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1/3/21; 2nd Sunday after Christmas; Series B: 1 Kings 3:4-15; Ps.119:97-104; Eph.1:3-14; Lk.2:40-52; = In Our Father’s House

    Grace, mercy, peace to you, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

    The account before us this morning, the assigned reading from Luke 2, for the 2nd Sunday after Christmas; not only provides the lone Gospel account of the event, it also grants us the first recorded words of Jesus. While curiosity can, at times, try to get the best of us, we trust fully and completely in what and in all, the Lord has revealed and preserved for us in His Word. Besides, if the Lord wanted us to know “other details” concerning Jesus’ life, in addition to this one, and especially prior to His Baptism, He would have recorded them for us. From this Luke 2 passage we learn how Jesus was a regular/normal boy, thus He grew, became strong, was filled with wisdom. Youth, as we know, is that time for being prepared, equipped, formed, to function as a responsible adult. 

    The Luke account also details a parents worst nightmare, I doubt any parent would shrug off the situation described here, such great distress for Mary and Joseph. In our day 911 would have been called, possibly an amber alert broadcast, family, friends and neighbors notified. A frantic Prayer Chain initiated, all at an incredibly hectic pace, with great intensity. However, before the authorities get notified, oxygen, or a valium dispensed, we consider a bit more seriously Jesus’ words to Mary and Joseph. Incredible words to be sure since they are loaded with important meaning for them, for us, for the Lord’s people throughout time. Jesus’ “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

    On a horizontal level, the here and now, we understand His mother and stepfather’s concern and why it is they would search for Jesus as they had, that much is a given. However, Jesus responds with the much more important vertical, that is, the spiritual level, His questions are not provided a reply. If the spiritual, the vertical, doesn’t drive or at least motivate the horizontal, little spiritual relevance will be realized or seen. Ours, as it was for the boy Jesus, is that of learning and growing in wisdom, to learn and grow in our faith. The 12 year old Jesus was found in the Temple, that is, the place the Lord had established, centuries earlier, it is where He would be found, where He dwelt with and among His people. Dear Christian, one will only ever find the Lord, where He has directed us to look for Him. He established His located-ness concerning Worship, His recognized presence. So, to search for and to presume He’ll be found elsewhere, is merely devising one’s own version of God and what one finds on their own is not and will not be the God of the Bible. Additionally, Jesus on our terms, by our rules, in accord with our desires…all that’ll be discovered there is the evil one, who coincidentally, comes in all shapes and sizes, each and every one of them made to match our whims, wishes, even lusts. Luther cautions about looking for the Savior where He hasn’t told us He’ll be found; we don’t want that God. So, dear Christian, let us never be found going or searching there.

    Again Jesus’ reply: “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” There is nothing greater, nothing more important, than for one to be found in their Father’s house, since that is where the spiritual begins, is maintained and matured. Since it is only ever here, in worship, one is enabled to see who they are, who their God and Lord is, what He has done for their good, what the Lord would have from them. All we are, who we are, what describes and contains us, is found exclusively in the house of our Father, the Spirit at work. As Jesus tells His disciples, tells us: “Pray then like this: “Our Father…” Just as Jesus was in His Father’s house and about His Father’s business, that too is our calling and imperative, isn’t it? Everything else then culminates and derives from the place of the Lord’s presence in an ever increasing circle, as it spreads into other aspects and offices of one’s life.

    While many have all sorts of versions and definitions of Jesus, God’s Word alone defines and details the only Son of the Father. He who was born of the Virgin Mary, conceived by the Holy Spirit, sounds familiar. Throughout time the Church continues to confess Jesus Christ, crucified and risen again. The Church does so as she wages war against those who would dilute and pervert all the Lord has provided for the good and sustenance of His people. Knowing what they did, one wonders why Mary and Joseph didn’t go immediately to the Temple in their search for Jesus? Knowing what we do, confidently stating in the Creeds, as well as our Confirmation Vows, one might wonder why so many look and try to find Jesus, other than where He’ll be found?

    The Savior is clear, He will be found where His Word is proclaimed, the Sacraments rightly celebrated, carried out. Why would, why do, so many, seek for Him anywhere else? Seeking Jesus elsewhere are merely the efforts of the enthusiast, that is: the god within. We know and confess regularly where our god within and the evil one take us, don’t we? In our Father’s house is where we commune with Him in worship, wherever Pastor and people are found gathered. For us it’s here in the Sanctuary of St. John’s, for others, it is hidden away in the woods or some remote jungle. Others will meet by candlelight, singing and praying in hushed tones trying not to be detected by those who only seek to harm them and the Lord’s Church. Under the tight fist of communism, the USSR thought that they had exterminated Christianity. While they did exterminate many Christians, the Lord’s work and ministry thrived, persevered. As it does today in Communist China, in North Korea, and in so many countries controlled by Islam.

    Dear Christian, every Sunday we have the opportunity, privilege and joy, of being found in the house of our Father. Let us always be found as good and faithful stewards of His Word, nourished through the Sacrament? To avoid Word and Sacrament ministry means we are ignoring or neglecting our spiritual health and all the nourishment that keeps us from being ministered to; making us easy targets for the evil one and the world around us. The Lord’s free provision for our spiritual health and nutrition, means we will be well fed, nourished, prepared and equipped for all this life will entail, ready for whatever comes out way in Year of our Lord, 2021, Amen.

    The peace of God, that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen

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12/31/20; New Year’s Eve; Series B: Is.30:8-17; Ps.90:1-12; Rom.8:31b-39; 

Luke 12:35-40; = Eternal Witness

    Grace, mercy, peace to you, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

    Hard to believe that one year ago we were standing at the threshold, readied [or not] for: Year of our Lord 2020. Yet, welcoming a new year is something we’ve been able to do every Dec.31st. Now with 2020 ready to expire brief hours from now, and I don’t know about you but I am ready for 2020 to be in the history books. 2020 was far and away a different year, by leaps and bounds from what had been expected by anyone I’ve had a conversation with. The challenges, restrictions, exclusions, and seclusions of this year, certainly strained the church, her ministry, along with how many relationships?Nevertheless, Word and Sacrament ministry continued and continues, the Lord and His Church enduring through any and every trial, catastrophe, and pandemic. Even then, so much of what we encountered, whether personally, or as a church proved to be broad uncharted territory, as we tried to navigate all that was coming at us, fed to us, valid or otherwise. What part of our lives wasn’t and hasn’t been affected in one way or another?

Leaving many of us longing [and still are] for anything remotely resembling: “normal”.

     By far the most troubling situation of 2020 is how so many believe absenting themselves from the Word & Sacrament, and still are, is somehow the proper response One of the Evansville Pastors commented at a Circuit meeting: people tell us they don’t “feel” safe coming to church, yet they’ll post about going out to eat on face book. What excuse won’t one use as they neglect what is absolutely vital & necessary for them spiritually? The Command to Worship the Lord is never put on hold or nullified! The life of the Christian is, and will always remain, one of priority and yes, faithful perseverance, to all the Lord would have from those who claim to be His people. As if He can’t protect you here in His Sanctuary, but He’ll easily do so, out there…..?

    Our lives are, and always will be, filled with every sort of disaster, destruction, and obstacle, the testing of our faith, our sin nature and the evil one will work against the things of God, against all the Lord would have from and for His people. Yet, try as you might, to avoid illness, disease, and death, you ain’t gettin past any of them. The effects of sin upon the lives of each and every one of us, remain, quite evident. We know the casualties this year has had on us, our families, and the lives of others. How many took precautions against the virus only to end up dying, from something else?

    Nevertheless, in the midst of all this year has thrown at us, there have been, and continue to be, plenty of opportunities to speak of what the Lord has done and will always be found doing. His continual care and watchfulness, yes, even if one is sick, has a disease, or someone you know died, and someday, dear Christian, it will be us. The medical community and the multitude of so many sudden medical experts, aka politicians, couldn’t and still can’t seem to decide what to do for sure concerning the virus. The church's response however, is and remains the same as always: Christ died and risen again, to give you life in the eternity that’s yet to come, to provide you perfect eternal healing. For us, for all, to turn, turn from your sin and live!

    Will 2021 still find us ever vigilant, attentive, to the persistent message of Christ crucified and risen again? Proclaiming Jesus who is: “The Resurrection and the Life” Before we begin to think we are somehow such an advanced, or civilized people, so novel, even cutting edge, one merely has to look inside themselves to find out we are not really so different from anyone else who has ever lived. Consider how the people of Isaiah’s day had brushed off, even ignored the Lord, His Prophets, His Word. What Isaiah expresses here in chap.30, is reminiscent of Paul’s warning to a young pastor named Timothy: “The time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” The call for us to be wise, discerning, alert and prepared, always proves proper, for the Lord’s people, regardless of what year is printed at the top of the calendar. Therefore, we remain persistent, consistent in proclamation, teaching, living, making known the word of Truth, to all who will hear: the Great Commission is what we are always about.

    The Lord tells Isaiah: “now, go, write it before them on a tablet and inscribe it in a book, that it may be for the time to come as a witness forever.” Words similar to these from Job: “Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were inscribed in a book! Oh that with an iron pen and lead they were engraved in the rock forever!” Our Triune God is eternal, from everlasting to everlasting, He alone is God. So it is then, every year, century, and millennium, the Word of the Lord is and will ever remain the standard for His people. It is and remains our forever witness, for us to uphold, cherish, to pass along, and yes, possibly even die for, all so others, so the next generation, can and will know the Truth. We do as much by retaining and ever holding fast to what we have been given, God’s Word. Ours is the privilege of speaking it in our Liturgy, confessing it through the Creed, our “amens” verify agreement with what we’ve heard, has been confessed, and sung.

    Remaining faithful will always prove to be a struggle, we know well we are in a battle. Ours though is always to remain ever confident, faithful, and assured, knowing: “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

    Dear Christian, do you have any idea what 2021 holds for us, for you, I don’t! We do, however, know the one who does know and He is constantly providing for and equipping, His people, no matter what comes our way! This evening, we are able to depart this place confident our sins have been forgiven, the word of truth having been proclaimed, heard, acknowledged by us. The Sacrament received, our lives and souls prepared, sustained, nourished, for all the Lord allows into our lives and world. People of God, rest confident, secure, at peace, welcome 2021 knowing full well the days ahead may indeed prove to be a mystery for us, yet they are already known by the one who holds them, and us, in His Almighty hand, Amen.

    The peace of God, that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.

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12/27/20; 1st Sunday After Christmas; Series B: Is.61:10-62:3; Ps.111; Gal.4:4-7; 

Lk.2:22-40;  = Not Keeping Silent

    Grace, mercy, peace to you, from God our Father and from our newborn King, Lord, Savior, Amen.

    I trust you caught all of the positive and personal language used in the assigned vss. from the Prophet Isaiah. Like him, we too are able to use personal language, for our God and Lord is a personal Savior yet, He is certainly no private Savior, as if He were our own little Jesus, perhaps? What do we confess in the Explanation to the 3rd Article of the Creed? That it’s only within the Christian Church [Word, Sacraments, Saints] will any sort of relationship with the Savior be known, nurtured, matured. As we find the Holy Spirit always at work in and through the Lord’s people so that we are able to know salvation since we are always in the process of being saved! Any and every “Jesus” one finds on their own, is not He whose birth we celebrated just 2 days ago!  

    Isaiah also uses the imagery of a bridegroom, as well as a priest, to convey his message since their attires were distinctive, as they were intentional, it meant something, you knew who they were the moment you laid eyes on them. For it is, such clothes reveal character, express commitment. Our Lord is about action, thus we always find Him clothed for the task at hand! Thus, all the Lord has accomplished, is and remains for us to celebrate and rejoice in. 2000 years ago, in the womb of the virgin Mary, Jesus was clothed with flesh, His incarnation. Doing as much so that He could live among us, as one of us, [minus the sin part] in order to provide what we could never provide for ourselves. Therefore, we see [hear] how this promised Savior, Emmanuel = [God with us] did not come for silence, nor the quiet of inactivity! Rather, He is very much and quite intentionally a Lord of action and purpose.

    Jesus' birth had been announced by the Prophets through and by word and voice. John the Baptist announced Him to the people, there at the Jordan river. God the Father announced Him to be His Son, at His Baptism and on the mount of Transfiguration. The angel at the tomb, announced His resurrection to the women. Today, through His Church, He is not silent, as we announce, as we profess Christ crucified and risen again for the salvation of souls, for all who will believe. In Is.59 we find that: “He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak.” Reminiscent of what’s recorded in Is.62:2: “The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give.” So it is, the Lord’s faithful demonstrate, providing the sign that He is King! We verify[?] and exemplify as much, through word and action.

    Especially this time of year our focus is on the infant, King Jesus. He who came to earth in order to provide for our rescue, pay our ransom. Yes, even as the seemingly helpless babe in the manger, Jesus’ journey to effect our eternal rescue had already begun, in the flesh and blood, Person of Jesus. And while Christmas focuses on the “baby” Jesus, it is not done to the exclusion of the sacrificed Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus is all that, and more, He is our focus, the one we cherish, worship and adore. While Jesus is not private, He does have an intimate relationship with His people. What makes it “for us”, brings it to us? Let us hear once again Isaiah’s words: “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,” Jesus took on flesh in order to be like us which meant He could then be crucified and resurrected, in that flesh so that, we could be like Him!

    Paul speaks to this in Rom.6: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” Dear Christian, haven’t we been robed in Christ’s righteousness, clothed with the garments of salvation in the waters of Baptism? Where the perfect garment was provided for us, to cover us. It has, hasn’t it?Even while there are those who presume a righteousness which only focuses on or revolve around works, only end up being seen as accomplishments to appease self, rather than opportunities to serve the Lord, prepared in advance for His faithful? All we know and possess, every aspect of our lives, have been and are gifted to us, especially so things spiritual, which makes us stewards and caretakers of those things.

    The Lord’s arrival as the Bethlehem infant, the enfleshed Savior, was realized 2000 years ago, its reality though, was actually stated and set in place [the Lord will not keep silent] 4000 years prior. Where in Eden, this promised Savior is first referenced, announced to the evil one, as well as to the world. Hear Gen.3:15: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” So it is we find, there in Bethlehem’s manger, the promised flesh and blood seed of woman, the woman’s offspring, the Spirit conceived, God/Man, Jesus. This event and fulfillment being stressed by Paul in Gal.4: “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law.” Through Eve: “the mother of all living”, there would be another woman, another virgin who, it was announced, would bear a son, naming Him Jesus. “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.”

    Now and always, we will not be silent as we continue to rejoice in and celebrate the Savior who came to accomplish salvation for all who will believe. It was the message that came to us, it is the message that is for all to hear. Silence is really not an option for those who are the Lord’s own, Amen.

    The peace of God, that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and newborn King, Amen.

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12/25/20; Christmas Day; Series B: Is.52:7-10; Heb.1:1-12; John 1:1-14; 

= News Brought

                   
    Grace, mercy, peace to you, from God our Father and from Jesus, the newborn King, Amen.

    What a great day, such a special and privileged day for us to celebrate and rejoice in, so: “Fear not, for behold, I [as did the angel] bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you [unto all of us] is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Indeed, Jesus has been born, the infant King, He who would save us from our sin, broke into the wilderness of this life that was being held captive by sin and evil. This Emmanuel, God with us, arriving just as the prophets had foretold. For long ages this enfleshed Savior had been anticipated, by some, more than others. Yet, whether seeking His arrival, or hoping to avoid it, in no way changes, or affects, what He came to accomplish and did accomplish, for all who will believe. Isaiah states it like this in the reading before us: “The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” 

    He, who is the word made flesh has come to dwell among us, yet His arrival was not exactly how so many had expected it to be. Even today His arrival often causes us to shake our heads, after all, kingliness isn’t found in a stable; it’s not wrapped in simple cloth strips, and it is certainly not laid in a manger, nor found without receiving dignified or distinguished attention. Rather, kingliness is concerned with pomp, recognition, prestige, honor, the red carpet treatment, not trifles and certainly not obscurity. Yet, the ways of our patient, ever compassionate and merciful God are not our ways, are they? A great big PRAISE THE LORD they’re not, always proves appropriate. The Lord often turns things on their head, to leave us scratching ours.  

    The Lord’s bared arm is the revelation of His work, power and might, displayed and made known to the world, for all to take note of. Yet, this power, work and might, will not be seen or realized in ways man often resorts to. There would be no military parades, no fighter jet flyovers, even then, here is the Son of God Himself, His arrival interrupting  and forever disrupting, the evil ones domain, He breaks into His own Creation, in order to save us, to bring us out of the darkness of sin, into His marvelous light. “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” 

    In chap.55 Isaiah records these words of the Lord for us: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” As incredible as all this newborn King sets in place and begins to undertake, it will and is only ever made known by speaking of it. We did sing, didn’t we, we did tell, didn’t we, moments ago; we told it on the mountain that: Jesus Christ is born!

    The world must be told, our family and friends must be told. The lowly shepherds needed to be told and were told by the angel. Herod had to be told by the Magi, not that he really cared; even as those same Magi had to have someone tell them, that telling though, began centuries earlier, recall how the Lord’s people [and His Prophets] spent 70 some years in Babylon. Perhaps we could refer to the Magi knowing of the Savior’s birth, as the long range, or would that be: the extremely time delayed echo from the mountaintop. Delivered by the voices of the Lord’s messenger’s centuries earlier! Still today, the beautiful feet of the messengers bring the good news making known to all who will hear, about the peace this infant [Prince of Peace] affects in the lives of the faithful!

    The announcement of King Jesus’ arrival is the message which also brings happiness, real, true, lasting, legitimate, happiness, not the fluff and stuff, not the peaks and valleys of this life’s ups and downs. Especially vital and eternally significant news for us, from previous messengers, that of making known the salvation such news brings in its wake. With the birth of Jesus, salvation is “carried into effect”, in the flesh, it has a heartbeat, a pulse, it is the living and breathing God of all tucked into a lowly manger. We know well these remarkable words of the messenger Simeon: “Lord, now You let Your servant go in peace; Your word has been fulfilled. My own eyes have seen [as have ours, through faith] the salvation which You have prepared in the sight of every people: [God desires all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth] A light to reveal You to the nations and the glory of Your people Israel.” 

     Throughout time and space, through thick and thin, through freedom and exile, through famine and pestilence, through prosperous and bountiful times. Through covid, masks, social distancing, and government restrictions, the message remains and persists, it could not, can not, and will not, ever be stopped! By His mouthpieces, the Lord makes known what He secured for us, what we on our own never could, that of our eternal salvation. Let us never grow tired, weary of, or accustomed to peering into the Savior’s manger, whose presence in the feed trough made it as spectacular and splendid as any throne on earth. Just as 33 years later, He’d make 2 measly pieces of wood, fashioned into a cross, an altar and throne fit for His majesty, for our deliverance. Even though it might seem rather odd to speak of Jesus’ death while celebrating His birth, He did as much to do as much. If Jesus did not die to save us, how was His birth anything more than yours, mine? 

    In preparing this message I recalled this writing for the Feast of St. Andrew, he was the 1st of Jesus’ Disciples/Apostles: “‘When threatened with the cross, Andrew said joyfully. ‘If I feared the punishment of the cross, I would never have preached the mystery of the cross’. Then when he saw the cross, he spoke, ‘Hail, precious cross, you who were dedicated by the body of Christ; may He receive me through you, who redeemed me through you.”’ 

    Dear Christian, how beautiful are your feet? Be confident in this, they will be of profound, even royal beauty, when and as you bear the message of God taking on flesh so that salvation could and would be accomplished for us, by and through this enfleshed one whose arrival we rejoice in each and every year, especially so at this time of year. Even as we rest assured and confident knowing whatever challenges, obstacles, or trials we face, it is still Christmas, it is still and will forever remain all about Jesus! Glory to the newborn, King Jesus. Merry Christmas, Amen.

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12/24/20; Christmas Eve Children’s service: Jesse Tree: Jesus’ Family Tree

= Pointing the Way to Jesus

    Grace, mercy, peace to you, from God our Father and from our Lord, Savior, newborn King, Amen

    Merry Christmas to all of you! Christmas, it certainly is, and rightly so, an exciting and celebratory time of year, each and every year, and one’s age doesn’t factor into the equation for the celebration and rejoicing that takes place. Neither does it matter what happens to be going on in the world around us, or personally within our own lives. You see, none of that makes any difference, since this time of year will always be Christmas, we will be found worshipping the Christ-child’s arrival, as the Son of God takes on flesh and dwells among us. It is always about Jesus! So, for one to presume they have celebrated Jesus’ birthday without having been in a worship service, is like attending the reception without having been to the wedding, what’s being celebrated?

   This evening we are once again privileged, and can with great joy, hear through the voices of our youth, the details of the heavenly Father’s grand, elaborate, and very intricate plan, His provision for the Savior’s arrival in Bethlehem. This Savior who will take the faithful from where we were, dead in our trespasses and sins, to where we desperately need to be, where He would have us to be, alive spiritually. Is precisely what His sacrificial death on the cross and His resurrection on the 3rd day accomplished for all “who believe and are baptized” as Mark 16 declares.

    Tonight you will notice how the various readings and song vss. wind us through familiar passages of scripture, of promises made, promised kept, God’s word always coming to fruition. Scripture consistently reveals a God and Lord who is intently at work in and through the lives of His people, for their good, for the purpose of His kingdom. This evening's focus, which remains the same as every worship service, is on Christ Jesus, He who took on flesh all so that He could save us from the hell the wages of our sin deserved. When, or if, we lose sight of that reality and Jesus becomes just another baby, Christmas will contain nothing valuable for us. Not so sure? Just take a quick look and listen, how does the world imagine, or would that be, distort Christmas? Everything from jolly-ole-St.-I-don’t exist, to elf, it's all about myself, along with the ever absent Christ, in the barrage of “Christmas” movies and shows, all those Christ-less favorites, so many seem to have. You know, Jesus just might prove to be the only one whose nationwide, perhaps even global, birthday celebration consistently and even deliberately, excludes Him! Rest assured such will not be the case this evening. We are to be and will ever remain, focused on Christ Jesus!

    Especially so at Christmas, we get all caught up with and are excited about, the birth of the Savior. Mt.1 records: “the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child, from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 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.” 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).

    For those who are His own, through faith in Christ; Jesus’ lineage is made and becomes our spiritual lineage, His roots and heritage, become ours as well. Every believer then, is able to trace their spiritual lineage through the scriptures, no need for: 23 and me! The whole of scripture is always concerned with pointing to Jesus, so let us always be found consumed with, passionate about and ever vocal, concerning this promised Messiah, He whose lineage and work, can be traced back to the very beginning.

    O Jesse tree — Christ’s family tree, is only ever, always, pointing us to Jesus. Which is where we are also to be found, pointing all who will hear. After all, this is not just any infant, He is: Emmanuel, God is with us. His residing with and among His people. As we contemplate and celebrate the birth of the Savior, consider what you are about to hear as our youth recall what scripture presents concerning the promised one, Amen. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

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   12/20/20; 4th Sunday in Advent; Series B: 2 Sam.7:1-11,16; Ps.89:1-5; Rom.16:25-27;        Luke 1:26-38;  = Proclaiming the Mysteries

    Grace, mercy, peace to you, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

    Those final vss. of Paul’s letter to the saints at Rome, closely resemble his introductory vss. written 16 chapters earlier. These bookends, if you will,  reveal Paul’s incredible passion for the Gospel, as well as his concern for the Lord’s people who will hear the Gospel, that is, the preaching of Christ crucified and risen again for the salvation of souls, for their eternal life. Salvation is only ever through the sacrificed and resurrected God Man Jesus of Nazareth. He whose birth we celebrate in just a matter of days.

    The arrival of the Christ child, His birth in Bethlehem, had been foretold centuries, even millennia earlier. This promise of the coming Deliverer, who would come to save us, was in fact the very first promise and prophecy given in scripture. [Gen.3:15] While this coming one’s birth, what we celebrate and rejoice in, esp. this time of year, is one of the mysteries Paul refers to. Yes, the promises of what would come to pass were known and cherished, held in high regard, as is fitting, yet the details were not exactly as clear as one might have preferred them to be. However, what we might happen to term as vagueness, is far from how the Lord operates. For it is in faith, we wait, in hope, we wait, in patience, we wait. [is it patience if one doesn’t have to wait?] In complete confidence we are to be found waiting, His timing is always perfect. Gal.4:4-5 makes clear what the Lord has for us. “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.”

    It is and will always remain the Lord’s timing, His way, His perfect plan for the salvation of souls. As our Bible Study continues looking at the Book of Esther, there has been discussion of Mordecai’s profound words to Queen Esther, in chap.4: “who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Well, we definitely do know that it was for such a time that Mordecai and Esther were both where they were.

In the timeline of eternity, if it is possible to state it that way? Each of us, those who serve, trusting the Lord for all He has for us, whether it is what we would prefer or, not so much, is due to His seeing fit for us to live, move, serve and profess, Him as Lord and Savior in this time, in this place!

    As and when the Lord sees fit, He accomplishes what He does, while occasionally allowing us glimpses, glances, and moments, through word and/or action, until He brings to pass what is in order for Him to do so, just as He has prescribed in His word. How in tune, or out of sorts, one is too as much, is not somehow a failing on the Lord’s part! Have you ever considered how great of a privilege it is that the Lord has even provided us with His Word? It’s not like He owed us anything, in reality He didn’t necessarily owe us the time of day. So there is not a second of any day that should go by without our saying: “thank you Lord”. Since what we “deserve” is far different from what we have and continue to freely receive from Him for our spiritual good. Earlier this morning honestly and intentionally spoke about: justly deserving the Lord’s present and eternal punishment.

As we then plead for His mercy, for His forgiveness! How’s that for a mystery, and He keeps inviting us back, He keeps hearing, He keeps forgiving. And, He keeps inviting us back! Welcoming us, hearing our pleas, our prayers, as His people, call on His name.

    Paul states it like this in Phil.2: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

    Dear Christian, absolutely everything the Lord wants you to know is contained in His holy Word, Genesis 1:1 through Rev. 22:21 records what we need to know, all we need to know. And, in faith we say: yes, Lord! Even while there remain those things we might call mysteries, it is due to there not having come to pass, as of yet. Or, it could be a case of one lacking ears that hear and eyes that see! Keep in mind, it’s not as if living and active faith requires full comprehension and understanding. Which is why we find the Lord complimenting child-like faith. As we, in that faith say: yes, Lord. Earlier, in Rom.11, Paul provides this: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

    This morning marks the final Sunday in Advent, the season of preparation, joy, excitement, and anticipation. Which then brings us to Christmas so we can ponder, once again, the God who takes on our flesh to enter this world that remains so marred by the effects of sin. Rom.8 provides this: “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” 

    Christmas also finds us pondering the pregnant virgin, who with her betrothed, weren’t even able to find a fitting place for the delivery of the Deliverer. How shocking, yet how fitting, as the holy Son of God humbles Himself to be born of a virgin, in a stable, in a manger, in obscurity, yet all of it fit the Father’s plan. The Te Deum speaks in this way: “When You took upon Yourself to deliver man, You humbled Yourself to be born of a virgin, when You had overcome the sharpness of death, You opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.”

    Advent has once again provided us this time, our being prepared to meet the infant Savior in Bethlehem’s stable and, the Triumphant King, when He arrives on the clouds to take us with Him to glory, Amen. 

    The peace of God, that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and coming King, Amen.

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