The Fourth Sunday in Advent
December 19, 2021
As the Advent Children of God—
We Wait Giving Glory to God!
Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God; so that all nations might believe and obey him—to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen. (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Are you familiar with the Mannheim School of Music? It was based at the elector’s court in Mannheim, Germany from 1720 to 1781. The Mannheim School of Music included an orchestra that was made up of some of the finest musicians in all of Europe. The Mannheim School is credited with developing— and some say perfecting— a musical technique known as the “Mannheim roller.” This may be an oversimplification, but the Mannheim roller can be summarized with the word “crescendo.” Sometimes the Mannheim roller is achieved by the musicians simply getting louder and louder as the musical selection proceeds. Sometimes the musical technique was achieved by various sections of instruments being added one at a time until finally the entire orchestra is playing very loudly and very majestically. An excellent modern-day example of this musical technique can be found in the group Mannheim Steamroller. If you are in any way familiar with their music or if you have ever had the pleasure of attending one of their concerts, then you know just how powerful the Mannheim roller technique is!
Normally I wouldn’t begin a sermon by discussing a musical technique from the 1700’s. Then why do so this morning? Because as I was studying our sermon text for today in the original Greek it suddenly jumped out at me that in these three verses of Scripture God the Holy Spirit led the apostle Paul do something that, to me at least, is very similar to the Mannheim roller! It is like the Holy Spirit had the apostle Paul begin our text with one part of the orchestra proclaiming this truth and then gradually had different parts of the orchestra add even more truths until finally the entire orchestra was majestically proclaiming a very powerful truth! With the Mannheim roller musical technique in the back of our minds, let’s study our text for today under the theme: As the Advent Children of God— We Wait Giving Glory to God!
Paul’s inspired orchestra begins this morning by stating a glorious truth that brings us tremendous comfort as the Advent children of God. A very literal translation of our text for today would begin like this, “To the One who has the power to strengthen you according to my Gospel, namely, the proclamation of Jesus Christ.” Do you ever feel weak, my friends— spiritually weak? Do you ever find yourself so overwhelmed by questions or by doubts that you wonder if your faith is going to survive? Perhaps someone you love is sick or has died. Perhaps that roaring lion known as Satan has sunk his claws of temptation deep into your own personal life. Perhaps your teachers or your co-workers or your friends or your neighbors are peppering you with questions that you simply don’t know how to answer. No matter what the cause might be, the result is that you are feeling weak— spiritually weak.
Instead of looking inside of yourself for the strength that you need but know you don’t have, Paul encourages you this morning to look up! Look up to the cross! Look up to “the One who has the power” to give you the strength that you need! Look up to the cross and receive the strength that only the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ can give to you! Look up to the cross and receive the strength that is found in the proclamation of what the Child of Bethlehem came into this world to do for you!
With the first portion of the orchestra playing that glorious truth in the background, the Holy Spirit then has the apostle Paul add another portion of the orchestra to proclaim yet another glorious truth. Paul writes, “To the One who has the power to strengthen you according to my Gospel, namely, the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept silent from all eternity, but now revealed through the writings of the prophets according to the command of the eternal God.”
In a day and age when so many people and so many churches have so little respect and so little regard for the Bible, you and I understand just how important this holy Book is! Purely by the grace and the power of God we know the “mystery” that was “kept silent” but now openly “revealed” to all the world because our God “commanded” His holy prophets to write it down for us! What is this glorious “mystery”? Where do I begin!
In Ephesians 3:3-9 Paul brings out that the “mystery” that has now been “revealed” at the “command” of God is that the Gentiles are heirs together with God’s chosen people Israel! In Ephesians 6:19 Paul very simply equates the “mystery” with the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And when we stop to remember that the central theme of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is the fact that we are saved purely by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ and not by our own works, then we can understand why this truth is a “mystery” that had to be “revealed” to us by God’s “command.” On our own we mortal sinful human beings would have never figured out this glorious truth that guarantees to us a glorious eternity! In Colossians 1:21-27 Paul says that the “mystery” is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” In Colossians 2:2-3 Paul emphasizes the fact that the “mystery” is Christ Himself, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” And in I Corinthians 15:51, Paul brings out that the “mystery” that has been now been “revealed” at the “command” of God, the “mystery” that has now been recorded on the pages of Scripture for all the world to read and to know and to believe is that on Judgment Day everyone who believes and trusts in Jesus as their only Savior from sin will be raised from the dead and “changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye.” Yes, my friends, Scripture guarantees to us that our lowly mortal bodies will be “transformed” so that for all of eternity they will be like Jesus’ glorious, resurrected body! (See Philippians 3:30-21) That is a “mystery” that we as the Advent children of God are anxiously waiting to experience!
The Holy Spirit then leads the apostle Paul to continue this inspired crescendo by having him add yet another portion of the orchestra proclaiming yet another very important truth. Paul writes, “To the One who has the power to strengthen you according to my Gospel, namely, the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, kept silent from all eternity, but now revealed through the writings of the prophets according to the command of the eternal God, made known for the obedience of faith for all the nations.”
This portion of Paul’s inspired masterpiece reminds us of how we are to respond to everything God has done for us, how we are to react to everything God has revealed to us. Our response as the Advent children of God, our reaction is found in the words, “for the obedience of faith.” The Son of God did not willingly suffer and die on the cross so that we could live our life however we might choose to live it. He died for us so that we could live for Him! (See 2 Corinthians 5:15) The Lord our God did not reveal His Truth to us on the pages of His holy Word so that we could “pick and choose” which parts of the Bible we want to believe and which parts of the Bible we don’t think apply to us. “All Scripture is God-breathed,” as Paul told Timothy. (See 2 Timothy 3:14-17) The “obedience of faith” reminds us that the way in which we live our life is our way of saying “Thank-you!” to the God who has done so very much for us. (Pointing to the cross) The “obedience of faith” reminds us that believing, teaching and confessing no more and no less than what God says here in His Word is our way of showing our love for our Savior-God. (See John 14:15, 23; I John 5:3)
And finally, my friends, the Holy Spirit leads the apostle Paul to complete his inspired crescendo by having the last portion of the orchestra join in proclaiming wonderful words of praise! He writes, “To the One who has the power to strengthen you according to my Gospel, namely, the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, kept silent from all eternity, but now revealed through the writings of the prophets according to the command of the eternal God, made known for the obedience of faith for all the nations, to the only wise God through Jesus Christ be the glory for the eons (or, forever)!”
In a truly magnificent way the apostle Paul reminds us that there is only one true God— one God who alone deserves to receive all “the glory” for all “the eons”! Paul takes us back full circle to the very beginning of our text and says that the “only wise God” is the God “who has the power to strengthen you” through the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as it comes to you in His holy Word and in His holy Sacraments. This God is the God who alone possesses true eternal “wisdom.” His “wisdom” is the “wisdom” that we see every time we lift up our eyes to the cross on Calvary’s hill and marvel at His Plan for our salvation. His “wisdom” is the “wisdom” that is revealed here in the Bible— the only Book that has the power to “make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (II Timothy 3:15).
This, my friends, is why as the Advent children of God we wait— giving all the glory to God! As we wait to once again celebrate Jesus’ first Advent into this world as a little Baby in Bethlehem, we give all the glory to God for fulfilling His promise and sending His very own Son into this world to save us from our sins. And as we wait for Jesus’ second Advent into this world on Judgment Day we give all the glory to God because as we heard last week, we know what we will receive when that great and glorious day arrives!
My prayer then this morning is that the next time you hear the music of Mannheim Steamroller that you will both remember and take to heart these three powerful verses from God’s holy Word. Like the musical technique known as the “Mannheim roller” these verses of Scripture keep building on each other until like an entire orchestra of expert musicians you and I are able to join together and joyfully proclaim, “To the One who has the power to strengthen you according to my Gospel, namely, the proclamation of Jesus Christ…To the only wise God through Jesus Christ be the glory forever!”
To God be the glory!