21. December 2022
Advent 4 Midweek
Come, then, O Lord Jesus, From our sins release us. Keep our hearts believing, That we, grace receiving, Ever may confess You Till in heav’n we bless You.
In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.
Come, O Lord Jesus! ἔρχου, κύριε Ἰησοῦ! O Lord, come! Or if you prefer the Aramaic, Μαρὰν ἀθά! “Maranatha” was a watchword of the early church used in greetings as a prayer for the Lord to return. He comes in judgment when He will end the foul reign of sin, death, and the devil forever. He comes to judge, which is a curse to those who have kept God as their enemy by refusing the forgiveness He gives. He comes to judge, which is a blessing to those whose sins are forgiven, whose hearts believe, whom grace receives, and whose mouths confess Him as Savior LORD. Come, O Lord Jesus! ἔρχου, κύριε Ἰησοῦ! O Lord, come! Μαρὰν ἀθά!
The final stanza of our office hymn is offered as a prayer directly to Christ for the fulfillment of what He has promised. We plead that He would keep us in the faith until we receive it at our death and on the last day. Come! Release us! Keep us! Until in heaven, we bless you! But we also pray this together and for one another. When we cry out together for the LORD to come and save us, we encourage each other to keep our eyes fixed on the horizon for the return of Jesus. As Paul exhorts us, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col 3:16). O Lord, come! Μαρὰν ἀθά!
We want Jesus to come now as before and as will be. Once He came, now He comes, and He will come again! But we also resist His coming because we know it means our death. When He came in the days of old, He brought an end to the entire religious life of His people. The Torah, with its attendant liturgy, sacrifices, prayers, and holidays, was fulfilled in Him. The Torah’s ceremonial law was dead. And Jesus instituted a new testament with specific institutions of baptism, absolution, and His supper. The entire liturgical life of the church was transformed by Jesus’s cross and resurrection—new orders of liturgy, the preaching of the Gospel, massive expansion of sacred hymnody, and a new Sabbath day and holidays for the year. There was a resurrection, but there was a death first.
Now He comes to you with forgiveness, life, and salvation. But He must also expose the sins to be forgiven, put to death the old Adam with his sins and desires, and show us the chains that bind us before freeing us from them. As the Apostolic church confesses, each day, the Christian dies with Christ and is raised by Him in repentance and absolution, just as the old man was drowned in Baptism and the new man Jesus arose out of that sacred flood. When we cry out for Jesus, Μαρὰν ἀθά, we are asking Him to crucify us and raise us again!
In one of the earliest liturgies of the Apostolic church, the Didache, the prayer after communion confessed this theme of judgment unto death and life. It said, “Let grace come, and let this world pass away. Hosanna to the God (Son) of David! If anyone is holy, let him come; if he is not, let him repent. Maran atha. Amen” (Didache, 10:6).
Let’s be clear about what we’re asking for when we cry out, “Come, LORD Jesus!” We’re asking Him to come with all the violence, destruction, and doom of the final judgment. We’re asking Him to bring to an end all the death, decay, corruption, horrors, and terrors of life as we know it. And we’re asking Him to separate us and all who believe from those who refuse to believe. We are asking Jesus to put as far away from us as hell is from heaven those who insist on continuing to live as dogs, with their pharmacology, gender fluidity, sexual debauchery, murdering of infants, infirm and elderly, celebrity fetishes, and living by lies.
And if there are any such among us, we call them to repentance now because Jesus is coming quickly. He says, “Behold, I am coming quickly!” There is no time to remain in trespasses and sins. Repent, believe the Gospel, and you will be saved. Everything in this Christian church is ordered for repentance unto the forgiveness of sins. That is the only way. If anyone is to be saved, God, by His Word and Spirit, must first devastate whatever stupid ideas, immoral lives, and rebellious beliefs are in His way. And having brought an end to all injustice, filthiness, and idolatry, Jesus promises to keep us in His righteousness, holiness, life, and faith until He comes again.
“And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work” (Rev 22:12). Christ comes with the reward which He Himself earned, and which He freely gives to all believers by grace. The “reward” itself is the gift of eternal life in God’s holy presence, earned for God’s people by the death and resurrection of the Lamb of God. This “reward” is represented by the tree of life. Good news and a great gift! So the whole church, the bride, cannot help but cry out, “‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev 22:17) And again, Jesus exclaims, “Surely I am coming quickly!” (Rev 22:20).
You aren’t interested in Jesus coming sometime or maybe, but now. This is the prayer of every Christian, and of all Christians collectively, for it is the prayer of Christ’s bride, the church. It is the best ending to the message of St. John’s apocalypse—in fact, of the whole Bible. With our eyes of faith focused on Jesus’s revealing Himself in both Word and Sacrament, the church and each Christian are motivated to pray daily, “Amen. Come now, Lord Jesus! Μαρὰν ἀθά!” We can pray in this way with the confident answer that the LORD Jesus will keep His promise, “Surely I am coming quickly!” (Rev 22:20)
So, come now, Jesus, blessing those whose sins are forgiven, whose hearts believe, whom grace receives, and whose mouths confess Him as Savior LORD. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church & School – Sherman Center
Random Lake, Wisconsin