Even If We Do Not Find What We Expect

From Sermon on Luke 2, “The Nativity of Christ” (1559 or 1560).

We must not fail to come to our Lord Jesus Christ even if at first sight we do not find what we expect. He was wrapped in rags at his birth. He was laid in a manager. Yet we must know and be resolved that Christ did not cease to be our mediator, to draw us to God, his Father, to give us an entrance into the Kingdom from which we were entirely shut out. Still more, although he does not rule in pomp, although his church is despised, and although there is simplicity in his word which the great men of this world reject, as for us, may we never cease to cling to him and to subject ourselves to his dominion in true obedience of faith…

Since this is so, when Jesus Christ invites us to this table, although we perceive only bread and wine, let us not doubt that he really dwells in us, and that we are so joined to him that there is nothing of himself that he is not willing to communicate to us. May we recognize this truth in order that we know how to profit from this Sacrament which has been established for us by God. However and whenever we receive this sacrament, may we know, with assurance, that God might have delivered us from the depth of condemnation in which we were by another means if he had so willed. But God willed to give us more assurance of the love which he bears toward us when we have Jesus Christ for a guarantee, so that we seek all our good in him. We cannot fully appreciate this until he is given in the midst of us and approached by us and that by him we are led into the Kingdom of heaven, from which we were banished and deprived because of our sins.

That is how our Lord Jesus Christ must be applied to our salvation, if we wish to approach God, if we desire to have real spiritual joy, contentment, and rest, and furthermore if we desire to be armed against the temptations which the devil can stir up. To be sharers of this holy table, let us examine ourselves, and let us in the first place recognize our miseries…. And let us know that God willed to sweeten all our sadness and anguish when he shed himself abroad in his only Son, and that he willed that we should enjoy that same son, Jesus, fully.

John Calvin (1509-1564) was one of the most influential theologians of the Protestant Reformation, who served for many decades as the chief pastor of Geneva. He wrote commentaries on most books of the Bible, which were reworked from lectures he gave to theological students. He is commemorated on May 26 or May 28 on the liturgical calendars of several Anglican churches. The text is slightly adapted for contemporary readers.


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