We have started a new year in the Church. If we were to be guided by scripture in making resolutions, one might be for the start of this new Church year, too,
In Matthew 24 Jesus pleaded with His Church to Stay Awake! “42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.”
Christ is our only hope to stay awake, that is to stay in Faith. He connects us to himself by means, His Word and His Word with us, namely, His Sacraments.
As we study the scripture there are traps we can fall into, ways that we misunderstand and misapply the Scriptures. The remedy, the most important question to ask as you read the scripture is, “How in these words is Christ speaking of himself to the church? With this question, we are at last going in the right direction.
In our first Lesson of Christ in the Old Testament we learned just how deeply engrained Christ is in the Scriptures. Right from the beginning in fact in the words, “In the Beginning.” Now typically when we read this we hear in the beginning, as just a temporal marker. Now to risk sounding like a TV salesman, but wait there is more.
In Hebrew the phrase, “in the beginning” is only one word, and that word’s root is connected to head or start. This word is not just simply used when something starts. We see in the book of Proverbs, Chapter 8, that as God was creating the world there was someone there with him. That someone is called wisdom and in this text wisdom is a person. He is rejoicing in everything that the Father is doing.
Proverbs 8:22-23 “The LORD possessed me, [Wisdom], the beginning [raysheet] of his way, before his works of old. From everlasting I was established, from the beginning, from the earliest times of the earth.”
The early Jews saw the connection, in The Targum an early Jewish translation of the Old Testament, they rendered
“In Wisdom, God created the heavens and the earth.” The New Testament keeps builds on this headship of Christ.
“He is also the head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning [arche], the firstborn from the dead.
“The Amen, the faithful and true witness, the Beginning of the creation of God.”
When we put all this together we see that “in the beginning” is not just a temporal marker, but showing the centrality of Christ, right from the very beginning.
We can be Christians our whole life, we can be Lutheran’s our whole lives, we can be Lutheran Pastors and still not get the depth to which it is all about Christ. It is something we must hear time and time again. We must be deflated of ourselves and our own hopes of salvation, our hopes of what we intended our life to be, our hope of really controlling much of anything. It is all about Christ.
-Martin Luther’s words are a treasure for understanding of the supremacy of Christ.
God has assuredly promised His grace to the humble [1 Peter 5:5], that is, to those who lament and despair of themselves. But no man can be thoroughly humbled, until he knows that his salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, devices, endeavors, will, and works, and depends entirely on the choice, will, and work of another, namely, of God alone.
For as long as he is persuaded that he himself can do even the least thing toward his salvation, he retains some self-confidence and does not altogether despair of himself, and therefore he is not humbled before God, but presumes that there is – or at least hopes or desires that there may be – some place, time, and work for him, by which he may at length attain to salvation. But when a man has no doubt that everything depends on the will of God, then he completely despairs of himself and chooses nothing for himself, but waits for God to work; then he has come close to grace, and can be saved.
This advent, as we prepare for Christ, for remembering His First coming at Christmas, but even more importantly, as we prepare for His Second coming.
As we prepare, the temptation will be to focus on yourself, how to make yourself better. There is an aspect of repentance that turns away from sin, but do not occupy your mind with this. Fill your mind with Christ, focus on him, devour his words for you.
Reflect on what He has done for you. His humble and lowly birth, his unremarkable childhood, His teaching of His love of you and hatred of everything that divides God from you, his miracles showing that He is putting the world right and most importantly His Cross, which really is your cross, and especially His real, historic and physical resurrection from the dead. He is our Immanuel, He is with us! Now! He has been since the beginning! He is the beginning, and he is with you when you will breath your last, awaking you to new life with his breath of salvation in your lungs, as you look upon your maker, your first love, the one for whom your heart longs, your Jesus.