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Advent 2021

5: The Nunc Dimittis

December 26, 2021 • Sean Higgins • Luke 2:21–38

# Introduction Here we are on the last Lord’s Day of the year, during the sermon part of Consecration, the part of our liturgy which focuses on setting us apart to the Lord. Consecration belongs with our sanctification; we are being conformed into greater Christlike holiness and transformed into greater Christlike glory. There has maybe been no greater test of my sanctification this past year than following the Snohomish Health District on Twitter. Hold that in mind for a moment, because it connects to it being the day after Christmas, the day after our feasting over the Incarnation of God’s Son. Perhaps today is a tough day because you spent most of your energy getting ready for, and hopefully then enjoying, your day yesterday. Often, when a big event is done, it’s tempting to want to be *all* done. What you may need is comfort, consolation. Because the Lord is the one in charge, He decides when we are done, and when He has more for us to do. The SnoHD knows that the last couple *years* have been tough for people (not self-aware enough to consider how they have played a part in that). But to help us out, they’ve been sharing every week under the hashtag #WallpaperWednesday images of snowflakes or sunsets or cozy couches with some sentimental comment like a cat poster. Last Wednesday’s wallpaper was [a cup with a peppermint stick in a festive setting with the words “comfort and joy.](https://twitter.com/SnoHD/status/1473700295381299222?s=20)” No source or reason for either, just an exhortation to share comfort and joy with others rather than your (usual) jerk self. You can see what a *test* that could be. True consolation, not as in a second place prize, but as comfort, the easing of grief and burden and pain, only comes in the Savior, Jesus Christ. He must be named, He must be believed. There is no other hope. Jesus is called “the consolation of Israel” in Luke 2. He was identified by a man named Simeon, by the Holy Spirit, in the passage following the angelic army choir celebrating Christ’s birth. In this advent season we’ve looked at the Annunciation, the Magnificat, the Birth in Bethlehem, and the shepherds receiving the good news of great joy. The next paragraphs happen a little more than a week and a month later. We’re *post* Christmas. God is *still* in flesh, and yet there is a ways to go. As in the previous messages we’ll look at the story, a doctrine, and a use. # The Nunc Dimittis - Luke 2:21-38 All the law is being fulfilled by Joseph and Mary. They name their son Jesus, they have him circumcized at the right time (eight days later), and they present their first-born at the Temple (according to Exodus 13:2), while making Mary’s purification offering forty days after the birth (according to Leviticus 12:6). The turtle-doves were a poor man’s option, confirming that Joseph was not wealthy in worldly terms. At the Temple they were met by a man named Simeon. Luke identifies Simeon as “righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him” (verse 25). It is somewhat unique that the Spirit was upon him, and the phrase “consolation of Israel” is definitely unique. Consolation is a cognate of the well-known Greek word *parkletos*. The comfort of Israel is not a phrase found in any other passage; Anna, in the next paragraph, calls Jesus the “redemption of Israel.” In Jesus Isaiah’s words ring true: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God” (Isaiah 40:1). The part that really stands out is verse 26: > It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” Though not identified as a prophet or a priest, nor necessarily as an old man, the impression is that Simeon had been given special, supernatural revelation by God, and had been *waiting* for a long time. The same Spirit took Simeon to the Temple on the right day, the day when Joseph and Mary brought Jesus. Simeon knew right away. > he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, > > “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, > according to Your word; > for my eyes have seen your salvation > that you have prepared in the > presence of all peoples, > a light for revelation to the Gentiles > and for glory to your people Israel. “Now…you are letting…depart” in Latin is *nunc dimittis*. It’s the third of the hymn-like sayings in Luke, after Mary’s Magnificat and Zechariah’s Benedictus. Simeon needs nothing else, he’s ready to go. Salvation is for the world. Jesus is “the light of the world” (John 8:12), and this “light” is for two things: 1) "revelation to the Gentiles," bringing them understanding, and 2) "glory to your people Israel." The Messiah is from the line of David; He’s a Jew. He will reign over the house of Jacob (Luke 1:32-33). He will be a help to His servant - Israel (1:54), from the God of Israel (1:68). Jesus is the Cornerstone for all who believe, to the Jew first and also to the Gentile (Romans 1:16). And, not all of Jesus’ people received Him at His first coming (John 1:11). Simeon will tell Mary in a moment that Jesus is a watershed and yet that doesn’t change the promises. The light will spread in the church until the fullness of Gentiles comes in and then a future generation of Israel will repent and receive Jesus as Lord (Romans 11:25). Joseph and Mary marveled (2:33), and Simeon prophesied directly to Mary about the future end of her baby’s life. Simeon has no word for Joseph. > “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (34-35) These are effects of the cornerstone metaphor, though Simeon doesn’t specifically refer to Jesus as the stone as other passages do (think 1 Peter 2:4-8). But those who are built on the rock rise and those who stumble over it will fall. This exposure continues today, among Jews and non-Jews. Men, no matter how much they imagine, are not the judges of Jesus. When they put themselves in the judge’s seat they show which side they’re on. Their hearts are constantly being revealed. The next paragraph concerns a prophetess named Anna, of the (lost) tribe of Asher. She had dedicated her life to service after becoming a widow, perhaps 60 or more years. She also was brought at the right time by the Spirit to see Jesus and when she recognized Him, she “began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Israel” (2:38). There’s not much reason for Luke to mention Anna other than to corroborate that some did recognize and rejoice. God did not leave Himself without witness, and two witnesses was the minimum (Deuteronomy 19:15). # Doctrine - Providence We believe that God is sovereign, and the doctrine of providence means that He has decided every element of every event, the timing and the agents and the outcome. It’s called *providence*, His protective care. From Chapter 5 on Providence in the Westminster Confession of Faith. > God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, (Hbr 1:3); direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, (Dan 4:34-35; Psa 135:6; Act 17:25-28; Job 38-41); from the greatest even to the least, (Mat 10:29-31); by His most wise and holy providence, (Pro 15:3; Psa 104:24; Psa 145:17); according to His infallible fore-knowledge, (Act 15:8; Psa 94:8-11); and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, (Eph 1:11; Psa 33:10-11); to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy, (Isa 63:14; Eph 3:10; Rom 9:17; Gen 45:7; Psa 145:7). In this passage in Luke 2, it is not mere coincidence that Simeon comes to the temple on the same day, or that Anna had been there serving. Jesus was born in “the fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4). He will later be delivered over and crucified by the predestined plan of God (Acts 4:28). This redemption was at “the proper time” (1 Timothy 2:6). # Use - A Christmas Call to Consolation The previous uses have been what you should practice: faith, praise, expressible joy. This is a call to what you should receive. Come and get it. Just as joy is related to salvation, so consolation is related to providence. There are hard providences. Simeon was both excited, and exhausted, waiting to see the Messiah. Anna may not have been a witness without having been a widow. Mary was the most blessed, and also the difficulties of traveling and delivering a baby were the *least* of her burdens. They would soon be told to escape to Egypt. They would receive reports of baby boys two and under being slaughtered by Herod. She watched many reject her Son, and then watched Him be crucified. She was favored by God, and yet a sword pierced her heart. Remember Romans 8:28. Remember that Jesus Himself is redemption and consolation. In Him we have forgiveness for our sins, in Him we have eternal life, in Him we have hope, in Him we have glory. He has also sent His Spirit to dwell in us, to seal us for an eternal inheritance. That Spirit is the Paraclete, the Comforter. Do you have to wait? Have you lost something, someone, that hurts so much? Simeon was ready to die, it seemed to him that it was time to be done. You might, in God’s providence, not be done yet. Christmas is a call to persevere, to keep going, under God's providential care. But this promise and *peace* only come from Christ. They do not come from a new app, a better relationship, a profitable business, a more healthy body. Those can be part of good things given by God, but He alone can comfort your soul. When you get sick. how long you’re sick. When the world is crazy, and when it has much common grace. # Conclusion We are staring down the final days of this calendar year. We are waiting for the second advent of the Son, the reign of the King forever. We live by faith, we see glimpses of the connections by providence, and we seek to walk in the strength of His Spirit. He continues to reveal our hearts. May we be blessed by Him. ---------- ## Charge The light of Christ has come. You have His Spirit in You, You have His Word in front of you. Walk in the Spirit. Meditate on the Scripture. Give yourself to Him. Go to Him for grace and comfort. He is the Father of mercies and God of all comfort. He’s sent His Son, do all in His name. ## Benediction: > And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Acts 20:32, ESV)

4: Choirs of Angels

December 19, 2021 • Sean Higgins • Luke 2:8–20

# Introduction I prefer quiet. I grew up in a house where my dad more than preferred it, he punished the rest of us, not ironically and quite effectively with his own unvoiced anger, for not being quiet. Quiet is drilled into me. Many stories we’ve heard about “spiritual” people also involve quiet. Among us Bible-reading types we even have our own modern-monkish moments we call “quiet times.” We’ve turned quiet into a *virtue*, and virtues typically get promoted and defended. Four sure, quiet can be good, polite, appropriate, reverent. For sure, the night Jesus was born was *not* silent. We come by it naturally; every time we sing “Silent Night” it strums the sentimental heart strings, as long as you don’t actually have a newborn you’re trying to juggle in one arm while holding the candle for the Christmas Eve service in the other. Silence is more a platonic idea than an incarnate one. We sing “let all mortal flesh keep silence,” which is an inspired line in Zechariah 2:13. But that is a call to silence for those who *won’t* serve the Lord, in contrast to the call to those who put their trust in the Lord, “Sing and rejoice, …for behold, I come and will dwell in your midst” (Zechariah 2:10, see verses 11-12 as well). The silence is urged on those who about to face Yahweh’s holy judgment. But when it comes to the birth of His holy Son, what does it sound like? “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host saying, ‘Shhhhhhhh!’” Yes, the angelic army of shushers as seen on TV nativity sets. The thing is, the skies were not silent, neither were the shepherds, or Mary or Joseph. The only quiet character in these first two chapters of Luke’s gospel is Zechariah, and he was muted as discipline for *not* believing the word he was given. I am not calling for as many decibels around your tree or table, but songs of loudest praise are appropriate. Raise a glass, and raise your voice. Be careful trying to keep your joy, and your kids’ joys, at a whisper. We’re at the fourth of four advent messages. Already we’ve considered the Annunciation, the Magnificat, and the Birth of Christ. The next most immediate event concerns the shepherds and angels on the same night, and that will give us something to treasure and ponder in our hearts this week. As in the previous sermons, the three parts will be the story, a doctrine, and an application. # Joy to the World - Luke 2:8-20 As for the chronology, we know it is the same night because verse 14 says, “born this day.” As far as location, Luke says, “in the same region,” so outside of Bethlehem, near enough for the shepherds to cover the distance. “There were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night” (thank you again to the KJV translators; such language is four centuries old). There’s one flock, of an unknown number watched by another unknown number of shepherds. Since it’s plural there must have been more than two, and probably less than ten. They are on the graveyard shift. “And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shown around them, and they were filled with fear” (2:9). If it was Gabriel he is not named, and the glory—the dazzling brightness—gets emphasized. Zechariah and Mary had both been startled, these shepherds no less. The next lines are Christmas gold. The angel said: > “Fear not, for behold I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people, for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (verse 10) At the moment, it is one angelic herald and a few small town shepherds. This hardly seems like a crescendo. Bethlehem was not highly regarded (Micah 5:2), and it’s usually said that shepherds weren’t either. And probably, these shepherds were not the guys you invited to your parties unless you absolutely had to. At the least, the gospelization did *not* come to temple priests or public dignitaries. While the consequences of this event would be extensive (all the world, Israel are “the people” and Gentiles are mentioned in 2:32) and eternal (salvation) and political (Christ the Lord), the good news was shared at small scale. It was no small celebration, though, but news of “great joy.” Joy to the world! > And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace among those with whom He is please.” (verses 13-14) Glory *in altissimis Deo*! There are some things a solo just can’t satisfy. This news, this great joy, took a *choir* of angels. It’s a “heavenly host,” they are an angelic army of praise-rs. These singing-soldiers have lit up the sky and filled the silence with their song. You may notice that the ESV is not the standard holiday greeting card quote, which is “on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” That’s from the KJV, based on a different set of handwritten copies of the New Testament (the Textus Receptus) that don’t have a final sigma (ς) on *eudokia* (εὐδοκία), which would be in the nominative case (so, “goodwill to men”). The better reading has the sigma, making it a the genitive case, as reflected in most modern translations (so, “peace among men of [God’s] goodwill”). The emphasis is on peace, and peace to those God elected for receiving His favor. The angel told them where they could see this Savior (verse 12) and they decided to go see for themselves “this thing that has happened, what the Lord made known to us” (verse 15). They went “with haste,” and whether by asking around or by their knowledge of a limited number of manger spots in the city (maybe it was their own stable), they found the family. “Hi. You don’t know us, but we were just flash-mobbed by an angel choir about your baby.” The news got around. The shepherds were *not* silent about it; they are the only ones who saw the extraordinary glory, and they didn’t keep it to themselves. And people “wondered,” some perhaps politely and others more open in their unbelief. Mary was collecting her thoughts, overwhelmed with the events, and then the shepherds went back to work, “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.” What a night, loud and bright, and not quiet. # The Doctrine - Salvation Again, unlike the virgin birth and a qualified kenosis in the incarnation which are the focus of a few verses, salvation is a front-to-back-of—the-canon doctrine. But as we hear the angels voices about this divine night, we understand that it’s about the “dear *Savior*’s birth.” Interestingly, Luke is the only one of the Synoptic Gospels to use the word “Savior” (and the title is used only once in John 4:42). The great joy of the Christmas story is about salvation, a Savior who saves and reigns as Savior-King, as Messiah. Gabriel told Joseph that the son of Mary should be named “Jesus,” Yahweh saves, “for he will *save* his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Mary magnified the Lord and rejoiced in “God my *Savior*” (Luke 1:47); did she know that the bitty-baby in her belly was her Savior? Zechariah, after he got his voice back, celebrated God who has “visited and redeemed his people, and he has raised up a horn of *salvation*” (Luke 1:68-69). John would go before Jesus “to give knowledge of *salvation* to his people in the forgiveness of their sins” (Luke 1:77). So again, the angel of the Lord told the shepherds about the birth of “a *Savior*, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). The angelic host praised God for “peace,” and this is news of forgiveness and fellowship between God and man, that is, *salvation*. In the next section of Luke, Simeon recognized the Lord’s Christ, “for my eyes have seen your *salvation* that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples” (2:30). And so, in this Christmas season we sometimes even need salvation from sinning in our “Christmas sins,” like snobby pride and selfish discontent and impatience and anxiety, in carol-vexation and silent-joy. # Use - A Christmas Call to (Expressible) Joy Let me state again that quiet isn’t always bad, and silence is certainly not violence. Be thankful for the moments when not a creature is stirring in your house. But don’t let Thomas Kinkade paint your picture of Christmas. Remember, it was the Grinch, like Grendel before him, who was *mad* at all the joyful noise. When you can’t hear yourself think because it’s so loud, transpose that into a meditation on what fussy shepherds might have said when the choir started all their hubbub. “You’re startling the sheep!” The way the shepherds showed their faith was not by finding the manger and then miming congratulations. They talked among themselves, they shared testimonies with Joseph and Mary, they seem to have told anyone who crossed their paths, and ended up making more joyful noise in the Lord’s name when they went back to the fields. There is a joy that is “inexpressible.” > Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8–9 ESV) But this is not describing a kind of joy, like something kept safe behind bullet-proof glass, rather it refers to our limited capacity to get all the rejoicing out. The Incarnation of our Savior is not a truth protected in a museum but proclaimed in a concert hall. # Conclusion In my message on the Magnificat I said about Mary’s praise, “This is faith, yes, but it is not sleeping or silent. It’s faith that goes all in, in obedience and also in reverence and *joy*.” In his poem “The Turn of the Tide,” C. S. Lewis writes: > Revel, mirth and shout > Descended to her, sphere below sphere, > Till Saturn laughed and lost his latter age’s frost > And his beard, Niagara-like, unfroze In pre-Copernican cosmology, Saturn was the final planet, the planet of the end, the planet of old and cold, the planet of death. At the Incarnation, even Saturn couldn’t stay hard. I am not trying to be a Scrooge or make all the needles on your pine tree brown, or to red pill your Precious Moments Christmas edition, but to open you up to a harder, more tiring, more Bethlehem-consistent, joy. “Silent Night, Holy Night” is two-thirds right, it was night and the baby was holy. Who knows, the only silence that night might have come between the baby gathering oxygen to wail. And in “O Little Town of Bethlehem” - “how silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given,” really? The first verse in “Let all mortal flesh keep silence” is quite shushy, so is “ponder nothing earthly minded,” except that the next couple verses require just the opposite. Is it only angels that, “with ceaseless voice” “cry: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Lord Most High!” How about instead: “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come” verse 14: “My heart for very joy must leap; my lips no more can silence keep.” I’m not sure what your favorite Christmas carol is, and it’s fine if it’s not “Joy to the World” and you’re just wrong. But Christmas is not pianissimo. The Savior reigns, “Let men their songs employ” and “repeat the sounding joy.” ---------- ## Charge All of us have it better than the shepherds. We do not need to go to Bethlehem and see, we have our own completed copies of the Bible to read. We have not heard the heavenly choir, but we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed (2 Peter 1:19). We’ve not seen a baby in a manger, but we’ve been privileged called to steward the whole story of the Savior. If the shepherds enjoyed the choir, how much more joy do we have to *join* in the choir? All you have to do is *not* keep silent about Him. ## Benediction: > But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3:18, ESV)

3: The Birth of Christ

December 12, 2021 • Sean Higgins • Luke 2:1–7

# Introduction There have been a lot of babies born under the sun. There have been a lot of important people born. There have been a lot of incredible stories surrounding births, even ones we read in the Old Testament. Yet there is only *one* only-begotten child of the Father, there is only *one* virgin-born son, there is only *one* Christ, one Savior of men, and one birth story *gloria in excelsis*. I can’t imagine how many times I’ve read or had read to me the birth of Christ in Luke 2. My dad read it every Christmas morning before we opened presents, and that custom continues in our house. Linus nails it in the Charlie Brown Christmas special ([reciting Luke 2:8-20](https://youtu.be/eff0cqYefYY)). It has been embellished in our collective imaginations through nativity artwork and cartoons, adding animals and condensing days into one silent night. But we will not overreact to the excellencies that came down to earth. It will take our glorification to give glory to God in the highest that He deserves. In the meantime, we try. I am not preaching these advent messages because you *must* celebrate the month of December in a particular way per se. But for good reasons, and in light of the flow of godless propaganda, in masked and maskless stores, it isn’t whether or not we’re thinking about the season, but *how* we will exalt and embody the grace and truth of the Word become flesh. In our series so far we’ve considered Mary’s faith when Gabriel foretold her virgin pregnancy, followed by Mary’s praise in response to Elizabeth’s recognition of her blessing. Though it has only been half a chapter, forty weeks have passed since Luke 1:26 as we enter Luke 2. As in the previous messages we’ll consider the passage, some theology, and a use. # The Birth of Christ - Luke 2:1-7 For however familiar the words are, there are some significant questions that turn up in this paragraph, let alone the mystery itself of the eternal God born into time and laid in a manger. **Caesar Augustus** is well known. His birth name was Octavian, nephew turned adopted son of Julius Caesar, and he was the first to don the title of Emperor from the senate (27 B.C.) as well as demanding recognition as *Dominus et Deus*, “God and Lord” (Sproul). Through him Roman rule expanded, and what is most needed for empire building and consolidation? Money (not more soldiers per MacArthur). How do you get that much money? Taxes. How many taxes can you get? You need to know how many people there are whom you can make pay. So a **decree went out…that all the world should be registered**, enrolled for a census, put on a list for the purpose of taxation. The well-known KJV ("that all the world should be taxed") jumps the translation gun. There is also some question about this census taking place during the time **when Quirinius was governor of Syria**. The Jewish historian Josephus doesn’t record a census under such governorship until AD 6 (also mentioned by Luke in Acts 5:37), though there’s good reason to think Jesus was born around 6-5 B.C. (which, yeah, could have been helped by better dating from the start). But Luke had collected eye-witness accounts, and Luke was helped by the Spirit. Either he meant that this was *before* that other well-known census by Quirinius, or maybe Quirinius governed twice. We can work with it either way. That **all went to be registered, each to his own town** (verse 3) lead Joseph to travel to Bethlehem (verse 4). Each’s **own town** could be birthplace, hometown, place of family property holdings. The key was, this is where you got counted for paying your taxes. Apparently Joseph didn’t have any family remaining there with whom they could stay. Joseph went from Nazareth to **the city of David**, which sometimes refers to Jerusalem (as in 2 Samuel 5:7), but here refers to **Bethlehem** (again in 2:11), the place where David grew up. Joseph went **because he was of the house and lineage of David**, and as we saw in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus, which put Jesus into the royal line as an adopted son. It also put Jesus as the fulfillment of Micah’s prophecy: > But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, > who are too little to be among > the clans of Judah, > from you shall come forth for me > one who is to be ruler in Israel, > whose coming forth is from of old, > from ancient days. (Micah 5:2) Why did Joseph take Mary with him? It’s not just a question of her traveling while pregnant, but was she to be counted too (since she was also from David’s house)? Was Joseph protecting her from the mean-girls' gossip back home? And was it usual, or *proper*, for an unmarried couple to travel and *stay* together? She did go with him, and she was only his **betrothed** (even if Matthew 1:24 claims he took her as his “wife”), and she was **with child**, an elegant phrase attributable to William Tyndale, since the Greek word means “pregnant.” They could have arrived a month or more ahead of time. **While they were there the time came for her to give birth**. That actually sounds *not* like they arrived in Bethlehem the night the baby arrived. But it was **the time**. We’re given not as many details as we might like to know. Was it only the two of them for labor and delivery? She **gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn**. Again, “inn” may be overdoing it. The word here - κατάλυμα - could be just guest room or “private room” (unlike the specific word for “inn” - πανδοχεῖον - used in Luke 10:34); though *the* inn could point to a particular lodging place. Regardless, any and all rooms were taken due to the influx of out-of-towners. Joseph and Mary did not have the conveniences, they seem not to have had help, they were on their own with the contractions and blood and in some place where animals could have been close by. History suggested that it was a cave (so Constantine built a basilica over the site, and the Church of the Nativity was built over that). It could have been a stable, but no animals are mentioned, albeit knowing that a manger is a feeding trough for domesticated animals. *This* is the “Son of the Most High” (1:32-33)? This is the one destined for the throne of a never-ending kingdom? This is *blessing*? This is God’s favor? And it was really real. She had not known a man, and she’s delivered a flesh and blood, breathing little baby boy. There was absolutely zero pomp and the circumstances were about as gloriously ordinary and wearisome and isolated as they could be. # The Doctrine - Kenosis Qualified So far we’ve considered the doctrine of the virgin birth and the doctrine of election. The obvious doctrine here would be the Incarnation. And I do want to address a particular perspective on it, sometimes referred to as the *Kenosis* or *kenetic theory*. There is an *heretical* teaching about Jesus’ birth that covers itself under the word *kenosis*. We must do better. What we can’t do is avoid the question. In Philippians 2:7 Paul wrote that Jesus “emptied himself” and took the form of a servant. > though [Christ Jesus] was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but **emptied** himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:6–7 ESV) The word “emptied” is *ekenosen* (ἐκένωσεν), which means to make of no effect, to empty. In the late 19th century a German theologian named Gottfried Thomasius claimed that Jesus emptied Himself of certain divine attributes such as omnipotence and omniscience and omnipresence. Another German, Wolfgang Gess, went further, explicitly rejecting the Definition of Chalcedon and claimed that at the incarnation Jesus “ceased from His cosmic functions and His eternal consciousness” (see [Berkhof](https://www.monergism.com/kenosis)). It is popular among Christians to say that Jesus laid aside the use of His divine attributes. **But**, beloved, Paul also wrote that in Jesus “the fulness of God dwelt bodily” (Colossians 2:9). > For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell (Colossians 1:19 ESV) > For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily (Colossians 2:9 ESV) God’s Son did *not* give up divinity to take on humanity. How else did He know what was in the heart of man? How did He call Lazarus out of the tomb? And most important, how could He take on the sins of His people as only a man? It took a few centuries and a number of critics for some helpful clarity. The Nicene Creed and the Definition of Chalcedon acknowledge the mystery of Jesus being fully God and fully man. Christ was one person with two natures. The nature of God was joined to man when the Word became flesh (the *hypostatic union*), not the nature of God was left behind when Jesus was born. From Chalcedon: > to be acknowledged in two natures, **without confusion, without change, without division, without separation**; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union Christ did **not** empty Himself of deity. So what of *kenosis*? He emptied Himself of something. It is (grammatically as well as contextually) connected to is taking on the form of a servant. He gave up the full display of His divine glory, the prerogative of being recognized and being served. He didn’t give up all His glory, John said “we beheld his glory.” > And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 ESV) Yet Jesus prayed that the Father would restore His glory like it had been before the incarnation (John 17:5). > O what abasement was it for the Son of God to take our flesh? Nay, that Christ should take our nature when it was in disgrace, being stained with sin, this was the wonder of humility. (Watson, _A Godly Man’s Picture_, Location 995) # The Use - A Christmas Call to Condescend Older Christians used to use the language of Christ’s condescension. Today condescension almost always means to stay high and look down on another, to patronize, to act superior and treat another as lesser. The word originally meant not to treat another as low, but to get low, to give way, to defer, especially in order to serve. This is the truth of the birth and life of God incarnate. It is captured in the Christmas story. It’s the call for every Christian. The kenosis in Philippians 2 is to honor Christ as the model for every Christian’s humility. “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 2:6) and look at what He did. I was going to say that we should be “humble for the holidays,” but who wants to hear that? How about “condescend this Christmas”? That’s really hitting below the belt. You do not need to deny your privileges any more than Jesus denied His divinity. He was God. You are chosen and loved by God. But don’t treat your privilege like you are precious, and don’t demand that others recognize your preciousness. Ewww. Love and lower yourself to serve, to sacrifice. It’s the call of Christmas. You may say, “But I’m not Jesus. I can’t do that.” And half of that is true. It should make it *easier* for us to get low. This is how deceitful and masterful sin is, that it makes it harder (in the spiritual realm) for proud men to condescend than it was for the Son of God (in the metaphysical realm) to condescend. The argument is from the greater to the lesser, and to be clear, we are the lesser. He came to save us from our sins, so His name is Jesus (Matthew 1:21), and that includes our sins of acting like Christmas is about *Me*. Love loosely your preferences, traditions, timings, and let go any demands for others to grasp your glory. And remember, those who humble themselves will be exalted...by God. It’s how He works (Philippians 2:5-9, 1 Peter 5:6). # Conclusion In _The Last Battle_, Lucy said, “in our world too, a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.” Let the substantizing of the eternal Word into flesh, the fulness of God pleased to dwell in our Lord Jesus Christ, the condescension of the beloved Son for sake of becoming a servant, expand our understanding of glory in grace and truth as well as set an example for us to do the same. ---------- ## Charge If your Christmas tree is sizeable, you can’t make it stand taller by trying to pin it a couple inches off the bottom of the base, hoping those half-cent screws will hold tight and keep it upright. It’s got to be grounded, all the way down. Don’t try to prop yourself up, let alone put a star on your head. Condescend. In humility count others as more significant. This is the mind of Christmas. ## Benediction: > And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. > The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. (Philippians 4:19–20, 23, ESV)

2: The Magnificat

December 5, 2021 • Sean Higgins • Luke 1:44–55

# Introduction Hindsight is 20/20; reporting accurately on what happened is easier than predicting accurately (even though these days the "news" may exhibit more creative license than a charismatic preacher’s work in an abstract pottery class). The point is, before and after really are different positions. One of the ways that God distinguishes Himself from idols is by telling the future (“Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them” - Isaiah 42:9). One of the ways the godly distinguish themselves is by praising God based on what he said *before* He brings it to pass. This is faith, yes, but it is not sleeping or silent. It’s faith that goes all in, in obedience and also in reverence and *joy*. We worship God on the first day of the week for a number of reasons, but we don’t hold back our praise until He “produces” later. We are in the season of advent. From our historical perspective, Christ has already advented once—He came to earth. Christmas day is our marker of Christ’s birth, born of a woman, miraculously born of a virgin. Isn’t December 25th sufficient? Do we really need to extend our excuses for being distracted in December and shove in extra shopping and make extra work for ourselves by raising kids’ expectations for almost a whole month? Doesn’t this make us worldly, not godly? Of course it could. Religious people have always been good at ruining religious gifts. We win at religious ways to sin, as if that were a competition unbelievers cared about. But advent—lowercase a, as in an advent principle with many opportunities not a rigid one-size-fits-all box of traditions—gives us reason to meditate on what to do *before* the big day. The New Testament has much more to teach about Christ’s second coming, His next advent, then His first. The church should be actively waiting for His return. The Bride longs for he Bridegroom. We can learn from the epistles and the Apocalypse, AND we can learn from Israel’s example of waiting for the Messiah. The NT may not be overflowing with first advent details, but the OT certainly anticipated it. We are looking in Luke’s gospel for some of the pre-birth pieces which include faith, Mary’s more ready than Zechariah’s, and *praise*. We saw the Annunciation (1:26-38), we will still consider the Birth (2:1-7) and the Choir of Hosts (2:8-20), but today let’s consider the Magnificat (1:46-55) along with a key doctrine and a call for us. # The Magnificat - Luke 1:46-55 Based on the numbers, Mary went to see Elizabeth not long after Gabriel gave her word about her pregnancy. We, the readers, know Gabriel visited Mary when Elizabeth was six months pregnant (1:26), Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months (1:56), but there’s no indication that Mary was there for John’s birth. It was around [75-100 miles](https://aleteia.org/2019/05/31/mary-traveled-a-highly-dangerous-path-to-visit-elizabeth/#) from Nazareth (1:26) to Judah (1:39), where Mary came to Zechariah and Elizabeth’s house (1:40). Miraculously, *in utero*, John recognized Mary and “the baby leaped in [Elizabeth’s] womb” (1:41). It’s probably a good thing that Elizabeth “was filled with the Holy Spirit,” because, even though I’ve never had the privilege of having a womb, I wouldn't want anyone jumping around in there. The Holy Spirit made clear to Elizabeth that the leaping was a sign (1:44), making this John’s first witness to Jesus. The Spirit also made clear that Mary was carrying a son, well before 20 weeks and no ultrasound required. Elizabeth shouted, “*Blessed* are you among women, and *blessed* is the fruit of your womb. And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? ...*Blessed* is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (1:42-43, 45). Two (and a half) #blesseds for Mary. As surprising as that greeting to Mary may be, the response from Mary is even more significant. It is called the *Magnificat* because of the Latin version of the Luke 1:46: *Magnificat anima mea Dominum*, which translates the Greek word Μεγαλύνει, and becomes “magnifies” in English (or “magnifyeth” if you spelled like Tyndale). It carries the idea not just of exalting (as in NASB), but of *enlarging*. A magnifying glass shows the object at a higher scale. Mary does not say, “(Distant) cousin, you won’t believe this!” or, “Ellie, how did you know I was pregnant? Am I showing already?” Mary responds with theological acumen and humility and faith and perspective and praise. Some call this a hymn, and it is sort of elevated prose, though “no precise metric form has been established” (Marshall). It might not be what would come out of some of our teenage young ladies first try on Tik-Tok. But it is wrong to try to attribute this to someone other than Mary. > And Mary said, > “My soul magnifies the Lord, > and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, > for he has looked on the humble estate > of his servant. > For behold, from now on all generations > will call me blessed; > for he who is mighty has done great things > for me, > and holy is his name. > And his mercy is for those who fear him > from generation to generation. > He has shown strength with his arm; > he has scattered the proud in the thoughts > of their hearts; > he has brought down the mighty from their thrones > and exalted those of humble estate; > he has filled the hungry with good things, > and the rich he has sent away empty. > He has helped his servant Israel, > in remembrance of his mercy, > as he spoke to our fathers, > to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” > (Luke 1:46–55 ESV) First, Mary knew that she needed a Savior (1:47). A sinless woman wouldn’t need saving. Mary wasn’t “immaculate.” Second, Mary knew that she was undeserving (1:48, 49). She was no one special before this, not in the world’s eyes or her own. She was a humble servant, and *He* was mighty and merciful (1:49, 50). Third, Mary knew that she was blessed (1:48). She had been chosen for a great responsibility, but given great grace to bear it. She could already tell that we would be talking about her millennia later. Has any woman on earth ever been more blessed? Fourth, Mary knew that this is how God works. He resists the proud and lifts up the humble, which is a part of Hannah’s prayer (1 Samuel 2:8). He reverses the course of those who are rich (without fearing Him), and sends them away empty. The past tense verbs (in verses 51-53 such as scattered, exalted, filled, sent away, helped, etc.) present it as so certain it’s done. Because He is ὁ δυνατός (verse 49), “The Mighty One,” there is no question. Because of “His mercy” (verses 50, 54), there is great hope. Fifth, Mary knew that she was part of God’s covenant fulfillment. The promises belonged to Israel (1:54), and before that to Abraham (1:55). God declared that He would make a people for Himself and this Son of Mary would be the *great* Son, the one through whom the great blessings would come “forever” = εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα (see similarly in Luke 1:33). # The Doctrine - Election While not as on the nose as the virgin birth in the Annunciation, among the truths in the Magnificat and its context is God’s choice. Elizabeth (like Sarah and Hannah before her) was barren. No earthly, naturopathic-only treatment could fix that. At her age, someone else had to chose to intervene. What’s more, Elizabeth knew that she had been chosen for blessing: “why has it been *granted* to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (1:43) This *gift* of honor wasn’t deserved. Even more, baby John couldn’t have leapt based his own self-awareness. Mary’s praise to God is rooted in His sovereign choices, fulfilling big and broad promises in particular persons. The Lord chose kinswomen (1:36); that wasn’t a coincidence. The Lord chose a humble servant, not a proud or powerful woman. He chose *against* the strong and well-off in the world. He chose to show mercy, even as He chose Abram to come out from Ur, and chose Isaac instead of Ishmael, Jacob instead of Esau, “in order that God’s purpose of election” might be magnified (Romans 9:11). The Lord chose Mary; He knew her individually. > Election in creation, election in providence, and so election also to eternal life; election in the realm of grace as well as in the realm of nature. (Kuyper, _Lectures on Calvinism_, Location 3209) Humanism, Darwinism, Secularism, Scientism, (Open Theism), none of them offer any comfort walking forward, at best they may allow moments of calm; “Whew, I’m not dead right now.” There are no guarantees, no powers that care. God knows beforehand because He ordains what will come to pass. Therefore we can trust Him, and we can *magnify* Him. # The Use - A Christmas Call to Praise Which leads to the proper response, in this case, learning from Mary to magnify the Lord. Election, choices beforehand, is the cause of praise beforehand. Election teaches that God chooses, not men, and that He chooses with mercy in mind, to the praise of His glorious grace (Ephesians 1:3-10). We do not only want to praise Him until after the event. Afterward we give thanks. By way of comparison, it’s one thing to talk smack when the game is over, or even when your team is up by dozens of points. It’s another thing when the score is 0-0. Are you confident before tip-off? Praise is confident faith. Even the shepherds we meet in Luke 2:8-20, though it could seem as if they praised post-fulfillment, really were praising by faith. The shepherds returned (after hearing the heavenly host and finding Joseph and Mary with Jesus), “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen” (2:20). But the baby they saw was not yet revealed to the world as the Lord. “Glory to God in the highest,” yes, but for maybe a dozen people on the planet that day? # Conclusion We praise God, we seek for His name to be enlarged, *before* the work week and before the coming of Christ again. We praise Him as we wait, not when it’s over. We praise Him by faith, from faith to faith, not by sight. We praise Him on December 5th, and 25th. Praise the Lord so that the next generation will learn how before we’re “finished” with them. Praise the Lord before the proud are scattered and the mighty are removed from office and the rich get hungry. Praise Him not only post-birth, but pre-birth. Praise Him when the seed goes into the ground. Praise Him because the Son is coming again to reign in a kingdom without end. > I will bless the LORD at all times; > his praise shall continually be in my mouth. > My soul makes its boast in the LORD; > let the humble hear and be glad. > Oh, magnify the LORD with me, > and let us exalt his name together! > (Psalm 34:1–3 ESV) Tell out the greatness of the Lord. ---------- ## Charge There are only twenty more (shopping, cooking, decorating) days to praise the Lord before Christmas. Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! Praise Him before you are finished, praise Him before He comes. Praise Him because of advent, praise Him before the next one. “Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes” (Luke 12:43). ### Benediction: > [M]ay your love abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11, NASB)

1: The Annunciation

November 28, 2021 • Sean Higgins • Luke 1:26–38

# Introduction Christmas is a double-edged story that cuts off both the legs of Gnosticism and materialism in the same swing. God, clothed in flesh, endorsed the physical world, perhaps in a deeper way that even the creation itself. Yet how the Incarnation comes about, and what it points to, calls us to live on earth by faith, not by empiricism. Even though we don’t really have another good, consistent option (than living in the flesh like Christ by faith in Christ), too many Christians are exactly bad at this balance. Also, let me acknowledge that I do appreciate John Calvin’s exegetical tenacity. He apparently never broke off of a verse-by-verse sermon series no matter the occasion. He once picked up in the next verse after a three year banishment from his pulpit in Geneva (see _The Legacy of Sovereign Joy_, 139). But as relevant as Romans remains, in holiday season and out, I think there is some pastoral purpose to take these advent Sundays and mediate together on the Incarnation, its story and theology and application. Last year, 2020, was my first time preaching four advent/Christmas sermons. We spent all four Sundays looking at the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1, from four different angles. This year I’d like to take a look at a different gospel and four different passages. We will, Lord willing, work through the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38), the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), the Birth of Christ (Luke 2:1-7), and the Heavenly Host (Luke 2:8-20). Each message will have three related but distinguished parts: the *passage* in its gospel context, the *doctrine* in its biblical context, and the *call* for us in our present context, how the realities of Christmas should shape our celebrations in these next weeks and shape our faith in the flesh year-round. # The Annunciation - Luke 1:26-38 Luke wrote his history for Theophilus (1:3), and gathered eye-witness reports in order to provide an orderly account. He began with an announcement from the angel Gabriel to the priest, Zechariah, about the birth of John the Baptist (1:5-25). Following that is an announcement from the angel Gabriel to a young woman named Mary about the birth of a child who would be her son and also God’s Son (1:26-38). Gabriel was sent by God when Elizabeth was six months pregnant (1:26), not to the temple city of Jerusalem, but to a small *polis* called Nazareth. Luke probably added “a city in Galilee” because most people probably wouldn’t know Nazareth by name, and if they were famililar with it, they wondered if anything good could come from it (see John 1:46). The greatest surprise comes in verse 27. Gabriel came to a virgin, betrothed but unmarried. The Greek word *parthenos* could refer to a young girl, but verse 34 leaves no doubt that she had not “known” a man. She was promised to Joseph, but they had not consummated any covenant. It was one thing for God to give a child to Elizabeth, old and barren, but somehow that seems more possible than pregnancy for a virgin. Gabriel greeted Mary, and affirmed her, not because she deserved God’s favor, but because of God’s election. As we might expect, she was “greatly terrified” by the angelic saying. But Gabriel continued: > the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:30–33 ESV) This is *the* annunciation, the announcement. It wraps up various promises given to God’s people in our Old Testaments, not only that are astounding, but that is *impossible*. “Jesus” is *Jeshua*, a name that means “*Yahweh* saves.” “Son of the Most High” compares with the Hebrew name, *El Elyon* (Genesis 14:18, and Melchizedek who was “priest of God Most High”). That His father is “David” means that this is the Messiah, the promised and Anointed heir, and He will rule over “the house of Jacob,” that is, Israel. His kingdom will be never-ending, “He shall reign forever and ever” (see also Psalm 89:27-29). > Of the increase of his government and of peace > there will be no end, > on the throne of David and over his kingdom, > to establish it and to uphold it > with justice and with righteousness > from this time forth and forevermore. > The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. > (Isaiah 9:7 ESV) After 450 or so years of no new revelation from God, that news must have sounded too good to be true. But it also sounded impossible. “How will this be?” (verse 34). She says, “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” (KJV) basically saying, “Okay, but I haven’t had sex.” Whether or not she was thinking directly about Isaiah’s prophecy, she must have assumed that this son would come before her marriage to Joseph. > “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35 ESV) God would supernaturally, miraculously, cause Mary to conceive. Gabriel compares it to God opening a barren womb, and concludes, “For nothing will be impossible with God,” which itself is phrasing similar to the Lord's comment to Abraham about Sarah’s pregnancy (Genesis 18:14). A betrothed young woman was likely to be post-puberty, so probably an early to mid-teenager. Mary’s question wasn’t about her reproductive capacity but about the lack of relational intimacy. For Elizabeth, a late pregnancy would *remove* her reproach (1:25), but for Mary, an unwed pregnancy would *bring* reproach. Plus, as I've said, the promise really seems unbelievable. In the midst of this, in the same conversation (not after days to process it all), she responded better than the religious professional. “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” # The Miracle - Jesus’ Virgin Birth Of all the parts in this annunciation, including the nature and future of this Son, it wouldn’t matter without His arrival. His first coming, His first *advent*, was not by natural method. And this miracle is one of the first things skeptics and doubters criticize about the Christmas story, and about Scripture itself. The Lord revealed through Isaiah that this would happen: > Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14 ESV) This is why He is called Immanuel (Isaiah 9:7), why John could say that the eternal Word became flesh (John 1:14). Gabriel connects this conception to the holiness of the Son (1:35). He is of a different nature. It also connects to the very first promise of the gospel, sometimes referred to as the protoevangelion: > And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; kit shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (Genesis 3:15, KJV) Unlike stories of Greek and Roman gods who came to sow seed among men, this miracle would be *honor*. Per the Creed of Chalcedon (AD 451): > perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man,…begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary,…Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; This is the moment of divinity united to humanity. Those who reject this are redefining Jesus to be less than God, less than Lord, and unnecessary to be obeyed. # The Call - Believe the Word There really are a partridge and a pine tree worth of profitable truths in this story. Paul makes a case for Christ’s *humility*, as seen in God taking on the form of a man, and calling us to have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5-8). There’s certainly value in considering Christ’s complete *obedience*, from the beginning. He wasn’t sent to earth in a mature form for a weekend mission. We can benefit from the observation that God invented babies and the process of growth, not just for normals, but for the birth of an eternal. That ought to encourage us to be patient when God gives new souls in small and needy packages. There is nothing wrong with that at all; see Jesus. But *the* thing that stands out in Luke 1 is **faith**. It is not merely a history of events that the Spirit inspired Luke to record. He tells the story like a man but doesn’t start with the birth of Jesus, or even the birth of John the forerunner. Luke takes us precious space, and gives prime position to two announcements. That he includes the announcements at all requires our attention, with added details, then he contrasts how the announcements were received, and then he highlights the blessing to Mary because she believed. Why even insert the foretellings? Why not get straightaway to the facts? It’s not just because these details make it more entertaining. It’s not that Luke is trying to build tension. It’s because *God is building faith*. God tests faith, God teaches faith. His Word is full not only of miracles to believe, but also promises to believe and wait for. The Christmas story, at least since Genesis 3:15, and through centuries of Messianic longings, calls for faith. The Christ would come: believe! A Son would be born: believe! The alternation of annunciations also highlights faith, in one who lacked it and another who was blessed with it. It’s the same angel, who gives the same comfort not to be afraid, who announces the same promise of a son, who describes similar good things for each son, and yet Zechariah *questioned*. Gabriel said, “because you did not believe my words,” Zechariah would be silent until the words were fulfilled. By contrast, Mary said, “let it be to me according to your word.” Note in the next section, when Mary visits her cousin, Elizabeth says, “blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (1:45). The Word of God calls for faith in His work, on earth. We believe that God rules in heaven, that He sees from heaven, but just as He sent Gabriel, He sent His own Son, to be born of a flesh and blood woman, to give His own flesh and blood for our lives. # Conclusion What makes Advent *practice* such a Christian discipline is that it calls for living from faith to faith. Believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, because it is true, and because our God is a God who does miraculous things. Believe that Jesus is coming again in His resurrected, glorified flesh and blood to reign as King of kings forever and ever. Believe that He blesses those who believe; He rewards those who seek Him by faith (Hebrews 11:6). Believe that when you plan ways to serve your kids, when your schedule is inconvenient and tiring, Jesus knows the temptations. Believe Him when He gives gifts that take away reproach, and believe Him when He gives gives that *add* reproach. Faith belongs when you can’t see. Faith works when in the dark. Faith sustains when it has taken too long. Faith comforts when it’s costly. Faith orients when it changes your plans. Mary wasn’t perfect, certainly not sinless, but she did believe, and she praised the Lord, which we’ll see next week, Lord willing. ---------- ## Charge Perhaps the hardest part of this season is not figuring out what gifts to give or how you’re going to fit in all the events and extra work, but rather *submitting* to the Word of the Lord. He knows the plans He has for you, plans to put you under pressure of various colors/weights to test your faith. When you know His Word, believe it and do it, no matter how much it may be messing up *your* plans for His. ## Benediction: > Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. > The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. (1 Thessalonians 5:23–24, 28, ESV)