Pastor James Hopkins preached this sermon on the first Sunday of Advent 11/29/2020. The service was broadcast live on Facebook at 11am, and is now available on the FLC youtube channel. To follow along from home, the bulletin is available as a PDF: Advent1 Bulletin
The texts for the sermon were the day’s gospel and Old Testament lessons. To read the Bible texts for the first Sunday of Advent, click here.
Jeremiah prophesied that the Lord would no longer be known as The One who brought the people out of Egypt. Instead, He would be known as “the Lord is our righteousness.” That’s a big change in title.
The chief event in the history of Israel up to that point was the Exodus. Israel had other important events, of course: they rejoiced in creation and the call of Abraham. They celebrated Noah and his deliverance from the Flood.
But the great event – that which gave birth to them as a nation and made them God’s people – was the slaughter of the Passover Lamb which spared them from the angel of death, the passage through the birth canal of the Red Sea on dry ground that delivered them from enslavement, and the leading of the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, which led to the giving of the Law on Sinai. That was it. The Exodus from Egypt was the defining event of Israel’s entire history and identity.
When God, through His prophet, Jeremiah, changed His own Self-description from: “the Lord who brought us out of the land of Egypt” to “the Lord is our Righteousness,” He indicated that the Exodus would no longer be the chief event. It was only a foreshowing, a preview, of what God would do. It was a type not the fulfillment. Greater things were coming. God had not left Israel to itself.
In the first place, He would bring the people out of their present exile in Babylon. But that too would be a type and not the full deliverance. That is why He does not say that the Lord’s Name will change from: “The Lord who brought us out of the land of Egypt” to “the Lord who brought us back from captivity.” Instead, His Name will be: “The Lord is our righteousness.”
We live in the days when the types have all been fulfilled. Jesus has been born in Bethlehem, crucified and raised in Jerusalem. Rather than circumcision we have the fulfillment in Holy Baptism. Rather than the Passover and the sacrifices we have the Holy Communion. Jesus Christ is the Lord, and He is our righteousness. In Him, Judah is saved and Israel dwells securely. The Kingdom has been reunited and restored and the throne is returned to David. This is not a political kingdom but an eternal kingdom. Judah and Israel aren’t defined by the lineage of Jacob but by faith in Christ.
The Priest in the Order of Melchizedek, the King of Righteousness, has offered Himself as a Sacrifice for the sins of the world, and has made a people of those who were no people. He is the Lamb and the Pillar and the Law. And He is more: He is our Righteousness.
Therefore, we no longer say: “He is the Lord who brought us out of Egypt.” We say, “As the Lord lives, He has brought us from the ends of the earth. He has gathered us by His death on the cross and made us His people by declaring us righteous.”
The central event in the history of the universe, not just of Israel, not even just of earth, but of the entirety of the cosmos, is the Sacrifice of the Son to reconcile humanity back to the Father.
All His other acts and every fiber of goodness in creation echo, foreshow, and deliver this. Thus, St. Paul simply says: “We preach Christ crucified.” To preach Christ crucified is to preach the Exodus and the Captivity, and to preach their fulfillment in the Son’s Self-giving Sacrifice.
We stand at the beginning of a new Church Year. It doesn’t begin with Jesus in Bethlehem. It begins with Jesus riding toward the cross. This is to remind us that Advent isn’t getting us ready for Christmas or Easter. Advent is getting us ready for the Lord’s coming in glory and judgment. We get ready for that by receiving Him now in Word and Sacrament.
He will come to judge the nations on the Last Day. And to many it will be a terror. But it won’t be a terror to us. It will be a joy and delight.
He is our righteousness. He has died to make us His. He has substituted Himself for us and declared us righteous even as He is righteous. He will come on that day as He came into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday: driven by His love and desire to have you. That is why we pray, “Hosanna,” Lord save us, and, “Come Lord Jesus, come quickly.”