Immanuel Lutheran School Choral Evening Prayer for Advent
Three Meditations on Savior of the Nations, Come
December 14, 2016
I. A Light to the Nations
We tell the story of the world by the stories of nations. There are wars and warriors, kings and generals, presidents and people. Many nations rise and fall, and it seems there is no end to their number.
We humans are also good at dividing people up into groups and tribes. Skin color, language differences, where you were born or what school you attended, all these things make people think of you as a good person or a bad person.
When it comes time for the Olympics, or the World Cup, we might get excited if America is doing well, and the crowds are chanting, “USA, USA!” The political idea of nationalism, though, can go beyond making sure our government protects our people, and we can start thinking that God loves some nations more than others.
I love our country because I love the ideals of freedom and fairness that are in our Constitution. Those are good things that we should spread everywhere. But God loves the people of every nation just the same.
God’s story of the world is of one nation, one family, that got divided into two. It started long before Abraham, the father of the Jews, left his home on a journey toward the land of promise. It started when one man killed his brother, when Cain killed Abel.
For millennia, the world has been divided up into two groups, two nations, the Jews and the Gentiles.
But Jesus is called, in the beautiful hymn we are singing this evening, the Savior of the Nations. He is the Light for every person.
It doesn’t matter if your skin is brown or red, if you have lots of money or not very much, if you are really smart or a really fast runner or if you are not very good at much of anything. God loves each person totally and completely. You can know that He is your Savior, because He is the Savior of the nations. He is for every person.
II. The Hero Who Heals
Most of our stories are simple, one-dimensional. Bakers bake, singers sing, kings rule, warriors fight. The idea of a ruler who serves, or a warrior who heals, is strange, paradoxical.
Tolkien expresses the work of Christ in the hero of the third book of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The people of Gondor remember an ancient saying, “The hands of the king are the hands of a healer.”
Aragorn, true king of Gondor, comes from afar not only fighting the forces of darkness, but he enters the hospital and heals those who are beyond the help of all other physicians. He is recognized as king because he is a warrior who heals.
St. Ambrose’s great hymn shows us the big picture about Jesus, the true story that lies behind all myths. Jesus is not simply a baby born in Bethlehem. He is a king who has come from a far country. When Christ steps forth from the virgin Mary, He begins His heroic course.
His heroism is not shown with sword craft or skill with shield and bow. His heroism is in fighting a spiritual battle against demons, a battle to the death. Every inclination of ours is to strike back, if not with fists then with words, lawsuits, harsh emails. Our Lord Jesus knows that the only way to heal our flesh is to gird it on, assume our nature and carry it into death.
Infirma nostri corporis – the infirmity of our corpses, to be graphic, He fills with virtue, strength.
The ills of our bodies are shown also in our souls. You know what it is to hurt, to have your best friend shown to not be your friend, to see parents argue, to be in trouble, to be sad, to see people we love die, and feel helpless.
Our Lord Jesus has come to heal all of this. That is His Christmas present to us.
III. The Light Shines in the Darkness
A popular picture of Jesus shows Him outside, knocking on a door with no handle. The subtle message is there’s no way in unless you let Him in.
This doesn’t present a full picture of who Jesus is. A better image is of people in a dungeon, locked inside by a cruel monster. To the prisoners who have no escape, Jesus comes, smashes down the locked door, and sets them free.
Recently I was reading about a mining accident in the 1930’s. In mining, men go down into deep tunnels below the earth, to dig out precious things, like coal or diamonds. But for the men in this account, the tunnel collapsed. They didn’t die from rocks coming down on their heads, but maybe they wished they had. As their lights went out, they were in the dark. Time goes by, and the air is growing thin, and they have no food.
There’s no way out, no escape. Only from the outside can help come. Finally, a faint sound comes. Tap tap tap. It grows stronger. Carefully, a rescuer is digging through. And then, a ray of light.
Into the darkness, comes light. Imagine the joy, the gladness, that tiny shaft of light brought to them.
The Bible pictures our world like this dark place. All around us is trouble, and death. But when Jesus comes into the world, now the light has begun to shine. Help is coming!
That’s what Christmas is. The Helper comes, the Rescuer comes. When you see His light, no matter how bad the darkness is, you know that Life is coming. He comes in from the outside, He opens the locked door, and no darkness can stop Him. You are free.