Pastor Hopkins preached this sermon on the third Wednesday of Advent, 12/18/2019. The text for the sermon was Psalm 126.
When the Babylonians came to lead God’s people into captivity, the fortunes of Zion were plundered: property, land, cattle, riches, and all the rest, were taken away from them.
This is a time of year when we get a small taste of how that feels – to have our fortunes plundered. It’s a time when it seems there may not be enough gas in the tank to make it to Christmas, and the hope of a fresh start on January 1st is smothered by the anxiety of new-years resolutions and an overly ambitious to-do list. This is a time when everyone looks at us and expects us to be happy; but happy may be too tall of an order. We’re too busy for that.
With less and less daylight, time is scarce. There are practices and homework, family and church, friends to see and cards to write, meals to prepare; and if there ever really were 24 hours in a day, it no longer seems so.
Then there’s the question of our resources. Money for gifts, answers for questions, energy for our work, love for our friends (and dare we hope, love for our enemies); all of which seem in short supply. So in addition to time, it would seem that our resources have been plundered as well.
And there is plenty of truth to that. Satan would very much like to rob us of our fortunes – time, resources, and everything else. And yet the evil foe really has no use for any of these things. He knows, better than most, that this world is passing away, and all these things are passing away with it. His only purpose in robbing these things from us is to rob us away from our Heavenly Father.
The fortunes of Zion are not all these things we spend our days and nights agonizing about. The fortunes of Zion are you. You are who the Lord values. You are the fortunes that Satan would plunder. And many days it would seem that he has. But THE LORD HAS RESTORED THE FORTUNES OF ZION. The Lord has restored you. And the Baby Jesus, whom we are preparing to receive, is proof of that.
He who goes out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
bringing his sheaves with him. verse 6
To restore all of us, His fortune, Jesus starts small, maybe around five pounds. He leaves His heavenly home and comes to us as a little Child, taking on our own feeble flesh. He sleeps and He wets; He cries when He’s hungry. And when He’s all grown up, He trades a manger for a cross, because restoring a fortune does not come cheap. And this is the cost: the Jesus who goes out weeping bears the seed for sowing. Even more than that, He is the seed for sowing. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” John 12:24
As it is with anyone who plants a seed, the hope is that it will grow, because the fortune is in the harvest. And a joyful harvest will come. He will shout for joy to bring you, His harvest and His fortune, home. That much is certain.
The devil’s attempts to rob you of your Christmas Gift, the Word made Flesh, are doomed to fail. God Himself has come to deliver you, and nothing can undo what He has done. You are His forgiven, restored, and redeemed fortune. Like Caesar’s coin, His Name is on You – etched onto your head and your heart in your Baptism. You will never perish, because no one, not even Satan himself, can snatch you from His hand.
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy; verses 1-2a
Christmas is on the way; but in the week to come we all have one more chance at Advent, one more chance to go out to a world in bondage, and to sing songs of freedom; proclaiming what this Child has done, what He does, and what He yet shall do.
That will happen because you are like those who dream, whose mouths are filled with laughter, whose tongues shout with joy. And why shouldn’t you be? According to the Psalmist, these joyful words are what the restored fortunes of Zion proclaim.
Then they said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad. verses 2b-3
You are the redeemed, the restored fortunes of Zion! You are free! And that doesn’t go over well with everyone. In the weeks, months, and years to come, Satan will try to rob you of that joy, be assured. But also be assured that your every prayer, your every work of love and mercy, mock and frustrate the ruler of this world. After all, what can the tempter take from you when you are giving it away?
So go ahead and be given away; go ahead and be spent – not because you have to, but because you are a fortune, and that’s what fortunes are for. Give your time. Give your talent. Give your love: an open ear, a forgiving word, a kind heart, and a winsome witness. In doing this, as Dr. Luther says, you are all little christs to your neighbors.
You cannot give what you have not received. Receive this Christ Child, the King who has come to reclaim His fortune. He comes to you here in the waters of Baptism, here in His Holy Absolution, here in His precious Eucharist. He comes to be received, with open mouths, open ears, open hearts. Amen.