Reflections: December 7, 2020
Ambrose of Milan, Pastor and Hymn Writer
By Bradley Drew
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. You've heard the saying, "Jesus is the reason for the season." He is also the reason we observe days like today: the Feast of St. Ambrose. If there was ever a word to describe the focus of this guy's preaching and hymn writing, it was Jesus.
Ambrose was a Roman governor in Milan during a time of great controversy in the Church. Many in his time were saying that Jesus should not be considered true God. They claimed He was something less than "very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made" (Nicene Creed). If He was God, they said, it was with a small "g," not a capital "G."
When the bishop of Milan, who supported this false teaching, passed away, Ambrose attended the meeting to choose his replacement, hoping to influence the outcome. Imagine his surprise when, by popular acclamation, he was elected bishop. God often uses those in the pew to defend the Gospel!
Here is the opening stanza to one of Ambrose's great Advent hymns: "Savior of the Nations, come, Virgin's Son make here Your home! Marvel now, O heav'n and earth, that our Lord chose such a birth ("Savior of the Nations, Come" LSB 332). Yes, marvel! Jesus chose such a birth because God was entering our flesh to bear our sin and be our Savior. Ambrose's hymn goes on to describe how "in her womb this truth was shown: God was there upon His throne." Even here, in Mary's womb, is our God. He is just appearing now in flesh.
That means everything for us as Jesus is conceived and born for us. It means everything as Jesus lives for us under the Law. It means everything as Jesus dies for us on the Cross. And it means everything for us as Jesus comes to us with forgiveness, life, and salvation in His Word, in His water, and at His Supper. These are the works of God Himself. So as dark as the darkness gets, here is light for you and me: God's blood, Jesus' blood, still "cleanses us from all sin." In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
O God, You gave Your servant Ambrose grace to proclaim the Gospel with eloquence and power. As bishop of the great congregation of Milan, he fearlessly bore reproach for the honor of Your name. Mercifully grant to all bishops and pastors such excellence in preaching and fidelity in ministering Your Word that Your people shall be partakers of the divine nature; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for the Feast of St. Ambrose)
-Rev. Bradley Drew is the pastor of Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Metairie, LA.
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