Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year's Eve

Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church
10655 N – 550 W
Decatur, IN 46733

A 21st Century Parish with a 1st Century Parish
Acts 2:42

Chartered February 25, 1838
Celebrating our 172nd Year

New Year’s Eve
December 31, 2010
Romans 8:31-39
In Christ, we are secure

Here we stand on the last day of the year 2010. Has it been a good year?
It all depends on your perspective. For some, it’s been a very good year. For others, it might be a good thing that this current year will soon be history.

Before we bid farewell to this year let us take the opportunity to review this past year and to ask ourselves four specific questions as our text presents itself. St. Paul answers us – in Christ, we are secure. What is it that the apostle Paul would ask this this night?

1. What shall we say concerning these things? Romans 8:31 What shall we say according this past year 2010?
A. There have been challenges, a few changes as well as some blessings this past year. The lagging economy, home sales, and an American presence in Iraq and Afghanistan continued to be topics of national interest throughout the year. A major BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in April and reactions to the US House, which passed a comprehensive Health Care Bill, which guaranteed to overhaul the nation’s health insurance industry, drew national attention. Elena Kagan was nominated to the Supreme Court, while in Arizona tough anti-illegal immigration laws were signed into law. On October 13th, thirty-three minors were rescued after being trapped in a Chilean mine for sixty-nine days. Mid-term elections in November gave the Republican Party control of US House of Representatives.

B. Yet through the changes and chances of this past year one thing will never change. His name is Jesus Christ. St. Paul would remind us, He who did not spare His own Son but delivered Him up for us all how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? -Romans 8:32 How do you feel when 2010’w highlights are revealed? Do you feel blessed or beaten?

2. Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? -Romans 8:33

A. Paul reminds us “It is God who justifies.” He declares you righteous. He is the one who has borne the burden of your sins has he has done it all for you. Isaiah the prophet reminds us,
Surely our grief’s He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. – Isaiah 53:4-5

B. This is the condition in which you now stand. It’s all because of the Father’s amazing grace. As we close out 2010 remember – who you are remember WHOSE you are. This life is a journey as we venture on into a New Year. We can be assured that the same Savior walks with you as He orders your days and directs your path.

3. Who then can condemn? –Romans 8:34

A. St. Paul reminds us it’s all about Jesus. There are specific actions your Savior performed for you. Christ is the one who died, but more then that he is risen to life. He is seated at the right hand of the Father and He intercedes for you.

B. This He did because He loves you. He did this because He cares for you. This He did for you – He is very much in love with you. He is concerned about you. Do not hesitate each day of this New Year to take it to the Lord in prayer; every day – PRAY!

4. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? – Romans 8:35
A. Tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness and sword are all a part of this life lived outside of Eden.
This world is broken. Christ has redeemed it but it still begs to be relieved. Will the Lord finally relieve this world of its burdens in 2011?
B. You will be counted as those who love and look for His appearing. As the old song sings, “Soon and very soon we are going to see the King.”*

C. Yet, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Christ who loves us. – Romans 8:36 In Christ we are winners. You will not necessarily be successful, not always with it, not always on top of your game, but more then conquerors –because always you are in Christ.

D. Nothing can take away your hope and joy. It is yours in Christ. You are His and He is in control guiding your life each passing year, each season, each month, every week, every day.
Fare thee well child of God. As 2010 is soon to be history and a New Year dawns Godspeed and God Bless!

Soon and very Soon by Andre Crouch “Soon and very soon We are going to see the King Soon and very soon We are going to see the King Hallelujah, hallelujah, We're going to see the king

No more cryin there we are going to see the King. No more cryin there, We are going to see the King No more cryin there, We are going to see the King Hallelujah, hallelujah, We're going to see the King

Should there be any rivers we must cross Should there be any mountains we must climb God will supply all the strength that we need Give us strength till we reach the other side.

We have come from every nation, God has already signed our name. Jesus took his blood and he washed my sins.. He washed them all away. Yet there are those of us who have laid down our lives but we all shall meet again on the other side... soon and very soon. Hallelujah, we’re going to see the King!”

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Time in the Word - Christmas 2

The Lord Jesus Is Found in the Temple of His Church

The Lord Jesus “grew and became strong” (Luke 2:40); He “increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). As His body grew and developed, His mind also increased in knowledge and understanding. For as our brother in the flesh, that we might “have redemption through His blood” (Eph. 1:7), He lived by faith in the Word of His Father. Thus, He was catechized by His parents, who took Him up “to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover” (Luke 2:41); and when He was of age, He gave attention to the Holy Scriptures in His Father’s house (Luke 2:46, 49). Christ Jesus is still found in His Church, in “the Word of truth, the Gospel,” by which we are adopted by His Father and sealed with His Spirit (Eph. 1:5, 13). Thus do we gain “an understanding mind” to go about our vocations, discerning “between good and evil” (1 Kings 3:9). And so do we also go up to Jerusalem, to stand “before the ark of the covenant of the Lord” (1 Kings 3:15), that is, in the Holy Communion of His body and blood.

Collect for the Second Sunday after Christmas: Almighty God, You have poured into our hearts the true Light of Your incarnate Word. Grant that this Light may shine forth in our lives; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Collect for the Feast of St John, Apostle and Evangelist (27 December): Merciful Lord, cast the bright beams of Your light upon Your Church that we, being instructed in the doctrine of Your blessed apostle and evangelist John, may come to the light of everlasting life;

Collect for the Feast of the Holy Innocents (28 December): Almighty God, the martyred innocents of Bethlehem showed forth Your praise not by speaking but by dying. Put to death in us all that is in conflict with Your will that our lives may bear witness to the faith we profess with our lips; through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

Collect for the Feast of the Circumcision and Name of Jesus (1 January): Lord God, You made Your beloved Son, our Savior, subject to the Law and caused Him to shed His blood on our behalf. Grant us the true circumcision of the Spirit that our hearts may be made pure from all sins; through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

Collect for the New Year: Eternal God, we commit to Your mercy and forgiveness the year now ending and commend to Your blessing and love the times yet to come. In the new year, abide among us with Your Holy Spirit that we may always trust in the saving name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Prayer for grace to receive the Word: Blessed Lord, You have caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning. Grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that, by patience and comfort of Your holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

Monday, 27 December 2010Psalm 147:1, 5, 11–12; Antiphon, John 1:14—The antiphon proclaims the mystery of the Incarnation: The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. In the original Greek, the word ‘dwelt’ is derived from word for ‘tabernacle’. That is, the God who dwelt with His people in the tabernacle in the wilderness, who delivered them from bondage in Egypt and brought them into the Promised Land—He is the same God that assumed flesh and dwelt with us as the God-man Jesus Christ, the same one who delivered us from our bondage to sin, and will, at the Last Day, take us into our Promised Land, eternal life with Him in heaven.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010Psalm 119:97–104—Psalm 119 is an example of Hebrew poetry, which is different than English poetry. First, the psalm is an acrostic: that is, every line of each section starts with the same Hebrew letter, in this case ‘mem’ (מ). Another characteristic of Hebrew poetry is parallelism, where the two halves of each line complement each other in some way. Here, we see that the second half of each line serves to amplify the thought in the first half. The psalmist proclaims that the Word of God is the source of wisdom; it rewards the one who meditates on it by making him wiser than my enemies and having more understanding than all my teachers. So, too, let us not fail to immerse ourselves in the study of God’s Word, for it is sweeter than honey to my mouth.

Wednesday, 29 December 20101 Kings 3:4–15—In the tale of Aladdin’s lamp, Aladdin desires and receives great riches from the genie in the lamp. If you could have anything your heart desired, what would it be? Power? Wealth? Long life? Solomon humbly asked the LORD for wisdom to rule God’s people well. His request was granted, and Solomon became the wisest man ever to have lived. Because of his altruistically wise request, the LORD also gave Solomon what he did not ask for: great riches and honor, far beyond any other king. We can benefit from Solomon’s wisdom in the books of Ecclesiastes and Proverbs. We can benefit from the wisdom of God in all 66 books of the Holy Bible.

Thursday, 30 December 2010Ephesians 1:3–14—Even if we seem to be lacking in worldly wealth or wisdom, we are assured that we, the elect of God, have a treasure far greater than anything on earth. We have the salvation planned by in eternity by God and won in time by Jesus Christ, who has redeemed us with His blood and forgiven us of our trespasses. Furthermore, He has bestowed upon us His Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our inheritance until the Last Day, when all His promises will be fulfilled.

Friday, 31 December 2010Luke 2:40–52—The Jewish rabbis were astounded by the teaching of this young Boy. How could such a One expound the Scriptures as He did? The antiphon from the Introit proclaims it well: The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The Word made flesh expounded the written Word to these great teachers. We have not only the written Word (Old Testament) that they had, but we also have the benefit of the Holy Gospels, the record of the words and the deeds of the Incarnate Word. Let us never take God’s Word for granted, but diligently ‘read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest’ it, so that ‘by patience and comfort of [God’s] holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life.’

Saturday, 1 January 2011—Sunday’s hymn of the day is Within the Father’s House (LSB #410). It recounts the Gospel reading of the Boy Jesus in the temple, and then offers up a prayer in stanzas 5 and 6 that we, by grace, might grasp and hold to the mysteries of the Incarnation and the Holy Trinity till they are at last made fully known to us on that great day when our Lord returns in majesty and glory.

Prayers from Lutheran Service Book © 2006 Concordia Publishing House.
Lectionary summary on front page from the LCMS Commission on Worship
Woodcut 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.

This week's Time in the Word was written by Pr. Jeffrey Keuning serving St. John Casey and Zion, Dexter, IA of the Iowa West District of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod.

Christmas 1

Matthew 2:13-23
It was good of God

Lord, today we celebrate the entrance of St. Stephen into eternal glory. He died praying for those who killed him. Help us to imitate his goodness and to love our enemies. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever. Amen

In the Gospel to be read in churches on the first Sunday after Christmas – we see how good the Father was to His Son and how good He is to us to this very hour. It was good of God

1. It was good of God as He cares for the helpless. Speaking to Joseph He has a deed concern for the children and His mother, “When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. Get up, he said, take the child and his mother.’

A. God cares for all people but especially the helpless. Jesus, by all accounts is a mere infant. As a child of but a few weeks his life could have been so easily snuffed out. Add to the equation the fact that Herod gives the order that all male children two years of age and under are to be systematically killed. A ruthless tyrant, paranoid that a young child will take his place orders a mass execution of the holy innocence. This brutal act of a desperate king shows the plight that Jesus and His earthly family are under. Jesus identifies with those who find themselves frightened and terrified.

B. We live in a fallen world. We live under similar circumstances. During the course of the past year we have seen often, subtle and possibly silent threats rendering each of us just as helpless as the holy family. We need the same protection.
The New Year of 2011 will mark the 10th anniversary of the war on terror. Our college students have not known of a time in their lives when American has not had a physical presence in Iraq.

C. Still there are other forms of fear that can render us feeling helpless. The physician’s office calls to report that the prognosis is not good. As one farming season has come to an end we plan for the next one. How will the market fare? In many circumstances we can feel helpless because we feel powerless. There is nothing we can do. Yet through the changes and chances of this human life the Father continues to care for His own as He orders our days and directs our path. His eye is on the sparrow and His eye is upon you. Cast your care upon Him for He cares for you.

Transition: It was good of God as He cares about the helpless. Yet He does one better. Not only does He identify and care for us He is able to help us in our time of great need.

2. It was good of God as He provides a way of escape as He speaks to Joseph to rise and flee to Egypt. “Get up! He said, take the child and His mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill Him.” [Vs. 13]

A. The Lord provides a place for the holy family to go. In this case it is Egypt. For you the Lord provides a place for you to flee. He leads you to His sure and certain words and promises. When you go back to His Word you find a sure and certain hope that can not disappoint you. When you go to the sure and certain promises they can not disappoint you. There, in His Word, the Savior speaks to you reminding you that he will guide and lead as He always has.

B. Soon we enter a New Year. Who know what will befall us in the next twelve months. Of this we can be certain that the same Lord Jesus who has directed you these past twelve months is with you even now and will walk with you each and every day. In all things; in things begun, continued and ended in His name Jesus will be there. Nothing can separate us from Jesus and His love for us. Nothing can separate us from Jesus and His care.

C. The Lord provided an obedient servant – Joseph to lead Mary and Jesus to safety. His still is in the business of using special means to deliver His mercy and grace. Whenever you and I pick up His Word, when we read it, hear it, study it and meditate upon it He is there to direct us. Likewise, when we come to His table to receive His precious body and blood in the Holy Communion there He is again – giving us the goods- giving us what we truly need; namely the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.

3. The Father continues to be good to us as He brings us back home – After Herod died an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said; “Get up and take the child and His mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead” [Vv. 19-20]

A. Those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead! He put an end to the parents’ watching and waiting. What they endured came to an end. That which you are enduring will come to an end. Joseph and Mary must have endured many a lonely day and many a sleepless night; living in a foreign land, not knowing what tomorrow would bring. It came to an end with the death of their enemies. Whatever you might be currently enduring will also, in due time, come to an end. The Lord directs your ways. He clears the path in your road. He will bring everything to completion according to His perfect will and in His own time.

B. At last the Lord brought the family back where they belonged. In their case it was the town of Nazareth. For you, it’s heaven. That is your destiny. This is your future. The Savior always directs you.

This is the last Sunday service for the year of our Lord 2010. A New Year soon awaits us. Whatever may befall us we can face each day confidently knowing that our Lord will direct our path. Godspeed child of God – in all you do the Father will direct you – He will bring it to pass.
Schnorr von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS used by permission for private and congregational use

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Day

Father, we are filled with the new light by the coming of Your Word among us. May the light of faith shine in our works and actions. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever.

It is the old, old story that never grows old: a Savior is born in the humblest and poorest of circumstances. All of heaven joins in the celebration with joyous singing. A common opinion among "enlightened" people in our post-modern world holds that Christmas is only a story, a myth, a legend - something akin to the story of the sugar plum fairy and Santa. Such folk believe that Jesus is no more real than Rudolph the red nosed reign deer.
The reality happens to be that Jesus came to this earth as He broke into time and space. Consider, from the original Christmas story, how real Christmas happens to become reality. The Christmas story is based on concrete, specific details.

1. First consider the political realities. - There were specific political realities. These circumstances happening at the time Christ was born in Bethlehem. Luke puts it this way: "And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed".

The Lord Jesus was born at a time in which the Romans controlled the world. Jesus came to this world when a tyrant ruled the world from the safety and security of Rome. Nothing but Caesars' rule and Caesars' reign mattered.

Yet look closer. Jesus the Lord of life is being born into this world. He is the mighty God who spoke the world into existence - yet He comes into this world like all of us. He is born as an infant, a baby; born to take on our nature. The apostle John puts it this way: "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us - full of grace and truth" (John 1)

Jesus was also born at a specific time. Luke tells us: "And this taxing took place when Cyrenius was governor of Syria". Jesus' timing couldn't have been better. He came at a specific point in time - He came into this world when the world was held in sin and darkness. In the midst of this world's sin and darkness Jesus Christ - the Very light of the world - burst forth His divine light to dispel the darkness of sin and death. Isaiah the prophet simply tells us: "The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. The people dwelling in a land of deep darkness, upon them the light has shined". When He created this world the Lord spoke and said: "Let there be light". At Christmas He became that light which brightens the souls of men and draws men to Himself.

Transition: There were political realities there are also principle characters - Mary and Joseph.

2. This couple will make the trip up from Galilee out of the city of Nazareth into Judea unto the city of David called Bethlehem because Joseph was of the house and lineage of King David. Mary and Joseph engaged to be married found themselves in a troubled relationship before the marriage even began! Matthew will tell us that before they came together Mary was found to be with child by the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph knew only two realities. First, his fiancée' was pregnant. The second reality - he was not the father! That's why we find Joseph in Matthew's gospel contemplating how to put Mary away quietly. He's at a crossroads and appears to be a man in crisis. He has deep emotional feelings for the girl - he cares for her immensely. But at the same time He fells betrayed and broken. Frightened and confused, feeling slighted and betrayed Joseph ponders what he should do. What should he do?

A divine intervention is needed. An angel appears to Joseph in a dream and tells him: "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary to be your wife for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit". There you have it! Joseph and Mary will marry - they will become a family and as far as the rest of the world is concerned folk will assume that Joseph is the father of his son Jesus. But you and I know better. We're reminded of this divine intervention every single time we confess the creed together!

3. Then there's the place where Jesus is born. The delivery room is an out building connected to the house where the animals were kept. A barn would be too elaborate a description. It's more like a pen or a lean-to. Jesus is born there for there is no other place for Him to be born. The street is the only other place available.

What does this mean? You can never be too low for Jesus! No matter where you have been and no matter what your circumstances - you can never sink too low for Jesus. His birth is a predictor of His death. His birth among those of humble means will not diminish the fact that He alone is a priceless treasure!

4. Then there are those, whose lives were forever changed due to the circumstances of these events. They all saw it - they witnessed the greatest miracle of Christmas - they welcomed the Lord Jesus into their lives - never again would their lives be miserable again. Sure there would be sad and lonely times but in an instant they were granted audience with the Lord of life. They had witnessed a miracle - God coming to man in the presence of His Son Immanuel - God who is with us.

CONCLUSION: That's what makes Christmas so special - it's not the gifts, the noise the lights - it's the story just as it happened - God coming to man in time and space. We have seen it too and beheld the wonder of it all! A blessed Christmas to one and to all!

Almighty God, you have made this holy light shine with the brightness of the true Light. Grant that here on earth we may walk in the light of Jesus’ presence and in the last day wake to the brightness of his glory.

Schnorr von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS used by permission for private and congregational use

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Time in the Word - The Week of Christmas

Time in the Word: The Week of Christmas
[This week, Time in the Word includes summaries of all the Old Testament, Epistle, and Gospel readings appointed for the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord, and for next Sunday’s feasts.]


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’)


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).


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.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Advent 4

Stir up Your power and come to us, bringing light into the darkness of our hears; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, One God now and forever. Amen

The high cost of Christmas is a topic getting plenty of press these days. Some will spend way beyond their means, going into debt which will not be paid for months. Though Christmas may be costly so some consider what it cost God. Jesus was a precious gift. It cost the Father His all. While for us it is only money. Consider today the high cost of Christmas.

1. Cost Himself – Emmanuel God with us. Vs. 23

A. Jesus is unique among all humans.

1. Conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of a human mother Jesus enters our world sinless.

2. As the sinless Son of God He will give up His divine power. He did not and would not fully use the divine attributes communicated to His human nature. He could have turned stones into bread. He could ask the Father to send down legions of angels at His defense. He could have taken His kingdom by force. Yet He chose not to.
B. This is the only change the Father has to win the world and free it from sin and corruption.

1. Then the owner of the vineyard said, “What shall I do? I will end My Son, whom I love. Perhaps they will respect Him”. But when the tenants saw Him, they talked the matter over, ‘This is the heir’, they said, ‘Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours’. So they threw Him out of the vineyard and killed Him. [Luke 20:13-14]

2. God who is the author of second chances has none for His own Son. If the world is not redeemed by Him all is lost. There is no other option. There is no other way. There would be no hope. This child to be born is Emmanuel – God who is with us. He is the only solution for the world today.

Transition: Christmas cost God Himself. It cost Him pride and humility.

2. The cost of Humility – Jesus is born of a virgin Vs. 18

A. Is the virgin birth offensive to you? Matthew simply tells us before marriage Mary was “found” to be with child. That is putting it mildly for those times. Joseph knows two realities – his betrothed is pregnant. He is not the father. He experiences betrayal, humiliation, shame, disgrace. His life is forever changed.

B. Rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. [Romans 5:7] Joseph is a good man. Joseph is obedient. He did what the angel commanded him to do. He makes no protest. He does not hesitate. Jesus has a godly father in Joseph. Out of compassion he had planned to put Mary away quietly and privately to avoid a scandal and humiliation. He will have no union with her until after Jesus is born.

Transition: The cost of Christmas cost the Father, it involved humility. It came at the cost of the cross.

3. The cost of the cross – He will save His people from their sins. Vs. 21

A. Jesus is altogether God’s work. He saves them from their sin. He came in time for You. He carries your sins, burdens and cares. He becomes your redeemer.

B. He saves you with the goods the world considers foolish. He choose to be found in those places the world would least expect. He chooses to reveal Himself in those places the world considers unimportant. He chooses to exert His power in what an unbelieving world considers weak and of little consequence.

The cruel cross of Calvary looms ahead of us. Does the death of a condemned man seem compelling enough to offer atonement? Could His life and sacrifice really save you? The surroundings and the circumstances of His birth predict His death. They are the means by which we find peace with God and absolution for our sin.

Schnorr von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS used by permission for private and congregational use

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Advent 3 Mid-week

Lord God, heavenly Father, send forth Your Son, we pray, that he may lead home His bride, the Church, that we will all the redeemed may enter into Your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever.

Isaiah 64:6-7"Oh God, Come!
Introduction: As our text for today opens to us under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit the exiles who have returned back to their home land are in a desperate situation. Their city and temple are destroyed. All was desolate. Can you relate?
Many today find a serious parallel to our time as well. No, our homes, business and churches might not be sitting in ruins but culturally and socially there are many that would say that we are facing a genuine moral crisis as we enter a new century.
Already there is talk about who will lead us as a nation and the national mid-term election is eleven months away. Many commentators are suggesting that America lacks a leader who can lead us out of despondency and depression.
At the time in which Isaiah wrote these words of our text the people experienced low moral, moral corruption, political confusion, and erosion of natural resources. That was the lay of the land at the time of the prophet Isaiah; and while our times might not mirror the plight of the people back then there are many parallels. But the question that our text asks of us is one that is ageless. That is, in our extremity where do we go? Whom do we seek to help us when our situation is desperate? Isaiah gives us the answer. We cry out to God. We call upon Him to help us. As Isaiah cries to the lord so we call on His also. "Oh God, come…O that thou wouldst rend the heavens and come down!" (vs.1)
What is it that we ask of God when we ask Him to come?

{1} First we ask God to come because we need His presence in our lives. Listen to verse 7 of our text; "No one calls on Your name or strives to lay hold of you; for You have hidden Your face from us and made us waste away because of our sins." The parent who disciplines her child might say "look at me!" She does that because it only natural for a guilty party to turn their eyes away from the one who has the power to punish. The people, like the guilty child, had turned their face away from God. In turning their backs on God it was meant to look as if God had turned His back on them.
But the truth of the matter is that God could never turn His back on us. That was an option, and an option that He could have chosen to take had He wanted to. Yet the good news for you and for me is that God has given to us His word and promise of restoring us back to Himself. In the garden the Father spoke to the serpent and said, "I will put enmity between you and the woman between your seed and her seed. He will crust your head and you will bruise His heel" (Genesis 3)
How can we say with so much assurance that God will not abandon His people? We can say that because God the Father abandoned and turned His back on His Son Jesus. At the cross Jesus cried out with a cry that pierced the silence of that lonely Friday afternoon "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" The Father rejected His Son at the cross so that He would never turn His back on us. In this season of Advent we remember that God sent forth His Son to be rejected on our behalf. He can to suffer the greatest humiliation ever so that you and could not and would not face rejection from God. Does it appear that God is distant from you? Well, who has wandered? Who has strayed? Advent calls for us to heed the cry of Isaiah and to turn, to turn back to God in repentance and faith so that we can see the face of the Father and be welcomed by Him when Christ returns in glory.

{2} We also ask God to come for we need His forgiveness. Isaiah reminds us that our sins are as "filthy rags". I’m sure you’ve heard the story but allow me to tell it once again. Would you expect your child to go out to the shop and bring in ten rags that were used as Dad greased the tractor and proceed to use them as napkins for Christmas dinner? Of course not! That’s not appropriate! Well, neither is it appropriate for us to stand before a just and holy God with the grease of sin hanging all over us. We need to be fixed up and cleaned up to meet Him. A Savior has done that for us whose birth we celebrate in four short weeks. Christ came into this world to be our Savior and our Redeemer. He has taken our soiled cloths of sin washed them clean in His own blood. We stand redeemed, restored and forgiven because of the blood of Jesus Christ. In this Advent season He calls us to come to Him in repentance to receive that pardon and peace that we need which only He can give.

{3} We also call for Christ to come because we need deliverance. "Because of our sins…" Isaiah reminds us, "we waste away!" And it’s not because of "burn out" rather it’s because of "rust out!" When we fail to come to Christ for that forgiveness which only He can give we will waste away! We need that deliverance from sin, from death, and from the power and grip of the Devil and only Christ and Christ alone can remove that grip that Satan has. That is why He calls on to come. He calls on us to come to Him to find salvation and life.

Conclusion: Today His mercy calls us to return to Christ and live. He calls us to come to Him in repentance and faith to receive salvation and life. As we prepare during this Advent season may this be our cry; "Redeemer come I open wide, My heart to Thee dear Lord abide! Let me Thine inner presence feel; Thy grace and love in me reveal; Thy Holy Spirit guide us on Until our glorious goal is won. Eternal praise and fame We offer to thy name." {TLH #73 stanza 5}
Prayers from Lutheran Service Book © 2006 and Lutheran Worship © 1980 Concordia Publishing House
Schnorr Von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS permission granted for personal and congregational use

Sunday, December 12, 2010

IN MEMORIUM - Gerhard Kiefer

Gerhard Kiefer
Born into this world: October 23, 1916
Born again in Baptism: October 26, 1916
Confirmed in the Faith: April 3, 1930
With Christ in Glory: December 11, 2010
1 Corinthians 16:13-14 Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Time in the Word- Advent 4

God’s Word Is Fulfilled for Us in the Flesh and Blood of Christ Jesus, the Son of Mary

The Fourth Sunday in Advent turns our attention toward the Nativity of Our Lord. With the Blessed Virgin Mary we await the coming of the Christ, her Son, conceived in her womb by the Word and Spirit of God. This fulfillment of the sign once given to the House of David, that “the virgin shall conceive and bear a son” (Is. 7:14), is now given to us in the Gospel. It declares that salvation is by His grace alone, entirely His work and a free gift. It is also the way and means by which the Lord our God is “Immanuel,” God-with-us. The almighty and eternal Son of God is conceived and born of St. Mary, and is thus “descended from David according to the flesh” (Rom. 1:3–4). He comes in this way to save us with His own flesh and blood; wherefore He is called “Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). As St. Joseph received this sign in faith and immediately “did as the angel of the Lord commanded him” (Matt. 1:24), we also live by faith in this Holy Gospel.

Collect for the Fourth Sunday in Advent: Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come and help us by Your might, that the sins which weigh us down may be quickly lifted by Your grace and mercy; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come, that by Your protection we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and saved by Your mighty deliverance; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

The Great ‘O’ Antiphons:

O Wisdom, proceeding from the mouth of the Most High, pervading and permeating all creation, mightily ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.
O Come, Thou Wisdom from on high, Who ord'rest all things mightily; To us the path of knowledge show. And teach us in her ways to go. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel!

O Adonai and Ruler of the house of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the burning bush and gave him the Law on Sinai: Come with an outstretched arm and redeem us.
O Come, O Come Thou Lord of might, Who to Thy tribes on Sinai's height In ancient times didst give the Law In cloud and majesty and awe. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel!

O Root of Jesse, standing as an ensign before the peoples, before whom all kings are mute, to whom the nations will do homage: Come quickly to deliver us.
O Come Thou Branch of Jesse's tree, From them from Satan's tyranny That trust Thy mighty pow'r to save, And give them victory o'er the grave. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel!

O Key of David and Scepter of the house of Israel, You open and no one can close, You close and no one can open: Come and rescue the prisoners who are in darkness and the shadow of death.
O Come, Thou Key of David, come, And open wide our heav'nly home; Make safe the way that leads on hight And close the path to misery. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee O Israel!

O Dayspring, Splendor of light everlasting: Come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
O Come, Thou Dayspring from on high,. And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh' Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, And death's dark shadows put to flight. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee O Israel!

O King of the Nations, the Ruler they long for, the Cornerstone uniting all people: Come and save us all, whom You formed out of clay.
O Come, Desire of nations, bind In one the hearts of all mankind; Bid Thou our sad divisions cease, And by Thyself our King of Peace. Rejoic! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to the O Israel!
O Emmanuel, our King and our Lord, the Anointed for the nations and their Savior: Come and save us, O Lord our God.
O Come, O come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel, That mourns in lonely exile here Until the Son of God appear. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel!

Monday, 13 December 2010Psalm 130:5–8; Antiphon, Isaiah 64:1—In the antiphon, we make known our desire to see the coming of the Lord in flesh: Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down! Having expressed this fervent wish, we settle down and wait for the LORD to come at His proper time. We know that the Lord will come, that He has come, for He always fulfills His promises out of His steadfast love, especially to redeem us from all our iniquities by His substitutionary death on the cross.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010Psalm 24—This psalm may have been used when David brought the Ark of the Covenant—the place where the LORD dwelt with His people—into Jerusalem and in later festivals commemorating the event. How fitting that we sing this song as we look forward to the coming of the King of Glory to dwell among us in human flesh in order that we might receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of our salvation.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010Isaiah 7:10–17—Here is one of the most clear and beloved prophecies of the coming of our Lord in the flesh: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Indeed, seven hundred years later, the Blessed Virgin Mary conceived and bore a Son: the promised Messiah who would deliver us from sin and its consequences, God in flesh, Immanuel (which means God with us).

Thursday, 16 December 2010Romans 1:1–7—In this beginning to his epistle to the Church at Rome, St Paul proclaims the dual nature of Jesus Christ: true man, in that He was descended from David according to the flesh; and true God, as testified by His Spirit of holiness and resurrection from the dead. Paul proclaims Him to be Jesus Christ our Lord: Jesus, a human name meaning ‘the LORD saves’; Christ his title, meaning the ‘Anointed One, the Messiah’; Lord, another title, and witness to the fact that He is the eternal Second Person of the Trinity, the only true God, though robed in human flesh. It is for the proclamation of the Gospel—the salvation that comes only through Jesus Christ our Lord—that Paul was called to be an apostle.

Friday, 17 December 2010Matthew 1:18–25—Here is the consummation of our advent preparation: the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, to a virgin, just as Isaiah had prophesied. No ordinary child, this One was conceived from the Holy Spirit and born to a human mother. Jesus (‘the LORD saves’): what a fitting name for the Son of God come down from heaven and the One who, by laying down His life for us, would save his people from their sins.

Saturday, 18 December 2010—Sunday’s hymn of the day, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (LSB #357), is an ancient hymn based upon seven even more ancient antiphons (called the ‘O’ Antiphons) which were used in the Office at Vespers (the evening office) during the last seven days of Advent. Each antiphon and each hymn stanza refers to a different title for Christ: Wisdom, Adonai (‘Lord’), Root (or Branch) of Jesse, Key of David, Dayspring, King of Nations, Emmanuel (‘God with Us’).

Prayers from Lutheran Service Book © 2006 Concordia Publishing House.
Lectionary summary on front page from the LCMS Commission on Worship.
Woodcut 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.

This week's Time in the Word was written by Pr. Jeffrey Keuning serving St. John Casey and Zion, Dexter, IA of the Iowa West District of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod.

Advent 3

John 1:6-8
(alternate text)
John, who are you?
Lord God, may we Your people, who look forward to the birthday of Christ experience the joy of salvation and celebrate that love and thanksgiving.

Our Gospel lesson begins today with an introduction of the author of our text the apostle John. He is quite comfortable referring to himself simply as “that other disciple” and “the one whom Jesus loved”. Today he introduces himself to us with these words, “There was a man whose name was John.” As we review his life we will learn something important concerning ourselves and our life and work together. John, who are you?

I. John will remind us he was a man sent from God. (vs. 6)
A. He was selected by the Father to be the forerunner of Jesus.
1. He was an answer to prayers. His parents had been childless for years. Now they would have a son.
2. He was filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in the womb. Luke 1:15
3. He would go as a forerunner in the spirit and power of Elijah converting people, “the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous.” (Luke 1:17)
B. Likewise the Father has selected you to be His witness.
1. He has blessed you with talents, abilities and gifts to be used for His purposes.
2. As John was selected to be used of the Father you too are His instrument. Remember who you are, remember whose you are.
Transition: Not only was John sent by the Father he was used for a specific purpose.

II. He came to be a witness. (vs.7)
A. That he might be a witness of the life.
1. He simply told the people what he knew. He told the people, “He must increase while I must decrease.” John 3:30
2. In your life when given the opportunity you share your faith. You point people to Jesus.
3. But how do you do this in a winsome way? See LSB pg. 322
a. WHOM - I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity and also true man, born of the virgin Mary, is my Lord.
b. WHAT – …who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me form all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil…
c. HOW – not with gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death…
d. WHY – …that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. In a very simple and winsome way you have just “gossiped the gospel”.
B. He came that all might believe through him.
1. God used John through his preaching, his baptizing, his life so that people believed in Christ through him.
2. Nothing has changed in close to 2,000 years. People come to Christ one soul at a time as the Lord uses you as you apply the Word to people’s lives. When you share, proclaim, and live out the gospel in you life people are being connected to Christ. Have you heard the phrase “put Christ back into Christmas”? You can’t take Christ out of Christmas! It’s all about Jesus – is always has it always will be.

Transition: John was sent from God. He came to be a witness. He knew who he was.

III. John knew his identity. (v.8)
A. He was not the light. He was not he Savior. He was not the Messiah. John knew who he was not.
B. But John came that He might bear witness of the true and only light – the light of Christ. He pointed people to Jesus. Likewise, in your living, in all of your preparations for this holy celebration of Christmas point people to Jesus. He is the reason for this season. It’s all about Jesus.
Jesus, direct my beginning
Jesus, remain ever near me;
Jesus, Refuge in temptation,
Jesus, be my sole desire.
Jesus, be ever in my thoughts,
Jesus, let me never falter!

From Bach's Christmas OratorioNew Year's Day #7#42 Chorale
Schnorr Von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS permission granted for personal and congregational use

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Advent 2 - mid-week

Lord God, heavenly Father, send forth Your Son, we pray, that he may lead home His bride, the Church, that we will all the redeemed may enter into Your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever.

Introduction: One of the chapters of the famous novel "Marks of Love & Life" is entitled "Locked in a Room with Open Doors" And older brother threatens his brother who was afraid of open doors. He threatens "Some day I’m going to lock you in a room with open doors!"
Many of us share this condition. We are scared of freedom, adventure, and opportunities. Christ Jesus is the door to new possibilities. He is the One who has freed us from the bondage of sin, and of death, and of the power of the Devil. In our lesson for today we are told that Christ has come to liberate us. Christ has come to give to you salvation and life eternal. Christ this Christmas has come to open doors for you. Let’s consider the doors that He opens to us.

{1} Christ has come to open the door of witness. Listen to verse 1 "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has sent me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim freedom to the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners…"Jesus was anointed with the Spirit to proclaim the good news of liberation for the oppressed. For those weighed down by the burdens of sin and strife Christ comes with good news. His message is one of mercy and hope. In Him there is forgiveness, life and salvation. He has come to break us free from the bondage of sin, of Satan, and misery.

{2} Christ has come to open the door of liberty. Listen to verse 2 "…to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn…" As God’s servant Jesus has been charged with telling the good news of God’s freeing His people held in bondage to Satan, and for those afflicted by Him. Satan would love for us to think that we can not achieve this mercy which is found in Christ. Thus Jesus comes for those who are cast down and worried by the worries and torments of the Devil. In the message that Jesus gives we find redemption and release from those chains which Satan would love to hold us to. Only in Him is there release from our sorrows. In Him we find restoration and forgiveness.

{3} Christ has come to open the door of comfort. Listen to verse 3 "…to bestow on them the oil of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a sprit of despair…." "Curse God and die!" was the message that Job heard. Give up on God! What has He done for you lately?! That is the temptation that the Devil throws at us to despair over sin and to give up on God. But God will never forsake His own. He is more concerned and more powerful then our sin and anything that Satan can place before us. In Him there is liberty, comfort and hope.

Conclusion: To a people who have seen destruction on every side who were wondering whether God had given up on them Isaiah comes with a message of comfort, and good will. God has not changed! He continues to come to us with the same message of good news. In Christ we find what we truly need from Him. He is the God of comfort – our hope in every kind of trouble. Rest in Him. For He is the One who has opened for us the door to freedom and life.

Prayers from Lutheran Service Book © 2006 and Lutheran Worship © 1980 Concordia Publishing House
Schnorr Von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS permission granted for personal and congregational use

Monday, December 6, 2010

St. Nicholas Day

He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and thus became the model for Santa Claus, whose English name comes from the German Sankt Niklaus. His reputation evolved among the faithful, as is common for early Christian saints. In 1087, his relics were furtively translated to Bari, in southern Italy; for this reason, he is also known as Nicholas of Bari.

The historical Saint Nicholas is remembered and revered among Catholic and Orthodox Christians. He is also honored by various Anglican and Lutheran churches. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, and children, and students in Greece, Belgium, Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia. Russia, the Republic of Macedonia. Slovakia, Serbia and Montenegro.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Time in the Word - Advent 3

The Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ Brings True Rejoicing, Even under the Cross
Sometimes life requires the astonishing patience of Job. Like him, we are to rejoice in the midst of affliction, be grounded in repentance under the cross of Christ, and hope relentlessly in His resurrection, that we might see “the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (James 5:11). In the promise of the Gospel, therefore, “be patient” and “establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:7, 8). Like St. John, the Baptist, whatever your own kind of prison or suffering may be, call upon Jesus and receive the strength of His Word from those He sends to you. For as “the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up,” so is the good news of Jesus preached to you, also (Matt. 11:5). He comes and restores the fortunes of Zion, His holy Church, so that “sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Is. 35:10).

Collect for the Third Sunday in Advent: Lord Jesus Christ, we implore You to hear our prayers and to lighten the darkness of our hearts by Your gracious visitation; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Prayer for protection during the day: O Lord, our heavenly Father, almighty and everlasting God, You have safely brought us to the beginning of this day. Defend us in the same with Your mighty power, and grant that this day we fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger, but that all our doings, being ordered by Your governance, may be righteous in Your sight; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever.

Prayer for thanksgiving at the end of the day: Gracious Lord, we give You thanks for the day, especially for the good we were permitted to give and to receive. The day is now past, and we commit it to You. We entrust to You the night and rest in Your peace, for You are our help, and You neither slumber nor sleep. Hear us for the sake of Your name.

Prayer pardon, growth in grace, and divine protection: O Lord, our God, we acknowledge Your great goodness toward us and praise You for the mercy and grace that our eyes have seen, our ears have heard, and our hearts have known. We sincerely repent of the sins of this day and those in the past. Pardon our offenses, correct and reform what is lacking in us, and help us to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Inscribe Your law upon our hearts, and equip us to serve You with holy and blameless lives. May each day remind us of the coming of the night when no one can work. In the emptiness of this present age keep us united by a living faith through the power of Your Holy Spirit with Him who is the resurrection and the life, that we may escape the eternal bitter pains of condemnation.

By Your Holy Spirit bless the preaching of Your Word and the administration of Your Sacraments. Preserve these gifts to us and to all Christians. Guard and protect us from all dangers to body and soul. Grant that we may with faithful perseverance receive from You our sorrows as well as our joys, knowing that health and sickness, riches and poverty, and all things come by permission of Your fatherly hand. Keep us this day under Your protective care and preserve us, securely trusting in Your everlasting goodness and love, for the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Monday, 6 December 2010Psalm 118:25–28; Antiphon, Zechariah 9:9b—Historically, the Third Sunday in Advent has been known as Gaudete, the Latin word for ‘Rejoice’, the opening word of the Introit. The mood is lighter than the other Sundays in this penitential season, as the day of our Savior’s birth, the Deliverer promised of old, approaches. Our attitude is one of expectant rejoicing, as we await that day, and comfort one another, our mouths telling of the Lord’s righteous acts, of His deeds of salvation all the day.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010Psalm 146—Praise the LORD! Or, in Hebrew, Hallelujah! The Book of Psalms closes with five ‘Hallelujah’ psalms, of which this is the first. It calls upon us to praise the LORD, the One who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry, who sets the prisoners free, who opens the eyes of the blind, and so forth. So, also, ought we to praise the LORD, for He has executed justice for us who are oppressed by sin; He gives us who are hungry our daily bread and the spiritual food of His Word and Sacrament; He has set us prisoners free from the captivity of sin; He has opened our sin-blinded eyes. Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010Isaiah 35:1–10—In the previous chapter, Isaiah had announced the coming judgement of the Lord. Here, he announces the LORD’s deliverance. On the Last Day, the Lord Jesus will return and shall pronounce judgement on all the earth. This beautiful passage tells us how it will be for those of us who are the ransomed of the LORD by faith in Christ. In that day, when we see the glory of the LORD and the majesty of our God, we shall rejoice with joy and singing, for we are His redeemed.

Thursday, 9 December 2010James 5:7–11—though we look forward to the return of our Lord Jesus, we know that we must often endure hardships and suffering here on earth. James counsels us to Be patient . . . until the coming of the Lord. We can do so only because we know that the Lord is compassionate and merciful, and had redeemed us from the consequence of sin. We know therefore, that He will fulfill His promise to us to take us from this vale of tears to live with Him eternally in His heavenly kingdom.

Friday, 10 December 2010Matthew 11:2–15—Jesus tells John’s messengers that He is the One who is the fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies of the coming Messiah, the One who would be the promised Deliverer and Savior. Jesus recounts for them what He has done, fulfilling the prophecies written in the Psalms and in the prophets, especially Isaiah. Jesus then extols John the Baptist, the final and greatest prophet of the Old Testament, the one who prepared His way.

Saturday, 11 December 2010—Sunday’s hymn of the day is Hark! A Thrilling Voice Is Sounding (LSB #345). The thrilling voice is that of John the Baptist, who preached repentance in advance of the coming of the promised Savior. John’s purpose was to point to the One who would come after him, the Lamb, so long expected who comes with pardon down from heaven and shields us with His mercy, the prophesied Christ, Jesus our Lord.

This week’s Time in the Word is written by Pr. Jeffrey M. Keuning, Pastor who serves Zion Casey and St. John Dexter, IA of the Iowa West District LCMS

Schnorr Von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS permission granted for personal and congregational use

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Advent 2

Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to make ready the way of Your only begotten Son that at His second coming we may worship Him in purity; who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever.

Preparation is an important ingredient in the whole process of getting ready for Christmas. It just doesn’t happen by itself, it takes time and effort. There are lists to be made, items to be purchased, food to be prepared, cards that need to be sent. Will everything be set and ready in less then a month? It can be, at times, overwhelming!

How do we make ourselves ready for Christmas spiritually? The words of the prophet John help as he says in our Gospel for today – “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” (vs.2) Our preparation for the festival of Christmas involves a life of repentance. As we humble ourselves before the Lord we will be ready to meet Him.

1. Our preparation must include confession (v.6) All who were baptized came confessing their sin.

A. As the people were baptized they came confessing their sins.

1. This is what baptism signifies. It signifies that the Old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins an devil lusts and again, a new man daily come forth and arise, who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

2. St. Paul explains it this way, We were buried with Christ by Baptism into death, that, like as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Romans 6)

B. The Old Adam must be addressed daily. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires. (Ephesians 4:22)

1. The Old Adam is our sinful nature, which has come upon us by the fall of Adam. It is ours by birth. It’s the one thing we have inherited by our parents.

2. The Old Adam is our original sin which manifests itself in all manner of sins and manners of living. In Baptism original sin itself is not removed from our nature, but its guilt is forgiven. Even Christians still have the Old Adam as long as they live. Your Old Adam is not a bit better than that of a pagan or an unbeliever.

3. But while unbelievers are in their lives ruled altogether by their Old Adam, Christians seeks to suppress their, they “put off the old man”.

2. Our preparation involves bearing fruit worthy of repentance.

A. Every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (Vs.8)

1. The Old Man is drowned in us by daily contrition and repentance.

a. Contrition means sorrow for sin. Contrition is to feel sincere sorrow in your heart as did Peter. This sorrow must refer to that particular sin we wish to suppress. We also avoid those things of which we are truly sorry. Contrition helps us keep down the Old Adam.

b. Repentance promises forgiveness, but the Holy Spirit also sanctifies us in our living by urging us and prompting us to do good works.

B. But you are a good tree. By Baptism you were made partakers of Christ. Now you who are baptized daily repent of all sins, shun every thing that is evil and walk in newness of life.

3. Our preparation looks to Jesus Christ the coming one. (Vs.10)

A. He baptizes with the Holy Spirit.

B. He is the one who has worked faith in you and creates in you a new spiritual life.

As we prepare for the celebration of Christmas there is much for us to do. But we are spiritually prepared when we realize that the one who is born for us has given us His Spirit which brings us to a right relationship to the Father as we come humbly in contrition, repentance and a true faith. May the Savior’s words give you comfort this day. Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden light. – Matthew 11:29-30

Lutheran Service Book © 2006 and Lutheran Worship © 1980 Concordia Publishing House
Schnorr Von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS permission granted for personal and congregational use

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Advent 1 mid-week

Introduction: Joseph and Mary traveled from the town of Nazareth to Bethlehem. They did not begin their journey the day before Christmas. They started early enough that the child Jesus was born in Bethlehem according to the prophecy. During the season of Advent, we are on the road to Bethlehem for the birth of the Christ child. Will we get there in time for the Christ to be born anew in our hearts? It depends on the road we travel and the kind of road that it is. John the Baptist was sent to urge us to build a road on which Christ would come. The prophet Isaiah prescribes the kind of road we need to build. Let's consider the road that leads to Bethlehem…

{1} The road that leads to Bethlehem is a straight road of righteousness. Listen to verse 3 of Isaiah's prophecy. "…make straight in the desert a highway for our God."
As we prepare to meet Christ in this season of Advent, we need this straight road. We need a road that leads to righteousness. Isaiah tells us that a highway for God was to be built in the in the wilderness and desert. God promised to come to His people in the wilderness. That is because that is where people are - in the wilderness of sin and in the desert of spiritual darkness. For forty years, the Israelites were in the wilderness with God. The place where God made a covenant with them. To be with God and to communicate with Him, we need to get away from the affluence and opulence, from the distractions of the world and from the busyness of daily concerns. It is in the wilderness where we meet God.

{2} The road that leads to Bethlehem is a level road of humility. Listen to verse 4 of Isaiah's prophecy. "Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low and the "crooked shall be made straight…"
Isaiah asks the people to find God. In their captivity they had been looking at themselves and their plight. Now they are to life their heads and look at God who comes in humility and meekness. In this Advent season we too are to seek after the same God who comes to us in humility. Isaiah asks
us to look to the God who has a mighty are to deliver. He asks us to look at the God who can still be a tender and gentle shepherd who seeks to rescue lost and injured sheep. There is hope and comfort for us in this Advent season for there is hope and comfort found in the Savior who came to us in meekness and humility to be our only Savior.

{3} The road that leads to Bethlehem is a smooth road of graciousness. Listen again to the final words of verse 4. "…and the rough places plain."
When this prophecy was written the people were in the darkness of exile in Babylon. They were captive in a foreign land. They needed a gracious Savior who would lift them out of their despondency and depression. Does the comfort Isaiah speak of merely mean "sympathy"? It is more than that. Isaiah tells us that "with strength" God will come to save us. God will comfort His people by giving strength to deliver them out of their troubles. In being a gracious God he makes our rough road smooth, as He steers us clear of those obstacles that are "in our road". As He does this in our life then we truly are comforted. Then we truly find a God who is able to save us.

Conclusion: Isaiah begins his prophecy with these words "Comfort ye, Comfort ye my people" By these words he implies that there is comfort needed in the lives of people back then and in the lives of people living in Decatur, Indiana in the year of our Lord 2010. Behind these words, there is a state of sorrow and distress. The words of this ancient prophecy, written 800 years before Jesus was even born, speaks to us this day. In Christ you will find comfort, as He gives you rest for your souls, as you find your strength in Him. On the road that you travel may He direct and keep you, as He descends upon you to give you His peace. In Jesus' Name. Amen.

Schnorr Von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS permission granted for personal and congregational use