“In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’” (Jeremiah 33”16)
As Christians prepare to celebrate Christmas during the season of Advent (which means “coming”), our focus is on repentance. We are preparing for the coming of our Savior, Jesus, who came to save us from our sins by dying for us on the cross and rising from the dead. The way to prepare for the One who is coming to save us from our sins is to repent of our sins.
In one of our Advent prayers we pray that God would rescue us from, “the threatening peril of our sins.”
When other people sin against us it can be very threatening. Other people can do us a lot of harm. When they do so they should repent of their sins and apologize but often they don’t. But Advent repentance does not look at the sins of others; it looks at our own grievous sins.
Jesus puts it this way in Matthew chapter seven, verses three to five: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
Martin Luther often talks about the danger of self-righteousness: “All Scripture…attributes blindness, darkness and ignorance to nothing more than one’s own godless presumptions of self-righteousness and goodness…Moreover, Christ calls himself the Light because faith in him must enlighten and justify all men.”
And again, Luther writes, “Although external vices such as adultery, fornication and theft are also hindrances in the way of the Lord which must be removed, yet presumption and self-righteousness are far greater and graver; for they absolutely block the way to grace.”
Yes, our own sins, and even more so our own presumption of righteousness, present us with a threatening peril.
The world does not see sin as a threat. If you were to ask unbelievers, “What is the greatest threat to mankind?” not many would answer, “Sin.”
An article from the Lutherans for Life organization puts it this way: “For those who reject the belief that we are created by God, paying attention to ourselves means that life is a ‘muddle of ethically neutral choices.’ We are accountable only to ourselves; we have no obligations, only choices. Death is not an enemy it is an option, a choice. There is no right and wrong, only what is best for me.”
But God’s Word of Law says, “No, your sins cause a true threatening peril.” If our sins are not addressed through repentance they will bring death and eternal condemnation. Advent repentance teaches us to confess with Jeremiah that, “The Lord is our righteousness.”
As Jeremiah says, when we repent of our sins and confess that the Lord Jesus is our righteousness then we will be saved and will dwell securely. Without repentance and forgiveness we cannot dwell securely. We will always be in fear, doubt and uncertainty.
Again, if you would ask unbelievers how to be secure they would not say it comes from a repentant trust in the Lord. The people of this world find security in weapons and armor. But no amount of weapons or armor can defend us against the threatening peril of our sins. Only Jesus can keep us secure from the power of sin and death.
Jesus, our righteousness, came into this world and dwelt anything but securely. He was threatened, condemned and crucified for us.
As we hear the stories of Jesus’ earthly life, beginning with his birth in Bethlehem, we will be reminded that Jesus was threatened his entire life. As soon as the wise men concluded their visit, Jesus had to be taken to Egypt to escape from King Herod who wanted to kill him. When Jesus kept insisting that he was God, that he was greater than their father Abraham, the Jews responded by trying to kill him. Finally, when it was time for him to die, when it was God’s time, Jesus allowed himself to be arrested, condemned and crucified.
He did this all for us, so that we could be forgiven of all our sins and dwell securely. Through the power of his resurrection from the dead, he is the Lord our righteousness.
And this brings us joy. On the night of Christ’s birth the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth, good will to men.” (Luke 2:14)
On Palm Sunday the people of Jerusalem welcomed Jesus with shouts of joy: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” When some in the crowd asked them to be quiet Jesus said, “If these were silent, the very stones would cry out!” (Luke 19:38) Through repentance our sinful hearts of stone are turned to hearts filled with praise for the Lord.
During this Advent season we repent in preparation for the coming of the Savior. Jesus is the one who comes to rescue us from the threatening perils of our sins so that we can dwell securely.