Saturday, December 19, 2009

Fourth Sunday of Advent: The suffering servant King, who came and is coming

“Surely our grief’s He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquities of us all to fall on Him. (Isaiah 53:4-6)”

“I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like the Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)”

Does that all sound like Easter rather than Advent and Christmas? And how is that all reconciled; how is the suffering reconciled with the ruling king? That is the Christmas/Advent story complete, that the Incarnate One, Jesus, fully God, fully human, took on our flesh and suffered for our sinfulness. But also that He is the King and his dominion is everlasting.

Before the text in Daniel speaks of the Son of Man it speaks of the Ancient of Days.(Daniel 7:9-10) John Calvin in his commentary speaks of the Ancient of Days ascending to sit on his throne writing that the meaning has to do with the whole Incarnation. Now at the birth of Christ the Glory of God is revealed in his person. And although Calvin does not say it, the Messiah Jesus reveals God as much in his compassionate suffering as in his power over all powers of evil. His death for our sins speaks to the graciousness of our God.

But Calvin goes on to write of the importance of Daniel's vision for the Church. The Church in her trouble and weakness must look to the suffering servant who now has the final right of dominion. Calvin writes:

“For by these words he teaches familiarly and openly, why Christ is the Supreme King, namely, for the perpetual government of his Church in this world. We ought to look up to heaven in very deed whenever the state of the Church is under consideration, since its happiness is neither earthly, nor perishable, nor temporary, though nothing sublunary is either firm or perpetual. But when the Prophet says Christ’s dominion is eternal, he doubtless signifies the constant endurance of his monarchy, even to the end of the world, when he shall gather his people together to a happy life and an eternal inheritance. Although, therefore, celestial immortality is comprehended under these words, yet in a former passage the Prophet pointed out the perpetual existence of the Church in this world, because Christ will defend it, although daily subject to numberless causes of destruction. And who would not assert the almost daily perishing of the Church, if God did not wonderfully preserve it by the hand of his only begotten Son? Hence it is correct to understand the phrase, His kingdom shall be the kingdom of an age. And thus we receive no common consolation, when we see the Church tossed about amidst various fluctuations, and almost buried and devoured by continual shipwrecks, yet Christ is ever stretching forth his hand to preserve it, and to save it from every sorrowful and horrible species of destruction.”

Advent is a promise to creation, but it is first a promise to the Church, to the Sons and Daughters of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 8:18-25)

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