Humbled to Receive Christ
Tuesday of Advent 2
11 December 2017
The Church of the Holy Nativity in Bethlehem is a much-visited church. At one time, Muslim horsemen rode their capering Arabians through the church to disrupt the piety of the worshipers who gathered there. These interruptions ceased abruptly when the tall doors of the church were walled up so that horses could no longer be ridden into the building. But those charged with caring for this sacred site went one step farther in their renovations. The doors were made so low that every adult desiring to enter the building had to bend low to pass under the threshold. The only way to enter the Church of the Holy Nativity was to stoop down. Noble steeds and pride both had to be left at the door.
 
The low doorways were more effective than a sign that would read, "Check your pride at the door." The only way to see God is to be willing to look where He is willing to descend. Our pride needs to be put to death so that we might in faith apprehend Him who is not susceptible to apprehension except by His appearance as a man born in human flesh.
 
Our stiff-necked pride chides God for revealing Himself to us in His weakness and humility. We project our satanic view of what God can and cannot do on God's gracious will. We tell God what is worthy of Him and forget that God is more than capable of protecting His own dignity. He certainly does not need us to rescue Him from His lowliness and willingness to condescend to our rescue by becoming flesh of the Virgin for us. So likewise, is our heavenly Father willing that His Son born of Mary should offer His crucified body and blood on our altars and distribute them in the hands of lowly pastors. O pride, stoop down before the majestic humility of God, who comes among us in flesh and under bread and wine for us Christians to eat and drink.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Augustine of Hippo
"Whoever is offended at the passion of Christ is proud....They say, 'Am I to believe that God was Incarnate, that God was born of a woman, that God was crucified, scourged, dead, wounded, buried? Far be it from me to believe this of God, it is unworthy of Him.'
 
"Let the heart speak, not the [stiff-]neck. To the proud the humiliation of the Lord seems unworthy of Him, therefore saving health is far from them. Do not lift yourself up; if you would be made whole, descend. Well might piety be alarmed, if Christ in the flesh subject to change were being spoken of.
 
"But now the truth sets forth to you Christ unchangeable in His nature as the Word. For, 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God;' not a word to sound, and so pass away; for 'the Word was God' (Jn 1:1). So then your God endures unchangeable. O true piety; your God endures, fear not; He does not perish, and through Him, you too do not perish. He endures, He is born of a woman, but in the flesh.
 
"The Word made even His mother. He who was before He was made, made her in whom He was to be made Himself. He was an infant, but in the flesh. He suckled, He grew, He took nourishment, He ran through the several stages of life, He came to man's state, but in the flesh. He was wearied, and He slept, but in the flesh. He suffered hunger and thirst, but in the flesh. He was apprehended, bound, scourged, assailed with railings, crucified finally, and killed, but in the flesh. Why are you alarmed? 'The Word of the Lord endures forever.' Whoever rejects this humiliation of God, does not wish for healing from the deadly swelling of pride."

Augustine, Sermon
Psalm 25:8-18

Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
 
For your name's sake, O LORD, pardon my guilt, for it is great. Who is the man who fears the LORD? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose. His soul shall abide in well-being, and his offspring shall inherit the land. The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. My eyes are ever toward the LORD, for he will pluck my feet out of the net.
 
Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses. Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins. (ESV)
Prayer
Lord, born of Mary, descend to us we pray, and enter in by Your holy body and blood given and shed for the forgiveness of sins. Kill our stiff-necked pride that we might kneel to receive this gift given into our mouths under such humble signs. Amen.
 
For Gigi Welling Nitzburg, who is suffering from cancer, that the Lord Jesus who created all things that have been made would grant the gifts of healing, understanding, and strength
 
For President Matthew Harrison of the LCMS, that God the Lord would lead Him in the humble signs of the true presence of Christ
 
For all those who feel the burdens of the season rather than its joy, that they might know Christ who is our true joy
Art: Raffaellino dell Garbo  The Annunciation (c. 1510)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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