“Prepare your hearts for the Lord, and serve Him only.” (1.Samuel 7,3) and Zacharias said: “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people … that we, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.” (Luke 1,68.75)
St. Luke makes that point very clear, that there were holy and faithful Jews waiting for the coming of the Messiah all along. There are St.Elisabeth and her husband the priest St.Zacharias, who was visited by the archangel Gabriel during his temple service there in Jerusalem, but also St. Simeon of whom the evangelist writes: “this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.” (Luke 2,25) and “there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was … was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.” (Luke 2,36f) She “spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.” (ebd) Old and young, married and widowed, men and women – examples that God is faithful and keeps his people in the one holy Christian Church and the only saving faith from the very beginning to the very end. That’s his great faithfulness and trustworthiness.
These holy saints of the Church – redeemed, forgiven, sanctified and preserved in the saving faith in the coming Lord Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit – were waiting for the promised Messiah. In him they put all their hope and fixed all their longing on him alone. He was the one promised to Adam and Eve to crush the head of the evil serpent. He was the one promised to Abraham, in whom all nations of the world were to be blessed. He was the one, who was to be like Moses and Elijah – and then became far greater even. He was the one promised to the prophet Isaiah to be the servant of the Lord – born of the holy virgin – who would “bear our griefs and carry all our sorrows; who would be wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities; taking all the chastisement for our peace was upon Him and to heal us by His stripes … For the Lord would lay on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53,4ff) Throughout the ages – for centuries really – Israel, the people of God, the faithful rest waited for him, looking forward to his salvation and the redemption of Israel and those sitting in darkness and shadow of death. Waiting, waiting, waiting and waiting even more until he finally came. He did not just come out of the blue, but rather sent his majestic messenger before himself – the archangel Gabriel, this imposing leader of angelic hosts – was sent to deliver the gospel of Jesus impeding arrival. This glorious and wonderful highlight of all human history was foretold by the forerunner St. John, the baptist – relative and distant cousin of Jesus himself – the last of the prophets of old. This venerable line of godly messengers. Speaking God’s word amongst God’s people and thus keeping the waning hope alive: The Messiah is coming – soon – surely. Don’t give up. Wake and wait some more and you will not be disappointed. For he’s coming for us and our salvation + Repent and believe in the holy Gospel of Jesus Christ, who is coming to seek and save the lost. Who will again put Israel in its rightful place and who will return the favour of God to all people. Peace and goodwill amongst men is part of his package, when he comes riding in to his own – on a donkey and the foal of this pack animal.
So people heard the favourable announcement of the coming Saviour Jesus Christ. Some had their fun and put it off as a joke. Others just forgot about it. Others tried to disqualify it and find fault with it. Yet there were those, who looked up, who took courage from it, who lifted their eyes once more to the one, who was coming and searched carefully in his holy scriptures to discover even more what was written and promised from the early days for it surely was not long now anymore. And they were not disappointed. God had mercy on them and us. He visited them and redeemed them so that they could live their lives fearlessly, but rather serving him in their various callings faithfully, in holiness and righteousness – doing good to their fellow men, blessing even those, who were cursing them and praying for those, who were persecuting and harming them. It’s God’s people under his care and never-ending goodness, peace and mercy + Amen.
Let us sing in glad anticipation “Comfort, Comfort, Ye My People”
1. Comfort, comfort, ye My people,
Speak ye peace, thus saith our God;
Comfort those who sit in darkness,
Mourning ‘neath their sorrows’ load.
Speak ye to Jerusalem
Of the peace that waits for them;
Tell her that her sins I cover
And her warfare now is over.
2. Yea, her sins our God will pardon,
Blotting out each dark misdeed;
All that well deserved His anger
He no more will see or heed.
She hath suffered many a day,
Now her griefs have passed away;
God will change her pining sadness
Into ever-springing gladness.
3. Hark, the Herald’s voice is crying
In the desert far and near,
Bidding all men to repentance
Since the Kingdom now is here.
Oh, that warning cry obey!
Now prepare for God a way;
Let the valleys rise to meet Him
And the hills bow down to greet Him.
4. Make ye straight what long was crooked,
Make the rougher places plain;
Let your hearts be true and humble,
As befits His holy reign.
For the glory of the Lord
Now o’er earth is shed abroad,
And all flesh shall see the token
That His Word is never broken.
The Lutheran Hymnal Hymn #61 on Text: Is. 40:1-8
Author: Johann Olearius, 1671 Translated by: Catherine Winkworth, 1863, alt.
Titled: “Troestet, troestet meine Lieben” and Tune: “Freu dich sehr o meine Seele”