Christ is coming. Who is He? Who is this Man that St. John was born to preach? Who is this Son of David Who sits on David’s throne? Who is this One Whom angels and Apostles serve? Who is He, and why do we prepare for His coming?
The baptismal rite begins with these words: “Depart thou unclean spirit and make room for The Holy Spirit.” They are very strange words to human ears. Anyone can look at a newborn baby and see it’s perfectly innocent – it can do nothing wrong. It can do nothing right either. Most importantly, it can’t trust in God. David says in Psalm 51 that he was conceived and born in sin, and if he was, you are too.
What is that sin? I just said it – it’s the inability to trust in God. We often focus on the negative side of The First Commandment – you shall have no other gods – and say “Don’t worship money, don’t worship sports, don’t worship the gods of other religions because they aren’t real.” But do you realize there’s a positive side? It’s this: “Believe in the true God, The Triune God. Believe in Jesus. Look to The Cross, trust Christ, and live.” You cannot do this until you’ve heard The Word. We are conceived without God’s Word, so we inherit the sin of our father Adam: wicked desires.
This means, if you don’t have trust in Christ but do have wicked desires, that you are born under the rule of someone else: Satan. He loves to rule people with a wicked, cruel hold. He loves to hold onto us and drag us down into hell with him. He loves to tempt us to do what is evil and to turn our backs on God. His hold on us would be so heavy that there’s no way to see the way out. You’d be stuck in that dungeon forever.
That’s why Christ had to come, to break open that dungeon with His light and our chains with His Blood. Who is He? Why did He have to do it? He is The Image of the invisible God. When we hear these words, we remember Jesus once said: “He who has seen Me has seen The Father,” and “I and The Father are one.” Christ is just like His Father. He is true God, of one substance with The Father. How does this apply to The Gospel? You know what The Father thinks about you by how His Son thinks about you. You know how He thinks whenever you see His Cross and say in faith: “He did this for me!”
He is The Firstborn of all creation. People sometimes think it means He was created. But St. Paul says immediately that He Himself is The Creator. The Father didn’t create things through something He created. He created them through His Only-begotten Son, begotten from all eternity. That’s why He’s The Firstborn. It’s not that He’s created; it’s that He’s the cause of creation, both here on earth and in heaven above! “By Him all things were made – without Him nothing was made that has been made.”
He is The Head of The Body, The Church. No church official is truly in charge. No one is allowed to change what He teaches us in His Word. No one is allowed to fiddle with His doctrine pure. No one is allowed to lighten His Law or hold back His Gospel. We are His Body; we are incorporated, which means “enfleshed,” into Him when we come to faith in Him. We are completely united with Him, united so that nothing can get between us, not even the devil. We are united in such a way that we even feel what He felt. That’s why we feel persecution, and even why it’s OK for a Christian to die and be buried – because our Lord died and was buried. And since He rose, we too shall rise. For we are His Church, those called by His Spirit, gathered around Him, around His Word and Sacrament.
He is The Beginning. He has always existed with His Father and The Spirit and He brought all things into being by speaking. And He is The Firstborn from the dead. This also shows us that Firstborn doesn’t mean first-created, but Cause. After all, He Himself raised people before He was raised. But His Resurrection is the cause of our resurrection on the last day. Since He overcame death, death has no more power over us. It will have to free us when He says it’s time.
He is preeminent. He has first place. He’s the sole Cause of creation and salvation. Things didn’t just come into being without His involvement. Nor do you play a role in your salvation. He does it all through His Death and the work of His Spirit. This is so that He gets all the glory, and you none. He wants to be on the pedestal of your heart and be there alone all the time, with nothing else vying to topple Him from that spot.
For He has reconciled all things to Himself. Sin declared war between creation and its Creator. Sin makes us hostile towards Him, aliens from His kingdom because sin alienates us from Him. He hates sin, so He has to get away from it. Yet He ended the war in His own Body. He took our sins into Him. He bore them. He was punished for every single one of them. He was punished for our corruption. He was punished for our death. He shed His Blood. Then He was raised from the dead. God is no longer angry over our sins. He now pardons us for Jesus’ sake. The war is ended – “God and sinners reconciled!”
Now His Blood through Holy Baptism has ushered you into His kingdom. You are washed clean in The Blood of The “Lamb of God, pure and holy, Who on The Cross didst suffer.” Now He desires to present you to His Father as holy and blameless and above reproach. He wants The Father to see you as He sees Him. He wants The Father to see that all He did for you is made yours. That means you are holy – set apart from sin. That means you are blameless – no one can say you deserve to be punished for sins because you’re innocent. You are above reproach – when the devil or your conscience tells you you are a sinner worthy of eternal death, you can tell them your Savior has freed you of your sins and their threatening perils.
Now He is coming. He is here speaking to you. Your God Who was born of Mary is coming to judge the quick and the dead. So remain in this Faith. Be stable and steadfast in it. Do not shift from the hope of this Gospel that you hear. For it is your stay in death and the grave and in all trouble. Nothing else can comfort you. Your works cannot save you from Almighty God, for your sins will always outweigh what you think was good but God might not agree. Only The Cross of Christ will bring you to God’s throne on that day with joy and gladness. So entrust yourself to Him, for He keeps all His promises. He will not fail you.
For faith in Him brings you the inheritance of the saints. That is what He willed to us on the night in which He was betrayed. His will is that you eat His Body and drink His Blood and so receive remission of sins, and where there is remission of sins, there is life and salvation. His will is that those who receive Him in true faith be saved eternally. This is what all the faithful departed have received. Be thou faithful unto death, and you too shall receive the crown of life.
So we hear about John the Baptist, but he’s not that important. He came to prepare the people for the important one: Christ Jesus and Him Crucified. He came to be crucified, and He comes to you to give you the fruits of His Passion, that when He comes again you may live with Him forever. So prepare. Confess your sins. Believe that they are forgiven. Be with Him, in His Word, for His Word prepares you for Him and brings Him to you. It will bring you to Him pure and holy in His sight when He takes you home and when He raises you from the dead.