Advent 4 - Rorate Coeli: The Sunday of John Baptizing
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
December 20, 2015
Central Passage
John 1:19-28

In the name of the FATHER and of the + SON and of the HOLY SPIRIT.

Look at the Introit of the Day. The antiphon, the part that brackets the psalm, comes from Isaiah 45 (v.8). And it speaks of Christ.

“Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit; let the earth cause them both to appear.”

One of the chief holy days of the Church is just a few days away. Christmas, the Nativity of our Lord, is one of the four chief feasts of the Church: Easter, Christmas, Epiphany, and Ascension. These holy days – or they have come to be known: holidays – are the pillars of our faith. They are the bedrock of the Creed – born of the virgin Mary; was made man; was crucified, died, and was buried, and rose again on the third day; He ascended into heaven. There is no holy day, no festival for the Second Coming of Christ. Not because He hasn’t come again but because in truth, every Divine Service is a festival of His Second Coming.

St. Paul says that as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes in the future.

In fact, every Divine Service is really a feast of all the chief holy days. We sing the song of the angels from Luke 2, when we sing the Greater Gloria. We sing the song of Passion Week when we sing the Kyrie. We sing the song of Epiphany as we proclaim Jesus as coming in the flesh. Easter pervades the entire service, which is proper, since this service is the service of the Risen Christ who is preaching to you His word and feeding you His life-giving Body and Blood, as He said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has life in them.” And we sing the song of the Ascension because the Christ who here serves us and comforts us is the ascended Christ. We pray because He is ascended to the right hand of Power, as He says, “You will ask the Father because I go to the Father.” Pentecost, too, is here, as He promises that He will send His Holy Spirit, the Comforter, who will bring to mind all the things of Christ and by whom we pray and are joined together and to Jesus.

Every time we are gathered together, whether is a multitude of us or just two or three, we are given the entire sum of salvation history and promises for the life to come.

Every time we are gathered together, the words of Isaiah the prophet prove true: “Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down righteousness.” Jesus is seen coming in the clouds of heaven. That’s not just an allusion to His Second Coming but to His continual presence. For the Lord was in the cloud that went before and followed after Israel, and now He is in His blessed mysteries, even His Church, going before and following after us. Here is the heavenly places where righteousness is showered down on you from above. Is not Christ the righteousness of God? Does He not here make Himself known to you in the breaking of the bread? Do you not hear His voice here in this place, the voice of the Prophet greater than Moses to whom we are to listen as He says, “Take, eat; this is my body”?

“Let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit, let the earth cause both to sprout.” This is a prophesy of the birth of Christ. Mary is of the earth, of the flesh. Yet the Lord opened her womb and she bore the Salvation and Righteousness for all mankind, and all generations shall call her blessed. It is her Son that bears much fruit. But so, too, is this prophecy a prophecy of this holy convocation, this divine gathering. It must be because this divine gathering is the gathering of the Righteous One. The earth here opens as the Lord uses bread and

wine and broken men to declare the blessings of paradise. The Lord’s holy Supper is no less a miracle than the Virgin Birth, and perhaps, if I may be so bold, a far greater one. For then He came to Mary and Joseph and to the town called Bethlehem, but now He comes to all people in a the city from above called the new Jerusalem. And the fruit you get from Him, St. Paul says, is eternal life.

Therefore, the Apostle exhorts, Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice! The Lord is at hand. Do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and supplications with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. Of course, we generally flip this and pray and supplicate because of our anxiety rather than because of our thanksgiving. But how can we be anxious when the Lord has not left us alone as orphans but has provided for us a watering hole from which we drink from the River of Life, and the Bread of Heaven by which we are sustained? There, that is how all that has been said been said applies to your work-a-day world. This Divine Service colors your view of the rest of life, or else you do not believe. This holy gathering where the heavens shower down and the earth opens is the source of your life, even if you aren’t here all that often. All that means is that you’re cutting yourself off from the Lord and Giver of Life.

This thing we call church – going to church – is not for our brains more so than for our bodies. It’s not for our emotions more so than for our reason. This is for all of us, for all parts of us. The Lord redeeming you, body and soul, mind and spirit. Here the Lord is Emmanuel, God with us, and here the Savior of the nations comes to the nations.

He will come again as He went 40 days after Easter, at His ascension. He will come again with power and great might, subduing the nations under Him and defeating the final enemy, which is death. Not that these things are a foregone conclusion, they are. But that until that time we proclaim His death, resurrection, and ascension by gathering to Him who is our Head and receiving from Him all blessings and honor and glory. For that is what Christmas teaches us. That the glory of the Lord is shared with men so that not only does He share in our humanity, redeeming humanity, but we share in His glory by which He elevates humanity to the right hand of God. From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

+ In Nomie Iesu +