December 5, 2012 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA
“Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come, that by Your protection we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and saved by Your mighty deliverance….”
The Church’s cry in Advent is for the Lord to stir things up for our benefit. So we pray during the weeks of Advent. This week, the cry is for the Lord to stir up His power and come to us. But we do not wish the Lord to come aimlessly. Our prayer is not an invitation for Him to make plans and take a holiday, do a little tourism among our famous sites. No, it is for Him to come with a purpose: to rescue us from the perils of our sins, to save us by His mighty deliverance.
Such arrival of the Lord has been seen before. He has answered His people’s cries in such ways. The greatest way is in the appearance of the Messiah. You were given a report of that. The Gospel Writer records: “Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about Him went out through all the surrounding country. And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.” Jesus’ appearance in Galilee was a demonstration of the stirring up of divine power. It was a showing that He was the Promised Messiah.
What did this power-stirred appearance look like? Jesus taught in the synagogue. He read the prophetic statements about Him: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” This was His agenda. And Jesus declares: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” He says to the Nazareth synagogue, “I’ve come and done this for you. You wanted divine power exercised on your behalf. So I’ve done that to answer your cries.”
“O Lord, rescue us from the threatening perils of our sins. Save us by Your mighty deliverance.” Those were the prayers of the faithful in Nazareth, just as they were the prayers of the faithful throughout history. They are the prayers offered by you now. The words are spoken because you know the hazards and dangers that you face. The poverty of your virtue is laid before you, as the Divine Law speaks its demands. The captivity of your sinful natures is felt. You suffer blindness to what is truly right in situations of moral quandary, large or small. Oppression from those who are enemies of the Lord’s will is felt and experienced. So you consider yourselves to be outside of the Lord’s favor.
But the promise has been given to you. The Lord says, “I’m going to do something about it. I’m going to exercise the power of My Spirit to remedy this state of affairs.” This is what Jesus accomplished, not only as He “returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee,” but also as He uses that same power here among you. Jesus declares that the Scriptures are fulfilled among you, in your hearing. The Scriptures that promised divine remedy for your sins are kept by Him, fulfilled by His obedience, His sacrifice, His resurrection. And Jesus declares the outcome of that divine, powerful work done for you, so that you may hear and believe.
What does Jesus declare to you? He says, “I give you the richness of my righteousness. I set you free from the bondage to sin. I make you see what is pleasing to the Lord. I call you My own people and set you in My kingdom, where you will dwell securely. I am the favor of the Lord shown to you, despite all that you have done which should rightly forfeit it. I do not treat you as you deserve; I show you pity because I have seen your plight and know that only I can do something about it.” This was the message in Nazareth, just as it is the message here in Mechanicsburg. And the reaction is the same for those who hear and believe: “All spoke well of Him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from His mouth.”
But this same Jesus gives you another promise. He says, “I will return in divine power and glory, so that you will never suffer such perils again.” As you have marveled at the gracious words that come from His mouth about your salvation, so you marvel at this promise. But you trust that it will happen. You trust that it will be so, just as Jesus exercised His divine power to fulfill the prophetic words about Him. And this is what allows you to abide by what the apostle says: “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”
Your hearts are established on Jesus’ promises. You pray for them to come to pass. You cry out for the divine power to be stirred up again, for the Lord Jesus to come and exercise His total authority over all things. You look for the time when the King of glory will come, ushering in the eternal era of the Lord’s favor. But this is not done hopelessly; no, you believe that it will be so. You can be patient and wait for it, because “you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” That compassion and mercy is what Jesus showed in Nazareth, in Jericho, in Jerusalem. It is what He has shown to you now, forgiving your sins, calling you His people, giving you a place in His kingdom.
Glorify Jesus for His mighty works that bring you salvation, for they will not be known only in your hearing. Like those in Nazareth, you will see Him with your own eyes and witness His glorious return, when He brings resurrection and life everlasting to you. It is the promise of the Scriptures for you, the promises that Jesus fulfills. And so He will fully answer your cries, rescuing you from the perils of your sins and saving you by His mighty deliverance.
+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.