Advent Midweek 1
Christ’s First Advent
December 4, 2013
Trinity Lutheran Church – New Haven, MO
In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The season of Advent is a season of preparation and penitence. Both big box stores and mom and pop boutiques take these four weeks or so before Christmas to put you in the Christmas spirit with the hopes that it’ll make you open your wallet a bit easier, and so Advent has really become a season of pre-Christmas. The kind of preparation that’s on most people’s minds are the gifts that still need to be bought, when the lights will go up, where the decorations are stored, who’s on what list to what party, what lines the kids have to memorize.
These aren’t bad things, and they certainly help occupy these long, frigid nights at this time of year. But that’s not why Advent was invented. It’s not simply a preparation for Christmas. Advent means, “coming.” The season of Advent really looks ahead as much as it looks back. In fact, there are three distinct ways in which Christ comes to His people, for three different purposes. Not only did He come as a baby in Bethlehem, but He promised that He will come again on the Last Day to judge the living and the dead. In between that first advent and His final advent, He also repeatedly comes to us in a sacramental way.
But before we consider Christ’s advent, let’s first consider yours. How did you come to be, how did you come into this world? St. Paul makes a comparison to an heir. Now I am saying, for as long a time as the heir is an infant, not even he is differentiated from a slave, even though he is lord over all. But, he is under guardianship and a steward until the time fixed by the father. In this way also you, when you were infants, and were under the fundamental principles of the world, you had been enslaved (Gal 4:1-3).
An heir, even though he is lord of all things in the household, while he is still a minor he is treated no differently than a slave. When an heir comes into the world, he is immediately under the authority of a guardian or a steward. The heir is disciplined and taught the house law, the way the household is run.
St. Paul first names this guardianship, this steward, under which you came into the world the fundamental principles of the world. Much has been made of this phrase among interpreters. Some think it refers to the spiritual powers of darkness—the devil and his demons. But in the context of this passage, the better interpretation is that the fundamental principles of the world is the Law.
It is the Law that holds this world together. Gravity holds the earth in a delicate balance as it runs its course, fluid dynamics control the wind and the rains, the coefficient of friction for rubber on asphalt keeps your tires stuck to the road when you’re driving. These are the fundamental principles of the world.
They also govern behavior. God created you to be a person who has but only one God, who uses His name rightly, who keeps the Sabbath rest, who honors authority, who helps your neighbor’s physical needs, who remains faithful to husband or wife, who respects other’s property and reputation, and who doesn’t scheme to get stuff that God has not given to you. You are fearfully and wonderfully made—God knit you together in your mothers’ womb.
You came into this world under the fundamental principles of the world, under the Law of God. And you were enslaved, St. Paul writes. The Law isn’t a whimsical and fun governess like Maria or Marry Poppins. It’s a cruel taskmaster, demanding that you do things the opposite of what you desire to do. The fundamental principles of the world are at odds with what your flesh desires.
The reason why is that you are made from the same stuff as your father, and your father’s father, and on and on. You are the seed of the first man, and you bear his guilt. Because you were born into that original guilt—yes, because you were conceived in sin—your inclination is to rebel against the fundamental principles of the world, against the Law of God. Like an heir who considers himself lord of the manor before his time, who demands his inheritance right away.
However, St. Paul also in his comparison makes it clear that this guardianship is only for a set time—in particular, until the time fixed by the father. The time of slavery to the Law was fixed by the Father long ago, from before the foundation of the world. He revealed it when He first preached to Satan that the Seed of the Woman would crush his head, which pointed to a birth quite unlike the birth of natural men. Isaiah fills in another piece of the puzzle when he prophesies that God will give a sign—the virgin will conceive and bear a son. And then, when the fullness of time came, the Seed of the woman was revealed to be a boy born of a virgin named Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Son of God became the Son of Man when God knit together in the womb of Mary the divine and human nature in one person—Jesus Christ.
Though He came into the world in a most unnatural way, in a miraculous way, He also shares something with how you came into the world. But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born from a woman, born under the Law, in order He would buy back those under the Law, in order that we would receive adoption (Gal 4:4-5).
Though Jesus is of the same stuff as His Father—being of one substance with the Father—He is also of the same stuff as His mother. Though He is holy and righteous and without sin, He came under the Law. The Author of the Law put Himself under His own rules and regulations. Not just gravity and wind currents and friction, but also the revealed Law of God—every particular jot and tittle and nuance, He subjected Himself to it. He gladly submitted to this cruel taskmaster and bore its punishments, though He was and is truly Lord of all things.
He did so, In order that we would receive adoption. Adoption is an expensive endeavor. My sister works with adoptions in Haiti, and she told me recently that it costs about $15,000 to adopt a child, mostly legal fees.
That’s what Christ did on your behalf. He wrestled with the Law in order to give you divine adoption. He paid for you, bought you back from the Law’s custody—with His holy, and precious blood, shed under the Law. Though He did not abolish the Law, He did pay its strict demands.
The sign and seal of Christ’s work on your behalf is the Holy Spirit. Now since you are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, who is crying out, “Abba, Father.” Therefore, you are no longer slaves, but sons; and if sons, then heirs through God (Gal 4:6-7).
The Spirit of the Son is in your heart, implanted by the Gospel and Holy Baptism. And He produces in you a clean heart, and a right spirit, and a new obedience to the Law of God. The Spirit cries out from you, “Abba, Father.” That’s the first commandment—the commandment upon which all the others rest. Because of Christ, and the indwelling Spirit, you know God as your Father.
Which means that you’re also a son. No, not a generic child of God. Even you ladies are made sons of God. Because son means heir. If you are sons of God, then you are heirs of God. And because Christ came in the fullness of time, born of a woman, born under the Law, your inheritance has come.
This is Christ’s first advent. His holy Incarnation at the appointed time of the Father.
Christ Came in the Flesh, as a Slave to the Law, To Make You an Heir of God
In + Jesus’ name. Amen.
Rev. Jacob Ehrhard