Nr. 1 First Sunday in Advent
The Apostle Paul writes in today's epistle, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep, for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. Romans 13:11
This the Apostle writes also to other Christians of that same awaking out of the sleep of sin as 1 Cor. 15:34, Ephes. 5:14, 1 Thes. 5:6, from which we surmise that this servant of God had noticed how a spiritual sleep forces itself even upon those who have awakened. When the enemy does not accomplish anything by roaring like a lion, nor by shooting fiery darts or by threats of the world or terrible anger nor also by inward temptations, he had to entice them with sleeping potion, the wine of adultery, and love of the world so that he in that way could put them into a sack and bring them into the cave of darkness. When, namely, the awakened souls cease watching and striving, then the love of the world comes with spiritual sleep and also makes sorrows of the world allowable through love of the world. The Christians then begin to look with one eye at the world and the other eye at heaven, but while a Christian looks with one eye at the world and the other at heaven, he loses that narrow way and soon goes astray entirely into the world, if some new reminder of his mortality does not come. When now this spiritual sleep forces itself so strongly upon a Christian, so Paul has commanded them to arise from sleep for their salvation is now nearer than when they believed. With these words he depicts the Christians former condition, when they lived in sorrowlessness and self deceit, then they believed that salvation was very near. They did not then have that feeling that salvation was far from them; in the sorrowless condition they did not doubt of their salvation, or think that hell was closer to them than the kingdom of heaven. But only afterwards, when the conscience awoke through the Word of God, through which they became great sinners, then they began to doubt of their salvation, although this doubt which was not felt in the sorrowless condition came from self righteousness, which only now in the awakened state received power to oppress penitent souls into doubt so that they would not flee to the Saviour. Nevertheless this noble Apostle now shows that salvation is nearer to doubting souls than then when they believed that salvation was near, for the night is spent and the day is at hand. The night is that spiritual darkness in which the whole world had slept, before the light of Christianity began to shine. At night or in the time of darkness they all slept a spiritual sleep. They knew nothing of the light of Christianity. But now is the time to awake out of sleep since the day is at hand when the light of Christianity has come into the world, for just at that time is our salvation nearer to us than then when we believed: then at night or in the time of darkness we believed in our sleep and in our blindness that salvation was very near, although it was far from us; but now when the day began to dawn,when the light of Christianity has appeared, now is our salvation nearer than at that time when we believed. Therefore he says, "Now is high time to awake out of sleep for the night is spent and the day is at hand." It is not very strange to think that sleep forces itself upon the night watchman, who has watched while others have slept, who has stood on Zion's wall and cried out that the time was twelve o'clock or midnight: "Behold the Bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet Him." If some lonely traveler asks of him, "Watchman, what time of night is it?", then he has answered, "The time is eleven o'clock." But the watchers on the wall of Zion have become sleepy, they have not known what time it is, they have been dumb dogs who have not barked although the town was full of thieves. Now it is high time for them to first arise from the sleep of sin, since fire has broken out in the town, and then all dumb dogs should begin to bark so that the people would awaken when the thieves sneak into the houses, so that they would not get to steal the goodness of that rich man which the unjust steward has no doubt wasted. Rise up from sleep, watchers on Mt. Zion, and cry out that it is eleven o'clock, fire has broken out in the city of corruption. Rise up from sleep, all dumb dogs, rise up and bark. The thieves are entering the houses to rob the master's storehouse, to steal that rich man's goodness which that unjust steward has no doubt already wasted. But when sleep forces itself upon even those who have slept at night and have not awakened early, what must we say of those who sleep both night and day, into whose mouths the devil has poured sleeping potion and also dripped it into their ears so that they would not hear although one awakened person shouts in their ear that fire has broken out and the house is burning. Those who sleep very sound become angry with the one who wakes them, and also threatens in his sleepiness, "if you do not allow me to sleep in peace, I will let you have it on the ear." They who are drunken with the devils sleeping potion also sleep in church and see dreams. The Word of God through which they should awaken effects in them as though sleeping potion would have been dripped through the ears into the brain. They hear as in a dream, the words splashing on both sides and the hum of the words going over their heads, bypassing the ear, bypassing the mind, bypassing the conscience, bypassing the heart, and never toward it. If these words would finally attach to the wall, then let the walls answer on judgement day. The drunken have not heard them, no doubt the hum of the words effects so much that all drunken become saved. The Saviour has said what prophet Isaiah has written before, "With hearing ears they hear and with seeing eyes they see, nevertheless they do not comprehend for this people have a hardened heart and poor hearing." Because of this hardening of the heart, such a heavy sleep has fallen upon the sorrowless that the Word of God effects as a sleeping potion. But then the doctor's book says, "Wake them, wake them, who have drank the sleeping potion; if you do not wake them they will sleep forever," Arise from sleep all drunken, for the night is far spent and the day is at hand, you have already slept the whole long night and you have lived in sorrowlessness in the time of darkness. You have then committed the deeds of darkness, which Paul enumerates in today's epistle. Some of you have lived in over-eating, some in drunkenness, some in the chambers or the whore-houses, some in strife and envy, and with such a life think they will be saved, who sleep in the daytime. But they will sleep forever who do not awake from the sleep of sin when the day has come, since the light of Christianity has begun to shine into some dark souls and the dawn of the day of grace has dawned into the hearts of some sinners. They sleep everlastingly, they who hate the light, who flee from the edge of the light into the darkness and they who have become drunken with the devil's sleeping potion and the wine of adultery and flowing devil's dung; they sleep forever who do not wake although an awakened person shakes them who do not hear, although the dogs bark that the thieves are coming. But the doctor's book says, "Wake them, wake them, do not allow the drunken to sleep when the house is on fire." It is not the fault of the one who wakes him, if one drunken person dies in the flame when he is awakened but he still does not wake up. It stands clearly written in the book of Revelations that they are drunken with the wine of adultery, who serve that great beast who arises from the sea and bottomless abyss. And who else do the sorrowless people of the world serve than that great beast, who rules the whole world. Since now from this day the new church year begins and since the course of the world shows that the greater part of the people of the world are soundly sleeping the sleep of sin, although the night is far spent and the day is at hand, and the spiritual sleep forces itself not only upon those who have watched all night while others have slept, but also upon those who have slept at night and have just awakened with the day, then it would be necessary to pray to that great Night-watcher, whose eye does not sleep nor doze, that He would first awaken all the watchers on Mt. Zion to watch and to cry out what time it is, to cry that the fire has broken out in the city of corruption, that the thieves are stealing the goodness of the rich man which the unjust steward has wasted, that all dumb dogs through the watchman's shouting would begin to bark so zealously that the people in the city of corruption would awaken, that if some solitary traveler, who has strayed from the city of corruption would ask, "Watchman, what time of night is it?", the watchers on Zion's wall could answer, "The time is eleven o'clock, it is not a long time before the judgement bell will sound." Hear you, God who never sleep, the sigh of those who are watching. Our Father, etc.
The Gospel: Matt. 21:1
With the guidance of our holy gospel we must at this time consider what the people of the city of corruption do when the king of the daughter of Zion comes riding on the foal of an ass. The first consideration: What does the King of Zion do when He sees the city of corruption? The second consideration: What do the people of the city of corruption do when the King of Zion comes? If now the merciful Lord Jesus, who is the king of the chosen daughter of Zion, would find some soul in the city of corruption who has not given a kiss to Baal!
The first consideration: What does the King of Zion do when he sees the city of corruption? The evangelists Matthew, Mark and Luke relate that Jesus wept, as he was riding on the foal of an ass, when He came to the Mount of Olives; from there He saw the city where there were so many people who could have been saved if they had known their time of visitation, but they had all hardened. Perhaps they had such splendid and large buildings and a beautiful church, at which the disciples marveled, just the same this great city, along with the church and priesthood and all that great multitude who lived in that city, was destroyed and perished because of that hardening, because of that spiritual hatred and persecution with which this unfortunate people had hated the prophets and persecuted the Christians and shed the Savior's blood. When it came to Jesus’ mind how many thousand souls in this city must go to destruction, it touched His heart and He had to weep and pity the lasciviousness and deafness of this unfortunate people whom He had tried so many times to wake from the sleep of sin. He had wanted to gather the children of Israel as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but they would not. Many think, when they hear how hardened the Jews were, that the people of this time are much better than the Jews. But if the Saviour would begin to bark at the hypocrites and mouth Christians, as He sometimes barked at the Jews, who knows how long they could stand Him? I fear that the meek and honorable people of this time would have spit in His face and would say, "You are a Samaritan and you have a devil. Is it the Son of God who barks at honorable people in that way?" The meek people of the world would just say, "We have not lived so wickedly that He would need to come to reproach and bark at us." The confessors of dead faith would say, "We are not so mean that Jesus would need to weep because of us, for we have always believed upon Him, and loved Him from our childhood on. The Jews had no doubt lived so wickedly that the Saviour has had to weep over their unfortunate condition, but we certainly have not lived so wickedly." Who knows if you have not lived even worse than the Jews? The Saviour has not accused the Jews of drunkenness, for the Jews were not drunkards but they were opposed to it, as the Saviour Himself reminds. Reprooving the Saviour of drinking, the Jews said thus, "Behold a man gluttonous and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners." Have the Jews not found fault in the life of the Saviour? Why did He need to come to reprove them when He was a drinker and the Jews were not drinkers? The Jews also found many other sins in the Saviour's life. The Saviour was not only gluttonous and a winebibber, but also untidy and a sabbath breaker, disturber of the people and one great sorcerer, who drove out devils with the power of Beelzebub. And also, a blasphemer of God and that was a great crime (in their minds) that He confessed Himself to be the Son of God. If He had preached sweetly to the Jews and begged them saying, "Dear Jews, you are God's children, you have always been meek and honorable to God, no one can accuse you of iniquity and an ungodly life and you will surely be saved if you live as you have lived thus far." Then the Jews would have liked Him well and said, "Master, we know that you are from God and you teach the road of God in truth and do not behold the form of man." But when He began to bark at and accuse them of hypocrisy, an adulterous generation and generation of vipers, is it any wonder that they became angry with Him? But the meek people of this time who keep themselves to be godly and all the same sometimes drink, sometimes curse, sometimes fight, and sometimes keep drinking parties, and sometimes commit adultery, they would just say, "We have not lived so wickedly that someone would need to reprove us of iniquity and an ungodly life, for we have not only been born of meek parents, but all our lives have lived meekly, surely the Saviour does not need to weep because of us. We are not as hardened as the Jews; if the Saviour was before our eyes we would take Him around the neck and would give Him a kiss." So also Judas did who betrayed Him; he was no doubt the best Christian who gave the Saviour a kiss. But if the Saviour had to cry over the city of Jerusalem, He then also was under great sorrow because of Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him with a kiss. And are they not like Judas, who have been taught in the Christianity and have received better knowledge of the Christianity than the Jews, nevertheless they live worse than turks and heathens. Are the tears even yet flowing from the Saviour's eyes, when the inhabitants of the city of corruption are so hard of hearing and so hardened, that they do not receive the King of Zion through true penitence and repentance, through living faith and a change of life? Surely He weeps and pities those unfortunate souls, who do not yet want to awake from the sleep of sin, although so much is preached of true Christianity. As the enemy in the Saviour's time had hardened the hearts of the Jews that they had to carry hatred toward all Christians, so also now the enemy has blinded the minds of the unbelievers and reversed their eyes that they look at true Christianity to be false.
The Second Consideration: What do the inhabitants of the city of corruption do when the King of Zion comes? The evangelists relate that the Saviour when He, on the Mount of Olives, had wept over the corruption which was in that city, rode upon the foal of an ass into the city of corruption and when the disciples began to praise God and shouted Hosanna to the Son of David, then envy arose from that in the Jews, who asked the Saviour to command the disciples to be silent. The chief priests and scribes said also among themselves, "Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing, Behold the whole world is gone after Him." The lords of the world began to fear that they would lose their power and honor if the people would begin to believe upon the Saviour. And the more the people begin to praise and honor the King of Zion, the greater envy and hatred arises from the lords of the world, whose honor, power and income lessen, if the people would be converted to Christianity, for the honor and power of the lords of the world are founded upon the ignorance and blindness of the common people, when sin and evil make that common people so blind that they must serve the lords of the world. When now all are transgressors of the king's law, some are drunkards, some are liquor merchants, some are whores, some are thieves, some are cursers, some are fighters, some are smugglers — said in a word, when now all have lived so wickedly so that they could not find a one who does not deserve to be fined, they would all become six mark men (bribers), if one would live strictly with them according to the law. For that reason they must serve the lords of the world, who are set up as judges upon the earth. When they first commit evil and transgress the law of the king, they must afterwards persuade the lords of the world, that they would not bring them before the law, and because of the evil of the common people, the lords of the world have power over them. But if the people would be converted to Christianity, they would cease to commit evil, would cease to transgress the king's law, would cease taking people before the law and fighting, then all the power and honor of the world's lords would end. But the enemy will not allow that the power and honor of the world's lords would end; he intends that the lords of the world would go before the common people with such an example as finery, world's vanity, drunkenness, liquor business, card playing, dancing, games, cursing, greed, adultery and deceit, and also the common people would be strengthened in that faith that this kind of a life is the right life. Why do the lords of the world live so? (they ask.) It is not a sin since the lords do so. For that reason the lords of the world are so angry with the Saviour and His disciples, who now begin to praise God for that change which has come about through Christianity. Such envy comes to the lords of the world over that, that they began to say to Nicodemus, who is not on the side of the lord, "Are you also that man's disciple? Has one of the high priests believed upon Him? But this ignorant people, who do not know the Scriptures, are cursed." The lords of the world, who have a large brain in their skull, think they know better where the road goes to heaven. They do not become so foolish that they begin to believe upon Jesus. But this people who do not know the Scriptures are cursed. Hear now, you disciples of Jesus, what the world's lords think of you, who cry Hosanna to the Son of David. They think that you are crazy, who believe upon Jesus. They soon decide that you must be silent, you must not cry out Hosanna to the Son of David, for when the lords of the world who are wiser have not believed upon Him, neither do you need to cry out, Hosanna to the Son of David, for by that crying out the honor of the world's lords is lessened. If Jesus is given honor and power over a Christian, then the power of the world's lords will end. If you begin to hear the doctrine of Jesus, if you common people become so foolish that you hear the teachings of the disturber of the people and become the disciples of Jesus, then the lords of the world will begin to hate you. The lords of the world do not hate you because of that drunkenness, because of that adultery, because of that cursing, because of that fighting, because of liquor business, of which all the world's lords have learned well and through which the world's lords have received both honor and income from you. But if you would begin to cease from your former life and be converted to Christianity, just then you would see what kind of love the lords of the world have — they would begin to hate you because of the Christianity! For that reason that must be the best advice, that you live as before, drink, curse and fight, keep a liquor trade, whore and fight between yourselves through the law, in that way the lords of the world can earn something from you, since part of the fine also goes to them. Now we have heard what the lords of the world do in the city of corruption when the King of Zion comes riding on the foal of an ass. The lords complain very much that the disciples cry out Hosanna to the Son of David. The lords would wish that the disciples would be silent and also ask the Saviour to command His disciples to be silent but the Saviour says thus, "If these disciples should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out." Let us behold now what the merchants do in the city of corruption when the King of Zion comes. The evangelists have written that the merchants were trading in the church when Jesus came there. This honorable trade took place then in the church for the honor of the god of this world and although such a trade was forbidden by the law, nevertheless the lords of the world did not complain or keep it to be wrong that God's house of prayer was made into a den of thieves. Why do the lords of the world, who otherwise were zealous after the honor of God, when Jesus was accused with lies, so that He intended to demolish their church to the ground, why were the eyes and ears of the world´s lords locked shut when such an unlawful affair took place in the church? The merchants and the animals together mooed and dunged in the church. If this kind of bazaars would have happened in the courtyards of the lords, they would have called the sheriff to take the merchants before the law, but that it happened in the church against the law, it is not dangerous, since they themselves were given mutton roasts. And we know that the lords of the world have a keen eye to see faults in the lives of the Christians, but if the merchants of the world did whatever they did, only that they would anoint the bowels of the lords, then all kinds of trade was allowable even if it happened in the church. When now the Saviour took a scourge and drove those two-legged and the four-legged creatures out of the church and overturned the exchange tables so that the money fell to the floor, then the chief priests and lords of the world became angry with Him and asked, "By what authority doest thou these things? And who gave Thee this authority to do these things?" And the natural mind also agrees with that, that if it had been some other person than the Saviour, these merchants to whom the damage was done would have demanded payment of the damage. For so say the liquor merchants, if the sheriff would come to steal their liquor or would fine them for selling liquor, then the liquor merchants would say, it is a great sin and wrong, that we would cause our neighbor damage. And in that way the Saviour also did wrong when He spoiled their business and in that way caused damage to His neighbor, or was it a wrong law which forbade that one can trade in the church. Now we have seen what the people of the city of corruption do when the King of Zion comes. The evangelists have also written that a commotion arose through the whole city. When He rode through the city some asked, "Who is it?" And the same kind of a commotion arises even yet in the city of corruption when the King of Zion comes. The children of the world ask, "What kind of commotion is it?" And from where does such a commotion come? Formerly the liquor business was kept in peace near the church. Formerly a person could get a drink of liquor when he came from church, but now even punch cannot be drank. Formerly they cursed and committed adultery and it was not barked at like it is now barked at. They bark at home, they bark everywhere, this life is not fitting. Such a commotion comes in the city of corruption when the King of Zion comes; all the lords of the world become offended at the cries of the children and the disciples, Hosanna to the Son of David. But cry out anyway, you children and disciples and strip all your clothes off and put them on the road where the King of Zion travels, and carry palms in your hands. Break off palm branches and spread them on the road where the King of Zion travels so that in time He will give you palms in your hands when He comes again into the new Jerusalem riding on the foal of a work ass. Then you can shout everlastingly in that New Jerusalem, Hosanna to the Son of David and blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest. When now will the disciples of Jesus be able to so cry out? We itope that the King of Zion will come soon to redeem His poor bride. Amen.