Photo by Malte Wingen on Unsplash
Bethlehem Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
INI + AMEN.
’Tis the season of giving. Christmas is just around the corner—just one week! God the Father gifts us with His only Son, “conceived by the Holy Sprit and born of the Virgin Mary.” The Lord gives Gifts. That’s the sort of God He is. “Every good and perfect Gift comes down from the Father of Lights,” as James tells us. He’s the Gift-giver God, and He wants His baptized children, you and me, to live the Gift-ed life.
What is this Gift-ed life? It’s a life that’s lived begiftedly, that is, from His Gifts, being on the receiving end of His Gifts. That’s it! The Lord gives His Gifts and His children receive them in faith. Now, our focus here isn’t on worldly gifts, which He gives to everyone, “even without our prayer,” but we’re focused this evening, this Advent, this Christmas, on the Gifts of Salvation and Redemption and new Life only given—gifted!—through His only Son, Jesus.
((2. Salvation done and delivered is all Gift.))
Salvation is a gift—free gift! The Lord Himself, in the sending and giving up of His Son, worked Salvation for you, “without any merit or worthiness in you.” It’s that way with all His gifts. Jesus’ being born in Bethlehem was a gift, His suffering under Pontius Pilate was a gift, His shedding His blood, His dying, His rising again, all gift. The Lord worked salvation for you, from your sins, from your death, from your hell. He did it. Free of charge. Gift.
Salvation is a delivered gift, too. That’s also free of charge! He delivered His death and resurrection to you in the waters of Holy Baptism, where His Word did what it said. You are a disciple, born again, saved. His death and resurrection for you, have been delivered to you as a Gift. Yes, in Baptism, but He delivers still more in His Absolution and the Supper of His Body and Blood, which also are free gift. In those Gifts, the Lord Jesus gives, delivers His Salvation, Redemption, and new life right to you: watery Words over your forehead and heart, Words of forgiveness into your ears and mind, His body and blood into your mouth and soul.
Salvation is a Gift, both when it was done and accomplished, but also when it’s delivered. Salvation was done and accomplished from Bethlehem through Calvary to empty tomb, and salvation is delivered here and now in His Gifts. Salvation done and delivered is all Gift.
((1. Sanctification, new life, is also Gift.))
Old Adam doesn’t like any of that. He doesn’t do free, unless it’s trying to get off scot-free from changing his sins. Your Old Adam enjoys his sins, which means, you do, too. Your Old Adam is you. If you didn’t like them, why do you keep doing them? The problem isn’t the sins we hate, but the sins we don’t hate, and the things we do to balance out all our sins we. “Shall we remain in sin so that grace may abound? By no means!”
So, what’s to be done? “The Old Adam should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.” But who does the “should”-ing? We want it to be us. That’s Old Adam again. He wants to decide what’s worthy of repentance and what’s not. He wants to decide what sort of new life fits what he wants, that fits his schedule and plan. He judges for himself and others how much repentance is enough.
Yes, repentance should happen. Complete repentance! Repentance in “thought, word, and deed.” Repentance in “heart, soul, mind, and strength.” Repentance not just in outward action, but the wants of your heart. Our problem isn’t just that we want our sins but we want to fix them, too. Because when we hear the Catechism’s “should,” we think, “That’s my job. That’s what I need to be doing.” When we do that, we end up rejecting salvation by grace alone, because we’re using the term “repentance” to turn Jesus’ free salvation into a loan, which is paid off by our continued action and improvement.
That’s our flesh, our Old Adam, too. He’s constantly trying to help God out, after all he thinks he’s become like God, knowing what’s good and what’s evil. The original sin. Daily repentance is undoable for you. Unless you can resurrect yourself… “Who then can be saved?” “With man this is impossible, but not for God. With God all things are possible,” even drowning and killing the Old Adam, with all his sins and evil desires, and also resurrecting a new man to live before him in righteousness and purity forever.
The Lord does it. Even your sanctification, your new life, your Christian life is also gift. Because really repentance and new life is nothing other than what Paul says in Romans 6: “the body of sin being brought to nothing.” And only Christ’s death and resurrection, delivered to you in Holy Baptism through the Holy Spirit, does that. Jesus is the one “who died for sin once for all,” after all. He did that, He delivers it. “Body of sin” done for. And His resurrection power is delivered to you by His Spirit at the Font.
All your sins and evil desires were drowned there, and you aren’t left on your own with the “should” of repentance. You should, but you can’t. That daily drowning and dying of Baptism is actually the work of the Spirit. “He sanctifies and keeps you in the one true faith,” He “enlightens you with His Gifts,” the Water of Baptism, the preaching of the Word, and the giving of Jesus’ body and blood. He will cause His fruit to grow in your heart and soul, and in your daily life, too. He does it. And it will happen. After all, God is the Gift-giver God.
“By Baptism we are first born anew. But…there still remains the old vicious nature of flesh and blood in mankind. There are so many hindrances and temptations of the devil and of the world that we often become weary and faint, and sometimes we also stumble. Therefore the Sacrament is given as a daily pasture and sustenance…” (LC V, 146) Through His Gifts, the Spirit comforts you and gives you life, “daily and richly,” as the 3rd Article reminds us.
Death and resurrection. That’s why there’s a Christmas, and Advent, too. Jesus was born to do that for you. He delivers it to you, too. Baptism, Preaching, His Word, His Absolution, His Body and Blood all deliver His free cross-won, empty-tomb certain salvation. It is yours, free of charge.
That includes your Christian life, too. We live the Gift-ed life. We live from and through Jesus’ Gifts. He enlivens us. He strengthens us. He does it daily. He doesn’t kick us off on our own to work it out, to figure it out, to repent it all out. He alone “makes the body of sin nothing.” He takes your sins away. Why would you go back to them? You’re baptized! Now you’re not just Old Adam. You’re a saint, too! Baptized!
What you should do but can’t, the Lord takes care of. His Gift. He takes care of all the “should”-ing of repentance and new life, of death and resurrection. If you don’t see it, well, gift rejected. With you “should” is “can’t” and “don’t”, but with Him, it’s more than “should” happen, it will happen. DAILY DEATH AND RESURRECTION IS JESUS’ GIFT TO YOU. No payment necessary. It’s free. It’s a Gift. Not just a Christmas gift. It’s a daily Gift.
You live from the Gifts. You’re baptized. You’ve already died and risen in Jesus at the Font. “And so consider yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” That’s what you are only in Him. ’Tis the season of giving. He’s already giving to you. DAILY DEATH AND RESURRECTION IS JESUS’ GIFT TO YOU.
INI + AMEN.