Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas 1

Luke 2:25-40

"Would You Recognize Christ If You Saw Him?"

Would you recognize Christ if you saw Him? Now that is an interesting question, isn’t it? After all, what is one baby among so many? Don’t they all look alike? If nobody told you who the baby was or who the parents were, would you know this child? Here is the marvel and miracle of Simeon. The baby Jesus, according to our text for this morning, is only forty days old. Simeon had never met the baby’s parents. Yet, in this baby, Simeon recognized the Messiah. How many see Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, and the Savior? What does one have to have to recognize the Christ in this child Jesus? That my friends, is the question we will consider this morning, The first Sunday after Christmas, the dawn of a New Year – January 1, 2012.

To recognize the Christ in Jesus there are three things that are necessary.

1 To recognize the Christ we must first look for Him in hope. Listen to verse 25 of Luke’s Gospel Now there was in Jerusalem a man called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him…"

Simeon had looked for the Savior’s coming for many a year. We have witnessed His coming and we anticipate His Second Coming on the last great day. Like Simeon, we need to look for Him in a hope that He will come at just the right time. As He came the first time at just the right time, he will also come again in glory at just the right time. There is still a time for us to wait for Jesus. It is not in the anticipation of the celebration at Christmas but rather it is in living in anxious expectation for Him to return at just the right time to take us to be with Him in glory. Like Simeon Live in that hope.

2 To recognize the Christ we must live close to God. Luke tells us something about Simeon’s character. He was "…righteous and devout…" (v.25)

The Old Testament lesson for today (Isaiah 45:22-25) tells us to "turn." (v.22) This is a common word in the Old Testament. Often it is used as "return". It means to repent, to change one’s mind, and make an about face from serving Satan to serving God.

To turn indicates that a person has sinned by going away from God, by being faithless in serving false gods and rebelling against the true God. To turn means grace. God asks us to come back to Him and if we do, there is forgiveness and acceptance. Simeon remains for us an excellent role model of what it means to remain faithful. It does not mean that one remains perfect in every respect but rather that we see in Christ the reason for our salvation and then in repentance and faith we turn to Him for life. That’s what it means to be devout. That’s what it means to live close to God. To have our focus on Christ is what is needed today.

3 To recognize the Christ we must be led of the Spirit. Luke tells us in verse 27 & 28: "Move by the Spirit, he went to the temple courts…and took the child in his arms…"

Simeon was a Spirit possessed man. He did not have to wait until Pentecost to get the Spirit. This reminds us that the Spirit is as old as God is, for the Spirit is God Himself. When and how Simeon received the Spirit, we do not know. It is enough that we see that the spirit possessed Simeon, for the Holy Spirit gave him the revelation that the baby Jesus was the Christ. The Holy Spirit inspired him to enter the temple at just the right time to see and behold Jesus. Likewise the same Spirit has directed you to behold this baby and for you to recognize Him as the Christ.

Having seen the Christ Simeon was now ready to depart from this world in peace. Simeon was now ready and content to die. He was willing to depart this life because he had received his wish to see the promised Messiah. In every person’s death, there is the time when the dying person accepts the reality and necessity of death, and then is ready to go. For Simeon, death had no terror because he, having seen Christ, was sure of his salvation. You and I have seen the Lord’s salvation as well. For us the future has no terror because we have seen the Lord’s Christ and thus we too are assured of our salvation.

May the prayer of Simeon be our prayer too as we have said farewell to 2011 and hello to 2012. Having witnessed Christ, we are now free to face the future with the same assurance as Simeon. We can be at peace for God is at peace.

Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year's Eve

Hebrews 13:8
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forevermore"

Well here we are at the end of another year. 365 days have come and gone. On a night such as this we come with many mixed emotions. We might look back at the past year and wish that the year would not end. On the other hand some might wish that 2011 would be past history that we might get the year over with and move on to something more positive. In any life there are years that we savor and other years we would much rather forget.

Tonight we look back on a year gone by. We look bat at this past year and realize triumphs as well as failures. We see both disappointments and blessings; we find pains as well as pleasures. And yet, as we look at time that seems to fly by so quickly we see that our Lord Jesus remains timeless. In fact, what's more He never changes. Jesus remains consistent beyond time.

I. Jesus Christ has been right by our side in the past.

A. There was never a time in the past year when He didn't know of your situation or circumstance.
1. He's all knowing
2. He's all seeing
3. He's ever present

B. He has never left you down
1. There have been times when we have left Him down.
2. There have been times when we would not listen to His Word

Transition: But He remains changeless and that is why in the beginning even before time began before this world existed He established an eternal plan to save and redeem you.

II. He is with us right now.

A. To forgive us our sin
1. Establishing us as His own
2. Drawing us to Himself
3. Ever guiding and leading us

B. Where there is the forgiveness of sins there is also life and salvation.
1. Jesus said: "I have come that they might have life and have it abundantly…"
2. Salvation, having peace with God is a byproduct of this forgiveness.

III. As He has never left us down in the past and is actively involved in our lives at the present we can be assured that He will go with us in this New Year.

A. Changes might come our way in the New Year of 2012
1. Our Lord has some things to teach us.
2. All this is to draw us closer to Himself.

B. No matter what comes our way He's mighty enough to handle any problem we might have.
1. This is the only way we'll survive in this often-unpredictable world.
2. We can depend on Jesus our Savior.

We live in an ever in an ever increasing world of change. But in the midst of change Jesus remains changeless. He will be with us as He has in the past and will continue to be so even in the New Year. In His hands we will rest safe and secure.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Time in the Word - Christmas 1

Collect for 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, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Collect for the Commemoration of St Stephen (26 December): Heavenly Father,  in the midst of our sufferings for the sake of Christ, grant us grace to follow the example of the first martyr, Stephen, that we also may look to the One who suffered and was crucified on our behalf, and pray for those who do us wrong; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Collect for the Commemoration of St John (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 Commemoration of the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem (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,

Prayer 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,

Prayer before the study of God’s Word: Almighty God, our heavenly Father, without Your help our labor is useless, and without Your light our search is in vain. Invigorate our study of Your holy Word that, by due diligence and right discernment, we may establish ourselves and others in Your holy faith; through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

Circumcision, the covenant God made with Abraham and his Seed, sealed His promises and blessings in the flesh, but it also signified the burden of the Law. When the Lord Jesus came in the flesh to redeem His people, He subjected Himself to that Law in order to fulfill the Law and release all people from its bondage. “He was called Jesus” (Luke 2:21), because He came to save His people from their sins. Jesus first shed His blood on our behalf when “He was circumcised” (Luke 2:21), thus foreshadowing His shedding of blood as He sacrificed Himself upon the Cross. We are “justified by faith” in His blood (Gal. 3:24). Therefore, we “are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:29), not by the circumcision of our flesh, but in the flesh and blood of Christ Jesus, the true Seed of Abraham. “Baptized into Christ,” we belong to Him and are clothed and covered by His righteousness (Gal. 3:27). Holy Baptism is the true circumcision made without hands, by which the Lord Jesus puts His Name on us and blesses us (Num. 6:22, 27).

Monday, 26 December 2011Psalm 40:6–8; antiphon, Psalm 40:16—Jesus has come in the flesh and fulfilled the entire Law for us, beginning with His fulfilling of the Law of Circumcision. Neither are animal sacrifices necessary any longer, for these were only meant to point to the One who became the supreme, once-for-all Sacrifice for the sins of the world; hence, David writes: In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required. What is required for salvation is faith, received by the ear which God opens and into which He speaks His saving Gospel message.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011Psalm 8Psalm 8 is a song of great praise to God for all the mighty works He has done in creating the universe, the earth, and all that is in them. But the greatest work of all, is that He sent His Son into the world to assume flesh, the uncreated One becoming part of the creation, that He might redeem creation from the curse under which it fell when Adam and Eve first sinned. The Son of God, Creator of all things, it is He who has been made a little lower than the heavenly beings; yet, because of His work of salvation, He has been crowned with glory and honor.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011Numbers 6:22–27—The Old Testament reading for next week is the well-known Aaronic benediction. The word benediction comes from the Latin word that means to bless. It is called the Aaronic benediction, because it was first given, here in Numbers, to the High Priest Aaron, brother of Moses, to bless the Children of Israel. Note that it is pure blessing; it makes no demands of the people, but simply is a declaration of God’s benefit to them. They had been given His Name, and thus received a blessing.

Thursday, 29 December 2011Galatians 3:23–29—As God declared in the Old Testament reading, He had put His Name on the people and they received His blessing. Likewise, He has put His Name on us, too, and, consequently, we also receive His blessings. In Holy Baptism, we were given the gift of faith and the forgiveness of sins. Baptized into the name of Christ, we are heirs and recipients of all of God’s blessings: forgiveness, life, and salvation.

Friday, 30 December 2011Luke 2:21—Next Sunday’s Gospel reading is very short—only one verse! It tells of the circumcision and naming of Jesus on the eighth day of His life. Fulfilling the Law of Moses with regard to circumcision, He first shed His blood for us. Receiving the name which had been told to Mary by the angel Gabriel, it reflects who He is and what He came to do; for the name JESUS means the Lord (Yahweh) saves. Jesus is true God, come down from heaven for one purpose: the salvation of as many as will believe in Him.

Saturday, 31 December 2011—The hymn of the day, Jesus! Name of Wondrous Love (LSB #900), extols the Name that was given to the Savior at His circumcision, the Name that St Paul says is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth (Philippians 2:9–10).

Lectionary summary on front page from LCMS Commission on Worship
Artwork Julius Schnoor von Carolsfeld  ©  WELS 
Prayers from Lutheran Service Book © 2006 Concordia Publishing House
This week’s Time in the Word is written by The Revd Jeffrey M. Keuning, Pastor of St John's Evangelical Lutheran Church Casey, IA and Zion Lutheran Church, Dexter, IA

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Day

Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy” – Luke 2:10

The message of the angel to the shepherds was significant to say the least. The angel said “behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy” The same message which came to these watchers has come to us this day. What would this message say to us today?

I. The message comes to men who were wide-awake.

A. They were “keeping watch” over their flocks. That was their vocation, their job, their life’s calling. When the message came to them they were found faithfully performing the duties of their chosen craft. Where have you been placed? The Gospel message is not for only one small aspect of our lives.

We cannot compartmentalize, placing Christ’s birth into only one small portion of our complicated life. Christ came to men, as they were busy doing their job, performing their task. The message of salvation was given to theses men where they lived. It fit into the environment into which they lived. Likewise, the significance and importance of Christ’s birth comes to you and me in our life, where we live and work.

B. The time for the appointed message had come and it was given. It was given to them that they might believe. Likewise the message of the Savior’s birth has been given to you and to me, at this time and for this same reason that we might believe and live.

C. God did not wait for the world to wake up. The angel would herald the message of Jesus’ birth without warning and it was given directly to these shepherds. It was important that these men knew that the Savior was born – immediately the message went out.

In your life, the Savior did not wait for another opportune time for you to hear this message of salvation. At the appointed time at the acceptable hour this message of salvation was given to you for your redemption and life. It was given to you directly – through the clear message of the Gospel – which is found in the pages of Scriptures and in the blessed Sacraments.

D. If men sleep when the Lord comes, it is not His fault. The message of salvation has been delivered at the proper time. The carols, the greeting of this season; “merry, happy and blessed Christmas” as an expression is direct that all might know and believe that the Savior has been born, and has come to us for our salvation. The message is clear – Behold I bring you glad tidings of great joy - for you a child is born, for you a son is given”, still many refuse to receive this message with joy.

II. The message came to disinterested workers

A. These men loved their flocks more then their own comforts. They worked the long hours because they felt a sense of duty and obligation to their jobs. Not much has changed over the years. There are countless people dedicating themselves to their jobs because they too feel a sense of obligation and purpose. Like these shepherds there are many people putting in long and tedious hours working at lonely and isolated jobs because of a sense of obligation and duty.

B. The visions that have blessed the world came to these men who watched while nations slept! The world hardly noticed that its Savior had been born. These men watch in wonder as the rest of the world slept. To us the announcement of Savior’s birth has been given. Does the world notice? Does this world seem to care? The only way in which the people of this world will know that to us a child is born and unto us a Son is given is for the Christian citizens to respond as these shepherds.

As nations slept these shepherds watched. As this world sleeps we need to be vigilant waiting for our Savior’s visitation, and then telling other of the wonderful things we have heard and seen. As these same shepherds returned back to their jobs, “glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen as it was told unto them” we in kind respond with the same message.

III. Is the fact significant that the message came to shepherds?

A. What inference should we draw from this fact? The Scripture is quite clear. “The Lord opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”. While James mentions that God has chosen those who are “poor” in the eyes of this world to be rich in faith. (2:5)

Paul explains in 1Corinthians 1 “Brothers think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; nor many influential; not many were of noble birth…But God chose the foolish things of this world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of this world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one many boast before Him” (vv.26-29)

These shepherds were by no means wise, or influential by the world’s standards, nor would we guess that they were of noble birth. By the world’s standards the Savior was none of these either! Yet, the Savior makes Himself known to us in these hidden ways so that “no on may boast before Him”. No one would guess that the Savior would be born in Bethlehem. No one would guess that He would be born in a stable. And no one would guess that His birth would be announced to shepherds.

But that was exactly the way in which He chose to make Himself known – in these hidden ways; in words from the pages of Scripture, in the water of baptism, in elements of bread and wine; in absolution, which is spoken.

B. This message has changed us. It certainly changed the shepherd’s lives. They had been told and they beheld the King, the Savior of the world, “wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger”. We too have heard and believe. For He has changed our life – as we have been drawn to Him.

The message the shepherds received is for you this day “Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy…” To common shepherds this message was given. To people of a common faith we hear and believe. A blessed Christmas in Jesus’ Name.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Time in the Word - Christmas

Collect for the Commemoration of St Thomas (21 December): Almighty and ever-living God, You strengthened Your apostle Thomas with firm and certain faith in the resurrection of Your Son. Grant us such faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, that we may never be found wanting in Your sight; through the same Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Collect for Christmas Eve: O God, You make us glad with the yearly remembrance of the birth of Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Grant that as we joyfully receive Him as our Redeemer, we may with sure confidence behold Him when He comes to be our Judge; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Collect for Christmas Midnight: O God, You make this most holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light. Grant that as we have known the mysteries of that Light on earth we may also come to the fullness of His joys in heaven; 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 Christmas Dawn: Most merciful God, You gave Your eternal Word to become incarnate of the pure Virgin. Grant Your people grace to put away fleshly lusts, that they may be ready for Your visitation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Collect for Christmas Day: Almighty God, grant that the birth of Your only-begotten Son in the flesh may set us free from the bondage of sin; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Collect for Christmas Day: Almighty God, grant that the birth of Your only-begotten Son in the flesh may set us free from the bondage of sin; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

O. T.: Isa. 7:10–14 — Epistle: 1 Jn 4:7–16 — Gospel: Matt. 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).

O.T.: Isa. 9:2–7 — Epistle: Titus 2:11–14 — Gospel: Lk 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).

O.T.: Isa. 62:10–12 — Ep.: Titus 3:4–7 — Gospel: Lk 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).

O.T.: Isa. 52:7–10 — Ep.: Heb. 1:1–6 (7–12) — Gos.: Jn 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. (In the picture at right, ὁ λόγος is Greek for ‘the Word’).

Lectionary summaries from 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.
Other artwork by Ed Riojas, ©Higher Things.
Prayers from Lutheran Service Book © 2006 Concordia Publishing House
This week’s Time in the Word is written by Pr. Jeffrey M Keuning who serves Zion, Dexter and St. John Casey congregations in the Iowa West District of the LCMS 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Advent 4

Luke 1:26-38

"Not For Women Only"

Some would argue that it is only Mary who could truly understand what it was to comprehend what the birth of Jesus really meant. They will contend that it was only Mary who carried Jesus for a period of 9 months within her; and so, it was only Mary who could understand what it meant to have Christ living inside of her. Is that a true statement?

In the letter to the Galatians St. Paul writes "My little children, with whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you" (Galatians 4:19) What Paul is getting at is that every Christian has the same privilege as Mary to possess Christ. Each of us has the opportunity to claim, "Christ lives in me!" This is the ultimate purpose of Christmas – to have Christ born in each believing heart. This morning, let’s consider the example of Mary, as we are to carry Christ within us:

1. Like Mary, we need a sense of unworthiness to possess Christ. Listen to verse 28 of our text for today: "Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be". What would your reaction be if an angel appeared to you? And what would your reaction be after receiving such a salutation as the one that she received? Certainly, she was neither sinless nor perfect. Her favor with God was in her willingness to be used for God’s purposes and to use her life in spite of what it may cost.

This is exactly what we are asked of God today, to be used for His purposes. He asks us to give God our life and say to the Lord "use me as your instrument".

2. Like Mary, we need a healthy reverence for God. Listen to verse 30 of our text for today: "But the angel said, fear not Mary for you have found favor with God" Yet, what does the angel say to her? He calls her favored by God. Mary was a favored girl. She found favor with God. To be favored meant to be approved of God and capable of carrying out God’s plan for the world.

What had she done to deserve this favor, or wasn’t it deserved? She was a simple, poor, and humble woman. He character was expressed however in her acceptance of the position, which fell upon her. She said, "Let it be to me according to your word."

3. Like Mary, we need to be open to the Spirit. Listen to verse 35 of our text for today; "The angel answered, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God" Notice that when Mary received the news of her coming motherhood of the Messiah, she asked a sensible and normal question, "How? How will this happen?"

Since she was unmarried, how could she become a mother? Today,sadly, not every young girl would need to ask that question. Mary serves as a role model for our young both male and female alike. Virginity is the greatest gift you can give to your spouse. No, we do not venerate the saint…that is true. But we should follow their example. Virginity before marriage is noble and honorable before God.

The answer to Mary’s question is simple and yet so profound. How is this miracle to be performed? The answer is that the Holy Spirit would be the Father of God’s Son. The question "How?" was vital to Mary. To the Christian there are more important questions about this child; who is He and why is He coming? Who is He? He is the Son of God. Why is He coming to bear the sins of the world in His own body? He comes for those who are broken by their sin. He comes for those who are worried about their futures; how will I stand before God when He returns? He comes to bring salvation and life. He comes to bring us His mercy and grace.

4. Like Mary, we need to be a submissive servant. Listen to verse 38 of our text for today; "I am the Lord’s servant…may it be to me as you have said". This is an impossible situation! A birth without a father, a peasant girl becoming the mother of God; and God becomes a person! Yet, NOTHING is impossible with God! Christmas is God’s work and action! He comes in the person of Jesus Christ. He chooses Mary, He chooses you and me> He produces a life by the Spirit. Because Christmas is of God, the impossible becomes possible.

What is it that is impossible in your life today? NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD! Do you believe it? Do you want to believe it but are afraid that it just won’t happen? If Jesus can be born of the Virgin Mary nothing, absolutely nothing is impossible with God. Trust in Him! Christmas is God’s guarantee that all things are possible and nothing is impossible for God!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

mid-week Advent 3

Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, as we sit these days in darkness, we look to the advent of Your dear Son, Jesus Christ, as our light. Grant even now your eternal light to come to us for our salvation on the Last Day. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.

The days have grown shorter, and already tonight—even as we sat to supper—darkness has surrounded us. As we neared the end of this past church year, we heard every Sunday about the Last Day. Through November, we watched the trees lose their leaves and become bare. The earth we saw dry and harden for winter as well. The days even then were growing shorter, but now, in Advent, we see all the clearer our helplessness in the expanding dark.

And what can we of ourselves do about the darkness? We do have electricity. And when that fails, we have candles. But even with these utilities, our sight is limited. And without these utilities, our sight is gone. Ultimately, we must recognize our dependency upon something. In the darkness, we are blind. Look outside and walk at this hour, and you will know your bondage in this dark place. In the dark, you know only yourself. You cannot long keep track of anyone else. In the dark, you know you are alone. Our blindness in the dark of night only illustrates a more severe blindness—our spiritual blindness. As Isaiah speaks to our condition, “We grope for the wall like the blind; / we grope like those who have no eyes; / we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among those in full vigor we are like dead men.”

Advent, though, is a time of hope. Amid the mall and outlet store bustle, we latch onto that true purpose of the season—the Christmas Child. But how ironic that during this season of hope, our days grow darker and darker, with darkness increasing even into the day of Christmas itself! This darkness, these last autumn days—these days of Advent—in which we now walk demonstrate to us our need for a saving light. Therefore, the growing darkness as we approach Christmas is not really so ironic. Here, in the night, we grope desperately for the manger light.

And God does not leave us in the darkness! Nor does He wait for us to find our own way. No! He brings the light to us! The Light—God Himself—became man and dwelt among us. “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  Again, the glory of God shone upon the shepherds in the night, as His angel proclaimed His word to them: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”  God breaks through darkness to us in His Son Jesus Christ.

In Christ, God fulfills His promises to His people. As He spoke through the prophet Isaiah, “I will give you as a covenant for the people, / a light for the nations, / to open the eyes that are blind, / to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, / from the prison those who sit in darkness.”  God continues, saying, “I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, / in paths they have not known I will guide them. / I will turn the darkness before them into light, / the rough places into level ground. / These are the things I do, / and I do not forsake them.”

In this way, God Himself brings us into the year of His favor. Having anointed His Son, Jesus, as the awaited Christ, the Christ crucified, dead, and buried; raised on the third day from the dead—salvation is won for us. Of ourselves, we are spiritually destitute, with all courage and heart plainly broken in the shackles of our dark cells. Now, no longer. No longer do we rot alive in a dungeon’s darkness. Now, we live, and we live free. We live in Christ, and we are therefore free from the sin, death, and power of Satan to which we would otherwise be imprisoned. Now death and darkness in this world only remind us of Christ Who suffered their sting on our behalf. Now and forevermore, we live in the eternal year of our Lord, even while we await Christ’s Second Coming, when the Wedding Feast will begin in all its fullness. There, with all comfort, the oil of gladness will replace mourning. Heavenly garments will cover all shame. And we will have the festive adornments of the wedding of Christ to His Church. The shroud of our darkness will be finally lifted, as God spoke through Isaiah, “The sun shall be no more your light by day, / nor for brightness shall the moon give you light; / but the LORD will be your everlasting light, / and your God will be your glory. / Your sun shall no more go down, / nor your moon withdraw itself; / for the LORD will be your everlasting light, / and your days of mourning shall be ended.”
To this end we pray now and always, “Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.”

May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Seminarian Nathan Neugebauer

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Time in the Word - Advent 4

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.

Collect for the First Sunday in Advent: 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.

Prayer of adoration, praise, and supplication: Almighty and eternal God, we adore You as the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus, and with the whole Church on earth and all the hosts of heaven we ascribe to You honor and blessing, thanksgiving and praise. Holy, holy, holy are You, Lord God Almighty; heaven and earth are full of Your glory. You created us in Your own image and redeemed us with the precious blood of Your Son. By Your Spirit You sanctified us and called us out of darkness into Your marvelous light.

Grant that we may with thankful hearts receive these great mercies and express our gratitude, not only with our lips but also in our lives as we give ourselves to Your service and walk before You in holiness and righteousness all our days. Deliver us from sin and error, from the frailties of the flesh, the allurements of this present age, and the temptations of the devil. Give us faith that works in love, hope that never disappoints, kindness that never fails, confidence in You that never wavers, patience that does not grow weary, and courage always to be ready to confess Christ, that we may live in Your mercy and die in Your peace; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns...

Prayer for a right knowledge of Christ: Almighty God, whom to know is everlasting life, grant us perfectly to know Your Son, Jesus Christ, to be the way, the truth, and the life, that following His steps we may steadfastly walk in the way that leads to eternal life; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns...

Prayer for blessing on the Word: Lord God, bless Your Word wherever it is proclaimed. Make it a word of power and peace to convert those not yet Your own and to confirm those who have come to saving faith. May Your Word pass from the ear to the heart, from the heart to the lip, and from the lip to the life that, as You have promised, Your Word may achieve the purpose for which You send it; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns...

The Lord Builds a House for David:
Jesus Christ Who Comes in the Flesh
When King David “lived in his house and the Lord had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies,” he piously supposed that he would build a house for God (2 Sam. 7:1–2). But the Lord would turn it around: He would establish a house for David, and an everlasting throne. This He has done, not only for David, but also for all His people, in the Son of David, Jesus Christ, “conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary” (Apostles’ Creed). That holy Child, the incarnate “Son of the Most High,” receives “the throne of His father David” and begins to reign “over the house of Jacob forever” (Luke 1:32–33). Having given Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, His Body is the true and eternal Temple of God in which His people have their own place of peace and rest. That is “the Mystery that was kept secret for long ages” but is now “made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God” in order that we may have faith and life in Christ (Rom. 16:25–26).

Monday, 12 December 2011Psalm 19:1, 4c, 5–6; Antiphon, Isaiah 45:8a, b—The antiphon asks that God would open the heavens and ‘let the clouds rain down righteousness,’ and that, correspondingly, He would open the earth, ‘that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit.’ Both of these things have come to pass. When the Son of God assumed flesh, and came to earth to be born a man, righteousness rained down. And this was not without effect, for He brought salvation which bears fruit in believers, as they live out their righteousness in Christ.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011Psalm 89:1–5—What is the believer’s response to all that the Lord has done for us through Christ? ‘I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.’ In doing so, we join the throngs in heaven (v. 5), just as we say in the Preface to the Lord’s Supper, ‘with angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You . . . ’

Wednesday, 14 December 20112 Samuel 7:1–11, 16—King David’s desire was to build a permanent structure for the Ark of the Covenant, that is a permanent place for God to reside with His people. But the Lord tells David that He will establish a ‘house’ and a kingdom for David, which shall have no end. We are not to look to Israel for fulfillment of God’s promise, but to David’s Descendant, Christ Jesus, who has established His throne of dominion forever, by His defeat of sin, death, and the devil at Calvary.

Thursday, 15 December 2011Romans 16:25–27—A fitting end to the book of Romans, in which St. Paul has so clearly proclaimed Christ as the Savior of the world, apart from works, this doxology (hymn of praise) is especially appropriate during this Advent season, as we prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ, who ‘has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations.’

Friday, 16 December 2011Luke 1:26–38—What a shock it must have been for this pious young woman to learn that she, not having known a man, would give birth to a baby boy. And no ordinary boy, but God Himself, the second Person of the Trinity! Due to the miracle wrought through the Holy Spirit, Child born would be ‘true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary.’ The Blessed Virgin is, therefore, truly the Mother of God, and her Son, the Savior of mankind, is properly named ‘Jesus,’ that is, ‘Yahweh saves.’

Saturday, 17 December 2011—The 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’).

Lectionary summary on front page from LCMS Commission on Worship
Artwork by Julius Schnoor von Carolsfeld, ©WELS.
Prayers from Lutheran Service Book © 2006 Concordia Publishing House
This week's Time in the Word is written by Pr. Jeff Keuning 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Advent 3

John 1:6-8, 19-28

"There was a man sent from God." Now when John mentions the word "Man" he uses it here in the biblical sense of male and female. God had a mission and a purpose for John's life. He had a destiny and was sent for that purpose, a divine purpose. In our time, we need to find our purpose and meaning for life as well. Our text for this morning should help us find the purpose and meaning to our life today.

People in our day need a purpose for living. Have you ever considered the purpose for which you were born? What is your destiny? What is your purpose and aim in life?  There are many asking themselves this question. Who is asking this question? People from every walk of life, all the way from the college student who is contemplating changing her major to the man in his mid-forties who is considering a change in his career. It's the retiree who looks back at 40 years of service to a company who has said thanks but now has to wake up every morning and think to himself "what's next?" All these and so many more are seeking for meaning and purpose in their lives! What should be my goal in life? Meaninglessness of life is based upon seeing no reason or purpose for living, which sometimes can lead to depression. We might ask, "is that all there is?" to this life. In the life of John the Baptist, we can see how his reason for living could also be our reason for living as well. Let's see how God used John to be His man. How can you be a man or woman of God? John tells us how…

1. Have a God - given mission (Have a purpose of life) Listen to verses 6-8 "There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the light, that all men through him might believe."

John the Baptist was a man sent from God. He is not alone in this. Every person has a divine destiny. God has a purpose and plan for every life, for your life! This gives us a purpose and meaning for living. What we do is more then mere tasks that someone has to perform. There is a profound meaning in what we do. We are not here to dream, to drift, and to play. There is a mission to accomplish. There is an assignment, a charge that we are given. Some in this world do not know why they were sent to the world or what God wants them to do with their lives. John has a keen sense of knowing his mission. Like John, we are to live for the One who has redeemed us. We are to share Christ with our families, or neighbors and friends. We are to point to Christ the Savior of the world, or one and only redeemer. John knew his purpose. What is your purpose today?

2. To be a person of God be God's voice. (This is our identity) Listen to verses 19-23 Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders[a] in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.” They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”

The delegation sent to interview John asked a direct question, "Who are you?" Certainly, they knew his first and family name. They knew his birthplace and parents. They could see that he was a prophet. But who are you, really? It is a case of self-identity. Many are in the position of the man who was asked by a little girl, "Who are you?" He replied, "I wish I knew." To know who you are you need to know whose you are! John the Baptist knew who he was because of his call to be the forerunner of Christ. You, like John, are a child of the king. You are a sheep of His fold, a lamb of His flock, a sinner of His own redeeming!

John the Baptist identified himself as a voice. Throughout the passage, there is evidence of a voice. John "gave testimony", "witnessed", "confessed". The voice proclaims the truth of Christ. Out of the heart the mouth speaks, the Bible tells us. What we believe in our hearts we are to confess with our lips. Witnessing is a natural, spontaneous expression of faith in Christ. A true Christian needs not to be commanded, exhorted, or trained to witness. The Christian cannot help but tell of Christ at all times. We share and live Christ on a daily basis. That is our identity.

3. Be God's witness (work!) Listen to verses 24-28 And those sent were of the Pharisees, and they questioned him and said to him, `Why, then, dost thou baptize, if thou art not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?' John answered them, saying, `I baptize with water, but in midst of you he hath stood whom ye have not known, this one it is who is coming after me, who hath been before me, of whom I am not worthy that I may loose the cord of his sandal.' These things came to pass in Bethabara, beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing,

It is assumed that Jesus was in the crowd John the Baptist was addressing. Yet, John the Baptist told them that one about whom he was witnessing as greater than he was there and they did not know him. Perhaps many in the crowd knew about Jesus of Nazareth, but they did not know Him. We are called to have a relationship with Christ on a personal, interment level.

The Germans have two words for knowing. These two words are "wissen " and "kennen". The former (wissen) is knowing certain facts; the latter (kennen) is knowing a person with whom you have a relationship. In this latter sense, the people did not know Jesus. But John did; he pointed to Jesus saying, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"

The Advent wreath has the pink candle burning this morning. It is the candle that calls us to rejoice in this season. We are to rejoice at the coming of Christ. For us as Christians happiness does not depend on possessions or good fortune. A Christian is the happiest person in the world because he has been freed from sin and now experiences the fullness of life. He knows who is coming at the end of time. This is our reason for our rejoicing - the coming One brings us victory, peace and love. Jesus Christ, He is our purpose in living.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Advent 2 mid-week

Isaiah 40:1-11
Comfort in Uncomfortable Times

Almighty and everlasting God whose will it is to restore all things to Your beloved Son, whom You anointed priest forever and king of all creation. Grant that all people of the earth, now divided by the power of sin, may be united under the glorious and gentle rule of Your Son whose birth we anticipate in this Advent season.

The people who lived at the time of Isaiah lived in temporal conditions quite different from those at the end of the Babylonian exile or those at the time of the birth of Christ or those in our world today – far more different was their time than ours was. Despite the great importance we sometimes attach to physical surroundings, however, they do not constitute the most meaningful part of life. Far more significant than our social, political, or economic state is the matter of our spiritual condition.

Does the Triune God favor and bless us? Does His face shine upon us? Is He gracious unto us? What will happen to us when we die or when the heavens disappear with a roar and the elements are destroyed by fire on judgment day? As we consider these things, our Old Testament lesson gives us a sense of encouragement and hope; comfort in truly uncomfortable times.

1. The glory of the Lord provides true comfort in troublesome circumstances of hard service, trauma, warfare, and calamity.

A. Accurate observation of affairs in the world cannot ignore the reality of hard service, whether it is the Babylonian exile, the adversities and afflictions of life, or those periods of misery and suffering, which we endure. Consider Job. In the midst of his despair, he described his condition.

He says: Is not man forced to labor on earth, and (are not) his days like the days of a hired man? As a slave who pants for the shade, and as a hired man who eagerly waits for his wages, so am I allotted months of vanity, and nights of trouble are appointed me. When I lie down I say, “when shall I arise?” but the night continues, and I am continually tossing until dawn. [Job 7:1-4]

Because we can do nothing to escape or prevent such hard service, we face the distressing prospect of its unabated continuation and its culmination of the day of the Lord. Peter describes the events of that great day when he writes: But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. (2 Peter 3:10)

B. Only God’s accomplishment of the revelation of His glory grants us security and relief. The heavens declare the glory of God, says David in Psalm 19 but people ruled by sin exchange this glory for idols. God affects the rescue of Noah, the safety of the patriarchs, the exodus from Egypt, the return of the exiles. Always preserving a line of ancestry from Adam to Jesus, the promised Messiah. God sent “a voice” identified in the New Testament as John the Baptist and relates the message of “the voice” in terms of the construction of a highway for Himself. Through “the voice”, God makes everything ready for the coming of the incarnate Word. John put it this way; And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. [John 1:14]

Transition: Jesus Christ, true God and true man, the Savior by His perfect work of salvation glorifies the Father. In Jesus Christ, a glorious exchange is accomplished. In place of hard service, we have the revelation of the glory of the Lord.

2. The word of the Lord provides true comfort in the troublesome circumstances of sin.

A. Because of sin, people who are mortal fail. We can be compared to the grass and the glowers. They wither and fall because the breath of the Lord blows on them. The same weakness fits us, for we face the same threat of being melted when God blows on us with His fiery wrath. The prophet Ezekiel puts it this way; “And I shall gather you and blow on you with the fire of My wrath, and you will be melted in the midst of it. (Ezekiel 22:21) In short, we are subject not only to bodily but also to spiritual death. Of ourselves, we cannot endure.

B. Only the permanent character of God’s Word and the enduring certainty of his promise of atonement – to place us back in the Father’s good graces – can give us confidence and support. Iniquity is paid for when satisfactory punishment has been inflicted. Thus, were we to suffer the penalty of our iniquity, the gates of hell would lock us inside forever. But we have been redeemed with the precious blood of Christ and born again through the living and enduring Word of God, which was preached to us. His Word revives the soul. His precepts give joy to the heart.

For Christ’s sake in contrast to the perishable nature of all flesh, we rejoice in the permanence of God’s Word.

3. The fact that God Himself shepherds us provides true comfort in the troublesome circumstances of sin.

A. The presence of God, particularly when we take note of His strength and power can strike terror into the hearts of those that are guilty of transgression and deserve punishment. If He raises His mighty arm to exact a price for disobedience, none can resist or escape Him. He bears the authority to put to death the one who practices sin. As He says in Ezekiel 18:4, “Behold all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine. The soul who sins will die.”

B. Only the strong one’s promise to care for His people like a shepherd produces consolation and contentment within us. He uses His power on our behalf, caring tenderly for His sheep. Holding us close to Himself, gently leading us, even laying down his life for us. For Christ’s sake, we have received not the retribution we have earned, but the abundant pardon of His grace and the manifold blessings that accompany it.

Conclusion: So many things in life – disappointments, sickness, tragic accidents, economic hardships, injustices, anticipation of death – seem to cause for negative, gloom, doubt, and uncertainty. But the God of heaven and earth, the only true God, does not abandon us. Rather, He carries out His plan of salvation for us, leading Joseph like a flock, bringing a vine out of Egypt. Returning the exiles from Babylon, sending His Son in the fullness of time converting us through His means of grace, giving us true comfort in the midst of troublesome circumstances. Now, that is the story of his amazing grace!

St. Nicholas Day

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Time in the Word - Advent 3

Collect for 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 deliverance from sin: Almighty God, our heavenly Father, You desire not the death of a sinner, but rather that we turn from our evil ways and live. Graciously spare us those punishments which we by our sins have deserved, and grant us always to serve You in holiness and pureness of living; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns . . .

Prayer for grace and forgiveness: Spare us, O Lord, and mercifully forgive us our sins. Though by our continual transgressions we have merited Your chastisements, be gracious to us. Grant that all these punishments which we have deserved may not come upon us, but that all things may work to our everlasting good; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns . . .

Prayer at nightfall: We praise and thank You, O God, for You are without beginning and without end. Through Christ You are the creator and preserver of the whole world; but above all, You are His God and Father, the giver of the Spirit, and the ruler of all that is, seen and unseen. You made the day for the works of light and the night for the refreshment of our weakness. O loving Lord and source of all that is good, mercifully accept our evening sacrifice of praise. As You have conducted us through the day and brought us to night's beginning, keep us now in Christ; grant us a peaceful evening and a night free from sin; and at the end bring us to everlasting life through Christ, our Lord; through Him be glory, honor, and power to You in the Holy Spirit now and always forever and ever.

Prayer for catechumens: Almighty God and Father, because You always grant growth to Your Church, increase the faith and understanding of our catechumens that, rejoicing in their new birth by the water of Holy Baptism, they may forever continue in the family of those who You adopt as Your sons and daughters; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns ..

The Coming of the Christ Brings True Rejoicing in His Forgiveness
When he preaches repentance, John the Baptist points us to Christ Jesus. John was sent by God “as a witness, to bear witness about the Light, that all might believe through him” (John 1:7). He baptizes with water in order to “make straight the way of the Lord,” who shall redeem His people from their sins (John 1:23). That Lord Jesus “who comes after” John now stands among us and makes Himself known to us (John 1:26–27). He has been anointed by the Holy Spirit “to bring good news to the poor” and “to bind up the brokenhearted” (Is. 61:1). By the washing of the water with His Word and Spirit, He clothes His Church with “the garments of salvation” and adorns her with His own righteousness “as a bride adorns herself with her jewels” (Is. 61:10). Therefore, we “rejoice always” in the Lord, “pray without ceasing,” and “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:16–18). For “the God of peace,” who has called you by the Gospel, will surely “sanctify you completely,” so that “your whole spirit and soul and body” will “be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:23–24).

Monday, 5 December 2011Psalm 85:8–9, 12–13; Antiphon, Psalm 85:7—During this season of preparation by way of repentance, we pray that, even as we break with the sins of our past, the Lord would not let us turn back to folly. Our sin is persistent, and we can never conquer it by our own doing. Our only hope is in the Lord, who will speak peace to His people and will give what is good. He does this through our Savior, Jesus, for righteousness goes before Him.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011Psalm 126—This psalm was composed when the Israelites returned from the Babylonian Exile. When God delivered them, their mouths were initially filled with laughter and their tongues with shouts of joy. But the hardships they faced upon return tested their faith in the Lord’s promise to restore the fortunes of Zion. This psalm provides comfort that those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! Likewise, when we face unexpected hardships and suffering, we can take comfort that the Lord has done great things for us. The greatest thing He has done is restored us by the death of our savior, His Son, Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011Isaiah 61:1–4, 8–11—God’s anointed messenger is here proclaimed. He will proclaim the good news of relief and release to the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, those who are bound, and those who mourn. All these things describe us in our sinful state: We are poor, lacking the riches of fellowship with God, and thus brokenhearted; we are captives of, and in bondage to sin, and thus can only mourn our condition. But the One whom the messenger proclaims will give us the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit, that we may be called oaks of righteousness.

Thursday, 8 December 20111 Thessalonians 5:16–24—What is our response to and our witness of Christ has accomplished for us? That we rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances. This we can do, because we are no longer in our former state, as people who have no hope, in bondage to sin. Christ has set us free, and gives us His gifts of Word and Sacrament, that our whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Friday, 9 December 2011John 1:6–8, 19–28—When the priests and Levites confronted John the Baptist, asking him who he was, he responded that he was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah in the Old Testament reading. John is the man sent from God, the voice of one crying out in the wilderness. He went before the Lord Jesus, to prepare the way for Him, to bear witness to Him. John baptized and preached a message of repentance. Likewise, we still heed John, and prepare ourselves for the celebration of the coming of Christ in the flesh by repenting of our sins.

Saturday, 10 December 2011—The hymn of the day, Hark! A Thrilling Voice Is Sounding (LSB 345), tells of the work of John the Baptist. His voice is thrilling to believers, for his voice heralds the coming of our Savior, Jesus.

Lectionary summary on front page from LCMS Commission on Worship
Artwork by Julius Schnoor von Carolsfeld, ©WELS.
Prayers from Lutheran Service Book © 2006 Concordia Publishing House
This week's Time in the Word is written by Pr. Jeff Keuning Dexter, IA

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Church Decorating

Now that the expansion project is nearing completion the committee can deck the halls!

Yes, twenty-two baptisms and counting...

Advent 2

Mark 1:1-8
Should Christmas be Banned?

In Mark’s Gospel there is no Christmas! Mark begins his gospel with the adult Son of God. After John the Baptist’s preparation for Jesus, Jesus simply appears as a 30-year old adult seeking baptism from John.

If it were up to Mark, we would have no Christmas celebration. He simply introduces Jesus to his readers and begins with his presentation. Should we follow Mark as the Puritans did in the 17th Century by banning Christmas altogether? In the light of materialism of our modern world, maybe we should skip the Christmas “sell-abration”. And yet Christmas should not be forgotten. There is a significant importance of Christmas and the significance of Christ coming into our world.

What Christmas is all about.

1. Not how He was born; manger, angels, star.

A. These things are important.
1. They point that Jesus came to our world as human.
2. They point that He came in human history.

B. If we get hung up on just Jesus’ birth we can loose out.
1. He birth is most important.
2. He was not merely a “cute baby” a little lamb.

2. It’s who was born – “The Son of God”

A. He is Very God
1. Creator
2. The Almighty One

B. In Him is what all the prophets of old had written.
1. Over 800 prophecies concerning Christ are recorded in the Old Testament Scriptures
2. He fulfilled all of them.
3. After His resurrection, with the disciples on the way to Emmaus He opened the Scriptures to them explaining how the Christ must suffer and die and on the third day rise from the dead.

3. Why He was born – “The Christ of God’

A. The One who came into this world to save us.
1. We could not save ourselves.
2. Sin has separated us from the Father

B. By His suffering, death and resurrection we are saved and redeemed.
1. In Baptism we are brought into His family
2. Through this covenant of Baptism we are kept in the faith.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Church Expansion - Week 25

The first snow of the season fell on the last week of our project

North entrance

South entrance

Gathering space looking north
Geothermal pumps
duct work in the basement
A view of the parsonage
Old stained glass in new frames
Taken in full sun @ 4:430 pm
Original glass 1901

Chancel built by our members in 1987 

 The Last Supper donated by the Youth in 1938