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Sunday, December 21, 2014


            In the age of communication, we are surrounded by voices.  Especially in this busy time of the year, we are bombarded with advertisements and year-end pleas.  People telling us why we’ve got to have their product or why it’s the best one out there.  People telling us to donate in order to save the rainforest or feed the children.  These voices are always calling out to us, trying to capture our resources.  But there are other voices too, voices with a different goal in mind.  Voices that try to capture us and lure us away from our God, and they will say whatever they need in order to get their way: sometimes they entice; sometimes they pressure; sometimes they accuse.
            The voices that entice promise us happiness.  They draw us to themselves by promising us whatever we want.  They tell us that we deserve to be happy; that we deserve to have love; that we deserve nice things.  These voices feed off our selfishness and sense of entitlement, and tell us if we don’t listen we will be miserable and unhappy.
The voices that pressure promise us acceptance.  They coerce us by telling us that everyone is doing it.  They tell us if we don’t make waves we will be liked; if we go along with the rest we will have friends; if we join in we will be popular.  These voices feed off our desire to belong, and tells us if we don’t listen we will be rejected and alone.
            The voices that accuse threaten punishment unless we conform.  These voices can be the strongest of all because they shame us by telling us we are in the wrong.  They tells us that we are being unloving and need to do the “loving” thing; that we are being oppressive and judgmental and need to let others be happy; they tell us that we are being hateful and offensive and need to support others no matter what.  These voices feeds off our sense of guilt, and tell us if we don’t listen and relent, we will be judged and punished.
            All these voices speak directly to our heart.  They target our innermost desires and fears, desires and fears that were given to us by our God to draw us closer to Himself, but in our sinful nature they have been corrupted and turn to other voices instead.  With the cacophony of voices, it’s hard to know which voices to listen to.  Even as a Christian it is hard to know which voices to listen to and follow.
Recently I was having a conversation with a close friend of mine.  She wanted to know why I couldn’t support her relationship.  She accused me of being unfair and insulting.  What made it worse was that I wanted so badly to support her, to tell her that what she was doing was okay, and to tell her that I was happy for her, but I couldn't.  Despite what my heart wanted, I knew God's Word said otherwise, and I had to stand firm in God's Word.  I'm sure you've been a situation like that too, where you were caught between someone you love and what you know to be right.  Those voices creep in and try to lure you away from the Truth.  Your heart begs you to give in and relent, promising all will be well if you do.  Unfortunately, our hearts, like everything else in the fall, are corrupt and also lead us astray.
In the beginning, everything was perfect.  Everything was ordered just the way God intended.  Everything had its place and knew its purpose.  That was, anyway, until Satan appeared to Eve in the garden.  Satan tempted Eve, telling her that God was holding back on her.  He made Eve doubt God’s voice.  He enticed Eve into rebelling against God, sowing in her the desire to become her own god.  When Adam and Eve sinned all the world fell with them.  Creation plummeted into chaos.  God cast Adam and Eve from the Garden out of mercy, so that their sin may be condemned in the flesh and die, but He promised, by His Word, that one day an offspring of Eve would rise up and crush Satan under His feet.
            Though this promise wasn’t forgotten, the world went on.  People began listening to other voices, voices of sin and death and the devil, turning farther and farther from God.  Wickedness and evil increased until God intervened with the flood, washing away all the unrighteous and leaving only faithful Noah and his family.  As time continued people yet again turned to other voices so that wickedness and evil grew once more.  Humanity decided to set themselves up as gods by building a tower that reached toward the heavens.  God came down in judgment to destroy the tower, scattering the people and confusing their languages in order to curb the wickedness of the world.  Through it all, God’s promise remained, yet to the sinful world it remained a mystery.
Indeed, as St. Paul says in our epistle, the promise remained secret for long ages until it began being disclosed by the prophets.  When the time was right, God started revealing His plan for salvation, calling Abraham forth, promising to make him a father of many nations and saying that his descendants would be a blessing to the world.  The Israelites became God’s chosen people; His instrument; His mouthpiece to all the world.  Through them, God spoke His Word and declared that a Messiah, an Anointed One, was to come and redeem them.  This Messiah would suffer for their sake, and through His sufferings establish a new covenant with all people, a covenant of peace.  For though the people constantly turned from God, the Messiah was going to restore them.  His obedience and suffering He would atone for all people, and save us from our sins.  Through His sacrifice, He would establish the throne of David forever.  This is God’s eternal Word.
            In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  And the Word became flesh and dwelled among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.  The fullness of God’s promise and glory was revealed in its entirety through Jesus Christ.  Hear me, dear brothers and sisters.  The time of advent is ending.  The night is almost over!  The radiant Sun is about to be revealed!
            Listen to me, dear Christians, and just as St. Paul declared, let Him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel, according to the Gospel that has been made known to all nations and given to you and to me, that has become our own, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried, let Him speak to you and tell you of all He has done.
It was for this reason that Christ stepped down from His heavenly throne, wrapped Himself in flesh, and came into our world so long ago.  Listen, dear brothers and sisters, listen to the cries of Mary as she cries out in labor.  Listen to the cries of a baby humbly born in a manger.  Listen to the cries of the angels as they exclaim “Gloria in Excelsis!”  Listen to the cries of the shepherds as they proclaim the news to all that would hear.  Listen to the cry of one calling out in the wilderness to prepare the way for our Lord.  But listen, for the cries of Christmas are nothing without the cries of Good Friday.   
Listen.  Listen to the cries of the religious leaders as they accuse our Lord.  Listen to the cries of the crowd as they scream to crucify Him.  Listen to the cries of the soldiers as they mock and beat Jesus.  Listen to the cries of the women of Jerusalem as Jesus is lead away to be crucified.  Listen to the cries of the nails as they are driven into Christ’s hands and feet.  Listen to the cries of Mary at the foot of the cross, as the blood flows down Christ’s mangled body.  Listen to the cries of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders as they demand that Christ save Himself.  Listen to the cries of our Savior as He cries out, “IT IS FINISHED!”  Listen to the cries of the heavens and earth as the thunder rips through the sky and rocks shake and split.  Listen to the cry of the centurion as he declares that “Truly, this was the Son of God.”
But keep listening, for the cries of Good Friday are nothing without the cries of Easter.  Listen!  Listen to the cries of the women at the empty tomb!  Listen to the cries of the angel as he declares that Jesus is no longer among the dead but is risen!  Listen to the cries of the believers who saw Jesus after His resurrection!  Listen to the cries of Jesus as he declares, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  Listen to the cries of the angels that promise Christ will return.  Listen to the cry of the Holy Spirit as He descends upon the world, and listen, listen to the cries of the Apostles at Pentecost as for the first time the mystery of the Gospel is revealed in its fullest by man.
For this is the same Gospel preached today.  I share this Gospel with you, as St. Paul did, to bring about the obedience of faith.  This obedience is not one of the law, but one that knows Christ is the fulfillment of the Law.  This obedience is not one that says that something left to be done, but one that knows Christ did it all for us.  This is the obedience of faith, the obedience that comes from hearing the eternal Gospel proclaimed and clings to every word.  The obedience of faith hears the promises of God and holds fast despite what else it may hear.  Therefore, when we hear of the promises of the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting, we respond by saying, “YES!  YES!  I BELIEVE!”  For we know Christ did not come into the world to condemn it, but so that we are saved through Him.  So listen to the voice of Christ when He says, “I did it all for you!”  Listen to the voice of Christ when He says, “You are forgiven!”  Listen to the voice of Christ when he says, “Beloved, go in peace!”
Listen to His voice, for in the end it is the only voice that matters.  On the day of Christ’s return, all other voices will be wiped away.  So as we wait, listen.  Listen, be still, and know that He is God.  May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

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