Download or listen to the Fourth Sunday in Advent, “The God Who Has Everything” (Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-45)
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
So, what do you get the God who has everything? Well, if you’ve been taking shopping tips from popular songs and stories, you might consider how the wise men gave Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Or maybe you’ve heard of all the cute animals who gave up their barn and feeding troughs to Mary and baby Jesus. Or the little drummer boy who asked Mary if he could play his drum, and Mary said yes, and the Infant smiled at him because—doesn’t it warm your heart?—obviously, he’d played his best. Or maybe you’ve heard the song, “What can I give Him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I’d give Him a lamb. If I were a wise man, I’d sure do my part. What can I give Him? I’ll give Him my heart.” But what does the God who has everything want with your heart? In the book The Hammer of God, the young pastor Fridfeldt is talking to the older pastor in the parish where he’s been assigned. Fridfeldt says to the older pastor, “I just want you to know from the beginning, sir, that I am a believer.” “So you are a believer,” the older pastor says, “I’m glad to hear that. What do you believe in?” … “But sir, I am simply saying that I am a believer.” “Yes, I hear that, my boy. But what is it that you believe in?” … “In Jesus, of course,” says Fridfeldt. “I mean—I mean that I have given him my heart.” … “Do you consider that something to give him?” “But sir, if you do not give your heart to Jesus, you cannot be saved.” “You are right, my boy. And it is just as true that that, if you think you are saved because you give Jesus your heart, you will not be saved. … The heart is a rusty old can on a junk heap. A fine birthday gift, indeed! But a wonderful Lord passes by, and has mercy on the wretched tin can, sticks his walking cane through it, and rescues it from the junk pile and teakes it home with him. That is how it is” (The Hammer of God, rev. ed., 122-123).
What does God want with your heart and your best and all your good works? We are like parents whose children are born on December 25, and we try to cram the Christmas and birthday presents into one. And we say, aren’t you happy? Look, here’s a crappy remote-controlled car for Christmas, and here are the batteries for your birthday. We pile all our goodness and holiness and our heart and our best before God’s altar, and say, Look God, aren’t you happy with me? And we expect Him to smile and say, Yes. Good for you. You did your best, and now I’ll do the rest.
But the Scriptures do not have nice things to say about our good works, and our best efforts, and our hearts. Jesus, the same one who was born in a manger, said that all sorts of evil and wickedness come out of our hearts: lies, and lusting, and longing after the things of this world. All our little homemade idols come from our hearts, and we try to give our hearts to Him? Hebrews says the same: the God who has everything does not want our free-will offerings, and our sacrifices, and our good works. What good are those things for God? No, there’s only one thing that this God does not have, and it’s the only thing He wants for Christmas. When Jesus came, Hebrews says, He said, You did not want all these offerings, God, but I have come to do Your will. It’s written about Me in all the books of Moses, and the Prophets, and the Psalms: a body you have prepared for Me. A body. That’s the only thing God didn’t have, and so He made one and gave it to His Son, nine months before Christmas. He made it out of the flesh and blood of a virgin named Mary. We say, wait a minute God, don’t you know anything about biology? It takes a man and a woman to make a baby. This virgin stuff must be just a metaphor for something else, maybe how we can clear out all the bad stuff and present our virgin hearts to God. You can’t make a baby from a virgin’s womb. And God says, watch Me. He doesn’t care about our notions of propriety. He’s God, and He’ll do what He wants. Just as He said He would way back in Genesis, when He coined the phrase “the seed of a woman.” The only place that phrase is used in Scripture, the “seed of a woman.” Everywhere else, for obvious reasons, it says the seed of a man. But in Genesis 3:15, it says, “the seed of the woman will crush the head of the serpent.” And then God does it, thousands of years later. He makes a body for His eternal Son out of the seed of the woman, Mary; the same Mary of whom we heard Luke tell us earlier. The Mary who heard all this from an angel, and went up to her relative Elizabeth’s house; and before she can say anything more than “hello,” Elizabeth is singing a song of blessing. Who am I, she says, that the mother of my Lord should come to me! Filled with the Holy Spirit, she says that when Mary greeted her, the infant in her womb leapt around for joy, because God and His mother were in the house. Blessed are you, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! Blessed is she who believed that God would do exactly what He said He would do!
And God does do exactly what He said He would do. He prepares a body for His Son so that He can do the one thing that He wants, the one offering that is pleasing to Him, the offering of His Son in that body. He does it to make Mary holy, and Elizabeth and John and you and me. He prepares a body for His Son so that He can have the only thing He never had: a body, and one with all the sin of the world attached to it. Jesus does the will of the Father and takes all your sin, all your lusting eyes and gossiping tongues and black hearts, and nails it to the wood of the cross, and buries it in the ground, so that it will stay there when He rises from the dead. The only offering that God wants out of all the offerings of sinners: His Son, in a body prepared for this purpose. The God who has everything doesn’t want you to get Him anything. But He got you something. He doesn’t want anything from you; He wants everything for you. The God who has everything gives you, who have nothing, everything. He has prepared a body for you, one you never had, one without sin. You heard Him, didn’t you? Take and eat, this is My Body, given for you. The Body prepared for you in the womb of a virgin, He gives you now at the table He has prepared by His death and resurrection. Now, all those things you were going to bring Him, all the things you were going to give Him, all the things you thought He wanted; all the things that you thought were good, but now know as evil, now He accepts them because He accepts you in His Son. I don’t need them, He says, but take all your service, all your good works, all your best, and give it to your husband; give it to your wife; give it to your children, or your neighbors, or whoever needs it. God doesn’t will it for Himself; He wills it for them. And it is pleasing to Him because you are pleasing to Him. And on the last day, when all the dead are raised, He has a whole new body for you, prepared for you in His Son. A body free of sickness, and sin, and shame; a body with a new heart of flesh, instead of your old stone one. Blessed are you! Blessed are you, along with Mary, that you believe that God will do everything He said He would do. Blessed are you, because of the fruit of Mary’s womb, the seed of the woman who crushes the head of your Enemy.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 12/22/12