Sermon for Advent Midweek Service – God’s Visitation to Come (based on Exodus 4:27-31, Romans 8:26-39, Luke 1:57-79)
Dear people who will be visited by God: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
We have heard of God’s visitation of old and His visitation now, and how His visitation of unbelievers is Law and judgment, but how His visitation of believers is Gospel and forgiveness. Today, we look to the future. We look to how God will visit us in the time yet to come.
Judgment Day will be the final visitation of God. After Judgment Day, you will either be forever with God and in His presence, or you will be cast out of His presence, never to be visited by Him again.
As with God’s visitation of old and His visitation now, everything depends entirely on faith. Just as God visited the unbelieving Egyptians with plague and death, and visits unbelievers who commune at His altar with judgment, so He will also finally visit all unbelievers with eternal judgment. And, just as God visited His people of Israel and saved them from slavery, and visits His people at His altar with forgiveness, so He will also finally visit all believers with eternal life.
We heard in our Epistle lesson, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified.” (Rom. 8:28-30)
This passage beautifully brings together the past, the present, and the future of God’s children. Because in the past God predestined you and chose you for Himself, and because He has called you to faith and declares you justified in the present, you know that He will glorify you and grant you eternal life in the future. Put in another way, because God has graciously visited you in the past and graciously visits you in the present, you know He will graciously visit you on the Last Day.
Notice how Scripture speaks of your glorification in the past tense. It doesn’t say, “those whom He justified He will also glorify.” It says, “those whom He justified He also glorified.” Because it is God’s promise to you, it can be stated so certainly like it has already taken place, as if you have already been raised from the dead and given a glorified, resurrected body.
This is what Zechariah’s prophecy also does. At the time Zechariah uttered the prophecy, Jesus was not yet born. Mary was three months pregnant with Jesus. But what does Zechariah say? He says, filled with the Holy Spirit, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people.” When God makes a promise to do something, it is as good as done. Because God had promised to send a Saviour, even though He hadn’t yet died for our sins on the cross to save us and was not yet even born, Zechariah says that He has redeemed His people. He has saved us from the hand of our enemies and delivered us from the hand of all who hate us.
That is how you should view God’s promises to you – that they are as certain as if they had already been fulfilled. Even though at this time you remain in this world of illness and suffering you have been delivered from your enemy of death. Even though you still struggle with sin, you have been saved from sin. Even though you are still tempted by the devil, you have been delivered from his clutches.
And you have God’s promise that for those who love God all things work together for good. Your eternal good in heaven is what God wants for you. To make sure that you will make it there, God has visited you, claimed you as His own, and given you faith. He visits you in His Word and the Sacrament of the Altar to keep and preserve you in the faith.
Out of His love for you and His desire for you to be with Him in eternity, God may also visit you with discipline to turn you back if you have wandered into sin. Scripture says, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by Him. For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives. It is for discipline you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Heb. 12:5-11)
God visits His children with discipline now so that He will not visit us with punishment on Judgment Day. Under discipline, it may seem as though we are forsaken by God, but that is precisely when He is loving and caring for us the most. Through hardship, the Holy Spirit quenches sinful desires and kills the flesh, to prepare us for eternal life.
Do not become bitter at God when He disciplines you. Rather, humble yourself and repent. Confess your sins and receive absolution. Even when God is visiting you with discipline, He also visits you with forgiveness. Even when God disciplines you He wants you to remember His promises to you.
All things work together for your good. God has visited you and redeemed you. He continues to visit you with discipline and forgiveness so that when He visits you on the Last Day you will enter into the eternal joys of heaven with a glorified body. God’s promises to you are as certain as if they had already been fulfilled.
Therefore we do not fear the return of Christ. Rather, we pray: O Saviour, rend the heavens wide; Come down, come down with mighty stride; Unlock the gates, the doors break down; Unbar the way to heaven’s crown (LSB 355 st. 1). Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.