Midweek Advent I
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
"Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ...God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful." Did you hear those words? Listen to them again: "Grace and peace to you from God our Father...God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful."
Peace and fellowship. These are two very interesting words—words that pick up more interest in this time of preparing for the coming of the King of kings and Lord of lords. Especially interesting in light of what St. Paul says in verse 9: "God...is faithful."
God is faithful? To be faithful is to have faith; to be full of faith. To have faith is to believe in something; at least, that is what we usually take it to mean. But, it also means that one keeps their promise. God is faithful, that is to say He keeps His promises.
To see what God promises, we have to go all the way back—back to the beginning, in fact. Listen to these words from the end of Genesis, chapter 1: "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day."
"There doesn't seem to be much of a promise there, Pastor." If that is what you are thinking, you are correct. If you want to know what God promises, especially that far back, you have to look a couple of chapters later, to chapter three, verse 15: "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." But then, you might wonder, "Where's the peace? This verse speaks of enmity...of hate and angst and mistrust—of fear and anguish."
So, let us examine the verse from chapter 1: "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good." We need not go any further. God has just finished creating the universe. So, you can imagine it this way: God takes a step back, crosses His arms, surveys all that He had done in six days, and begins to nod His head. He takes a seat in his Barcalounger and exclaims, "This is all very good." Then He leans back, kicks up His legs, and rests, enjoying the fruit of His labors.
What's the point of all of this? Everything is right. God, Who is holy and just, has just completed His creation, and He calls it very good. Do not take those words lightly, dear hearers, for when God says what a thing is, it most certainly is that thing. So, if the creation is very good, then all is right in the world...all is right in the universe. There is peace and harmony and fellowship—true peace, harmony, and fellowship beyond our feeble imaginations—everything lives and works and plays and exists as God has ordained it; everything interacts as God wants them to.
But, we know things didn't stay that way for long. Adam and Eve had better ideas, and they were lured into believing (to the point of desiring) they could be as good, even better, than God, their Creator. They believed they could get along far better on their own, without Him in the way. So, they took the fruit of the forbidden tree, ate, and noticed they were naked. Well, they had to correct that. God surely didn't intend for them to live like that...what if it got cold?
Of course this angered God. God's idea of creation was just spoiled when two humans thought they could do it better. God, Who is holy and just, could not let those who are imperfect remain in a land of perfection, so He banished them and cursed them and cursed the world in which they were to live. No longer would they live in peace and harmony and fellowship with the rest of creation and with their Creator as they had in Paradise.
And, that leaves us to where we are, right now. We descendants of Adam and Eve now toil to eat and drink, and our reward is diseased and broken bodies and nights of aches and pains. We live in a world of constant turmoil and destruction and tsunamis and hurricanes and blizzards make life just that much harder or end life all together. Animals and plants kill each other and humans; humans kill each other. We hate each other, scheme to get ahead of our neighbors, even at their expense. We don't care what happens to anyone else, as long as "number one" is okay. "Where's the peace?" one might ask.
That is what God promises. For it is God, Who is holy and merciful, would not let His cherished creation continue in this chaotic existence. So, He promised: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." It's like He said, "Look out, Great Serpent, for from the woman will come One who is able to defeat you. Yeah, you're gonna give Him a hard time doing it, cause Him to bleed and feel pain, and it's even gonna look like you've won for a moment. But, in the end, He's gonna crush your head—He's gonna remove your power and authority and draw all nations to Himself. There will come a time when your reign over My Creation is going to end. Count on it, for My Word is sure!"
And, so, from a woman—a lowly maiden in lowly Bethlehem—was born the One Who would be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace...the Prince of Peace. He would be given the name Jesus—Y'Shua in Hebrew, a name meaning "YHWH saves." He would receive the title Christ or Messiah—the Anointed One—anointed to be the One through Whom all men would receive their redemption and salvation.
And, as God promised to the Great Serpent, he would have his way with this One, for a little while. Merely eight days old, He would be circumcised, blood spilled and very painful. He would be tempted in every way we are, even beyond what we are able to withstand. He would be mocked and mistreated by flesh and blood. He would be beaten to within an inch of His life. And, ultimately, He would lose that life on a cross. It would seem as if the Great Serpent had won.
But, God's Word is sure, and His promise is certain. Jesus the Christ descended into hell, very much alive, and proclaimed victory over Satan, the Great Serpent—crushing his head. And He rose again, proclaiming victory for those who would believe in Him: that they have been reconciled to God—redeemed, restored, and forgiven.
Now, as we are in Advent, preparing for the coming of the King of kings and Lord of lords, we look forward as we look back. For, in looking back, we rejoice in seeing the work that the Prince of Peace has accomplished: He shed His blood, that we would receive forgiveness—He died, that we might have life, and have it to the fullest. Yet, there is yet one more task for Him to do, and it is that task that we look forward to. And, looking forward, we pray, "Come, Lord Jesus," in anticipation of His return and taking His Bride, the Church, to Himself. It is then that She and all Her members will have peace and harmony and fellowship—true peace, harmony, and fellowship beyond our sin-stained imaginations.
That brings us back to St. Paul, and his words: "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ...God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful." It is by God's grace that we have that peace and fellowship with Him through Jesus Christ our Lord. For in Him we have a peace that the world cannot comprehend and we have fellowship with Him because we are made to be in harmony, once again, with our Creator. Yes, we are being restored to that time on the sixth day when God "took a step back" and said, "It is very good," and we receive that restoration through Jesus Christ our Lord. And God is still faithful; as He has promised to redeem us, He has also promised to return and receive us unto Himself. And, as He has kept the first promise, He will keep the second one.
So, "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ...God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful." For, you are forgiven for all of your sins.
This sermon was never really preached. The weather caused the service to be cancelled.