Advent 4b

Preached: December 21, 2014

Marvel at the Wonders of Your King’s Love
2 Samuel 7:8-16

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The word from God through which the Holy Spirit draws us to our King is 2 Samuel 7.

Now say this to my servant David, “This is what the Lord of hosts says: I myself took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be leader over my people Israel. I was with you wherever you went and cut off all your enemies from before you. I made a great name for you, like the names of the greatest on earth. I will establish a place for my people Israel and plant them. They will dwell there and no longer quiver. Sinful people will not afflict them again as it was before from the time I appointed judges over my people Israel. I will give you rest from all your enemies.

“The Lord says to you that the Lord will make a house for you. When your days have been filled out and you sleep with your fathers, I will raise your offspring after you, who will come from your own body. I will establish his kingdom. He's the one who will build a house for my name, and I will establish his kingdom's throne forever. I myself will be his Father, and he will be my Son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. But my mercy I will not take away from him as I took it away from Saul, whom I took away from before you. Your house and your kingdom will be confirmed forever before you. Your throne will be established forever.” (2 Samuel 7:8-16)

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

What a busy time of the year! Our minds race with all the plans and preparations that need to be done. Yes, we can get caught up in the commercialism and the world's expectations, but often our busyness involves better things. We're busy with family and friends, gathering together or traveling to visit, the preparation of food and decorations for our loved ones, sending greetings to those who are far away and decorating to delight the eyes of those close by. Family and friends are good. We're busy with community, school, and work activities, the seasonal parties, the end of year deadlines, school concerts. Community, school, and work are good things. We're busy with church activities, preparing for special services, the children learning their parts, musicians practicing. And these are good things.

But busyness even with good things can become bad. Busyness is about what we're doing; Christmas is about what God did. You see, the opposite of busyness is not simply quiet time when we relax with nothing to do like on Christmas Day afternoon when family's around and stomachs are full. No, since busyness is focused on our doing, the opposite is quiet time focused on what God has done for us. Take time this Christmas season to ponder what it means that your God came for you and was laid in manger. The Father sent his Son to be born as your Savior. Marvel at the wonders of his love. For this child is your King. Marvel at the wonders of your King's love. That's the theme today.

Now the text takes us back to the time of another king, to the time of King David. David had been busy. He had been busy doing the work the Lord had given him to do. As King he was protecting the people, defeating their enemies. He had brought the ark of the Lord to Jerusalem with great celebration. Now when the busyness had quieted down and he was living in his palace, David wanted to do something more for the Lord. He wanted to build a temple for God. Why should he live in a nice house when the ark of the Lord was still in a tent? This sounded like a good idea to the prophet Nathan, who told David to go ahead and do it for the Lord was with him.

But that night the word of the Lord came to Nathan. God had other plans. David was not the one to build a house for the Lord. Rather than David being busy with doing something for God, the Lord would do something much greater for David. The Lord would establish a house, a dynasty, for David. In fact David's house would last forever. That's a promise only the Lord God could make.

Some of what the Lord says is partially fulfilled in David's son, Solomon. “When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom” (2 Samuel 7:12 NIV11). And that's what happened. And King Solomon did build the temple, the house for the name of the Lord. But Solomon was just a shadow of the fulfillment.

In term's of human glory, Solomon's reign was the high point of David's house and family line. Wisdom, wealth, honor, glory, peace, power, and prosperity were all his. After Solomon, David's house continued to reign in Jerusalem over Judah, but the glory diminished. Then in 586 B.C., David's descendant, King Zedekiah, was captured by the Babylonians. His sons were killed before his eyes. Then they blinded him and led him away in shackles to Babylon. Even the Lord's temple built by Solomon was leveled. What had happened to God's promise to David?

The Lord had not forgotten. Yes, David's family tree had become a stump. His house no longer had a claim to the throne. His descendants were just common people like Mary and Joseph. How could any sort of king come from this family, much less the prophesied King who would reign forever? But this is the way the Lord works, dear friends. He makes things impossible so that we see that no human power or planning could achieve it but only the Lord's love and mercy, just as Gabriel told Mary, “Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37 NIV84). What wonders of his love!

For you see, God's saving plan was for our King to stoop down to our lowliness, coming in the lowliest way. He would have to physically come from David's family line. For that's what the Lord had promised David. This King would come from his own body, from his own flesh and blood. And although Jesus had no biological father, Mary was a descendant of David. So Jesus' flesh and blood, his human nature, came from David's family line, born, physically born, from David's family tree. A branch grows out of the stump. What wonders of his love!

Born of a virgin--what a miracle--no biological father! Jesus is truly the eternal Son of God. How true what the Lord said to David, “I will be his father, and he will be my son” (2 Samuel 7:14 NIV11)! But what a lowly way for the almighty Son of God to come! How would you have planned the entrance of God the Son? Would he have come in power and splendor with legions of angels heralding his arrival? Would such great glory shine out from him that every single person on earth would be knocked down in overwhelming awe at the radiance of his majesty? That's how he'll return, but that's not how he came the first time.

He came first as a single cell in the womb of the virgin Mary. The Son of God, whom even the universe cannot contain became a single cell conceived by the Holy Spirit. For nine months he grew within his mother, his body totally dependent on her. And when he was born, there was no palace or royal entourage to welcome him. You know in what kind of place he was born. His birth was much lowlier than ours, for he was born in a place fit only for animals and laid in a manger. Our King stooped down to our lowliness. What wonders of our King's love!

And he would lower himself even farther. He would lower himself even to death on the cursed cross. The Christmas carol “What Child Is This” proclaims: “Nails, spears shall pierce him through; The cross he'll bear for me, for you.” This too we see hidden in the promise made to David. Did you catch those words: “When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands” (2 Samuel 7:14 NIV11). How could this apply to Jesus? He never sinned. He never did anything wrong. He is holy and righteous. But he took your sin and my sin on himself, dear friend. God counted our wrongs against him as if he had done instead of us. The Apostle writes, “God made him who had not sin, to be sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV84). “The cross he'll bear for me, for you.” Our sin ripped open his back with floggings. Our wrongdoing pounded those nails. Our trangressions pierced him. Think of that as you look into the manger. That tiny baby was born to bear your sin. All your wrongs were counted against him as if he himself had done all of them. And God punished him for every last one. How far down our King stooped! What wonders of his love!

What Good News for you and me! Because our King stooped to our lowliness, because he took our wrongs on himself, because our sins, every last one of them, were counted against him, they no longer count against you or me. You are forgiven. Look into that manger with faith, faith that see past the lowliness, faith that worship your King because he stooped to such lowliness to become sin for us, to take our punishment on himself, so that in him we have life, eternal life. What wonders of our King's love!

And Jesus did build a house for God, didn't he, a temple much greater than Solomon's? It wasn't made out of cold stone or gold. You, dear Christian, you are God's temple. We are living stones built together into the holy Christian Church. Yes, we were once stone-cold dead in sin, but in his grace and mercy God made you alive in Christ, made you living stones. Our King, Jesus Christ, has connect us together into that building founded on the Scriptures of the apostles and prophets with Jesus Christ himself as the cornerstone. This temple, the holy Christian Church, will never perish. Not even the gates of hell can overcome it. For you see our King reigns forever. Jesus, born from David's family, reigns forever and ever. This present world will be destroyed when he comes again, but his kingdom endures forever. What wonders of our King's love!

So in the busyness of this season, dear Christian, take time to marvel. Marvel at the wonders of your King's love. Even busyness with good things can take the focus off of Christ and build up the hills of pride as we see how much we do. Ponder the lowliness of your King's birth. He suffered for our wrongs, our sins of pride. Marvel at the wonders of his love. And busyness can have the opposite affect on us as well. We see how much we've failed to get down and are left in the pit of despair. Ponder the lowliness of your King. He humbled himself to the manger and the cross to lift you out of depths, to place you as a living stone built into his temple. He rescued you to reign with him forever. Marvel at the wonders of your King's love. Amen.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313

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