At first glance, it might seem a bit strange to suggest a midweek series for Advent based on the Apostles’ Creed. But if Advent has to do with God’s gracious condescension to humanity, then the Apostles’ Creed as Luther has taught us to confess it in the Catechisms makes perfect sense. Luther writes: “For in all three articles God himself has revealed and opened to us the most profound depths of his fatherly heart and his pure, unutterable love. For this very purpose he created us, so that he might redeem us us and make us holy, and moreover, having granted and bestowed upon us everything in heaven and on earth, he has also given us his Son and the Holy Spirit, through whom he brings us to himself. For, as explained above, we could never come to recognize the Father’s favor and grace were it not for the Lord Christ, who is a mirror of the Father’s heart. Apart from him we see nothing but an angry and terrible judge. But neither could we know anything of Christ, had it not been revealed by the Holy Spirit” (LC II:64-66, K-W, 439-440).
The sixteenth century hymnist, Ludwig Helmbolt (1532-1598) provides us with a template that echo Luther’s words in the Large Catechism:
“For thus the Father willed it, Who fashioned us from clay; And His own Son fulfilled it And brought eternal day. The Spirit now has come, To us true faith has given; He leads us home to heaven. O praise the Three in One!” (713:7 Lutheran Service Book)
Each of the three midweek services will focus on an article of the Apostles’ Creed.
Midweek Service in Advent I: “Out of His Fatherly, Divine Goodness and Mercy”
Advent is not about a path that we make for ourselves to God but about God coming to us. We see this in our creation. To say that God is our creator is to confess that my life comes from Him. Theologians speak of God creating out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo). That means He did not create out of any necessity but that He brought creation into existence as an act of His good and gracious will to bestow life. This is why Luther has us confess that God, the Father Almighty has created, sustained, and preserved us “out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.” In the act of bringing us to life, our Father is bending down to us. He is the Giver and Donor of all that we have. Creation is not merely a prelude to redemption but it is itself a gift received in Christ who is the Word through whom all things were made. Given access to the Father through Christ Jesus, our eyes and ears are opened to see and hear the world not in fear but in the glad confidence that the Lord who made the stars of night is our Emmanuel.
Midweek Service in Advent II: “That I May be His Own”
Advent proclaims the coming of Jesus Christ, true God begotten of the Father from eternity and also true man born of the Virgin Mary. This Jesus, true God and true man in one person is my Lord. He came into the flesh to redeem human beings who had wandered from their Creator in unbelief and therefore stood under His condemnation. Jesus comes into the world not to condemn sinners but to reconcile them to His Father through the shedding of His blood on the cross. In His atonement for our sin, He is at once paying the price of our release and winning us from the jaws of sin, death, and hell. He does all this that we might be His own and live under Him in His Kingdom even as He is risen from the dead to live and reign forever as our Brother and Savior. We hear much about this Kingdom in the biblical texts associated with Advent as well as the hymns of this season. Jesus is the crucified and risen King. He is the Lord who has prepared for us the Kingdom. As Luther reminds us: “The Kingdom of God is not being prepared but has been prepared. Not preparing the Kingdom; that is to say, the Kingdom merits the sons, not the sons the Kingdom” (LW 33:153).
Midweek Service in Advent III: “Sanctified and Kept in the True Faith”
Dead in our trespasses and sins, we could not find our way back to God or come to Him. Free will is powerless over death. The Holy Spirit who is confessed as the Lord and Giver of Life calls us by the Gospel to saving faith in Christ Jesus. Sanctification is not about how we make ourselves righteous before God. Sanctification is what God has done for us in Christ. God makes us holy by forgiving our sins for the sake of Christ Jesus. Luther’s Explanation of the Third Article begins not with a confession of faith but of our inability to believe. The focus is not on us but on the Holy Spirit who has called us by the Gospel. This calling is ongoing as through the Gospel, He “daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers.” I could not believe in Christ even for a moment if the Holy Spirit were not continually calling me by the Gospel and keeping me with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. The Holy Spirit gives this promise through the Apostle: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phli. 1:6). Embedded in the absolution is the promise of the resurrection of the body and eternal life with Christ Jesus our Lord. The road of Advent does not end in Bethlehem but on the Last Day.
The sermons for this Advent series will be based on Chapter 3 “Disciples Confess the Faith” in Luther’s Small Catechism: A Manual for Discipleship by John T. Pless (CPH, 2019), pp. 49-74.
MIDWEEK SERVICE FOR ADVENT
Service of Prayer and Preaching (LSB, p. 260)
Week of Advent I: “Creator of the Stars of Night” -351 LSB
Week of Advent II: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” – 357 LSB
Week of Advent III: “Once He Came in Blessing” -333 LSB
Opening Versicles - Advent, p. 260
Catechetical Hymn: “We All Believe in One True God”- 954 LSB
Readings from Holy Scripture
Week of Advent I: Galatians 4:4-6
(God sent His Son born of woman to redeem us so that we given the rights of sons by the Spirit)
Week of Advent II: Romans 15:7-13
(Christ the servant came to be the Savior of all)
Week of Advent III: John 15:24-16:15
(The Comforter is given to give us faith in Christ)
Responsory for Advent
Catechism, p. 264
A Responsive Reading from the Catechism
Week of Advent I: First Article and Explanation
Week of Advent II: Second Article and Explanation
Week of Advent III: Third Article and Explanation:
Week of Advent I: “I Lie, O Lord, within Your Care”- 885 LSB
Week of Advent II: “Savior of the Nations Come”- 332 LSB
Week of Advent III: “On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry”- 344 LSB
During the offering, a hymn may be sung:
Week of Advent I: “O Lord, How Shall I Meet You”- 334 LSB
Week of Advent II: “What Hope! An Eden Prophesied” -342 LSB
Week of Advent III: “The Night Will Soon be Ending”- 337 LSB
Prayer, p. 265
Collect of the Week
Collect for the Catechism
Week of Advent I: Prayer for First Article, Praying Luther’s Small Catechism, p. 37
Week of Advent II: Prayer for Second Article, Praying Luther’s Small Catechism, p. 43
Week of Advent III: Prayer for Third Article, Praying Luther’s Small Catechism, p. 48
Collect for the Word, p. 265
Evening Prayer, p. 266
Prepare my heart, Lord Jesus Turn not from me aside, And help me to receive You this blessed Adventide. From stall and manger low Come now to dwell within me; I’ll sing Your praises gladly And forth Your glory show” (354:4 LSB)
Blessing, p. 267