Time in the Word: The Week of Christmas
Old Testament: Isaiah 7:10–14 — Epistle: 1 John 4:7–16
Gospel: Matthew 1:18–25
The Word of the Lord Is Fulfilled in the Flesh of Jesus
Though Ahaz would not ask, the Lord gives a sign to the House of David, that “the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Is. 7:14). With this promise He signifies that salvation is by His grace alone; it is no work or achievement of man, but the Lord’s own work and His free gift. The promise is fulfilled as the Son of God is conceived and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the sign is received in faith by the House of David in the person of Joseph (Matt. 1:20–24). “Incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary” (Nicene Creed), God is with us (Immanuel) in the flesh of Jesus, Mary’s Son. Joseph believes that Word of God and so demonstrates a marvelous example in his immediate and quiet obedience, taking Mary to be his wife and caring for her in faith and love. He loves her because the love of God is manifest in this, that “the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world,” “to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9–12).
Old Testament: Isaiah 9:2–7 — Epistle: Titus 2:11–14
Gospel: Luke 2:1–14 (15–20)
The Light of Christ Shines Forth in the Darkness
Heaven and earth rejoice on this night, because the glory of the Holy Trinity is manifested in the human birth of “our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13), through whom the Father’s grace and mercy permeate the world. Death’s silence is nullified by this “good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10). And all we who have gone astray like lost and wandering sheep, who have “walked in the darkness” of doubt, fear, and sinful unbelief, behold “a great light” in the nativity of Jesus Christ (Is. 9:2). In Him “the grace of God has appeared” (Titus 2:11). For this child of Mary who is born for us, this dear Son of God who is given to us, bears the burden of our sin and death in His own body on the cross. By initiating and fulfilling His earthly journey from nativity to crucifixion, Christ establishes a government of peace, “with justice and with righteousness,” which shall have no end; not by any work of man, but “the zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this” (Is. 9:7).
Old Testament: Isaiah 62:10–12 — Epistle: Titus 3:4–7
Gospel: Luke 2:(1–14) 15–20
Christ Jesus Reveals Himself in the Signs He Has Given to His Church
The Lord has not forsaken us. He has come to us and sought us out to save us (Is. 62:11–12), so that, “being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:7). In Christ Jesus, conceived and born of Mary, “the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared” (Titus 3:4). Now He is lifted up in the Gospel, “a signal over the peoples” (Is. 62:10), that He might call us to rejoice in His salvation. St. Luke emphasizes the signs by which the shepherds once found Him: in Bethlehem, the City of David, “wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12). The same Lord Jesus reveals Himself to us in the sure and certain signs of His Gospel. His Church is a true Bethlehem (House of Bread); for the Son of David, “a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11), feeds us with His Body and His Blood from the manger of His altar, wrapped in under and with bread and wine. We ponder these mysteries as we receive the Word of God and live out our vocations, “glorifying and praising God” (Luke 2:19–20).
Old Testament: Isa. 52:7–10 — Epistle: Heb. 1:1–6 (7–12)
Gospel: John 1:1–14 (15–18)
The Living and Life-Giving Word of God Dwells Among Us in the Flesh
The Lord sends out His ministers of the Gospel to make disciples “of all the nations,” so that “all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” The Lord has “bared His holy arm” in the incarnate Christ (Is. 52:7, 10). The child in the manger, born of the Mary, is the very Word of God, the only-begotten Son of the Father, “whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom He also created the world” (Heb. 1:2). As “all things were made through Him” (John 1:3), so are all things redeemed and made new in Him. In his body of flesh and blood, we behold “the radiance of the glory of God” (Heb. 1:3), “glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). He dwells among us in peace, that we might have life and light and salvation in Him. For by His Word of the Gospel, we are born again as the children of God, bearing His name and sharing His eternal life. (ὁ λόγος is Greek for ‘the Word’)
THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS
Old Testament: Isaiah 63:7–14 — Epistle: Galatians 4:4–7
Gospel: Matthew 2:13–23
The Lord Jesus Undergoes a New Exodus in order to Save His People from Their Sins
Herod’s efforts to destroy the little Lord Jesus anticipate the cross for which He was born. In response to Herod’s edict, Joseph must “take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt” (Matt. 2:13). But the Lord does not abandon the holy family there. He brings about salvation for all people, just as He “had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son’” (Matt. 2:15). With might and strength, God accompanies His people causing “His glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses” (Is. 63:12). Now through Jesus, even our afflictions are borne by Christ on the cross, “He redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them” (Is. 63:9). All of this is accomplished by God’s might so that we too are claimed as members of His family. For we “receive adoption as sons” in the only-begotten Son, Christ Jesus, even as He became like us by His conception and birth of the woman. Thus redeemed by Christ, no longer slaves of sin and death but beloved children and heirs of God, we pray in Jesus’ name: “Abba! Father!” (Gal. 4:4–6).
THE FEAST OF ST. STEPHEN, THE FIRST MARTYR
Old Testament: 2 Chron. 24:17–22 — Epistle: Acts 6:8—7:2a, 51–60
Gospel: Matt. 23:34–39
The Lord Preaches Repentance and Bears the Cross for the Forgiveness of Our Sins
The Lord longed to gather His children to Himself, but they reject and pervert the invitation. (Matt. 23:37). Instead, they persisted in their murder of the prophets, “from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah” (Matt. 23:35). The Lord sent the prophets to preach repentance, but the people “would not pay attention” (2 Chron. 24:19). “The Spirit of God clothed Zechariah,” but the men of Jerusalem “stoned him with stones in the court of the house of the Lord” (2 Chron. 24:20, 21). Yet, when they also “betrayed and murdered” the Righteous One, Christ Jesus (Acts 7:53), He shed His blood for the forgiveness of their sins. By faith in Him, “Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people” (Acts 6:8), and in his martyr’s death he confessed the Gospel of Christ. Falsely accused, as the Lord Jesus had been, Stephen saw “the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56). Therefore, even “as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit’” (Acts 7:59), and for his murderers he prayed, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60).
Lectionary summaries from the LCMS Commission on Worship.
Woodcuts by Baron Julius Schnoor von Carolsfeld, 1794-1872, a distinguished German artist known especially for his book, Das Buch der Bücher in Bilden [The Book of Books in Pictures]) ©WELS.