Monday, December 31, 2012

Time in the Word - Epiphany

Preparation for the coming week
The Epiphany of our Lord

Collect for the First Sunday after Christmas – O God, our Maker and Redeemer. You wonderfully created us and in the incarnation of Your Son, yet more wondrously restored our human nature. Grant that we may ever be alive in Him who made Himself to be like us; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever.

Collect for the Name of Jesus (January 1) 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 sin; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives, and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Collect for Epiphany – O God, by the leading of a star You made known Your only-begotten Son to the Gentiles. Lead us, who know You by faith, to enjoy in heaven the fullness of Your divine presence; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

For divine guidance as we begin a New YearAlmighty and ever-living god, You make us both to will and to do those things that are good and acceptable in Your sight. Let Your fatherly hand ever guide us and Your Holy Spirit ever be with us to direct us in the knowledge and obedience of Your Word that we may obtain everlasting life.

Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings with Your most gracious favor, and further us with Your continual help, that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in You we may glorify Your holy name and finally, by Your mercy, obtain eternal salvation.

Monday, December 31, 2012 – Psalm 72 - The Antiphon for this coming week’s Introit comes from verse 1, Endow the king with your justice O God, the royal son with your righteousness. We’ve seen this royal Psalm before it is a good way to close off the year 2007. Solomon had asked for wisdom as he began his reign. (See 1 Kings 3:9,11-12; Proverbs 16:12) As we review this past year and anticipate a new one may we ask the King of Kings to guide us with such wisdom. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013 – Isaiah 60:1-6 - The Old Testament lesson tells us that nations come to the light of God’s servant. The light of God’s glory has appeared. As a result, nations come to the light of God’s servant. Light must first be scattered before there can be a gathering of people to Christ. According to verses 1 and 2, the light of God must be scattered into the world as the light is reflected in us.  How is this done? It involves evangelism and missions. The nations will come to the light, to god. They will bring honor, gifts, and praise to God. We cannot expect people or nations to become Christian until the light of Christ is cast abroad to the world through Christians.    

Wednesday, January 2, 2013 – Ephesians 3:1-12 - In our Epistle lesson we are told that Gentiles are included in God’s plan of salvation. The gospel is for all – including Gentiles. Gentiles are included in God’s plan of salvation. Can the church be exclusive? If it is the will of God to include all people, the church must fulfill that will.             
Thursday, January 3, 2013 –Matthew 2:1-12 – In the Gospel lesson the Gentile world worships the Christ. We are told of the visit of the Wise Men. They were wise because they made a quest for God. Today men are wise if they seek God in Christ. The foolish seek other gods – power, prestige, possessions. Wise Men then and now worship this King.  

Friday, January 4, 2013 – Psalm 72 – The Psalm appointed for this coming Sunday is also placed in the Introit. This Psalm is more about Solomon – it rightly speaks of Christ. Review verses 8-14. The extent of his domain as the result of His righteous rule is fitting of our Lord and Savior. As we begin a New Year in Jesus’ Name may we see that he will bless everything begun, continued and ended in Him if it is to accomplish anything.   

Saturday, January 5, 2013 – Revelation 22:16 – This verse is the inspiration for the hymn, “How Lovely Shines the Morning Star”. It is from the last chapter of the Savior’s revelation to St. John. In fact, they are some of the last words He will speak in Scripture. Jesus is the Root and Offspring of David, the bright Morning Star.  He is the One of whom we offer our worship and praise. He is the Hope for the nations, our only Savior. Tomorrow, Epiphany Day is a reminder that Christ came for all people for the Jew but also for the Gentile. Rejoice in the Father’s greatest gift. Rejoice in this salvation.

 LUTHERAN WORSHIP © 1982 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO
THE LUTHERAN HYMNAL © 1940 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO
LUTHERAN SEVICE BOOK LECTIONARY © 2006 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO
LECTIONARY PREACHING WORKBOOK A – John Brokhoff © 1980 CSS Publishing, Lima, OH

New Year's Eve

Joshua 3:4c
“...for you have not passed this way before”

We come the close of yet another year, and what a year it has been. What is it that is on our mind when we reflect back on this past year of 2012? Great expectations and triumphs have been met with frustrations and sadness in this past year. In the past 365 days we have met all of the emotions that life’s about.

What were the highlight and low points of 2012? There was... In this year of our Lord 2012, we have celebrated. All of the events of this past year are etched in our minds.

1.                  Yet, we must go on – there is no going back – whatever the path before us we must tread it. How will the future fare for us? Only the Lord knows.  Joshua was right “for you have not passed this way before.”

2.                  As we go let us look out for the signposts – bypaths plainly marked; in the past there have been warning signs misery, ruin, and death. We will meet them again in the New Year.
And there is the right path clearly shown happiness, peace, and heaven. Could it be that in this New Year we will be called home?  As we move on to the New Year of 2013 we proceed. But in what manner shall we proceed?

3.                  We proceed cautiously – make haste slowly – Hold ever before us the lamp of Thy Word, Lord. “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” The Scriptures remind us. We enter into the New Year with the lamp of God’s Word giving us direction, purpose and hope. “Trust in the Lord with all your hear” the Scriptures remind us, “and lead not on your own understanding” All that stands before us in the New Year of 2013 must be measured carefully by the clear direction of God’s Holy Word. In every circumstance we must ask: “what is God teaching me?” “what is God saying?”, in short, with Luther we must ask ourselves and each other, “what does this mean?” 

4.                  Let us not go alone – Let us look out for friends on the road, those needing help on the way. Let us walk with Jesus who has promised to walk with us as He has clearly promised “Lo I am with you always even until the end of the age” Together with the Savior, family and friends we are given an incredible journey into the future. All that the New Year promises us we will experience not alone but with other who accompany us along the way.

5.                  Take the staff of God’s promise in your hand – Promises to help and comfort. Each promise is given for our encouragement and hope. Counting on the promises of God we trust each and every one.

6.                  Look forward with hope to the end of the way. In the end we will spend eternity with the Savior. That is the goal of this journey as we travel the road of life. Life is a journey. We know the final destination. As we venture forth to fulfill our destiny let us enjoy the scenery as we travel and experience the journey with Jesus who pilots us and with those who walk beside us.

CONCLUSION: Joshua was right when he wrote in our text for this night: “...for you have not passed this way before”. For this very reason we take provisions along the way. As we venture forth from this place into the future our Savior walks with us. Walk confidently with Christ as you go from here. A blessed New Year to one and to all!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas 1

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 in Christmas, December 30, 2012

To recognize the Christ in Jesus three things 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 say farewell to 2012 and hello to 2013.

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 28, 2012

The Feast of the Holy Innocent

     The Feast of the Holy Innocent

O God, whom the Holy Innocents confessed and proclaimed on this day, not by speaking but by dying, grant, we pray, that the faith in you which we confess with our lips, may also speak through our manner of life. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. +Amen.

Since the sixth century, on December 28, the Church has celebrated the memory of those children killed because of Herod's rage against Christ (cf. Mt 2:16-17). Liturgical tradition refers to them as the "Holy Innocents" and regards them as martyrs. Throughout the centuries Christian art, poetry and popular piety have enfolded the memory of the "tender flock of lambs" with sentiments of tenderness and sympathy. These sentiments are also accompanied by a note of indignation against the violence with which they were taken from their mothers' arms and killed.

In our own times, children suffer innumerable forms of violence which threaten their lives, dignity and right to education. On this day, it is appropriate to recall the vast host of children not yet born who have been killed under the cover of laws permitting abortion, which is an abominable crime. Mindful of these specific problems, popular piety in many places has inspired acts of worship as well as displays of charity which provide assistance to pregnant mothers, encourage adoption and the promotion of the education of children.

© Woman of faith and family

Thursday, December 27, 2012

St John the Apostle

O God, who through the blessed Apostle John have unlocked for us the secrets of your Word, grant, we pray, that we may grasp with proper understanding what he has so marvelously brought to our ears. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Jack E. Reiff
April 12, 1923 - December 14, 2012

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. 

St Stephen

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, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Day

Luke 2:10
A Heavenly Message
“Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy
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 one 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 23, 2012

O God with Us

O Emmanuel, our King and lawgiver, for whom the nations wait, their only Savior, come Thou, O Lord our God, be our salvation.

Drop down ye heavens from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness;
Let the earth open and bring forth salvation.

Stir up, we beseech Thee, O Lord, give ear to our prayers and lighten the darkness of our hearts by Thy gracious visitation; through Jesus Christ Thy Son, our Lord.

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.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel stanza seven, Lutheran Service Book © 2008 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis
Schnorr Von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS permission granted for personal and congregational use

Saturday, December 22, 2012

O King of Nations

O King of Nations and their great desire, thou cornerstone who makest one of twian, as Thou has formed man from the ground, come now and save him.

Behold, the Lord shall come and all His saints with Him. Alleluia!
And in that day the light shall be great. Alleluia!

Stir up, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy power and come, that they who trust in Thy mercy may speedily be delivered from all adversity; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord

In one the hearts of all mankind,
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And by Thyself our King of Peace,
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel stanza six, Lutheran Service Book © 2008 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis
Schnorr Von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS permission granted for personal and congregational use

Advent 4

Elizabeth extols the blessedness of Mary. Today there is a fight over Mary. Some want to make Mary equal to God others consider her of little value at all. Elizabeth considered her blessed. Why?

1.   Blessed because Mary was chosen as the mother of the Lord. V 42 “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the child you will bear

Mary is just an ordinary girl. Yet, she is chosen by the Father to work His will in this world. Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit to fulfill the will of the Father. Jesus is born of a virgin to fulfill Scripture. Jesus came into this world according to a divine plan.  The story of Christmas reminds us that God is in control of all of these events that lead to the birth of Jesus. He is in control of the events of this world and especially is He in control of the events of your life – every single detail!  Nothing is left to chance. If He so orders the events of Mary's life, how much more will He be more then able to order our days to bring them to completion according to His perfect will?    

Transition: Mary is blessed because she has been chosen to be the Mother of Jesus – this is no ordinary child – He is the Savior of the world!

2.      She’s blessed because Mary’s child is the Lord! V 43 – But why am I so favored that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

As soon as she learns from the angel Gabriel that she will carry Jesus, Mary leaves the tiny village of Nazareth. She leaves to visit her cousin Elizabeth who is expecting. Elizabeth will give birth to John the Baptist. This is not a chance meeting. Everything goes according to plan, the Father's plan. Although we might not be able to see it, there is obviously something miraculous happening here. God is directing these events. Mary, who at this moment is less then a few days pregnant, is caring the Savior of the world within her.

When Mary's voice reaches the ears of the Baptist, John leaps for joy; for he is in the very presence of the holy Son of God. What a miracle, what a blessing for us today. If John can hear the voice of Mary and recognize her voice; if John can recognize the presence of Christ before he is born, should we be surprised that infants today can recognize the voice of their Savior even before they are born?

3.      Blessed because Mary believed the Word of the Lord. V 45 – “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished

Christ came into the world to do the will of the Father. In faith, we trust the Father to work His will in us. The will of the Father was simply to do the work of redemption in this world. Jesus came to break the bondage of the devil, death, and sin. He came to be our substitute. He came to live under the Law perfectly. He came to take our sin and to suffer and die for the sin of the world. All He asks of you this day is to believe in this plan of salvation. “Blessed are those who believe that what the Lord has said will be accomplished!”

Mary is truly blessed. Blessed, because she was chosen as the mother of the Lord. Blessed, because Mary’s child is the Lord. Blessed, because Mart believed the word of the Lord. “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”  

Friday, December 21, 2012

O Rising Sun

O rising orb of day, splendor of light eternal and sun of righteousness, come and enlighten those who sin in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined.
Our God shall come, Alleluia!

Stir up, we beseech Thee, O Lord, our hearts to prepare thy way of Thine only-begotten Son; that by His Advent we may be enabled to serve Thee with purified minds; through the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord.

O Come, Thou DAYSPRING from on high,
And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadow put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to Thee, O Israel.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel stanza five, Lutheran Service Book © 2008 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis
Schnorr Von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS permission granted for personal and congregational use

St Thomas

Almighty and ever living God, who for the more confirmation of the faith didst suffer thy holy Apostle Thomas to be doubtful in Thy Son’s resurrection; grant us so perfectly and without all doubt, to believe in Thy Son Jesus Christ,. That our faith in thy sight may never be reproved. Hear us, O Lord, through the same Jesus Christ, to Whom, with Thee and the Holy Ghost., be all honor and glory, now and forever. Amen

Thursday, December 20, 2012

O Key of David

O Key of David and Scepter of the house of Israel, who closet portals and no one can open them, come thou and from his cell lead forth the captive who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Come, O Lord, and make no tarrying;
Loosen the bonds of the people Israel.

Stir up we beseech Thee, O Lord, the wills of Thy faithful people that they. Plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works may of Thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord.

O Come, Thou KEY OF DAVID Come,
And open wide our heav’nly home
Make swift the way that leads on high
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel

O Come, O Come Emmanuel stanza four, Lutheran Service Book © 2008 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis
Schnorr Von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS permission granted for personal and congregational use

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

O Root of Jesse

O Root of Jesse, who standest for an ensign of the people, before whom kings shall keep silent, to whom the nations shall offer their petitions, come to deliver us, wait not any longer.

Rejoice greatly, O Zion.
Behold, Thy King cometh.

Stir up, we beseech Thee, Thy power and come and with great might strengthen us that by the help of Thy grace whatsoever is hindered by our sins may be speedily accomplished through Thy mercy and satisfaction; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

From every foe deliver them,
That trust Thy mercy to save,
And give them vict’ry o’er the grave.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel stanza three, Lutheran Service Book © 2008 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis
Schnorr Von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS permission granted for personal and congregational use

mid-week Advent 3

To Whom Does Jesus Come?
Matthew 1:20-23

INTRODUCTION: To whom does Jesus come? He comes to people who struggle with their faith. So often in matters of life the issues are not always black and white. Sometimes there is a lot of gray. 

Often we are forced to struggle and wrestle as we grapple with the question, “Lord what should I do?”  At other times we know intuitively what we should do.  There is no needing to ask: “what shall I do now?” 

We know, in our gut, with every fiber of our being, what we ought to do. All we need to ask in such instances is for the strength and the will to act. To whom does Jesus come? He comes with enlightenment to him who does not understand.

We consider this evening Joseph. When he learned that Mary was bearing a child, he was understandably disturbed. He knew of two realities.
First, Mary to whom he was engaged was expecting a child. He also knows he is not the Father!

Joseph, being a just man, tried to conform his life to the Jewish law. “Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.” (v.19) Here we see Joseph’s dilemma. Whose reputation, he pondered, should be tarnished, Mary’s or his own? That was the issue with which he was wrestling. Joseph felt betrayed; he loved Mary, yet he didn’t want to “expose her to public disgrace.” To whom does Jesus come? He comes to people who struggle with their faith.  He comes with enlightenment to him who does not understand.

1. In making decisions, of which we do not fully understand all of the circumstances remember it is God who is working behind the scenes to will and to do His perfect good pleasure. Such was the case in the birth of Jesus as Joseph understood it. An angel sent by God had to intervene.   Matthew 1:20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

2. Joseph also learned a second valuable lesson. When God is acting for us it is He who will act. Because man is blind, dead, and an enemy of God we need God’s saving work in our lives.
This is exactly why Jesus was born in the first place. This is why He came. The angel explains to Joseph specifically why this birth means so much.

 Matthew 1:21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  

And save us He has. God is at work working out your salvation. Nothing is left to chance. To the contrary He is shaping, molding and using ever circumstance in your life to bring about one reality. He was born to afford you salvation. That is why Jesus came to this earth. He came to save His people from their sins.

3. Joseph also learned a valuable lesson. The Scriptures cannot be broken. Jesus’ birth was not a mistake, a miscalculation, an inaccuracy. To the contrary it was all mapped out in Scripture. The Savior’s birth had been foretold in sacred Scripture and to Joseph’s amazement these Scriptures were fulfilled in his lifetime. He lived to see them played out right before his eyes! Matthew 1:22-23 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”

Conclusion: When we must choose – choose wisely. Often we are forced to make decisions in life in which the outcome will not necessarily be pleasant. 
When we have to choose “the lesser of two evils” as Joseph, we need to wrestle and pray. Actions do have their consequences. Joseph did not act rashly. Decisions reached hastily are often ill advised. Patience is needed when the situation is serious.                 

+ Soli Deo Gloria + 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

O Lord

O Lord, eternal and leader of the House of Israel, who didst appear to Moses in the fire of the burning bush and didst give the law to him on Sinai, come to redeem us by Thine outstretched arm.

Prepare ye the way of the Lord. Alleluia!
Make His paths straight. Alleluia!

Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to make ready the way of Thine only-begotten Son, that by His coming we may be enabled to serve Thee with pure minds; through the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord.

O Come, O Come, Thou LORD of Might,
Who to Thy Tribes on Sinai’s height,
In ancient time didst give the law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe,
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel stanza two, Lutheran Service Book © 2008 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis
Schnorr Von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS permission granted for personal and congregational use

Monday, December 17, 2012

O Wisdom

The First Antiphon

O Wisdom, who comest forth from the mouth of the most high, reaching mightily from one boundary of the world to the other, and pleasantly ordering all things, come, teach us the way of prudence.

Behold the name of the Lord cometh from afar
And let the whole earth be filled with His glory

Stir up we beseech thee, Thy power, O Lord, and come, that by Thy protection we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and saved by Thy mighty deliverance; who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, One God, world without end.
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 Come, O Come Emmanuel stanza one, Lutheran Service Book © 2008 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis
Schnorr Von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS permission granted for personal and congregational use

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Advent 3

Philippians 4:4 
O Rejoice Ye Christians Loudly
The theme of rejoicing for this the third Sunday of Advent reminds us that Advent is not all sorrow, solemnity, and seriousness. For example, the much-loved carol “Joy to the world” is an Advent hymn, not Christmas. The focus of this Sunday is that you and I as Christians are to rejoice for Christ is coming to visit His people. You and I rejoice for we anticipate Christ is coming. Today is a time of excitement over who is coming. 

1.      What to do – Rejoice – under all kinds of circumstances – even in the midst of suffering.  The prophet Habakkuk tells his hearers that he will rejoice regardless of the circumstances, which surround his life. We have just come off a challenging growing and harvest season. It is easy for circumstances, especially difficult conditions, to dictate our rejoicing and the reasons for us to rejoice. Recall however, what the Prophet tells us:“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” (Vv. 17-18)
Transition: The prophet’s rejoicing is not dictated by circumstance, a difficult as they may be. The target of His rejoicing is in the Lord.
2.      Why should we rejoice – We rejoice in the Lord – We live in a dark and sinful world. Circumstances and factors beyond our control can bring us low. But what is truly at the root prohibiting our rejoicing is our sin. And to break the bondage of sin Jesus has promised to come.
Jesus is for those who feel bad. They look to their lives and see failure. Their sins rise up against them in a flood of accusations. Jesus has come for people whose faith is battered and weak. He has come for those who want to enjoy the Christmas cheer and join in the holiday celebration, but often feel less than joyous this time of year, so they feel bad about that, too, wondering is Scrooge wasn't right after all.       
To these people comes the Child of Bethlehem. He gives them what they need. He is not content to make them "feel" good. Soothing words are not His to give. Sentimental tripe never comes from His lips. For He is areal Savior who saves real sinners. He didn't come into this world to be cute and adored. He came to us to be abandoned. He was born to die, not a noble death applauded by the religious, but a death of loneliness engulfed in scorn and shame. And that miserable death saved us. For it was our sin which He took, away. The reason for our rejoicing is that we focus our rejoicing in the Lord Jesus.
3.      When do we rejoice? –  We rejoice Always!  This is what prompted Paul to write  “I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ,  who shall also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:4-8)
You and I have the peace and presence of God, which sustains us regardless of circumstance. Not the peace of mind, not the peace of heart, not the peace of men, but the people of God. This divine peace passes all understanding, and keeps the heart and mind focused on Christ. Surely this is good reason for us to rejoice.  Rejoice in the Lord always, again, I say, rejoice!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

mid-week Advent 2

To Whom Does Jesus Come?
Luke 1:26, 31-33

Introduction: In the Gospel of Luke the birth of Jesus is foretold. The Lord sends a messenger who comes to Mary the very peasant girl who will give Him birth. To whom does Jesus come?  Jesus comes with comfort to him who waits.

In Luke 1:26  we read: “In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee,”  The mention of Elizabeth's "sixth month" establishes a link between Jesus and the prophet John the Baptist. Nazareth was a small town off the main trade routes. Its insignificant size contrasts with Jerusalem, where Gabriel's previous appearance had taken place. Jn 1:46 records the negative Judean opinion of Nazareth. “What good ever came out of Nazareth?”  

Likewise, the region of Galilee contrasts with Judea. Surrounded as they were by Gentiles, the Galileans were not necessarily irreligious but many were somewhat lax regarding strict Jewish traditions. And what really is the point? Jesus did not come to the high and mighty, the religious. He came from a region of sinners and a family of sinners to redeem sinful people.

What can we say concerning this Savior? Let’s see what the angel has to say:

“You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”  Luke 1:31-33

Mary’s Son was to be infinitely greater than John.

(a) His name was to be Jesus, ‘Jehovah is salvation’ (31).

(b) He would be great (32), a title which, unqualified, is usually reserved for God Himself.

(c) As heir to David’s throne He will reign over God’s people (33).

(d) His kingdom will be eternal (33).

Conclusion: To whom does Jesus come? He comes to comfort those who wait patiently for Him.