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Nativity of Our Lord – “Evermore” (John 1:1-14)

A 13 Christmas Day  Jn 1 1 14Grace, 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, as well as the hymn, “Of the Father’s Love Begotten.”

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” These words capture who Jesus Christ is. He is the very Word of God in the flesh. These are not just mere words, but rather words that declare Jesus. Today is all about Jesus, despite what many think. While many are at home with family opening presents galore, we are gathered here today to receive the only present that matters – the gift of forgiveness that comes in Jesus Christ.

 Today we gather in excitement and joy. After all the waiting, Christmas is finally at hand. After spending weeks in preparation, we wonder if we have done everything or if everything we had done was really worth the effort.

That is precisely why we need a word such as this today. It declares a “no” to the empty routine and darkness of the made-upness that Christmas tends to turn into and return the focus to what this day is all about: the birth of Christ.

Christmas is all about God coming to seek and to save us. He does this through the Child that is born today. This is not just any child that is born, but it is the very Son of God, the Word made flesh. John tells us much in our text today, but a key phrase that he returns to is “light.” He calls Jesus the “light of men” and “the true light.”

Thus we focus on Bethlehem and that tiny infant who illumined the whole world with a love that never pales. We see the Virgin tenderly holding her child, and Joseph keeping a watchful eye in that cramped stable, filled as it must have been with barnyard animals. The shepherds arrive with the excitement of children to marvel at what the angels had said and to tell their wondrous story of hearing the heavenly hosts praising God and revealing the birth of the Messiah. Through Bethlehem’s dark fields they stumbled toward the one glowing light, that baby called Jesus, whom Isaiah named Immanuel, “God with us.”

This Jesus, who was promised of long ago, makes His entry into creation, though it is anything but glorious, at least to the outward appearance. Though born in a lowly stable, it is as was foretold. “This is He whom seers in old time/Chanted of with one accord,/Whom the voices of the prophets/Promised in their faithful word.” Everything that the prophets of old had said has been fulfilled. We have the line of David, a virgin birth, born in Bethlehem. Everything is as it should be.

John, in his Gospel, tells us precisely the purpose of the Word: “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.” You have been made children of God, and that means something. It means you have God’s name placed upon you. It means that you belong to Him and receive all that He has for you. God has for you forgiveness. God has for you life. God has for you salvation. All of this comes through the birth of Jesus Christ. There is no other way to receive forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. We can certainly try, but we will never achieve it. We can certainly try, but we will never receive it because it comes from Christ alone.

Here is the glory of God. Here is where grace and truth are found: in the lowly One who is born of Mary, who identifies with sinners, who blesses ordinary things, who calls us to be His servants. Not to see that glory of God is to miss out on Christmas, no matter what we do on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. To see, with John and all God’s people through the centuries, the true glory of Christmas is to recognize that God is among us in the person of Jesus, now and forever.

Today is indeed a joyous day, and there is something that we should be doing, but not just today but everyday: “O ye heights of heav’n adore Him;/Angel hosts, His praises sing./Pow’rs, dominions, bow before Him/And extol our God and King./Let no tongue on earth be silent,/Ev’ry voice in concert ring/Evermore and evermore.” As we heard in Luke’s Gospel account of our Lord’s birth, the angels in heaven proclaim: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” We, like the shepherds, rejoice at the gift that God gives to His people.

The love of God is an incarnate love; a love our God lived out in flesh and blood. It is among us; it is here, a reality. Love is not an emotion floating around. It is present in Jesus, who reached out to people—even unlovable people. He drew near to sinners; He touched people who were hurting. He touched them and brought them the forgiveness of God. That love of God has touched us and is in us.

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. 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 26, 2016 in Christmas, Sermons

 

Christmas Midnight – “Christmas Joy” (Luke 2:1-14)

A 11 Christmas Midnight  Lu 2 1 14

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.

In a sermon for Christmas Eve, Martin Luther writes the following: “It is written in Haggai 2[:6, 21] that God says: “I will move the heavens and the earth when he will come whom all people desire.” This has been fulfilled today. For the heavens, that is, the angels who are in heaven and who were praising God with their song, and the earth, that is, the people on earth, were moved.” That is precisely what happened on that fateful night all those years ago in a little town called Bethlehem.

As Joseph takes his betrothed wife Mary with him to Bethlehem for a census. This was the first of such kind under Quirinius, governor of Syria. The purpose of this census was for taxation purposes, as well as enrollment in the military. During this time, it was time for Mary to give birth to her firstborn child, a Son. As we hear from St. Matthew’s account, we know this child of Mary is none other than Jesus, the Son of God.

Everything has been insignificant so far. Mary is an insignificant young girl from Nazareth. Joseph was an insignificant carpenter. They end up in the insignificant town of Bethlehem. Even worse, they find themselves in an insignificant house because there was no room for them anywhere. But everything about this night would be far from insignificant.

When Christ is born, He was born in a lowly place to lowly parents. He was wrapped in simple cloths and laid in a lowly manger, nothing more than a trough. And while the birth of yet another child in Bethlehem seems insignificant, all of creation is about to change.

Some distance away, lowly shepherds were out in the fields tending to their flocks. Suddenly, an angel appears overhead with a simple message: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” Good news. Good news for all the people. What an understatement! The word “good news” is translated as “Gospel.” That is what we receive, the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. But it is more than just good news. It is incredible news! It is outstanding news! It is fantastic news! This is the news of man’s salvation!

When I say this is the news of man’s salvation, I mean all of creation. I mean personally for you, insert name here. The angel declares, “For unto you.” The angel means that this babe lying in the manger has come for you specifically. It means that the babe lying in the manger has come for you in order to redeem you personally of all of your sins. More importantly, not only has this babe come for you personally, but He has also come for all people of every time and place, of every tribe and race. It means that this newborn babe has come for not only for the Jews, but it means that He has come for the Gentiles as well. It means that He has come for the least likely to be saved. That means that He has come for lowly sinners like you and I in order to redeem us, to buy us back.

The message of the single angel wasn’t enough to convey what God was doing. “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”” All of heaven breaks out in joyous chorus for this momentous event of our Lord’s birth, and rightly so. The joyous song of the angels is the joyous song of all of creation, because Christ is for all of creation.

When the shepherds arrived to see the baby Jesus, what is it you think they saw? A baby? Yes, but more than just a baby. They saw the Savior of the nations foretold of long ago. They saw their means of salvation, and not just their salvation, but also the salvation of all of mankind.

Just what takes place in the manger is nothing short of a miracle. We see here how Christ, as it were, takes our birth from us and absorbs it in His birth, and grants us His, that in it we might become pure and holy as if it were our own, so that every Christian may rejoice and glory in Christ’s birth.

This 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.

Following this miracle in creation, Luke records, “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” Notice what these shepherds do after hearing the Good News and after they worship Christ in His presence—they return out into the world; the same world that shunned them.  They return to their vocations, and they glorify and praise God for all they have heard and seen, making known to everyone what had been told to them and what they themselves had witnessed and beheld and were a part of.

How difficult must it have been to return to your sheep after hearing such a message and then seeing that message fulfilled? How will you respond to the joyous message that you have heard of our Lord’s birth? For some, the message doesn’t compute because Jesus isn’t the means of salvation. He might be a means, but not the means. For the millions of believers in Christ, tonight is the culmination of much wishing and hoping and waiting. Christmas means that what we yearn for has already come, is here right now: God is present, with us, with an everlasting love in each and every moment of our lives, whether we perceive those moments as good or bad.

The time has come for us. In Jesus, God has entered our world where we are born and die, work and play, love and dream. Let this Christmas time fill our lives with the knowledge that all our days are in God’s hands. Since God joined us in our pain and disappointments, and knows our weakness and death, then let this Christmas time bring us strength, knowing that God’s love is stronger than death, and God is able to bind up all our wounds. Since the time has come and God has rescued us from the sin that enslaves us – from the destruction we do to ourselves, to others, and to creation itself as a result of our sin – let this Christmas time fill us with the will to love and care for all, just as God has come to show love and care for us sinners in our great time of need. Since the time has come and God has visited His people, let us join Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and angels, and all believers everywhere this night to glorify and praise God for the gift of salvation that comes in the form of a babe named Jesus. 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 December 26, 2016 in Christmas, Sermons

 

Christmas Eve – “Joyous Night” (Matthew 1:18-25)

A 10 Christmas Eve  Mt 1 18 25

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.

Children are such a blessing, truly a gift from God. We invest so much time and effort and love into our children. That is often true when it comes to our biological children, but what about when you are a step-parent? Does that mean that you love and care for them any less since they are not your own? Surely not, for you they are much your children as our your biological children.

On this Christmas Eve, we hear of the angelic visitation to Joseph. Joseph was betrothed to Mary and things could not be better. They were going to be married and what a happy and joyous day that would be when they would become husband and wife!

What would be a joyous time for Joseph and Mary was cut short with a startling revelation – Mary, Joseph’s betrothed, was pregnant. Before you say that congratulations are in order, there’s something that you need to know – this is not Joseph’s child!

This was a devastating revelation to Joseph, to hear that your betrothed wife has had sexual relations with another man.  And because she had sexual relations with a man other than her betrothed, the law dictates that she must be put to death, along with the man who impregnated her. Despite what had transpired, Joseph loved his bride to be. He didn’t want to see any harm come to her, let alone see her put to death. So Matthew records that Joseph, “being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.” This was not an ideal solution, but it meant sparing her life and the child’s life as well. Mary, the girl Joseph loves, is promised to him but not yet married to him. And now Joseph learns that she is pregnant. She may have tried to convince Joseph that this pregnancy was in fact a gift from God, but Joseph could not see it that way. How could he? What could possibly have prepared him for the events that were happening to him now? What can prepare a person to believe and accept something that has never happened before and will never happen again?

See the anguish in Joseph’s heart! He knows the law requires Mary be put to death. He knows his broken heart does not want to see harm come to Mary or to the child she carries. And so he makes the decision: he will divorce her quietly, not exposing her to public shame or even worse punishment, not forcing her to repeat to anyone else her unbelievable explanation of what happened. And with that, Joseph retires to bed.

What might have seemed cut and dry with regards to Mary’s infidelity was made complicated by what happened to Joseph: “But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “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.””

Mary was not unfaithful. Joseph was not going to divorce Mary. Instead, all was according to God’s plan: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means God with us).”

Everything has happened as has been foretold: David’s line, virgin birth, Bethlehem. Jesus is the name given to this child by God through the angel. This child truly will be what His name claims: a Savior, for He will save His people from their sins. As important as that is, and it is the very heart of the Gospel, remember what will happen to this Jesus as He grows up and begins to carry out the work that His Father has given Him to do. The people around Him will say that one day, God will indeed come and save His people. But surely He won’t look like an ordinary man.

The only way we can understand how it is that this man Jesus of Nazareth is true God is by remembering that this man is also rightly called by another man, Immanuel. He is “God with us.” God comes to save us from our sins by becoming one of us and taking our sins upon Himself. God’s loving righteousness will set all things right in a way that is both perfect righteousness and perfect love. He will not destroy His creation and begin anew. Neither will He allow us to perish in our sins. He will come to be with us, to be one of us. He will become man. And He does this, comes as Immanuel, when He comes in the person of Jesus Christ.

All this He does because of two reasons: first, we are His beloved creation. God will go to hell and back for His creation and He does so in Jesus. Secondly, it’s because we are sinners that He goes to such great lengths. We are indeed sinful and under God’s judgment. The name of Jesus does not deny that; rather, it makes it very clear, as His name means “the Lord saves.” But even as it’s reminded us of our need for a Savior, the name Jesus promises us that in this one we find that needed Savior. These are the “wonders of his love” that we sing about when we celebrate this Child’s birth.

This Son born to Joseph and Mary is the Son born to all creation, to you and to me. It is the Son born to live a sinless life in your place. It is the Son born to die in your place. It is the Son born to be raised from the dead. My friends, this Child whose birth we celebrate is like no other child that ever has been, is, or ever will be. This is the very Son of God made flesh for you. This is the very Son of God who came to take your sins upon Himself. This is Jesus, the Lord saves. Jesus came into the world not merely to save one particular people or race. He came to save the crowd, the whole crowd, all the people, the people as a nation. He came to save you. He is the Messiah that the prophet Isaiah had foretold hundreds of years before; He is Immanuel, God with us.

This is the true meaning of Christmas. It is not about receiving lots and lots of presents. It’s about receiving one gift: Jesus Christ. It is not about receiving Christmas cards. It is about the message which the angel proclaimed to Joseph: “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” This echoes the words of Luther in his wonderful Christmas hymn, “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come.” He writes: “This is the Christ, our God Most High, Who hears your sad and bitter cry; He will Himself your Savior be From all your sins to set you free.”

As we grow nearer to the time of our Lord’s birth, I’m sure there are more things we would like to do before Christmas morning arrives. But what is most important? What absolutely must happen to be ready not only for our homes and also our hearts for Christmas? There is only a single thing that needs to be done – receive the greatest gift that you will ever receive, the gift of the Babe of Bethlehem, Jesus Christ, 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 26, 2016 in Christmas, Sermons

 

Christmas 1 – “Simeon’s Song” (Luke 2:22-40)

C-15 Christmas 1 (LHP) (Lu 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.

The Law of Moses is fairly clear. Concerning the first born, it states: The Lord said to Moses, “Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine.”

When God freed the Children of Israel from the slavery of Egypt, He sent the angel of death to slaughter the first born of every man and animal in the land of Egypt. The angel of death only spared those households that had the sign of the blood of the lamb painted on their doorposts. From that moment on, God claimed the firstborn of every man and animal. As Mary’s firstborn, Jesus had to keep this law. The law required Mary and Joseph to bring Jesus to the temple and consecrate Him to the Lord.

The law also spoke about mothers who had just given birth. Concerning these mothers, it states: The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If a woman conceives and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days. As at the time of her menstruation, she shall be unclean. And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. Then she shall continue for thirty-three days in the blood of her purifying. She shall not touch anything holy, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying are completed.”

So, we have one reason for Joseph to take Jesus to the temple, and another reason take Mary to the temple. The simple thing was to kill two birds with one stone: perform the presentation of the firstborn and the purification of the mother on the same day. So it is that today’s Gospel informs us that Joseph brought Mary and Jesus to the temple in order to perform these rituals.

Something ironic happens here. The temple itself is the place where God dwells with His people. That means that the baby that Mary and Joseph carry into the stone temple is, in fact, the living temple of flesh and blood, Immanuel, God with us. So Mary and Joseph are bringing the living, breathing temple into the stone temple. There are all kinds of amazing things happening as the infant Jesus enters His holy temple.

We meet two Old Testament saints waiting for Jesus, Simeon and Anna. The Holy Spirit had given Simeon a special promise: “that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” Anna, a prophetess, was also ready for “she did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.”

People often wonder about the faithful who live at the time of Jesus. The Old Testament Christians are saved by faith in the Christ who will come sometime in their future. The New Testament Christians are saved by faith in the Christ who has already come in their past. But what about the faithful people who lived between the time Jesus was born and the time He ascended. What are they to believe?

Simeon and Anna provide one answer to that question. The Holy Spirit guided Simeon into the temple at the exact right time so that he was waiting for Jesus when Mary and Joseph brought Him into the temple. Anna was always in the temple, so that she was also ready when the Lord came. These two remind us that God never abandons His people, but always preserves them in His salvation.

Apparently Simeon knew exactly who he enfolded in his embrace. As he looked down into the face of this infant, he prayed, not to the heavens, but to the baby in his arms, “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.” Simeon’s faith was in the baby who lay in his arms.

Simeon’s service in the temple as a watchman waiting for the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises is at an end. The watch is over; the servant can retire in peace. With the eyes of faith, Simeon sees more than a babe in his arms; he sees a Savior dying on the cross; he sees salvation for all people, both Israelite and Gentile. This is Simeon saying goodbye. For him, this is a not a sad goodbye, but rather a joyful goodbye. He is able to leave this world now, not in sorrow over what may or may not have occurred, but instead leaving this world in joy at seeing the promised Christ.

How is it that Simeon saw all of this in this child, just a little more than a month old? Mary and Joseph were an obscure poor couple and Jesus looked no different than any other 40-day old male child. Simeon could see all of this because “the Holy Spirit was upon him.” He could sing this wonderful song because God opened his eyes.

Simeon had a word for Mary and Joseph as well. Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” Even in this account from Jesus’ infancy, we already see God preparing Mary for the road ahead. The Holy Spirit spoke through the mouth of Simeon to begin preparing Mary for that day when she would look upon this Son as He hung on a cross and paid for the sins of the world.

What an example of faith that Simeon had. Simeon fully believed that God was going to make good on His promise and save His people from all their sins through the Savior He would personally send into this world. Through the working of the Holy Spirit, Simeon was promised by God that he would behold the Messiah with his own eyes in his lifetime, before God would call him home to heaven. Simeon waited. He was faithfully patient, trusting that God knew what He was doing and was doing it all according to His divine timeline, working all things for the good of His people. Simeon had faith that God would work this promise and plan when the time was right. Now having personally beheld God’s all-redeeming plan of salvation in the flesh, in his arms, Simeon was joyously relieved. It doesn’t matter whether Simeon was 25 or 95 years old. He could now die perfectly happy and content, fully knowing and trusting that God was keeping His promise and actively saving His people from all sin, death, and damnation. He knew what was really important in terms of life and salvation, and he knew that he was holding it right there in his very arms.

The church today joins Simeon and Anna as we too celebrate the coming of the Lord to His people. We even join in Simeon’s song as we also have seen and even tasted the Lord’s salvation as He comes to us in His body and blood. Just as the Holy Spirit worked in Simeon to bring him into the temple to see the Lord’s Salvation, so also the Lord has given us His Sacrament so that we may also see the Lord’s salvation as we eat His body and drink His blood. So it is that the Lord will always dwell with His people and give them His gifts, gifts that come through His Son, Jesus Christ. 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 27, 2015 in Christmas, Sermons

 

Nativity of Our Lord – John 1:1-14

C-14-Christmas-Day-Jn-1.1-14.pngGrace, 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.

This is the most important of all the Gospels of the Church Year, right up there with the birth narrative from Luke’s Gospel. The major theme that John brings out throughout the Gospel account is very much related to today’s celebration of the birth of the Christ child. This theme emphasizes the fact that the little baby whose birth we celebrate on this day, the little baby lying in the manger, is God in the flesh. The little human baby who looks like any other human baby is, in fact, the Lord through whom all things were created.

The Evangelist John, who by divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit penned the words of the Gospel reading appointed for this day, included no account of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ. In the opening verses of John’s Gospel, one does not hear of Joseph and the Virgin Mary being visited by the angels. Nor does one hear of the events that took place in Palestine in order to fulfill the prophetic Scriptures of the Old Testament. No, John begins his Gospel in a time before the nativity of Christ and even of John the Baptist, for that matter. In fact, the opening words of the Gospel of John are set in a time that precedes the genesis of the universe itself; a time when there was only the Word.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In the very first verse of his Gospel, John cuts to the chase in revealing the identity of the Child who lay in the manger at Bethlehem. He takes his hearers back to creation, and reveals that the Word who was with God was God. He declares that Jesus, the Christ, or Anointed One of God, is the everlasting Son, who was with the Father from all eternity. And John further declares in verse 3 that this same Jesus is the Creator of all things. The little Lord Jesus who lay down his sweet head on the hay in the manger is in fact the Almighty God who fashioned and created the heavens and the earth! The little Child, to whom the wise men brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh in that humble stable at Bethlehem, is the Lord God of Israel, who had chosen the Israelites as his people.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. You can’t get nearer than that. The Word-who was in the beginning with God, who was God, and through whom all things were made-became flesh. Without giving up an ounce of His divinity, He also became fully human, conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the Virgin Mary, to dwell with us. “Dwelt,” says the English. St. John says it better in the Greek: “The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us” is what he says. The Lord had been present with His people in the tabernacle for centuries; now He was flesh and blood, living embodied among His people.

The Word became flesh – not just to be nearer, but to fulfill the Word. Long ago, God had promised that the Seed of the woman would be born to save; now the Word was flesh for the salvation of all nations. He preached, He taught, He fed, He healed. He fulfilled prophecy after prophecy, proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that He was in fact the Savior, the Son of God. As He had throughout the centuries, God had come near to save His people.

Therefore on Calvary, man tries to silence the Word once for all. Despite their best efforts of rebellion, rejection, betrayal and scorn, the Lord rises again on the third day. And despite the same, He does rise with a vengeance, but with salvation. He restores His disciples, forgives them for their sins; then He sends them out to all nations, to baptize and teach-to declare His salvation. The Word sends them to proclaim the Word, and He does so with this promise to them and to all His people: “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

In other words, God still comes near to you.

Despite a world that is hell-bent on rejecting the Savior, the Word made flesh still comes to you. We speak, of course, of His means of grace: The Savior promises that He is present with you, really present, by His Word and Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. This has been the theme of the sermons throughout Advent and Christmas: The Word made flesh is not far away from you. Jesus is present with you in His means of grace, freely giving you salvation.

Jesus is present with you in His means of grace, freely giving you salvation. This is an awesome Scriptural truth. 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: As many as receive Him, to them He gives the right to become the children of God, to those who believe in His name. 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.

This the miracle in which we constantly rejoice: The Word made flesh still comes near to save-save us by His blood, by His work, by His sacrifice, His grace. The Lord still comes near.

“In the beginning was the Word.” That’s how this sermon began, with the Word with God, being God, creating all things-a bit difficult to grasp. But 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. His travels for the sake of forgiveness are not done, for He comes near to you. And drawing near, the Word made flesh proclaims His Word that you are forgiven for all of your sins. 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 26, 2015 in Christmas, Sermons

 

Candlelight – “Glory to God in the Highest” (Luke 2:1-14)

C-12 Christmas Midnight (Lu 2.1-14)It’s time, but it’s not time for what you think. It’s time for a registration, or a tax census. The government wants its money and that means that it requires people to return to their home city to pay up. And so Luke records for us, “And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.” This seems like such an ordinary, boring way to start a story. After years of waiting, the dramatic story planned long before is revealed, and it begins with, of all things, taxes. Why would God begin this most wondrous, heaven-shattering story this way?

First of all, He does so to show that His Christ was born in ordinary history. This is no mythical god born in never-never land, once upon a time, long long ago. No, this is the real God invading and inserting Himself into what we thought was our history. Humans thought that the way it works is that God stays in heaven while we live our lives on earth, and He leaves us alone to go about our business. But that is not the God of the Bible. History is His, under His control, accomplishing His purposes. The purpose was hidden, but on Christmas we see the secret purpose revealed: God came into human flesh to be born as one of us, our Brother.

But let us move on to something more heavenly, more Christmassy, so to speak. We may not be thrilled with the report of taxes, but we love the news that the angels bring. They tell us, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.” We love these words, because they are straight from God, announcing the new age dawning with the birth of the Christ Child. Here pure light and life are announced, that shall never fade for us in an eternal kingdom of blessedness.

If you grew up with the King James Version or have ever seen Charlie Brown Christmas, we are more familiar with this wording: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Which one is right? Is it that God on Christmas was bringing peace and goodwill to all people? Or was He saying through the angels that His peace would rest on those with whom He is pleased? There is truth in both. Christ came as Man for all men. He took human flesh in such a way that He is the perfect representative of all people – whether male or female, young or old, of whatever race imaginable.

For all men, He became incarnate. To pay the price to atone for all sins, He took flesh that could be pierced, and blood that could be shed, so that every man of every place can say, “Jesus, the Son of God, became my Brother.”

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.”

Just what takes place in the manger is nothing short of a miracle. We see here how Christ, as it were, takes our birth from us and absorbs it in His birth, and grants us His, that in it we might become pure and holy as if it were our own, so that every Christian may rejoice and glory in Christ’s birth.

This 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 us, we should do as the angel says: “Fear not.” God became incarnate of the Virgin Mary and accomplished our entire salvation. He sent His Son into our world and won salvation for it. He sent and continues to send messengers to proclaim the marvelous news of salvation in Christ: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” In Jesus’ name, amen. And 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 26, 2015 in Christmas, Sermons

 

Christmas Eve – “The Promise” (Matthew 1:18-25)

C-11 Christmas Eve Early (Mt 1.18-25)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.

The time has finally come. The birth of our Savior is upon us. We have the promised Messiah come to the virgin as foretold by the prophets: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Everything is in line with the prophecy of the Messiah: line of David? Check. Virgin birth? Check. But one thing doesn’t add up: just how did Mary get pregnant if she is a virgin?

Sometime after the engagement, Joseph discovers that Mary is pregnant. The angel Gabriel had visited Mary and told her that she would bear the Christ Child, but Joseph hasn’t yet been visited by the angel and knows nothing of what has taken place. So when Joseph learns that Mary is pregnant, he is torn.

Apparently, Mary has chosen to be unfaithful, or that’s how it appears to Joseph. Per the law, Mary was to be put to death, along with the man who impregnated her. If there was ever a godly man who kept his promise, it was Joseph. He was a devout Jew intent on obeying God’s laws but whose obedience was tempered by compassion. He was not just a law-abiding man, but also a man of compassion, and so he was torn as to what he should do. Instead of having Mary put to death, he decides to divorce Mary privately. That way, she can slip away to live with relatives or whomever else she desires.

Mary does go away with relatives. After she becomes pregnant, she goes to stay with her relative Elizabeth. Meanwhile, Joseph is left to figure out how to proceed, but he doesn’t get far.

From all outward appearances, it would seem as if Mary had committed adultery and became pregnant by some unknown man. But that’s not the case at all. The angel’s words set the story for who this child is: “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 is people from their sins.”

Without missing a beat, Joseph does all that the angel tells him. He takes Mary as his wife. He accepts this Child born to Mary as his own and names Him Jesus, a name that means “the Lord saves.”

Not only did Mary not sin in conceiving this Child, not only did Joseph not sin by disobeying the Old Testament law concerning adultery, this Child that is to be born is both sinless and the solution to man’s problem of sin. In Jesus, God has kept His promise to His people. Because of Jesus, we have the salvation that is promised.

God has kept His promise; giving us confidence to meet His Son as He comes to us in the manger, for tonight, God put Himself into a box. God had promised long ago to our first parents that He would provide the means of salvation and that promise is fulfilled tonight in the Christ Child born to two lowly parents.

This promise was made in the Old Testament many centuries before it ever happened. Isaiah, one of the prophets who recorded many prophecies of the coming Messiah writes, The Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

The writers of Scripture have a gift that we do not have and that is the divine inspiration. Through that divine inspiration, they are able to communicate the promise of God to a people in desperate need of salvation. We come here to receive that promise for ourselves, a promise made in our Baptism, a promise reinforced in Christ’s body and blood and ultimately finished on Calvary’s cross.

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.

Although becoming a Man was not humiliation in itself, Christ had to go through all kinds of things that were humiliating. He had to endure the indignities of being a helpless infant. He had to bear the pains inflicted by the sinfulness of people around Him, many hurtful words and malicious actions. He had to suffer sickness and sorrow, hunger and thirst, growth and loss, and everything else that goes along with being one of us. He subjected Himself to the life of sinners, even though He was not a sinner.

Even that was not enough. He had to fulfill every last Word of promise that He had made for the sake of His beloved people. He exposed Himself to the public shame we deserved. He made Himself a spectacle, a scandal, and a sign of foolishness as He hung upon a Cross. He let all the guilt and disgrace of all sin fall upon Him, so that it would not fall on us.

For this reason He became a Baby. This was the plan all along. To save us, shameful sinners, He took our flesh and lived our life. For this reason, a Virgin was pregnant with a little Boy.

This is the miracle of Christmas, that God would come down to us, that He would take on the form of man and be laid in a box. This is Jesus, the one whom we embrace by faith and trust, the one who makes holy so God declares us holy for Christ’s sake.

This day is truly all about promises kept: God keeping His promise – the promise made to Adam and Eve, the promise renewed to God’s people through millennia of Old Testament time, the promise voiced by the Isaiah and the prophets of old – the promise that God would send His Son. This promise gives us the confidence to know that God will indeed keep His promise of bringing us to be with Him for eternity. All of that and more, accomplished tonight as God comes to us through the Babe of Bethlehem. 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 26, 2015 in Christmas, Sermons

 

Christmas 2 – “Home” (Luke 2:42-5

B-15 Christmas 2 (LHP) (Lu 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.

Tomorrow morning, school is back in session for our kids. We send them off to school in order to learn, to become educated so that they may become contributors to society. As our children grow older, we send them off to the best colleges and universities to sit at the feet of well-respected professors, hoping that some of their wisdom will rub off onto our children. And one day, our children will become the teachers to others, teaching them all they have learned in their lives. That’s the way thing are supposed to work. When we look at our Gospel reading for today, we see the makings for the young boy Jesus to sit at the feet of the teachers of the Law.

Everything for Jesus begins just after our Gospel reading from last week where Joseph and Mary take an eight-day old Jesus to the temple as is the custom. Simeon holds the long-promised Messiah in his arms and then Luke ends with these words: “the child [Jesus] grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.” That’s where the story ends until today. Continuing right from where he left off, Luke now shows us Jesus, but He is no longer an infant. Rather, He is a twelve-year old boy who has journeyed with His parents to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. This was one of the major feasts for the Jews. Every Jew who was able would journey to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover, marking the yearly remembrance of how God spared His people from the devastating plagues while they were slaves in Egypt.

When the feast had ended, the Holy Family did what everyone else did: pack up and head home. They were traveling in a large caravan with other family and friends on the multiple day journey and after a days worth of travel, Joseph and Mary noticed that Jesus was not with them. Was this something to be alarmed about? No. Traveling in a caravan like this, if Jesus wasn’t with His parents, then He was surely with other family members in another part of the caravan. It was likely that they didn’t see other members of their extended family very often so why not let Jesus play with His other family members? Eventually it was determined that Jesus was nowhere in the caravan and so Joseph and Mary returned to Jerusalem in search for Jesus.

Even after the Passover busyness had ended, Jerusalem was still full of people and that meant because of the crowds, it would take a while to find Jesus. After the first day of searching, there was no sign of Jesus. After the second day of searching, still no Jesus. Surely their luck was going to improve on the third day. Luke doesn’t record when on the third day they found Jesus, other than the fact He was found. Where He was found might have seemed like an unlikely place for some, but the obvious place for others. He was found in the temple.

While Jesus was in the temple, just what was He doing? According to Luke, Jesus was “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” Now, the first part of what Luke says wasn’t surprising. Jesus was 12 years old. That meant He would have been of the age of study so listening to the teachers of the law and asking questions would not have been out place. However, it’s the second part of Luke’s account that is out of place. Everyone who heard Jesus was amazed at His understanding and answers. Jesus was nothing more than a mere child. He had no right to be doing anything other than listening and definitely not doing anything resembling teaching.

Jesus had no authority to be teaching anything, especially teaching the teachers of the Law. Not only was He teaching them, they were amazed at what He said. One can imagine the teachers hanging on every word that Jesus spoke. Out of the mouth of a twelve-year old boy came such great wisdom. In one sense, you wouldn’t expect much to come out of Jesus because of His age. He was nothing more than a boy who is at the right age to study in the synagogue. Yet on the other hand, He was the Son of God who had all the answers because He knew all the questions. Everything that the teachers and those gathered could ask, Jesus had an answer for them. Jesus has come of age. He has found His voice and taken His place. And that voice and place, we learn, are “in my Father’s house.”

When Mary makes a fuss of looking for Jesus and how they were treated, He responds, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” In these short utterances of Jesus we see the beginning of His break away from familial attachments in order to identify more intimately with God the Father. He is doing so in the immediate presence of His parents, presumably for the first time. His commitment to the Father now transcends His love for the family. Jesus knows that He is here for a purpose – to do the Father’s will.

Jesus’ words not only convict Mary and Joseph, but they also convict us. We too try to search for Jesus and can’t find Him. We find ourselves with Mary and Joseph in that we too are looking in the wrong places. Jesus said, “I must be in my Father’s house.” Never the less, we look among the things of this world. We look to earthly security, wealth, power, popularity, and so forth. We look for Jesus everywhere He is not.

Today, we must be our Father’s house looking for Jesus. We need to look for Him in worship, where His Word is proclaimed, and His gifts are given – in the absolution, in the waters of Baptism, and in the Holy Supper, which He lays before us every Sunday for our refreshment, and for our forgiveness, and for our blessing, and our strengthening. Here, in His holy Word. Here, in His body and blood is where you need to look. Here in the fellowship of His people – His holy body – is where He is to be found, and nowhere else.

All the work that Christ does for the Father culminates on the cross. That’s where the true intersection takes place between God and man. It takes place in Christ on the cross. Holy, perfect, and almighty God Himself gave up all of heaven in order to come down to this fallen and sinful world and take on our fallen and sinful flesh. However, Christ—in the flesh—did what fallen and sinful man can never do, no matter how hard we try. Christ Jesus lived the perfect life. He kept every one of God’s laws perfectly. He did this for us, in our place, precisely because we cannot do this. Christ Jesus took every single sin of the entire world upon Himself, taking every single one of those sins to the cross so that they would be put to death, once and for all.

Today, we are where we need to be. We are where Jesus is, where God the Father invites us to be. There truly is nowhere better to be than “in my Father’s house.” 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 4, 2015 in Christmas, Sermons

 

Christmas 2 – “My Father’s House” (Luke 2:40-52)

A-15 Christmas 2 (LHP) (Lu 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.

I’m sure everyone has heard the phrase, “Out of the mouth of babes.” It has origins in Psalm 8:2: Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have ordained strength,
Because of Your enemies,
That You may silence the enemy and the avenger.” That psalm has always seem to been the case, because kids, namely little kids, tend to say the darndest things. Looking at today’s text from Luke, we see that case proven once again.

The last we saw of Jesus, He was brought to the temple to be circumcised and dedicated. Today when we see Jesus, He is 12 years old. The Holy Family is off to Jerusalem for their annual celebration of the Passover festival. Everything was like it had always been for as long as they had come to Jerusalem: celebrate the Passover and return home. Why should this year be any different?

The Feast had ended and the Holy Family had packed everything up on the means of transportation and joined the caravan of family and friends and departed Jerusalem. People would peel off along the way, returning to their respective towns and would resume their daily lives. For Joseph, that meant he would return to his work as a carpenter. You can imagine that there was a fairly large number of people in the caravan, people traveling with other friends and family, as this might be one of the few times a year that you would see everyone. For you to be traveling with another part of the caravan wouldn’t be out of the ordinary. And so Joseph and Mary travelled home a day’s journey and discovered that Jesus was nowhere to be found. Back to Jerusalem they go.

Even after the Passover busyness had ended, Jerusalem was still full of people and that meant because of the crowds, it would take a while to find Jesus. After the first day of searching, no Jesus. After the second day of searching, no Jesus. Surely their luck was going to improve on the third day. Luke doesn’t record when on the third day they found Jesus, other than the fact He was found. Where He was found might have seemed like an unlikely place for some, but the obvious place for others. He was found in the temple.

While Jesus was in the temple, just what was He doing? According to Luke, Jesus was “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” Now, the first part of what Luke says wasn’t surprising. Jesus was 12 years old. That meant He would have been of the age of study so listening to the teachers of the law and asking questions would not have been out place. However, it’s the second part of Luke’s account that is out of place. Everyone who heard Jesus was amazed at His understanding and answers. Jesus was nothing more than a mere child. He had no right to be doing anything other than listening and definitely not doing anything resembling teaching.

What Luke does offer is a glimpse of Jesus beginning to make the break from some familial claims in order to commit Himself more closely to God. Here is the successful movement of Jesus out of the crib and into the world. He leaves the circle of His parents and the protection of His mother’s arms and enters a great big world of need. It might have been easier to stay sheltered in the warmth of parental attachment than to enter the world of sin and death. But Jesus has come of age. He has found His voice and taken His place. And that voice and place, we learn, are “in my Father’s house.”

Remember earlier when I said “out of the mouth of babes?” That’s Jesus at the temple. When Mary makes a fuss of looking for Jesus and how they were treated, He responds, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” In these short utterances of Jesus we see the beginning of His break away from familial attachments in order to identify more intimately with God the Father. He is doing so in the immediate presence of His parents, presumably for the first time. His commitment to the Father now transcends His love for the family. Jesus knows that He is here for a purpose – to do the Father’s will.

Jesus’ words not only convict Mary and Joseph, but they also convict us. We too try to search for Jesus and can’t find Him. We find ourselves with Mary and Joseph in that we too are looking in the wrong places. Jesus said, “ I must be in my Father’s house.” Never the less, we look among the things of this world. We look to earthly security, wealth, power, popularity, and so forth. We look for Jesus everywhere He is not.

Today, we must be our Father’s house looking for Jesus. We need to look for Him in worship, where His Word is proclaimed, and His gifts are given – in the absolution, in the waters of Baptism, and in the Holy Supper which He lays before us every Sunday for our refreshment, and for our forgiveness, and for our blessing, and our strengthening. Here, in His holy Word. Here, in His body and blood is where you need to look. Here in the fellowship of His people – His holy body – is where He is to be found, and nowhere else.

All the work that Christ does for the Father culminates on the cross. That’s where the true intersection takes place between God and man. It takes place in Christ on the cross. Holy, perfect, and almighty God Himself gave up all of heaven in order to come down to this fallen and sinful world and take on our fallen and sinful flesh. However, Christ—in the flesh—did what fallen and sinful man can never do, no matter how hard we try. Christ Jesus lived the perfect life. He kept every one of God’s laws perfectly. He did this for us, in our place, precisely because we cannot do this. Christ Jesus took every single sin of the entire world upon Himself, taking every single one of those sins to the cross so that they would be put to death, once and for all.

This account of Jesus today gives for us a wonderful illustration of Jesus and His dedication to the work of His Father, even from the earliest of ages. He is about the Father’s work from the very beginning of His life until His death. 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, “ I must be in my Father’s house,” that means we are with Jesus. That is exactly where we are supposed to be. 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, 2014 in Christmas, Sermons

 

Christmas 1 – “Flight” (Matthew 2:13-23)

A-14 Christmas 1 (Mt 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.

Everything seemed to happen so quickly. The trip to Bethlehem, the birth of Jesus, the angels, the shepherds, and the star; then after a short time, the wise men who like the shepherds before them, fell down on their faces to worship the baby Jesus, the Lord of all creation, the promised King. But as they say, all good things must come to an end. The angel of the Lord appeared again in a dream and warned the wise men to return to their homes without going back to Herod and for Joseph to take the Holy Family to Egypt right away.

That evening, Joseph took Mary and Jesus and fled to Egypt. In the morning, the wise men and the Holy Family were simply gone. No one in Bethlehem could tell where they were because no one knew.

After all the trouble and suffering the Israelites had endured in Egypt before the Exodus, it might seem like a strange place for Joseph and Mary to go with Jesus. But it was not strange at all. First, we need to know that Egypt had been a traditional place of refuge. Abraham had gone to Egypt during a time of famine. Jacob and his family of 70 souls took refuge in Egypt for the same reason, and they became a mighty nation there. They remained in Egypt until God led them out under Moses some 400 years later. Jeroboam fled to Egypt when Solomon tried to kill him, and Uriah also fled to Egypt. If you needed to get away and find protection, Egypt was the place to go. But there was another reason why the Holy Family fled – to fulfill what the prophet Hosea wrote: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.”

When King Herod realized that the Magi were not coming back, he reacted in a way typical of his murderous reign. According to the report of the Magi concerning the time they saw the special star in the sky, Herod calculated how old the Christ Child must be. To hedge his bets, Herod gave himself plenty of leeway and commanded his soldiers to kill all the baby boys in and around Bethlehem up to two years old. While an exact number is not known, estimates put the total number slain between 15 and 20.

A great tragedy occurred in Bethlehem because of Herod. It is a day that the Church recognizes as the Holy Innocents, for the children who were killed by Herod are martyrs just like St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church, for they died for the faith that Herod persecuted. However, through all of this, the mighty hand of God was at work.

Here we are presented with the new Moses. Just as Moses’ life was threatened at a tender age and he had to be hidden in a reed basket to be protected, so too was Jesus’ life in danger before He was two years old, and had to be hidden away in another land so that His life would be spared until His time had come. Moses led God’s people out of slavery in Egypt; now Jesus had come to lead all people out of their spiritual slavery to the Law. There was about to be another exodus, though this time it wouldn’t be plagues, but a cross and thorns and nails. This time it wasn’t going to be one nation that would be freed from slavery, but it would be every tribe, nation, and people.

Out of Egypt, at just the right time, God called His Son. At the death of Herod, an angel appeared to Joseph instructing him to take the Holy Family back to Israel. Once in the land of Israel, plans would change for Jesus. Upon hearing that Archelaus, son of Herod was reigning, Joseph feared going to Judea. Archelaus’ reign was so bad, it would lead to his eventual banishment. Things were not going to get any better with the descendant of Herod and so an angel revealed to Joseph to go to Galilee. Again, this was not just by simple chance, but it was done according to the words of the prophets of old. Once again, at just the right time, God called His Son.

As we look at the ministry of Jesus, for as faithful as Jesus was, the Jews of Jesus’ day rejected God’s plan of salvation. They didn’t want to abandon their traditions, their man-made laws. It was difficult to accept that God had sent His promised Messiah, but that He would come in the form of a carpenter’s Son. They preferred to remain in bondage to the Law where they were comfortable in their sin rather than trust that God had sent the Messiah to free and deliver them. They didn’t trust what Jesus was offering was far greater than anything they could earn or provide for themselves.

Nothing has changed that much since the time of Jesus. Why rely on Jesus to do something for you when you can easily do it yourself? Who needs a Baptism for the forgiveness of your sins when you don’t really sin, or at least not bad enough to warrant forgiveness? Who needs Christ’s body and blood if it really is nothing more than simple bread and wine and it gives you nothing in return?

It’s easy for us to doubt God’s plan of salvation or to question why God allows things that are unpleasant or evil to happen in our world, the old “why do bad things happen to good people” question. We never have to look very hard to find an example of something unpleasant or evil, and the world is always quick to ask, “Where was God in all this?”

With all that the month of December brings with its preparations for Christmas, it’s very easy to forget the true purpose in the coming of Christ. He comes to establish peace between God and man, to restore what once was. God works all things for His glory, including the death of the innocents. In all things evil, God works to bring about His plan of salvation for the world.

Once Herod heard the words “King of the Jews” uttered 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 of all of this was that Herod was right. Jesus did have to die, but not at a child’s age. He would die when the fullness of God’s time had come. He would have to die for Herod’s sins. He would have to die for your sins. He would have to die for my sins. He would have to die for the sins of all people. He would have to die in order to restore creation to God.

Since it was not Jesus’ time to die, the baby Jesus was protected from Herod by God’s interventions. When the time was right, the Holy Family would return to Israel via Nazareth and the ministry of Jesus would begin – the bringing about of salvation for God’s people. All of this done according to God’s divine schedule, just as St. Paul says in our Epistle: “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.” Salvation has been accomplished for us, for our Lord has declared, “It is finished.” Salvation has been won for you because of Jesus Christ, who came into this world through Mary, and gave His life as a ransom for many. 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 1, 2014 in Christmas, Sermons

 
 
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