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Sermon of Reverend Susan Nagle
Pastor Nagle

Advent begins

Advent I - Sunday, November 27, 2016
Matthew 24:36-44

36“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 42Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

Maybe you have heard the different names associated with the four Sundays of Advent:

Sometimes it’s Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.

Sometimes the four candles are commands: Wake up, Get Ready, Repent, Be Alert.  Today’s Gospel is surely a Repent Day.
Sometimes, the candles are named after people in the story: John the Baptist, The Mary candle, the Shepherd candle, the Angels’ candle.

Traditions change all the time, and the origin of these things is very often a bulletin cover company who is looking for catchy themes.

Well, today we are going to begin looking at four themes you have probably never seen used for an Advent bulletin cover series. But they are four important themes in the history of salvation, and they are found in our lessons and our hymnody for Advent and Christmas. 

The first one is EXCHANGE.  It’s a simple way to describe what Christ came to do:  Jesus Christ exchanges his glory for mortality SO THAT we might exchange our mortality for glory. 

And to find this theme we go to  a hymn. 

I will sing verses 4 & 5.  Then I will add a short prayer.
The hymn comes from Nikolaus Herman, a contemporary of Luther and a great hymnist of the reformation. There are six hymns in the hymnal that he wrote the music for, and all but one of them are to this tune. This is the only one that combines his words and his music.

He undertakes a great exchange, puts on our human frame, and in return gives us his realm, his glory and his name, his glory and his name.

Let us pray: 
By Christ’s ascension, O God, we seem to give our Savior back to you. But just as you did not lose him in giving, so we do not lose him by his return. What has happened amazes us, that as he ascends to your right hand, Jesus Christ gives us the same glory, that we may be your children, and receive a heavenly kingdom which is not our due, but your gift.  Amen.

Now we turn to another ancient hymnwriter. There is a hymn in our ELW that Nikolaus Herman provided the music for but the words were written by St. Ambrose. notice that there are two hymns in our hymnal written in the 4th century. I believe that these are the oldest we have, except for the fact that psalms and other biblical passages are set to music. 

Here we have a hymn by in the third century that will totally surprise you.  LISTEN first, and then I’ll say more about it.

Stanza  6

It means that the Father’s precious Son will run as long as it takes to capture our souls, our spirits for God. But here’s the surprise, that in the 3rd century, a person would write: longer than the round earth rolls.  Round earth? They knew that then? I remember the first time I noticed this gem while singing it. 

So I went searching. It seems that in the third century, they knew the world was round. This was information that was LOST during the dark ages, with the lack of education for most people, with the burning and looting of the great libraries of Europe. Gone.

And this tells us how essential it is for us to pass on the faith and tell and sing of its importance.  
Today’s second lesson says, whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction. Let’s not let go of that. It is possible to lose the knowledge of God. It happened in the Old Testament that for generations they had lost the knowledge of the 10 commandments, and in a period of temple reform, Josiah re-discovered the Law and had it read to the people. 

In the Small Catechism, when we read the explanations of the Lord’s Prayer, we hear Luther tell us: The good and gracious will of God is surely done without our prayer, but we pray in this prayer that it may be done also among us.  The kingdom comes without our prayer, but we pray that it may come also to us.  Today’s first lesson from Isaiah 11 says, you can chop down a tree to destroy it, but here from the roots comes a shoot, a branch.

Let us pray: by the celebration of Christmas which we repeat again and tell to the next generations, nurture our growth as people of repentance and peace, as new generations re-discover from our lips and hearts, the truth of the story of our salvation.

Now how do these two ideas (God’s great exchange and our alertness to keep discovering and keep telling it) impact our world and our lives?

Mary proclaimed the greatness of the Lord in her hymn called the Magnificat. This time we look at a hymn tune that is written in the 20th century, and a text directly from Luke 1.  The text in Luke says, He has shown strength with his arm, and scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of low degree.”  She calls herself God’s lowly servant. 

The EXCHANGE is that those who trust in their own power and authority will find themselves unable to accomplish their own selfish will, but those who are willing to say “Let it be to me according to your will” will find themselves actually fulfilling God’s own purposes, the most authority that a person may have.

liisten to a stanza from the EXHANGE hymn, a hymn version of the Magnificat:

Stanza 2.

Let us pray: Let it be to us according to your Word, for our eyes have seen your salvation with you have prepared before the face of all people.  Amen. 

 

Stir our imaginations as we prepare for the feast of the Incarnation, you, in the flesh, that we may receive the honor you desire to give us, pass on the truth of your Word, let go of power except for yours, and receive the precious gift of your forgiveness, through our coming Savior Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.