Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Monday, December 31, 2018
The Christ Candle as Baptismal Candle - December 31, 2018 - New Years Eve - Text: Luke 2:22-23; 3:21-22
22And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) (Luke 2:22-23).
21Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:21-22).
So, what is left? We have learned the lessons even the history of that first Christmas from the candles of the Advent Wreath. We have followed each week, lighting one candle per week, counting down the weeks and days until Christmas. We have learned the meaning and the history from the Advent Wreath. What else is there? What other part of the Wreath is there that remains. New Year’s Eve is not simply the last day of the current year, and New Year’s Day is not simply the first day of the New year, rather New Years Day is also eight days after Christmas which is the day of the Jewish sacrament of circumcision and the naming of the child, which brings us to what happens to the Advent Wreath with its center being the Christ Candle.
But, before we get ahead of ourselves we need to make sure we have our history and facts in order, which takes us back to the beginning and the Garden of Eden. In the beginning God created all things and all things were created good and very good indeed all things were created in perfection. God created a perfect man and woman and put them in a perfect garden and then when we move from the history of God doing and creating to the history of man, that is to what humanity is doing, that is when sin entered the world.
God gave Adam and Eve one rule, if you will, and here as an aside we would say this rule, this command is a third use of the law command, and that was to not eat from the tree in the middle of the Garden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God’s demand and threat of punishment was that the day they might eat of the fruit the punishment, the price for that sin was death, human death, physical death and without God stepping in and promising a Savior, it would also mean eternal spiritual death and separation from Him.
We know the history, Adam and Eve did eat of the fruit and their disobedience brought God’s punishment. Of course they did not immediately die a physical death but they did grow old and die, however they did bring upon themselves the threat of eternal spiritual punishment of hell and separation from God. Except that God immediately stepped in with a solution, that is the promise to send a redeemer, a Savior, a Messiah.
When God chose and called Abraham to be the one through whom the Savior would be born He set Abraham apart and He did this in a physical way and in a sacramental way, through the sacrament of circumcision. God told Abraham that on the eighth day of a boy’s birth they were to be circumcised marking them and making them sons of the covenant of the promise. This sacrament of circumcision continued on until we get to Jesus giving us the new sacrament of Holy Baptism, but again let us not get ahead of ourselves.
Abraham was followed by his sons, Isaac and Jacob who brought his family to Egypt. After some five hundred years in Egypt God delivered His people from their bondage of slavery in Egypt and at that time gave the sacrament of the Passover celebration. When God was ready to deliver his people the price was to be that the first born of every family that belonged to God. Yet, the first born could be redeemed as later the first born was redeemed by Jesus.
We move ahead to Jesus’ birth and circumcision and ultimately His baptism. Eight days after Jesus’ birth He was circumcised according to the Jewish law. This was the Jewish Sacrament of Identification if you will. Circumcision marked one as a son of the covenant and Jesus was the Son of the covenant.
At the age of 30 Jesus was public ordained and began His ministry at His Baptism. At His baptism Jesus identified Himself as one of us, a human being, except that Jesus was perfect and holy. John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus was holy and righteous and thus needed no baptism, but He was baptized for us and His baptism was the beginning of the new covenant, marking one as a son or daughter of the covenant of His Holy Church through the sacrament of Holy Baptism.
In His baptism we hear the voice of God the Father declaring Jesus to be the Son of God. In our baptism, using the mouth of the pastor, God declares us to be His children, putting His name on us, forgiving our sins, writing our names in the book of heaven, and giving us faith.
Now, back to the Advent Wreath which has now been turned into the Christ Candle, so to speak. The Advent Wreath and the time of preparation, has ended, indeed, we are now in the days of celebrating. And, again, remember we celebrate for a full twelve days, until Epiphany.
All the candles of preparation, all the candles of the history, all the candles of counting down are gone, removed, except the Christ Candle which remains and points us to Jesus. And remember, we know we get it right when we point to Jesus. The Christ Candle will continue to be lighted while we celebrate Jesus’ life here on earth. It is only after we celebrate Jesus’ ascension that we will cease to light the Christ Candle and then we will light it only on Sundays and times when we will have a baptism reflecting God giving us the sacrament of Holy Baptism in baptizing His Son.
At Baptism God calls to faith, gives faith, robes us with Jesus’ robes of righteousness. At our own baptism we celebrate God’s call to each one of us, His call to faith, giving us faith. His writing His name on us, and this putting of God’s name on someone or some group was very important in the Old Testament, for to have God’s name put on you meant you belonged to Him, you were His. To have God’s name put on us at our baptism means we belong to God, we are His.
At Baptism, because we belong to God and because all others who have been baptized belong to God, so we become brothers and sister in Jesus and brothers and sister of Jesus. Of course, we are thinking we often fail to act like brothers and sister. Well, that is just our sinful nature rearing is sinful head. Indeed, even though we are brothers and sisters in Christ we still continue in our nature as sinner/saints and will continue as such until we reach heaven. And we will continue to be tempted by the devil himself to divide and fight as his way of hating everything that is of God and from God.
At Baptism we light the Christ Candle as He becomes one with us and we become one with Him. He washes us, He robes us, He claims us, He makes us His. He forgives us, and He marks us.
Today we celebrate the name of Jesus, His baptism, our forgiveness, life and salvation in Him. I might suggest, what a wonderful way to end our current calender year, but even more so, what a wonderful way to begin a new year and even to begin every year. Ending a year and beginning a new year in the name of Jesus, being reminded of His gifts and blessings, and as they say, it cannot get any better than that.
Many people take the time at the end of a year to reflect on the previous year. Some make resolutions as to how they might live differently, even better in the coming year. More often than not these attempts tend to focus inwardly on self and as we know, we cannot depend on ourselves. So, let me focus your attention back on Jesus. Let me remind you that our present sufferings are nothing compared to the glory that will be ours in heaven. This world and our time in this world will be a mere blink of the eye when we get to heaven. You may not remember much at all of this world. Well think about it. Heaven is a place of perfect joy and happiness. So, how much of this world, this living in a valley of the shadow of death do you think you will want to remember. So, we focus on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. We focus on Jesus who gives us life at conception, new life through Holy Baptism, marking us as His own, giving us faith, forgiveness and life. We focus on Jesus who robes us with His robes of righteousness. We focus on Jesus who paid the price for our sins, who gives us life, even eternal life in heaven. We focus on Jesus and are moved to say, to Him and to Him alone be all the glory, for His name sake. Amen.