Advent Midweek I: “Savior of the Nations, Come: The Invitation”
Nov. 30, 2016
Text: John 1:1-14
God does not coerce us to believe in Him. He invites us. He forces no one to be in fellowship with Him. But He tenderly calls us into communion with the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the Body of Christ, the Church. He calls us by the Gospel. He calls us in the preaching of His Word. He calls us by placing His Name upon us in Holy Baptism. An invitation, of course, does not have to be accepted. It may be ignored. It may be rejected outright. Such are the forms of unbelief. God invites by His Word and by Baptism, but not everyone believes. Not everyone wants fellowship with God or with His holy Church. Still, the invitation goes out from God, and it goes out with power, the power of the eternal Word of God through whom all things were made.
Creation itself is God’s invitation to existence through His powerful Word. God graciously called into being all that exists, the heavens and the earth and all living creatures. And without any cooperation or participation from man, God called Adam into existence, formed Him from the dust of the ground, and Eve, Adam’s wife, God formed from Adam’s rib. God invited our first parents, Adam and Eve, to live perpetually in fellowship with Him in paradise. But He did not coerce them. He gave them an opportunity to live outside of fellowship with Him. If you want to live without God, just eat from this tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Every other tree you can enjoy for food and remain in fellowship with God, but this tree is a relationship breaker. And of course, you know what Adam and Eve chose. The serpent led them to believe that they were better off without God, that they could do better on their own, as their own gods. An invitation graciously extended, even by the very hand of God, can be rejected. Such was the fatal mistake of our first parents. For what they had forgotten, the warning of God they had failed to heed, is that in the day they ate of the forbidden fruit, they would surely die. Outside of the fellowship of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, there is only death.
Adam and Eve died when they ate the forbidden fruit. They died spiritually, they began the process of dying physically, and they were condemned to eternal death in hell. They could do nothing about their mortal condition. So God graciously did something about it. The Father invited the Son to become one with sinful humanity by taking on human flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary. The Father invited the Son to suffer and die in that flesh to deliver Adam and Eve and all their children, you and me and all people, from the wages of our sin, which is death, and to restore us to fellowship with God. The Father invited the Son to bring life into the world. The Son did not reject the Father’s invitation. For our sake, the Son accepted the Father’s invitation and accomplished His saving will. In Him, all our sins are forgiven, our relationship to God is restored, and we are given eternal life with Him. The invitation to receive this gift goes out with every sermon, with every confession of Christ, with every Baptism into Christ. And the invitation is powerful because it is the very Word of God. It is a performative Word, which means it is powerful not only to invite but to deliver, to deliver the faith to accept the invitation, and to deliver the very gift the invitation promises: The forgiveness of sins and eternal fellowship with God.
So the invitation goes out this evening here and wherever the Word is proclaimed. Some will reject. The world rejects the invitation. The world would rather remain in death and darkness, under the illusion that they are their own gods. “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:9-11; ESV). God forces no one. He has extended a time of grace for repentance and reception of His gracious invitation. After that, He will give all who reject His invitation what they want. He will leave them alone, forsake them, which is hell.
But you, beloved, you who also by your sins have rejected His invitation, hear Him now as He extends it to you once again in preaching and so delivers to you all the benefits of your Lord Jesus Christ and His righteousness and death and resurrection. Repent of your rejecting Him. Repent of listening to the serpent, of desiring to be your own god, and believe that this invitation is for you. God has beheld your deadly plight, and He has done something about it. He sent His Son. And to all who receive Him, who believe in His Name, He gives the right to become children of God (v. 12). You are God’s own child by Holy Baptism. You have been born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God, by water and the Word. The relationship that God intended for His people from the beginning has been restored to you, that you might live perpetually in fellowship with Him in paradise. This is pure gift, beloved. God does not coerce you to receive this. He gives it to you freely in His Word and Sacraments. It is your life. Death is defeated. Life is yours in Christ. It is a reality that is yours now by faith, but it will be made fully manifest on the Last Day when your Lord Jesus extends another invitation to you: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34).
May this Advent Season be a joyful time for you to prepare for the celebration of our Lord’s birth and for His coming again on the Last Day, and also a time to revel in His gracious invitation to you to receive His gifts. For the Word became flesh and has made His dwelling among us. We behold His glory as He continues to come among us in the flesh in His Word and Supper. And so we receive the true Light which enlightens everyone, the Light of life, even Jesus Christ, our Lord. Invitation delivered, invitation received. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.