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December 5th, 2008 at 5:44 pm

Communion and Christmas Homily

Christmas and Communion, Part I

Welcome to you all this second Sunday of Advent, 2008.

In the history of the Christian church, the liturgical season of Advent has been a season of humble and repentant expectation and preparation, a season which actually ends on Christmas Eve. Christmas or as often called Christmastide is a season which starts on Christmas Day and lasts for twelve days, and is more celebratory than Advent.

There are two words which we use over and over during this Advent season. The first is the word “advent” itself, which means, simply, “coming.” It refers to the first coming of Jesus, the coming into the world of God the son as Jesus of Nazareth. 

The second word we use often during the Advent season is “incarnation.” This word refers to the “enfleshment” of God as a real person, a real human being. God became man. As the Apostle John says, “the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us.” Both of these words point us to the almost unimaginable self giving love of God toward us. 

Advent reminds us that God had a plan from all eternity to come to us, to rescue us, to save us from our sins. As it says in Ephesians, we were chosen in Jesus before the foundation of the world.

Incarnation reminds us that to do this plan to save us, the Father, Son and Spirit covenanted to send to us the Son, the eternally only begotten Son, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. God the son had therefore to empty Himself, empty Himself of the prerogatives of His office as God the Son, and suffer not only the terrible agonies of the cross, but even the indignities and humilities and discomforts of life in a fallen and broken human world. You know, he didn’t have to do that.

And he came as all human beings have come since Adam and Eve, humbly and without any power or prerogative, by growing and developing inside the womb of a mother, his mother Mary. From God’s eternal and majestic throne to Mary’s womb came to us God the Son. As the great hymn says, “He emptied Himself of all but love.”

And it is this self emptying love of God upon which I want us to focus this second Sunday of Advent. In this self emptying we see not only into the heart of God’s person. We also see into the heart of our own discipleship. We see a picture of how we are to act toward one another, and toward our neighbors. 

Now, as we approach the communion table this morning, I would encourage us to have in mind two things. First, I would have you see in the elements of communion the self emptying love of Jesus, who humbled himself and made Himself nothing; who became flesh and bore the frailties of our common life, and who learned obedience even through suffering – all of this so that he might bear our sin and free us from bondage to sin and death.

Second, I would have you see in the elements of communion the pathway of your own discipleship. The servant is not greater than the master. Just as Jesus came not to be served but to serve, so it is to be with us.

Christmas and Communion, Part II

In the first homily on Christmas and Communion I spoke about the self emptying love of God in Jesus, a love that we see encapsulated in the words “advent” and “incarnation,” and that we see symbolized in the elements of communion. 

Look around you. The people around you are wonderful and charming each in his or her unique way. But each person you see is also a sinner, one who sins, falls short, misses the mark, disappoints. Each one is or can be difficult. Yet each one is a person you are called to love and serve and esteem above yourself.  You are not better than your fellow sinner. Do not for a moment think too highly of yourselves, lest you fall. Consider your brother as greater than yourself. Consider your brother’s interests as more important than your own. Paul says, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Why? Because this is the way of Christ Jesus. At no time is this more clear to us than at Christmas. And in no two words is the truth of this clearer than in “advent” and “incarnation.”

I’ll make it simple. In the elements of communion, in the bread broken, in the drink poured out, we see the self giving and self emptying love of Jesus symbolized and expressed as clearly as it can be expressed. As Jesus loved us, so we are to love one another, and so we are to love our neighbor. So even are we to love our enemy.

As Jesus came into our world to save sinners, so are we to go into the world in His great name for the sake both of His great glory and for the good of helpless sinners, sinners like us, sinners, compared to whom, we are no better.

We can forget that. We can forget that we were dead in our transgressions and sins. We can forget that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. We forget the great principle of the reformed biblical understanding, and that is that we were chosen by God without condition, without respect to anything good and deserving in us whatsoever. In advent, the self emptying love of God in Christ shines forth. In advent the call of discipleship shines forth as well.

Jesus bids us come. He bids us to humble ourselves under the leveling hand of his free and unconditional and undeserved love and mercy. In Jesus one man is not above another; we all stand as naked before him; we all stand equally needy of his gift. We all come as beggars to the trough. But Jesus bids us come, come and partake of his gift, come and partake of his way of life. He bids us come and die, die to ourselves, die to our self interests, die to our pride, and die to our inflated view of ourselves. He bids us come to walk as he walked, as servants.

In between the passing of the bread and the drink we will pause to sing together “A Communion Hymn for Christmas.” 

Our table is open to all who would come to Jesus in true faith and repentance. Come, believe in Him; cling to Him by faith. Partake the benefits of his body broken for you. Partake of the benefits of his life giving death. Partake of the benefits of his offer of forgiveness and new life. Eat and drink and be glad. The time of waiting is over. The advent is here. Jesus has come. God has become man. 

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