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Christmas 2A

Text: Luke 2:40-52

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel which was read earlier.

There was a movie that came out when I was a kid called Home Alone. The premise was a huge family going on Christmas vacation. In the hustle and bustle of getting everyone ready before the airport vans showed up, they neglected one of the kids in an upstairs bedroom. It’s not until they arrive to their destination that they realize they left their son Kevin at home. His parents became frantic and immediately began looking for ways to get back home to find him. In our Gospel reading for today, a similar situation happens, or at least it appears to happen.

During the Feast of the Passover, everyone would return to Jerusalem in order to celebrate this Jewish feast. It meant that the city had a greater population than usual. The streets were more crowded, with people moving throughout the city and the marketplace, buying all the things necessary to celebrate the Passover. After the hustle and bustle, people began to leave Jerusalem in droves, including Joseph and Mary, but not Jesus. Luke records, “And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem.”

Why did Jesus stay behind? Was He left behind on purpose or was this a “Home Alone” accident? Luke doesn’t give us any indication as to why Jesus was still in Jerusalem upon His parents leaving. Jerusalem is the place of Jesus’ destiny. But would that destiny be fulfilled by Jesus at twelve years old? Luke sets up Jerusalem as the city of destiny here at the end of the infancy narrative. Having reached the age of twelve, it was the time when a Jewish boy became “a son of the law,” that it, obliged to learn and to observe its provisions. It was quite possible that Jesus was left to study the Torah and become proficient in the Word of God found in the Old Testament.

After a day’s journey without Jesus, “supposing him to be in the group,” it was clear that Jesus was not traveling with the group. They returned to Jerusalem, searching for Jesus for three days. What could have been going through the minds of Mary and Joseph? Luther, when preaching on this text, contemplates on Mary’s thoughts during this time: “Behold this child is only mine, this I know very well, and I know that God has entrusted him to me and commanded me to take care of him; why is it then that he is taken from me? It is my fault, for I have not sufficiently taken care of him and guarded him. Perhaps God does not deem me worthy to watch over this child and will take him from me again.”

We can easily get a feeling of Joseph and Mary. They are the earthly guardians of Jesus and have lost Him. Is that what was God expecting of them? Where would they even begin to look for Him? It took them three days to scour Jerusalem and find Jesus. And when they find Him, it was in the least likely of places, or was it? Luke says, “After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” To some extent, it would be proper to find Jesus in the temple. Remember, He is twelve years old and so it would be proper for Him to be in the temple and learning from the teachers of the Law. However, Luke says that not only was He listening to the teachers, He was asking them questions. That was not proper at this age – listen, but keep quiet. Not only was He speaking, they were amazed at what He said.

Mary and Joseph didn’t think about where they found Jesus, just that they found Him, and it is apparent in Mary’s statement to Him: “Son, why you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” Mary and Joseph are shocked at Jesus, shocked at how quietly Jesus had acted up to this time, never opening His mouth in the synagogue, to now sit in the temple with prominent rabbis all about Him, with all eyes and ears fixed upon Him.

Jesus knows who He is and what He was about, even at the age of twelve. He responds by saying, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Unbeknownst to Mary and Joseph, this wasn’t a “Home Alone” situation but rather, a “right where I needed to be” situation. Jesus is in the temple, the house of His Father. He is speaking with the teachers of the Law, but not learning from them. Instead, He is teaching them of God and they “were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” Everything you ever wanted to know about God, well, here God is in the flesh. Here is the Son of God, the one promised from long again, here to fulfill the Father’s plan of salvation. Though only twelve years old, a mere boy, He was the full embodiment of God sent to save creation.

It would appear as if we see a different side of Jesus, one of disrespect towards His earthly parents. He did not leave the Passover Feast with them. He stayed behind. He did His own thing. Was this an almost-teen rebellion? Of course not. He instructs the teachers of the Law, hopefully clearing up any questions the teachers had about God. He prepares them so that they can rightly teach the people of God. And when Mary and Joseph arrive at the temple, Jesus keeps the Fourth Commandment and leaves with them, submitting to the authority of His earthly parents.

There is no “Home Alone” here, but rather Jesus doing His work of teaching, setting the tone for His teaching when He begins His public ministry. All this, the Son’s perfect keeping of the Law, He did for us, being obedient to God’s Word, setting us up for our obedience to God. The only problem with that is we can’t be obedient to God and His Word. We saw how obedient we were in the Garden. It is by Christ’s active obedience that our disobedience is forgiven. St. Paul says in our Epistle, “In him we have redemption of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace….” In Him, by Him, from Him, that’s where we have our forgiveness. It’s by Jesus’ work for us that we are obedient to the Law of God. Because we cannot keep it, God sends forth Jesus to keep it for us. Because of our disobedience, which we inherited from Adam, we were under God’s condemnation and judgment. But through Christ’s active obedience for us and His carrying out faithfully the will of His Father for us, we are counted as righteous and obedient before God through faith in Him.

In today’s Gospel, we might be tempted to say that Jesus was lost. In fact, Jesus was exactly where He was supposed to be; it was really Mary and Joseph who were lost. In a similar way, we are also lost – lost in our trespasses and sins. It is God who finds us and places us among the things of the Father. There the Holy Spirit works faith and makes us people of the Father. Since Jesus said, that He must be in His Father’s house, doing the work of the Father, that means we are with Jesus. That is exactly where we are supposed to be, in our heavenly Father’s house, brought in by Jesus Christ. In the name of Jesus, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2020 in Christmas, Luther quotes, Sermons

 

Christmas 1A

Text: Matthew 2:13-23

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel which was read earlier.

While the joy of Christmas Day and the birth of Jesus has passed, the celebration of Christmas continues. The wise men have since followed the star, arrived, and have seen the blessed child and the Holy Family. They have gazed upon Jesus and have returned to where they have come from. But the scene is not a joyous scene. Yesterday, the Church remembered the Holy Innocents. King Herod, in order to remove what he considered a threat to his rule, had his soldiers go into Bethlehem and kill every male child they found there, two years old and under. These are the Holy Innocents, killed in an attempt to kill Jesus. We would be mindful to remember the words from our Christmas Gospel from John 1: “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.”

With startling abruptness St. Matthew turns our attention from the wise men who came to worship Jesus to the mad man in Jerusalem who sent soldiers to murder him. Herod had heard from the Magi of “he who has been born king of the Jews.” King Herod was disturbed because the Jews, of course, had a king. But not one who was born king. Herod had usurped the throne of David, and was not even a Jew. The Magi revealed that God had now brought about the birth of the rightful heir to David’s throne.

Clearly this did not sit well with Herod, thus the reasoning behind the killing of all the young male children. God was not going to send the Savior of the world into the world, only to die in short order. And so, an angel of the Lord was sent to Joseph: “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”

Long before this, Herod had feared for his position, growing increasingly paranoid toward the end of his life. He put many people to death in order to secure his power, and he certainly wasn’t going to let a baby usurp the power which he himself had usurped.

Our Gospel today isn’t as much about Herod as it is about Jesus. God has sent forth Jesus, just as promised. He has come into creation, becoming one alongside creation, the creation which He had made. St. Matthew tells us that the flight to Egypt fulfills Hosea 11. This is a fulfillment not in the sense that Hosea was directly predicting Christ’s flight into Egypt, but in the sense that Israel’s sojourn in Egypt serves as a type of this event. Just as God preserved His Son in Egypt in the face of Herod’s plot, so also He had preserved Israel in Egypt and kept His covenant with Abraham in spite of Pharaoh’s opposition. God’s plans cannot be canceled by earthly kings. All is under the control of an all-gracious, all-powerful God. And not even Herod, as powerful as he thought he was, would be able to thwart the work and promise of God.

In the midst of the commercialization of Christmas, it’s easy for us to forget that the child Jesus came to establish peace between God and man, but He also said that His Word and Sacraments would create divisions among people and that many would stumble because of Him. In the very region where Old Testament Rachel had died giving birth to Benjamin, other children of the promise lost their lives to wicked King Herod’s sword, and their mothers wept and could not be consoled. But we cannot blame God for the death of these “innocents”; it was the wicked king who caused the anguish and death. God was there, He saw what happened, and even in the midst of Herod’s wickedness He was working to bring about his plan of salvation for the world. God is not the author of evil—man is—but He is always working to turn what is meant for evil into good.

Once Herod heard the words “King of the Jews” from the Wise Men’s lips and realized that his reign might be threatened, he knew that this baby Jesus had to die. The irony is that Herod was right. Jesus did have to die, but not because Herod willed it. He had to die, but not on Herod’s schedule, not until the fullness of God’s time, just the right time. He had to die for Herod’s sins; He had to die because of our sins. He had to die because of our doubt and our fear and our unbelief and all of our daily sins. He had to die because God knew we could never turn back to Him, keep His commands, and love Him on our own. As St. Paul says, we “were dead in the trespasses and sins” and enemies of God by our very nature!

Since it was not yet His time, the baby Jesus was protected from Herod by God’s divine intervention. Following the angel’s word, Joseph led his family to safety in Egypt. God was accomplishing His plan of salvation in Jesus Christ in spite of King Herod’s wickedness, and in so doing He has paid the price for Herod’s sins, for our sins, and for the sins of the whole world.

He did not die in Bethlehem at the command of Herod.  Instead, He died when He finished His mission here on this earth.  He died after He had led a perfect life and after He had taken our sins to the cross.  He died as God’s sacrifice for our sins.  He died at the time God established and not at the time Herod established.  He died only after Jesus Himself said, “It is finished.”

Jesus not only died according to God’s timetable, but He also rose according to it and ascended into heaven. His resurrection and ascension mean that all who have faith in Him, men, women, and even infants, will spend eternity in His presence. In spite of the pile of sin that you and I have produced, God is with us. It means that when we die, God is with us. It means that God is with us for all eternity.

From an earthly point of view, Herod the Great appeared more powerful than Jesus. Herod was the absolute monarch of Judea with the authority of the Roman Empire to back him up. Jesus was this child of poverty. He had few earthly resources. Never the less, Herod could not touch Him. God’s plan overrules all other plans. God has a definite timetable for His Son. No one can change that, not even Herod.

Know that death is not for you – life is. Remember what the angel said to the shepherds: unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Christ is born in Bethlehem to be your Savior, too. Even as a baby, He’s at work in our Gospel lesson to save you, and all of Herod’s wrath and soldiers can’t stop the infant Messiah. The sin of Herod is always nearby, but Christ the King is as near to you as His Word and Sacraments. He is born to deliver from sin, death and devil—deliver you with the Word that you are forgiven for all of your sins. In the name of Jesus, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2020 in Christmas, Sermons

 

Christmas Day

Text: John 1:1-14

On this most blessed day of the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, there is no reading of His birth, no baby lying sweetly in a manger. Today, there is no mention of presents under the tree or family Christmas traditions. Instead, it’s all about the Word, the Logos, Jesus.

Instead, you hear who Jesus is: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” You have no mention of Jesus by name, but you hear what He has done: “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” He is the Creator of all things, because He is God. With God from the beginning, He made everything. What was the purpose of the Word? “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” The Word came into creation, a creation He had made, with a singular purpose – to redeem it.

God has pitched His tent with you so that you behold His grace. Today we rejoice, for the Word has become flesh so that He dwells among us. It is just the thing to hear today. The Word—that is, the eternal, divine Son of God—has become flesh. He has taken on a human nature, flesh and blood, in the womb of Mary and has been born in the flesh. That is why we celebrate today. But there is more to this verse, more reason to celebrate, that is revealed by a more precise translation. “The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.”

In the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, God tabernacles among us. The tabernacle was a tent designed by God Himself so that He would have a place to dwell among His people. That design was given to Moses shortly after the exodus from Egypt. The tabernacle would serve for nearly five hundred years before it would be replaced by the temple, which had the exact same design but was a permanent structure rather than a tent.

The tabernacle was a place of awe. It was apparent that God was present in the tabernacle, because there you beheld His glory. And now that awe is bound up in Jesus. He is born and appears as any other child. There is nothing in His appearance to make Him more glorious than any other fellow. Yet you can still marvel at Him. In this man, the eternal God dwells. This child lying in His mother’s arms is the one who created the whole universe and even the motherly arms in which He lies. Marvel at the majesty of that. How great is your God that He can humble Himself to be born of Mary yet remain the source of all things.

For the same reason that the tabernacle inspired awe, it also produced fear. That same fear ought to be ours as the Word tabernacles among us. It is no small thing to be in the presence of God. Don’t be fooled by Christ’s humility as He comes as a baby. He is the holy God. He is the Creator of all things. An honest assessment of my sin leaves me shuddering in fear when I think of approaching the One in whom we behold of the glory of God.

God desires to dwell with His people. But He also knows that they are sinners who cannot live to tell the tale if they behold His unfettered holiness. So He puts on a mask that He might truly be present with His people, and they would yet live. That is grace. That is the tabernacle.

And it is all bound up in Jesus. Here in the child born of Mary is God dwelling among His people with grace. He will not be apart from you, so He puts on human flesh as a mask. That is grace. All of that grace is in Jesus, and it explains why He took a human nature. Grace comes at a price, one that you and I cannot pay. So Jesus pays the price in His flesh. The glory of God will be revealed in its fullness at the cross. The night that He is betrayed, Jesus prays, “The hour has come; glorify Your Son.” At other times, Jesus says it is not yet His time. His time is at the cross; that is the time of glory, glory that abounds in grace.

Jesus became flesh. In doing so, He dignified your flesh. Should you suffer from sickness or chronic pain, you might well begin to view your body as a prison from which you desire release, a source of sadness as you feel deterioration. But it is not so. God does not consider your body a throwaway: just like your soul and mind, it is a part of you in need of redemption—and a part of you redeemed. Christ has taken on flesh to redeem your flesh: His victory over sin, death and devil is complete. He surrenders nothing to them. Healing and deliverance are coming for you, because Jesus became flesh like yours to make it so.

Today we rejoice, for the Savior, which is Christ the Lord, is born. He is the Savior, which is Christ the Lord every day of the year and not just on Christmas Day. He was born for our sin and takes away our sin ever day of the year. Because you and I were born in sin, He is born to save us from sin. Because you and I are made of mortal flesh and blood, He becomes flesh and blood to raise us up to immortality. Because you and I face death, He is born to di and rise again to give us new life. He is our Savior, Christ the Lord, and He is born for you and has forgiven us all of our sins. Let this be our focus at Christmas: the Word made flesh in the form of an infant, so that one day, He may die for our sins and open the gates of heaven for us sinners. Let us rejoice in the Gift of all gifts which has been given to us, Jesus Christ, Immanuel, God with us, amen.

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2020 in Christmas, Sermons

 

Candlelight

Text: Luke 2:1-14

To quote Charlie Brown, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” The answer, unfortunately, becomes obscure. The impetus of Christmas is parties and cards, carols and the like. But the real meaning of Christmas as anyone knows is presents. That’s what we’re all excited for on Christmas morning. That feeling of rushing down the stairs, to find a tree filled to the brim with presents underneath it. But Christmas isn’t about all the presents, it’s really about just one present – the gift of a baby lying in a manger.

How did all of this come about? The angel Gabriel appears to Mary, informs her that she will conceive and bear a son to be named Jesus. The angel appears to Joseph, informing him of what has transpired and what he will do following this announcement. They make their grand journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, only to find nowhere for them to lay their heads following their journey. Oh, and Mary is ready to give birth. Once Joseph and Mary get settled in the rear of the house with the animals, Mary gives birth to Jesus: “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

Talk about a surreal birth! An unprecedented birth, never before and never to happen again in this way. A journey to a somewhat distant land, with no final destination, culminating in a birth in the least of ideal circumstances. That’s where Luke ends his account of the birth of Jesus, at least the story of Jesus. Luke then turns his attention to a different setting, different people, different responses.

“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” Normal, unsuspecting shepherds, doing what shepherds do. It’s evening time, possibly late. Minding their own business, they are interrupted by a heavenly visitor with a simple message: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” That’s Christmas. It’s presents time!

All the company of heaven rejoices at this announcement, with a multitude of angels appearing in the sky, with God’s glory shining over the place and the angelic chorus shouting back and forth to one another, “Glory to God in the highest…”

You can feel the electricity in the atmosphere; something has changed, something wonderful, yet mysterious. Angels don’t just appear out of nowhere, and yet you had not just one, but a multitude of the heavenly host. Angels don’t just appear unless the message is of great importance, and yet the angel appears to unsuspecting shepherds, minding their own business, delivering to them a message of great importance, for them and for all people.

This unsuspecting baby, your Savior, is born to you, for you; He is yours. He comes for all humanity, embracing humanity in His holy incarnation. God has given you a present. But is it the present you are wanting? It’s surely not the present you were expecting, because God’s people weren’t expecting God to fulfill this promise right now. They had been waiting generations for this promise to be fulfilled and yet, God never made good on His promise, not until the time was right according to God. And now, the time was right, Jesus born for you in lowly estate, lying peacefully in a wooden box.

Nothing God does is left to chance, and that applies to the birth of Jesus as well. Jesus is born and placed into a box of wood, a lowly manger. Of course, the manger would be made of wood, but what a great visual representation of the life of Jesus. He is the tree of life, and now the tree of life comes and is laid in a box of wood. But this tree of life would later go to another tree, the tree of the cross.

You want a present at Christmas, and you got one. Was it the present that you wanted from your Christmas list? Maybe not. Was it the present that you needed? Absolutely. God gave you the greatest present that could ever be given – the gift of forgiveness, life, and salvation. All of that wrapped up in a little baby. You see, when the Son of God took on our human nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary, He did not just become a man. He became man. He took all of humanity into Himself in His incarnation. For He came to bear the sins of all humanity in His body. That includes every nation and race and people and language. His birth reveals the truth that there is in fact only one human race, the fallen children of Adam. And in this newborn baby in the manger, every sinner is redeemed and restored to God.

This alone is the basis for the peace on earth of which the angels sang. In Christ, God and sinners are reconciled. We sinners are no longer under God’s wrath; we are at peace with Him again through His self-giving mercy. The warfare between heaven and earth is now ended. The case of God against the human race is set aside, and His love for the world is revealed. Our flesh has been joined to God. Heaven and earth are at peace. God and man are brought back together in Jesus, for Jesus is God and man together in one person. Baptized into Christ, we are put right with God. And living in Christ, we are put right with one another too. The only peace on earth that lasts is the peace of Christ, forgiven sinners united as one in His holy body.

In truth, this Christmas narrative foreshadows the reason why Jesus came into this world. Even as He was born outside the inn with the animals, so He would be crucified outside the city with common beastly criminals. Even as He was wrapped in strips of linen and laid in a manger, so later He would be wrapped in cloths and laid in a tomb. Even as the shepherds came to worship Him, so it is that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The wood of the manger would later be traded for the wood of the cross. We must never forget on this Christmas night that our Lord took on flesh and blood so that He might sacrifice His flesh and shed His blood to cleanse us and make us holy, His own special people. He was born to die for us that we might be reborn to live in Him eternally.

To you, know this: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. In Him, you are forgiven, you are put right with God. All is well. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Amen.

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2020 in Christmas, Sermons

 

Christmas Eve

Text: Matthew 1:18-25

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way.” Matthew has a very simple telling of the story of Christ’s birth. And why shouldn’t it be simple? All you need are the basic facts to tell the story. In this case, two people, a man named Joseph and a young girl named Mary. Here is a couple betrothed to be married, although not married yet. Mary is pregnant and the baby isn’t Joseph’s child. Joseph has to decide: remain betrothed to her and accept this child or divorce her.

Now Matthew could have said that Joseph and Mary lived happily ever after and left the story at that. But that’s not what Matthew does. He records an angel of the Lord coming to Joseph in a dream: “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” The dynamics of everything has changed. The story has changed from two lowly people having a child to the coming of God.

What wonderful news this is, though very unexpected. It’s doubtful that when Mary and Joseph woke that morning, their lives would have changed so dramatically. We’re no longer talking about giving birth to just another, ordinary, everyday child. Instead, we have God coming into the flesh. But the question remains – why. Why would God do this? Why would God in Jesus descend from heaven just to take up residence in mortal man? Again, Matthew gives us the information we need: “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Apparently, Matthew has set up the problem and solution in a single verse. The problem that we face is sin. The solution to that problem would be in the form of a little baby. But one has to wonder how this baby would be creation’s answer to sin, it’s greatest problem.

The answer comes in the baby’s name, Jesus. Jesus is the English translation of the Greek name, IhsouV, a translation of the Hebrew name Joshua. Joshua is a combination of the Hebrew word for salvation with Yahweh, the name of God. Thus, Jesus means “The Lord is salvation.” The angel told Joseph the reason Mary’s child was to be given this name: “for he will save his people from their sins.” God’s Son has this name because of what He came to do. It shows His purpose is to be the Savior, to be our Savior.

But why do we need to be saved? If we are God’s creation, why does God need to do what He does? It’s because of sin that He needs to do this. We have rebelled against God, breaking His commandments, His statutes, His Law, over and over again. Our sin has caused God to destroy creation and start over again. But because sin had already entered into creation, even a redo of creation still had sin in it. There would only be one way to purge sin from creation, once and for all. It would come at the expense of God’s only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

Just what would this little baby born do? He would grow in the stature of a man and perform many miracles. He healed diseases, cleansed lepers, cast out demons, raised the dead, gave sight to blind. He forgave sins and called sinners to repentance and new life. Ultimately, He was killed by those who rejected Him, but in this He gave His life as a ransom.

Jesus lives up to His name. He comes to save all people from their sins. He receives a name which describes His role in man’s salvation. He is the one doing the work of salvation. He is the one who redeems creation from its death.

Looking back through the centuries, we’ve seen the truth that God’s plans often seem to catch us off guard. He surprises us again and again. Who could have been expected to think that his pregnant fiancée was a virgin? It was unprecedented. Who would have imagined that God, the Creator of the universe, would choose to become part of His creation? Who would have dreamt that He would come as a helpless baby?

When that child grew to manhood, who would have anticipated what happened? Who would have thought that God would sacrifice His only begotten Son to redeem the people responsible for His death? And who would have thought that He would triumph over death and rise again?

Who would have thought? Those who know Him should have thought it. Those who hear His Word and trust should have anticipated it all. We should have known it from His own clear promises. But still we are surprised. And who would anticipate that this God would choose us and make us His own, that He would forgive us and renew us, and call us His children? God constantly surprises us with His gracious gifts.

What greater gift than to have the name of Jesus placed upon you. In your Baptism you were brought into a name. In Baptism you were chosen, wanted,  somebody’s. You are the Lord’s. Do you remember who you were? Before you were baptized, you were a slave to sin. Jesus said, “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” But Jesus didn’t stop there. “Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Jesus has set you free from the guilt of your sin—not just as a freed slave, but freed with the freedom of sonship. You belong to God forever, not as a slave, but as a beloved son. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

Jesus—this is the name of God’s Son and Messiah, our Savior. Like other names, the name of Jesus indicates what this man has done and does: He saves His people from sin and gives them new life. But unlike other names, Jesus’ name continues to point to Him as Savior, because He continues to carry out His saving work through His Gospel. And because this is the most blessed work, for us Jesus remains the most blessed name. As the people He has delivered and made His own, we can confess with the apostle Peter, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” For you, God has sent forth Jesus, sending forth His Son, Immanuel, God with us. Amen.

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2020 in Christmas, Sermons

 

Christmas 1 – “Ready to Die” (Luke 2:22-40)

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

Here’s a question I doubt that you’ve asked yourself lately, or possibly ever – are you ready to die? I mean, right now, while sitting in the pew, what if you died? I doubt that many of you would say that you could die right now, but here’s the thing – you should be able to say that! As a Christian, as a believer in Jesus Christ, you should be perfectly fine if you died right here, right now.

Turning to our Gospel reading for today, we see something happen that isn’t out of the ordinary – parents bringing their child to the temple for the rite of purification. Mary, because she had given birth, needed to be made ceremonially clean. The Child that was born also needed to be presented to the Lord and a sacrifice made on His behalf. Like I said, that’s not unusual. In fact, that is according to the Law of Moses and the Law of the Lord. That’s something that happens all the time so seeing that take place is no big deal. But, in fact, it is a big deal because of who the sacrifice is for.

Ironically, a sacrifice was being made on behalf of Jesus. Though this was according to the Law of the Lord, it was out of place. “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord.” The fact of the matter was that Jesus was already holy to the Lord, for He is the God incarnate. The sacrifice for such thing required “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons. This was an alternative sacrifice, for according to Leviticus 12, the sacrifice is a lamb or two turtledoves or two pigeons. This helps us to understand that Mary and Joseph were indeed of a humble state, given that they were too poor to be able to afford a lamb. Here is a great reversal – no lamb was necessary because already here at forty days old, Jesus is the lamb brought to His temple for sacrifice.

And so we meet a man named Simeon, “and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.” Luke says he was righteous and devout. That meant he could probably be found at the temple daily, making sacrifices and the like. He wasn’t a religious leader, but rather a religious follower. But Simeon wasn’t a follower of the religious leaders of the day. Instead, he was a follower of God and of His promises. Luke records, “And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”

We know that Simeon was old, but that he was not going to die until God had kept His promise. After today, Simeon could do just that, die. Taking Jesus into his arms, he speaks the most wonderful hymn the Church could sing: “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” The only thing missing from that hymn is an amen, a yes yes, let it be so.

Now, Simeon could die in peace because he has not only seen the promise of God but has also held the promise. There is no more waiting. Here is the promise, a promise for all people. Because of this promise fulfilled, you can die.

We can all say, along with Simeon, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word….” God made a promise and God kept a promise. Despite the length of time it took for that promise to come to fruition is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is that God did indeed keep His promise. It is only because God kept His promise that we are able to die in peace as does Simeon.

This Child named Jesus wasn’t just for Simeon and He’s not just for you either. As much as we like to have Jesus all to ourselves, Simeon doesn’t say that this is our own, private Jesus. Instead, he says that this salvation has been “prepared in the presence of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” You see, this Jesus is meant for people that shouldn’t be meant for. This Jesus is for the Gentile, for the one who is not Jewish, not part of God’s chosen people. Despite our wanting to say that Jesus is for me and not for you, that’s just wrong, for Jesus is for all people.

When God made the promise of a Savior, He didn’t make it for Adam and Eve and no one else. He didn’t make it for just Israel or just for the good. God made the promise to all people of all nations. That means that Jesus is for the bad just as much as He is for the good. It means He’s for the wrong as much as He is for the right. It means that He’s for the Gentile as much as He is for the Jew. It means that He’s for you as much as He is for me.

Paul, in his letter to the Galatians says the same thing as Simeon does, just in another way. “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” Simeon waited until God saw fit to make good on His promise. He sends Jesus, who is under the Law to fulfill the Law and redeem us. By His death on the cross, we are made sons and heirs of God. It means all that He has, we have. It means that we have His holiness because Christ grants us holiness. It means that we are perfect because Christ has made us perfect. It means we receive everlasting life because Christ is everlasting life.

We don’t know what was in store for Simeon after he left the temple. We don’t know how long Simeon lived or how quickly he died. We don’t need to know because it doesn’t matter. All that does matter is that Simeon saw the promise of God fulfilled and could now depart in peace, knowing that God kept His promise of salvation.

Like Simeon, you behold your Savior today. You don’t see tiny toes and a hairless head; you observe a man preaching and then see bread and wine. But faith tells you this: God keeps His promises. His Son has come, died and risen, as promised. His Son is here, in these means, to forgive, as promised. You know this by faith, not by sight.

So what is in store for you and me? Will it be a long life lived or will God call us home tomorrow? As much as we want that long life lived, it really doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is this: God has made a promise and God has kept His promise. He has sent forth Jesus just as He said. He grants to all who believe forgiveness of sins and everlasting life. You and I are ready to die, for we have seen the salvation of our God made full in Jesus. The only thing left for you and I to do is sing: “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy word….” In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2018 in Christmas, Sermons

 

Christmas Day (John 1:1-14)

“He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Today is indeed a joyous day, or at least it should be. We celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. That should be enough to put a smile on anyone’s face. But unfortunately, that’s not true. In the hustle and bustle that is the season of Christmas, you know, sometime around Halloween until today, we fail to ask ourselves an all-important question: Could God be left alone for Christmas?

What a silly question to ask, you might think. Of course, God could never be left alone for Christmas, but He was. Some 2000 years ago, the almighty God, in a way, spent the first Christmas alone. He has a Son who had been by His side. That Son was even there in heave with His Father the beginning of time. John says, “The world was made through him.” But the Father was willing to let Him go when it came time for the first Christmas at Bethlehem. He didn’t kick Him out of heaven as some sort of punishment, the He did with Satan and all his demons. Instead, something else happened.

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” God our Father spent that first Christmas alone you might say, not because of anger. He spent that first Christmas alone because He wanted His Son to be with us, right here as one of us.

When you look at this world, when you see all the sin that man commits, you have to ask yourself why would God want His Son to be with us, to be one of us. We frequently don’t care much about other people or even about God. We’ve made quite clear time and again that we’re going to live our lives our own way, regardless of the consequences. Human sin has a made a horrible mess of everything. So why would God send Jesus, full of grace and truth, to a place that is full of unkindness and lies? Because of just that.

God knew full well it would take far more than just another prophet or priest, preacher or diplomat, to fix it all. So He sent what was needed: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” That cute and cuddly Baby lying in the manger is the eternal God come down to our world to rescue us helpless souls by His living, His dying, and His glorious rising again. He’s as human as human can be, a real Child, not some made-up notion. This Child would grow up and face disappointment of being rejected, the pangs of death when they nailed His body to the cross, when He would pour out real blood in a real, ugly death.

This slumbering infant of Bethlehem’s manger we heard about last night is at the same time the true God who has all authority in heaven and on earth. That includes, as John says, “To all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” You, the poor, miserable sinner, who is good for nothing because of that sin, you are now something of great worth – a child of God. You are a sinner, just as I am. God doesn’t owe either one of us a dime, and yet He gives this right to you. He gives it to you because of who He is and what He has done. Heaven’s Father was willing to be left alone that first Christ, if you know what I mean, so that this Christ, this God-man, could come and take His place here with all of us.

This is indeed the most incredible thing that has ever happened! That’s why we decorate the church, sing hymns of praise and cannot get our fill of this time that we call Christmas. But in the midst of that incredible news, John says something that makes things come to a screeching halt: “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.”

In a tragic sense, God was left alone that first Christ, for it seems as if the people of Bethlehem didn’t care about His gift to them. They took no notice of Him, they made no room in the inn for His mother. The very people He came to save had other things to worry about than Jesus.

Sadly, that same sentiment is alive and well among us today. What is the purpose of Christmas? Many would say Christmas is all about getting presents. The birth of Jesus? Well, that’s important too, I guess. Just point me to the presents.

You want a present? Your present lies in a manger. That same wood used to fashion the lowly manger in which He lay is what is used to fashion the instrument of His death. Your present, the only present that matters in all the world of presents, is the one delivered by God – delivered in the manger, delivered upon the cross. Despite a world that is hell-bent on rejecting the Savior, the Word made flesh still comes to you. He still comes, with you in mind, to make you part of Him, to graft you unto Him, so that all He has can and will become yours.

Jesus is present with you in His means of grace, freely giving you salvation. The Lord is consistently faithful to His people, as He has been since Adam and Eve. He still draws near to save, despite so much sin and utter rebellion in the world today. He still comes, though so many do not even pretend to receive Him. In His faithfulness, the Lord does not abandon this sinful world. Hear this remarkable statement of salvation: “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…” You are now His children: Not by blood or genetic heritage; nor by your plans, works or will; but by His work of saving you on the cross.

Here is the joy that you have: That almighty Word became flesh to dwell among His people, to go to the cross for you. From the cross, He descended into hell, rose again, and ascended into heaven. Drawing near, the Word made flesh proclaims His Word that you are forgiven for all of your sins. Amen.

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2017 in Christmas, Sermons

 

Candlelight (Luke 2:1-14)

“And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” Imagine for a moment the scene: two, lowly parents walking the streets of Bethlehem after a long trip from Nazareth. Every door knocked on, the response is the same – no vacancy, that is, until they found room in a barn. Nothing is ideal, but this is the way that it is to be. In the end, God is there, recognized by ox and donkey, praised by angelic choirs. The stars adjust themselves to look down upon the scene. It looks like heaven.

Don’t be fooled. Salvation is not in heaven. Salvation is on earth, where the Savior was born for us. Salvation is earned for us by a baby being born, a baby who would go to the cross for our sins: For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

What a joyous announcement from the angel! A Savior is born…to me and to you! The angels break out in a joyous chorus: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” But the Savior is not born to the angels and the archangels in heaven. He doesn’t come to save the angels, but He comes to save you. He comes to the shepherds in the fields and the priests of old; He comes to the doctor, lawyer, police officer and trash collector. He comes to mankind in order to redeem mankind. The angels are secure in their holy bliss – we are not. And so He comes for the good and the bad, for the faithful and the unfaithful, for the person who recognizes their sin and for the one who doesn’t. He is born unto all. He is born unto you.

This is news that should be shouted from the rooftops, and yet it is pushed to the back burner in favor of parties, cards, eggnog and gifts. The importance of our Savior’s birth becomes nothing more than an afterthought at best. But Jesus’ birth is anything but an afterthought. God saw fit to send forth a Savior to our world. This Savior is not for when we want Him but when we need Him.

Right now is when we need Him most. In a time where sin runs rampant and unchecked, in a time when sin is viewed as “bad choices” and nothing more than that. The Savior is born to give you life, to satisfy your soul and forgive you all of your sins. He is put into a manger, not only because He is rejected by men and there is no room for Him in Bethlehem’s inns, but also because He gives Himself to you, as food on earth.

This is the great message the angels sing about. This is the cause of the shepherd’s arrival. They see a Baby lying in a manger. But more than a baby, this is their salvation. This is your salvation.

As miraculous as this event is, we want to know more. We want to know how exactly was this accomplished. We want the inside scoop from Mary about her angelic visit with Gabriel. We want to know what it was like when the shepherds arrived. None of that matters. We don’t need to know how God did what He did. All we need to know is that God did it – not for Himself but for you.

That is the meaning behind this night, that God would be born among us in order to die for us. Luther, in one of his sermons for Christmas, writes the following: “This Gospel is so clear that it requires very little explanation, but it should be well considered and taken deeply to heart; and no one will receive more benefit from it than those who, with a calm, quiet heart, banish everything else from their mind, and diligently look into it.” Just what does Luther mean? Everyone has heard the Christmas Gospel time and time again, and yet it is hard for us to accept this for what it is. It is simply the promise of salvation fulfilled for mankind.

This is the reassurance of the Gospel, that no one has to wonder, “Was He born for me? Did He die for me?” The answer is always yes. For all, He came. For all, He died. On some, God’s chosen elect, He will create faith through His Word. These will receive the gracious gift. They will enjoy eternity, not because of anything they have done, but because God’s favor rests upon them. Again, Luther writes, “He does not simply say, Christ is born, but to you he is born, neither does he say, I bring glad tidings, but to you glad tidings of great joy. Furthermore, this joy was not to remain in Christ, but it shall be to all people.”

This is His will, His promise, and His grace. He is God. His is man. He is born unto you and He is your Savior. He will take up flesh, to be God and man at the same time, without compromising either. You receive a reward that you did not earn.

The manner of His birth was in keeping with His mission: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” There would be no posh palace on earth for this King. His reign on earth would be marked by humility and Luke sets that up for us from the beginning, by focusing on where the Christ Child was born.

This is the Christmas story which Luke tells us. This is the story which we have heard year after year. This is the story which we have seen time and time again in a Charlie Brown Christmas. The Baby is Christ, the Lord, says the angel. He is the Messiah, the anointed One.  He’s the One that God has promised through the ages, the One for whom His people have waited through centuries of darkness and suffering. God the Father has specifically appointed His Son to go about this work, and He will accept Jesus’ sacrifice on your behalf. No matter what appearances indicate, no matter how the manger and cross look, this Christ will not fail in what He has come to do.

There is indeed great joy that the angel speaks of to the shepherds. This is the comfort and exceeding goodness of God that, if a man believes this, receives the peace that the angel declares, a peace among those with whom God is pleased. In this case, that is us. We, the chosen ones, have God’s peace. This is a peace beyond understanding, a peace that is always with you. It is the peace that Christ purchased for you, the peace of knowing that your Brother is God’s own Son, and therefore all will be well with you. Christ takes care of His family, so He will take care of you. He has already purchased forgiveness and eternal life for you. He will not forget about you or let you slip through the cracks. You are His own.

For you, God has seen fit to deliver you the greatest Christmas present one could ever ask for – Jesus Christ, the Savior of the nations, come to the world as God has promised, to go from the manger to the cross. The promise of the Messiah in the Old Testament is now fulfilled. The Word was made flesh in the form of an infant, and that Word made flesh died so that the gates of heaven would be opened for us sinners. Here is Jesus, our Savior, the Anointed One and our Lord. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2017 in Christmas, Sermons

 

Christmas Eve (Matthew 1:18-25)

Joseph showed himself to be a godly and wise man. Even though he had been wrong and had every right, he would not shame Mary. He was set to suffer loss of his betrothed, to put her away quietly and suffer her shame because of her adultery. It was a noble act indeed, given that the law was on his side. In fact, the law stated that Mary should be put to death for her adultery. But Joseph was above that. No good comes from vengeance or making a scene. But something happens, something unexpected. An angel intervened. The Child came by the Holy Spirit, not by a man. Mary’s virginity, her loyalty, and her love to Joseph remained pure. It was not merely lip service; it was real. And things were not quite what they seemed. This child is the Lord who saves His people. He is the Messiah. “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Talk about a turn! No one could have seen this coming. Except, everyone should have seen this coming! The prophets of old have spoken of the coming Messiah. In fact, we heard from Isaiah a few moments ago, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” This is what the people should be familiar with. This is from the Scriptures that they have heard and learned from their youth.

Whatever the wagging tongues of Nazareth were saying, Mary had not been unfaithful. But reality rarely stops gossip. Joseph knew then that the gossip wasn’t true, but his shame, even though it was undeserved, remained. Even if the wagging tongues heard the truth, they were unlikely to believe it. And if they did believe it, gossips are always liars. They embellish their tales even when they know it is false.

But none of that matters. Mary’s supposed infidelity doesn’t matter. The tongue-wagging gossip doesn’t matter. What matters is that God has kept His promise. From a time that was known only to God of when this promise would be fulfilled, the people waited in eager expectation, never knowing but always hoping. Now, God has seen fit to send forth the Savior of the nations.

Things have not worked out the way that Joseph and Mary had planned. I’m sure they were looking forward to a nice betrothal, a wedding with family and friends and then a nice, quiet life as husband and wife. But that’s not what has happened. Mary has accepted that things are not as planned, and now, so has Joseph: “When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.”

Joseph was in a sense free – free from all that would now distract him from his mission – to take this God-Child and raise Him to see that He would fulfill His mission: for he will save his people from their sins.”

And so, we have arrived here. We come to gather around Christ, our newborn King. We have this wonderful gift in Jesus Christ that should be our focus but yet we find ourselves focused on things of this world rather than on the gift of salvation that we have received in Jesus Christ. It’s ok; it’s to be expected because of our sinful nature. We turn to the world before we turn to God, thinking that the world will provide what we need the most – forgiveness from our sins and salvation. But the world cannot provide that. The only One who can provide salvation is God our heavenly Father, and He does so by His Son, Jesus Christ.

We have Immanuel, God with us. But on this holiest night of the year, it can be difficult to believe or accept that He is indeed with us. We lose sight of the one thing needful: to hear the Word of the Lord, the Word-become-flesh, and to be still and know He is God, our God-with-us. Stores have been crowded with last-minute shoppers, whether shopping for gifts or for the fixings for Christmas dinner. Travelers come from here and there, from near and far, to be with friends and family. And some families come to terms with an empty chair at the dinner table for the first time because a loved one has died within the past year. It’s hard to think of Jesus in the midst of our busy-ness, in the midst of our grief. It doesn’t help that the devil uses these things to distract us from Him, to not fix our eyes on Jesus. The One whose birth we celebrate tonight is our Rock, our Fortress, and our Might, our God-with-us. Jesus says to you, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” And again, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

God comes to us, despite our being unworthy of His coming. When we had most certainly committed many shameful acts, the Lord could have simply abandoned us. That is what we deserved. We were supposed to be faithful only to Him. Yet we went running after every false idol that could entice our fickle hearts. We deserved the public disgrace of falling under God’s judgment and being cast away forever. He could have simply acted out of His justice, and given us what we deserve. He could have let His anger break forth against us. He would have been perfectly justified in doing so.

But instead God had compassion on us. Out of love, He did not want to treat us as our sins deserve. He made a plan to rescue us from the disgrace of our sins. It was a secret plan, a mystery hidden for long ages until He revealed it in the Virgin’s Son. God became flesh. God became one of us. God became Man for our sake.

You have a God who loves you: God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. His love for you is deep and vast. Jesus says, God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved”, and St. John writes, “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.  In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation [payment] for our sins.” The Babe of Bethlehem would go to the cross at Calvary and die for you and for the life of the world. He bled and died for you, and He rose again for you, that you would have eternal life with Him. Even as Jesus came down from heaven into the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, so also does your Lord come down from heaven into your ears by the power of the Holy Spirit working through His Word, the same Word you heard tonight in the story of your Savior’s birth, from the first promise of the Messiah to the announcement of His birth to the revealing of His incarnation and to the proclamation of Jesus being our Immanuel—our God-with-us, this holy night and always. Amen.

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2017 in Christmas, Sermons

 

Circumcision and Name of Jesus – “All About the Name” (Luke 2:21)

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for our sermon this morning is the Gospel reading, which was read earlier.

In our Gospel lesson for today, a single verse speaks volumes about what’s in a name: “And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.”

Going back to the angel’s appearance to Mary, she was told about the Child she was to have, whose name would be Jesus. “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” Mary already knew what she was to call her Son; Jesus, which means “help of Jehovah” or “savior.” His name signified what His mission in life is: the helper of Jehovah or God, savior of mankind.

The name Jesus was not an uncommon name. It is used of other men in the Bible, most notably and prophetically of the leader of Israel who led the people of God into the promised land of Canaan, Yeshua, or whom we know as Joshua. Here this common name is used for an uncommon person, who is Himself the Lord who saves!

While today is New Year’s Day, it is also the day of Christ’s circumcision, eight days following His birth, where He would receive His name. The circumcision and naming of Jesus is the scriptural subject for the festival of New Year’s Day, a day that has increasingly become more secular than sacred.

The full meaning of Christmas is not just found in the fact that the Word was made flesh, but also in the purpose for which He entered our flesh and blood. Already on the eighth day of His earthly existence, His blood flowed. As it flowed, it was both a sign and promise of the redemptive blood of Calvary, which was the goal and purpose of Bethlehem.

The Child whose birth was recorded in the opening verses of Galatians 4 had come to fulfill the law. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” There we see what Jesus came to do: He fulfilled the Law to establish the Gospel.

This fulfillment was to be perfect. Therefore, meticulous attention to the Lord’s command is revealed with the words, “And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised….  God had said circumcision should be performed on the eighth day dating all the way back to Genesis, so the eighth day it was. He who had come to do His Father’s work did His Father’s will with delight.

Why should we make a big deal about the circumcision of Jesus? What is the significance of that? The rite of circumcision was given to Abram as the sign of the covenant between God and man. Circumcision was a God-ordained sign of the promise of the Savior, an outward sign signifying one’s membership in God’s covenant family. Submitting to circumcision would be an outward confession of faith that one believed God’s promise and wanted to be included among His people. Parents having a child circumcised were likewise confessing their faith in and obedience to God in the same way that Christian parents do when they bring their children to baptism today. In the same way, the Old Testament parents were to train their children to know the Lord whose gracious covenant they had received. They were also to watch that their children reflected their covenant relationship with God by circumcising their lives from sin. Without that inward disposition of the heart, the outward mutilation of the flesh was nothing.

Our Lord Jesus was not born in sin, and did not need that mortification of a corrupt nature, or that renewal unto holiness, which were signified by circumcision. This ordinance was, in His case, a pledge of His future perfect obedience to the whole law, in the midst of sufferings and temptations, even unto death for us. He came to shed His blood for us, to redeem us from sin and death.

The crowning point of everything was not the rite of circumcision itself, but the royal name bestowed upon Him who received it. That name was Jesus, which means Savior, but not merely Savior. It also means “the Lord saves.” And that is what Jesus Christ came to do. He was not born so that He would be a carpenter. While He was the Son of a carpenter, that was not His purpose in life. His purpose was to come into this world, as broken as it may be, and heal it. He came to grant forgiveness of sins and to bring all people into His Father’s house. His life was a selfless life, disregarding His own wants and desires to do His Father’s will: to die, to be resurrected, to grant new life to all those who profess the Name of Jesus Christ.

The name of this Child and the name God or Lord are not just sounds, but sounds filled with meaning. The name of the Lord is His reputation. He made that name known to Moses: “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

His name tells us what He came to do. Jesus is the one who lived up to His name by living, dying, and rising from the dead. Jesus is the one who saves us from our sins. The little bit of blood that Jesus shed for us at His circumcision was only the beginning. The day would come when He would shed His blood and give up His life. In this way He would save us from our sins, for “the blood of Jesus [God’s] Son cleanses us from all sin.” In the name of Jesus, amen. Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith until life everlasting. Amen.

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2017 in Christmas, Sermons

 
 
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