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First Sunday in Advent A

First Sunday in Advent A

Matthew 24:36-44

“But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into” (Mt. 24:43). Sinners are well-fortified against a frontal attack on their sin. Jesus must come subtly, like a thief in the night. Sinners, so tightly curved in upon themselves, are like that armadillo presenting only their tough and hardened outer shell to the one who would be their Lord. So, Jesus comes almost surreptitiously in ways you would not expect, using means that seem innocuous. Jesus comes to you on a puff of air past a preacher’s lips… Jesus comes to you in water poured and the Name spoken… Jesus comes to you in a bit of bread and a sip of wine, meager really, but with his promise attached:  my body… my blood… given and shed for you. Through these unpretentious means, Jesus comes like that thief in the night. Jesus comes, emptying out that tough and hardened outer shell curved so protectively around itself… Jesus comes and steals away your most precious possession. He takes away your “I.” He takes away that self… that sinful self at the center of you and replaces it with himself, his life, and his heart. With its center gone, that tough and hardened outer shell melts away, softened so completely that now the neighbors’ needs penetrate it easily. Therefore, to be ready, you must have a preacher who delivers Jesus Christ to be your life… Jesus Christ to steal away the “I” at the center of you… Jesus Christ who softens you up for the needs of the neighbor.

Prayers from a sinner who reflexively curls like an armadillo, but who nonetheless has a preacher…

Heavenly Father, on a day known only to you, your Son will come in all his glory. Until that day your Son my Lord must come like that thief in the night sneaking past my armor and stealing away my treasured “I.” While I wait for that day, give me ears to hear my preacher, give me a head to receive that water poured and the holy Name spoken, give me a mouth to taste the goodness of the Lord as he comes to me in his holy Supper. Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.

Heavenly Father, on a day known only to you, your Son will come in all his glory. As you have commanded, do not let me neglect your Word or the preaching of it. Pour it into my ears such that it not only drowns out the cacophony of the world’s voices but draws me into standing under its authority. Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.

Heavenly Father, on a day known only to you, your Son will come in all his glory. As I stand under the authority of your Word, Jesus Christ, grant that I would live by the faith he brings to me… that I would know the hope he delivers to me… that I would live in the readiness provided by my preacher who hands over Jesus Christ to be my life. Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.

Heavenly Father, on a day known only to you, your Son will come in all his glory. While I wait these many days in anticipation and readiness for the coming of your Son in glory, grant that I do not grow bored but rather pass these days by being of some use to my neighbors in their many and various needs. Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.

Heavenly Father, on a day known only to you, your Son will come in all his glory. As I try to be of some use to my neighbors, do not let my hands go empty of the works you have prepared for me to walk in. But even as I walk among those works, keep Jesus Christ as Lord of my conscience so that my obedience would not overwhelm my faith. Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.

Heavenly Father, on a day known only to you, your Son will come in all his glory. In these days as we wait, you have established the Institute of Lutheran Theology with the intent that preachers of Jesus, him crucified, and him alone handed over to be the life of dead sinners… that such preachers would be formed and fashioned for the upcoming generations. Grant its fruitfulness in this endeavor. Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.

Heavenly Father, on a day known only to you, your Son will come in all his glory. I live now in the days of my baptism… in the days between my sacramental death beneath the water and the Word and my physical death of going down to the dust from which I came. As I live between those two deaths, keep me confident of being joined to my Lord’s resurrection. Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.

Into your hands I commend all for which I have prayed trusting that you do not lie, and your promises are certain. In the name of Jesus… Amen