In Psalm 130:6-8, we read: “My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning. Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.”
Do you wonder if God’s people ever got tired of waiting? The opening verses of Matthew’s Gospel list 42 generations from Abraham to Christ (this doesn’t even include the generations from Adam to Abraham) – 14 from Abraham to David, 14 from David to the exile, and 14 from the exile up through Joseph, the husband of Mary the mother of Jesus.
And what of Joseph? He was the legal father of Jesus but not the actual father, for Jesus was born by the mighty working of God’s Spirit in the Virgin Mary. She was descended from Abraham and David through David’s son Nathan rather than through Solomon the ancestor of Joseph (cf. Matthew 1 and Luke 3).
Waiting and wondering when and how God would fulfill His promises had to be on their minds and, for many, their most significant role as listed in Scripture was simply being in the Messianic line and keeping that line intact until the Christ should come. Though they may not have even known it at the time, God’s plan of salvation was being fulfilled through them. Though in many cases their lives seemed no different from those of others, God was working through them to carry out His divine work of salvation.
And, imagine Joseph’s shock when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream while he was considering quietly giving Mary a certificate of divorce rather than publicly accusing her of adultery!
The angel’s message? “Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:20-21).
After generations of waiting for the LORD God to “redeem Israel from all his iniquities,” the LORD God – the eternal Son of God and ceator of all things – had taken on human flesh and blood and was in the womb of the Virgin Mary that He might “save his people from their sins.”
And, of course, we know from God’s Word, how the LORD God performed what He had promised. He was conceived and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered and died under Pontius Pilate. He was crucified, dead and buried. He rose again on the third day and ascended to the right hand of God the Father in heaven. And from there, He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
And Joseph’s role? to be the husband of Mary and the caretaker and protector of the Christ Child. Joseph did what any good husband and father would do! But God chose Joseph; it was a part of God’s plan.
Followers of Jesus have been waiting and waiting for Christ Jesus to come back to establish His glorious kingdom and keep His Word. Nearly 2,000 years have passed since Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension. Generations have come and gone. Believers say with the psalmist: “My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning.”
As we await the Lord’s return, our lives may seem pretty mundane. It may appear that nothing significant is taking place. We read our Bibles at home and gather Sunday after Sunday to hear God’s Word proclaimed, to offer up our prayers and praises and to receive in the Lord’s Supper the body and blood of Jesus which was given and shed for us on the cross to redeem us from all our iniquities. We come away with the assurance of sins forgiven and the promise of eternal life in heaven.
And generations pass. We too may pass before Christ returns. It seems nothing is happening.
But all who wait in faith are a part of God’s plan of salvation. We are brought to Christ in Baptism, we hear the Word proclaimed and receive Christ’s Supper and are kept trusting in Christ and awaiting His return. We bring our children to Christ in Baptism. We share with them God’s Word and point them to their Savior.
And, though our lives may seem pretty insignificant, and though we might not see it, God is carrying out His plan. Through Word and Sacrament, our children and others are brought to faith in Christ and preserved in that faith. Christ is building and establishing His eternal kingdom in plain sight though we often don’t even see it.
We are not the Messiah and we’re not even in the Messianic line, but like John the Baptist we point people to Christ, and like Joseph we stand against the assaults of the world against Christ and His Word that future generations might still hear the saving Word, receive the Sacraments and trust in Christ their Savior.
Attending church services on Sunday and partaking of the Lord’s Supper, again and again, might seem pretty mundane and insignificant, but it isn’t. God comes to us through His Word and convinces us of our sinfulness and then points us to Christ Jesus and the redemption He accomplished for us. Through Baptism we are joined to Christ and guaranteed the blessings of forgiveness and life He won for us on the cross. And, in the Lord’s Supper, we partake of Christ’s sacrifice for the sins of all that we might be assured the price has been paid, atonement made, and that we are partakers of the pardon He won when He died upon the cross for our sins and rose again.
We gather again tomorrow. We come to hear God’s Word and to receive Christ’s Supper. What happens as we gather is significant and important. God will be at work though we may not see it.
Christ would have us examine ourselves and prepare ourselves for tomorrow. And so, I ask you before God: Do you acknowledge that you are a sinner and have sinned in thought, word and deed? Do you confess and agree with God that you are guilty and deserving of his wrath and punishment? Do you trust that Christ Jesus has truly redeemed you and made atonement for all your sins? Do you also believe that Jesus, in the Sacrament, gives you to partake of His body and blood which were given and shed that your sins might be forgiven you? As a fruit of your faith, do you truly desire and seek God’s help to amend your life and live it in accord with God’s Word?
If you are truly sorry for your sins and look to Christ and His atoning sacrifice upon the cross for pardon and forgiveness, I announce unto you the grace of God and, in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]