John the Baptist asked what one preacher describes as, “Advent’s ageless question.” It was an inquiry made not out of idle speculation or academic curiosity, it was a desperate, life or death question. John said, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another” (Matthew 11:2)? The Second Article of the Apostles’ Creed answers the incarcerated Baptist’s query affirmatively. This Jesus, whose way John the Baptist prepared, is the One.
The Catechism’s explanation of the Second Article centers its confession on Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and true man, born of the virgin Mary, who is the Lord. With the title “Lord,” Jesus is identified as Yahweh, God incarnate. The Catechism now takes this basic, Biblical truth to the next level. This Jesus is my Lord and my God. What is demanded in the First Commandment, “You shall have no other gods,” is fulfilled through faith in Christ Jesus. He is my Lord.
What is demanded in the First Commandment, “You shall have no other gods,” is fulfilled through faith in Christ Jesus. He is my Lord.
To have a lord is to be possessed by another. In the ancient world, those who were called “lords” exercised power over their subjects, and sometimes oppressively. Think of slaves whose very bodies were claimed as the property of a master, a lord. Such was the case with the children of Israel subject to slavery in Egypt. In the New Testament, sin, death, and the Devil are pictured as lords. So, for example, Jesus says in John 8:34, “Truly, Truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” The Apostle Paul announces the flip side of this reality in Romans 6:14, “For sin will have no dominion [lordship] over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” Likewise, Paul teaches us that, where sin is lord, death reigns: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Sin pays off its slaves with the dividends of death, but there is more still. Dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1), we were under condemnation, slaves beneath the mastery of Satan, “…children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:3). Sin, death, and Satan are the only alternatives to the Lordship of Christ Jesus. You will be possessed by something or someone. If Jesus is not reigning over you with His grace and peace, be assured, you will not live a free and autonomous life. Sin, death, and the Devil will hold you fast in their all-embracing grip.
Luther’s comforting confession of the Second Article is tells us how Jesus Christ has, “redeemed me, a lost and condemned person… that I may be His own, live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessed, just as He is risen from the dead, and lives and reigns to all eternity.” No wonder the theologian, Hermann Sasse, once exclaimed these words of Luther are the most beautiful words ever written in the German language and how sweet they are in English as well! For here Luther is expressing the pulsating heart of the Gospel, echoing the Apostle Paul in Colossians 1:13: “He [the Father] has delivered us from the domain [lordship] of darkness and transferred us to the Kingdom of His beloved Son.” This is where we are located now. Possessed by the Lord Jesus who purchased and won us from all sins, from death, and the power of the Devil, not with gold or silver but with His holy, precious blood and innocent suffering of death.
Here is life in a kingdom not governed by the sword of oppression and the ever-present threat of death, but by a King who reigns from the cross, exercising mercy and grace for broken sinners. Have you ever noticed how often our Advent hymns speak of this King and His Kingdom? For example, Charles Wesley has us sing in, “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus,” these words:
Born Thy people to deliver;
Born a child and yet a king;
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom brings.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit
Raise us to Thy glorious throne (338:1 LSB).
Or the old Reformation era hymn, “Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates,” beckons us with this royal call:
Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates!
Behold the King of glory waits.
The King of kings is drawing near;
The Savior of the world is here.
Life and salvation, He doth bring;
Therefore, rejoice and gladly sing.
To God the Father raise
Your joyful songs of praise (340:1 LSB).
Or then there is, “Prepare the Royal Highway,” with its comforting announcement:
His is no earthly kingdom;
It comes from Heaven above.
His rule is peace and freedom
and justice, truth, and love.
So, let your praise be sounding
For kindness so abounding:
Hosanna to the Lord,
For He fulfills God’s Word (343:4 LSB).
We could go on and on with Advent hymns (and, on your own, you might want to page through the Advent section of your hymnal) to point out references to God’s gracious Kingdom which we are given in Christ Jesus our Lord. But these references will suffice to demonstrate how life in the Kingdom is given by the One who has made us His own out of His perfect righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. In His kingdom, we live, not in self-righteousness and, therefore, under condemnation, but under the righteousness of the Messiah by whose blood we are made His own. Under His righteousness, not achieved but given freely as a gift through faith, we live in innocence, for God does not hold our sin against us. Covered with His blood-bought forgiveness, our consciences are cleansed from guilt and our shame is covered. We have peace with God through faith in Christ. This innocence does not mean we never sin, but our sin is not held against us. Confessed and absolved it will not have lordship over us. God in the flesh is your Lord.
In His kingdom, we live, not in self-righteousness and, therefore, under condemnation, but under the righteousness of the Messiah by whose blood we are made His own.
Under the lordship of the crucified and risen Emmanuel, our existence is one of blessedness. Blessedness means we are not under the condemnation of the Law, but the benediction of God’s favor here in time and, hereafter, in eternity.
Jesus’ first Advent was greeted with cries of Jerusalem’s citizens: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in Heaven and glory in the highest” (Luke 19:38)! Who is this King? It is Jesus Christ, my Lord, begotten of the Father from eternity, and true man, born of the virgin Mary. He has come so we might be His own and have life in His Kingdom. This is the glad news of the Advent season and our joyful confession. Amen.