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Friday, December 18, 2015

LSB 357 Lord of Might


O Adonai
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O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times didst give the Law
In cloud and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel,
shall come to thee, O Israel!

Public domain
LORD of Might, Holiness before and after
Exodus 19:9-13
And the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.”
When Moses told the words of the people to the LORD, the LORD said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot; whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.”

Exodus 20:1-3
And God spoke all these words, saying,
I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
You shall have no other gods before me.”

Matthew 1:21, 23
"She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel” (which means, God with us).

Stanza three presents God's Sinai coming as a hint of God's arrival at Bethlehem. On the one hand this works, on the other hand it doesn't. Sinai is, no doubt, an example of God showing up to play a direct role in the Bible's action. To this extent, the parallel between Sinai and Bethlehem runs smoothly. To the extent that God's presence is enough to answer our questions, calm our fears, reassure and encourage us, Sinai and Bethlehem speak the same language.

Beyond God's arrival, not much is the same. Bethlehem replaces the strong arm of the LORD with Jesus born in humility. No one prepares for Bethlehem by cleaning up the house and doing the laundry. Preparation for taking Sinai seriously meant getting cleaned up first – like we think about taking a shower Sunday morning before church and putting on our Sunday suits and dresses. We imagine that if we look and dress the part of holiness we will “be holy” even as the LORD our God is holy.

But mangers cannot qualify as sanitary conditions. Jesus' parents are “living out of their suitcases” for who knows how long before the Baby arrives. The shepherds are the first witnesses on the Nativity Scene. They come with haste straight in from the fields to see if the angels message was true. These guys are not in the running for holiness awards. Still, the Baby doesn't seem to mind at all. To Jesus, everything is as it should be. Bethlehem is where the dirty, grimy, sinful ones come to be cleaned up, to be called holy, to be made holy. 

 Everyone, come as you are; no questions asked. Come with all your baggage and lay your burdens down. Kneeling at Bethlehem's manger, rise and stand, free and holy. Sinai shows that God is holy -- a holiness that demands our awe. Bethlehem shows God scooping up and embracing His grimy people announcing them holy and setting their new course, “Follow Me.”

578 Thy Strong Word – Stanza 3
Thy strong Word bespeaks us righteous;
Bright with Thine own holiness,
Glorious now, we press toward glory,
And our lives our hopes confess.
Alleluia, alleluia!
Praise to Thee who light dost send!
Alleluia, alleluia!
Alleluia without end!

© 1969 Concordia Publishing House. Used by permission: LSB Hymn License .NET, no. 100011178.