Power to Bring Heaven to Earth

Sermon preached December 24 by Fr Allen at St Michael the Archangel Anglican Church, Matthews, North Carolina for The Fourth Sunday in Advent

“O LORD, raise up, we pray thee, thy power, and come among us” In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

    Today, the power we are talking about is the power John the Baptizer was getting people ready for – the power we need if we are ever to run the race that set before us (cf.Heb.12:1), and as I was going over this material I couldn’t help but to start sing the old song: “There’s pow’r, pow’r, wonder working pow’r in the blood of the Lamb. There’s pow’r, pow’r, wonder working pow’r in the precious blood of the Lamb.” Power to remove the burden of sin and to do service for Jesus our King, which isn’t too far from what our Advent themes have been preparing us for: 1st power to live our lives as we were created to live them as God’s prophets, priests, and kings; 2nd power to maintain hope in a hopeless world; 3rd power to be an active participant Jesus’ hell-conquering Church led by His Bishops, Elders, and Deacons; and 4th, today, power to bring heaven to earth.

    To see this last one, we look at the account of John the Baptizer getting the crowds of his day, and the readers of our own, ready for the mightier-One who was coming to baptize, not just with water, but with the Holy Spirit (Jhn.1:19-28; cf.Matt.3:11-12). Now we shouldn’t think the Holy Spirit has only to do with the New Testament, because as you may recall, the Holy Spirit had always been active among God’s people (from the Creation (Gen.1:1-2) to the preaching of the prophets (Mic.3:8)) – empowering Joshua to lead (Num.27:18; Deut.34:9), raising up Judges to deliver (Jdg.3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 13:25; 14:6,19; 15:14); and equipping Kings to rule (1Sam.11:6; 16:13) – but the prophets had promised a coming age when the Holy Spirit would be much more involved, beginning with the Messiah and then flowing to all who would enter His New Covenant (cf.Isa.11:1-10; 32:14-18; Ezk.11:17-20; Joel2:28,32). And, John was telling everyone that the One who was going to inaugurate that new age by cutting a new covenant was standing in their midst (Jhn.1:26).

      In other words, John told the crowds that everything they had been looking for: to receive a new Spirit, to have their sins forgiven, to have the exile ended, and to be reinstated as God’s special people, was about to happen. They were about to see passages like Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Ezekiel 11:19 fulfilled – passages that had told them:

 “31 Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke… 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.34 … For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

And this would be accomplished when the Messiah would make God’s Spirit available to His people to write His law upon their hearts  (Ezek.11:19).

    Now, what does this have to do with power to bring Heaven to Earth as we said at the opening? Everything, but to understand that better we need to remember the first time the Law was given, when God saved His people fromPharaoh for Himself. At Mt. Sinai God told them, “I have saved you and brought you to myself. Now if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my special people: you shall be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex.19:4-6). Then, for them to do this, God wrote the Law of heaven into stone with His own finger (Exod.31:18), so that His covenant people would know how to live their lives on earth according to heaven’s ways (quite literally bringing heaven to earth as ever priest is called to do). This externally engraved Law, of course, was a temporary arrangement until the Messiah would come (Gal.3:19) to give His people the power to really want to bring heaven to earth by internally engraving Heaven’s Laws upon their hearts.

    This power is the fourth and final theme our Prayer Book holds up for us to begin longing for as we prepare for the coming of the Mightier One who will give it, so that when He does finally come, our hearts will be ready for Him to write His Law there (on our will centers). As Peter tells us, “As you come to the Messiah you are built up as a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ… For you are a chosen race, a royal priest hood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” (1Pet.2:4-5,9). O Come, O Come, Immanuel, so that we can come to thee and be made thus. For “the hour cometh and now is…

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