birth of the Christ, or the Messiah. That’s what Christ is in the Hebrew language as we heard this pasts Sunday. The anointed one, the promised one, the one sent by God. You see, Jesus didn’t just show up into a vacuum. People had been expecting His arrival for many, many years.
It was in the Garden of Eden, as this first verse reminds us, that God, the Father, first gave the prophecy of the coming Messiah, when He told the serpent in the presence of Adam and Eve that she would bear a son who would bruise the serpents head, just as the serpent would bruise His heal – but more on that later. Suffice to say, the followers of God were more than passingly familiar with the promise of the coming Messiah. There were over 300 prophesies of the coming Messiah in the Old Testament, and by the time He finally arrived, the people thought that they knew the signs to look for.
A shoot will sprout from Jesse’s stem, a branch from David’s line, A Prince of Peace in Bethlehem: the fruit of God’s design.
This was one of those prophecies: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” (Isaiah 11:1) and also from the prophet Jeremiah (23:5) “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.”
The people had been waiting for a great leader who would free them from oppression – a descendant of David, their greatest king. They thought He would be a leader of men, to usher in a new age here on earth where they, the Jewish people, would be on top, finally. No more exiles into Babylon or Persia, and no more Romans. But what they got wasn’t exactly what they were looking for.
There were, as I mentioned before, many prophecies of the Messiah in the Old Testament, but they only looked to certain ones to form their opinion of who that Messiah would be. Not very different from us, if we’re honest with ourselves.
All Christians claim to believe in Jesus, but unfortunately, many pick and choose which aspects of Jesus they want to believe in:
– I want a loving Jesus, not one who would condemn people to hell… unfortunately, the Jesus in the Bible did condemn sinners and unbelievers to hell.
-I want a Jesus who is accepting and doesn’t judge people based on lifestyle choices or personal decisions… but the Jesus of the Bible condemns those who choose to live a lifestyle contrary to God’s Law. He regularly calls out the Pharisees who had been perverting the Word of God to their own glory, He speaks out regularly about sin, and how there is no place for it in the life of the believer.
One of the most common, though, is this: I want a Jesus who will not let me suffer if I believe in Him hard enough, that everything will be right with my life until He brings me home if I just have enough faith. Unfortunately, that one’s not in the Bible either, on the contrary, Jesus says plainly that we will be persecuted, that we will face hardships and trials, that God Himself will test us and try us in order to refine us like gold or silver. And why shouldn’t we be? After all, He suffered greatly in His life too, and He was without sin, unlike us.
As banner of God’s love unfurled, Christ came to suffer loss. That by His death a dying world Would rally to the cross.
As I mentioned before, this kind of Messiah confused the Jewish nation. They didn’t understand this seemingly wimpy Messiah. What kind of a Messiah would let Himself suffer; what kind of a Christ would let Himself be killed? This wasn’t who they thought they were waiting for, but it was the Messiah that God had promised He would send. Remember that first prophecy I mentioned early? The first one He gave in Eden? It’s from the book of Genesis as God was condemning the serpent, actually Satan masquerading as a serpent, and this is what it actually says:
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.” (Gen 3:15)
It was on that cross at Calvary that we saw that prophecy fulfilled. We read in Scripture how Satan dealt the deathblow to Jesus, effectively bruising His heel, as death could not hold Him, while at the same time, through the spilling of His innocent blood, Jesus bruised Satan’s head, winning the fight once and for all against the sin that Satan had tricked Eve into all those many years ago. God’s people were, then and there, set free from sin, death, and the power of the devil, fulfilling God’s Word spoken thousands of years earlier.
In so doing, our Messiah paid the price that we deserve to pay: death for our sins. Death – for all the times where we disregard the Word of God to instead follow our own desires – death – for all the times we tell God He’s wrong, and that what we choose to do with our lives isn’t sin, it’s personal choice – death – for all the times we make of ourselves gods, pushing our actual Creator, the Creator of the whole universe, off to the side, marginalizing Him to instead get what we want or do what we want, when we want to – for all of these we deserve death.
Thanks be to God that He kept His promise – that He sent the promised Messiah, and that He wasn’t some awesome leader of men, freeing the people from physical bondage and servitude, but instead, He was exactly what we needed, our Saviour from ourselves. Thanks be to God that through the death of His Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, He has made a way through death, the death that we all deserve, to life: Life everlasting with Him in paradise!
Come, Jesus, come, Messiah Lord, Lost Paradise restore; Lead past the angel’s flaming sword – Come, open heaven’s door.
Because of Jesus we know, that at the end of our lives, we don’t have to fear the Judgement. We know that in the waters of Holy Baptism, as He has taught us in the Bible, we are covered over in His righteousness, and so when the Father sees us, He doesn’t see the sinner, but instead, He sees His Son. ‘For as many of you as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ.’ (Galatians 3:27)
And we know that paradise now awaits. He has promised that one day He will re-open the gates to paradise that were once closed by our sin. That heaven itself, better than Eden ever was, will be our home, where we will live for all eternity in His presence. And all of this because of the small babe born in the manger whom we celebrate here tonight.
And so, this Advent season, as you continue to prepare for His second coming as much as His first one, keep your focus on the One promised from of old – all the way back in the garden. Don’t lose sight of what this season is really all about. It’s not about shepherds, or angels. It’s not even about the Virgin Mary or Joseph. It’s not even, really, about the birth of a baby either. It’s about God coming to earth – it’s about the fulfilment of hundreds of prophecies – it’s about our salvation. Thanks be to God; the Messiah is coming. Amen.