Welcome

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!

Disclaimer

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.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Hope and Strength - December 30, 2020 - Alicia Bogs Funeral - Isaiah 40:31

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Our text is Alicia’s confirmation verse Isaiah 40:31: “But for those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not be weary, they will walk and not faint.” This is our text.
 

In February we laid to rest Maisie. In November we laid to rest Nana. And now here in December we are back to lay to rest Alicia. Why? How could God do this? I am so angry. It just doesn’t make sense. How can you even believe in a God who would allow my loved one to die? Either the God you believe in is not a God of love as you suggest, or He is not all powerful as you say. So many thoughts, so many angry accusations, so much frustration and struggle. Unfortunately it seems that it is only at the passing of a loved one that we give any thought to our own mortality and then what wells up inside are questions, anger and frustration. I pray that my words this morning, even if they are words from a brother, brother-in-law, uncle, cousin, or simply a stranger might bring you some bit of clarity and comfort.
 

Let me begin by telling you that it is okay to be angry at God. Being angry at God means two things. First, it means we believe there is a God, after all, how can we be angry in someone we do not believe in and two to some degree being angry at God is acknowledging that we know that He is the one who is in control. And after all, He is a big guy, He can take it. As parents our children get angry at us. As children our parents get angry at us. And yet, we still love each other.
 

On Christmas morning, a morning of celebration, as is the case with people as we age, I woke early tossing and turning, thoughts of what to say ran through my mind. So, I got up and began working on what I pray will be words that will make you think, it might make some of you angry, of course that is my job to preach to you words of law, it is one of the hazzards of the job I guess, but I also get to preach words of Gospel, that is words that I hope will bring you comfort, clarity, hope, and perhaps even joy.
 

As I said, in February we laid to rest someone who had not even been born into this world. In November we laid to rest someone who was 82 years old. And now we are laying to rest someone who is not yet 30. Certainly these three events remind us that our time in this world is short and we do not know how much time we will have. The point being, as I continually remind people, we, each one of us needs to be ready at any and all times to meet our Maker. Because it will happen, sooner than we know and sooner than we might imagine as we have seen. Thanks be to God that I believe Alicia was ready. She was given faith at her baptism. She acknowledged her faith at her confirmation and she exercised her faith by being in Divine Service and being given the gifts God had to give to her. Indeed, I believe she is rejoicing in the Lord’s House, with her grandparents, Maisie, and all those loved ones who have already passed on and I believe she would agree with me that God is a great and loving God.
 

But, you ask, “How can I say that God is a great and loving God? After all, He took my loved one and so young.” I am amazed at how smart we humans tend to think we are in our world today. We think we have all the answers. We think so highly of ourselves. And yet, again, when what we think as something tragic happening we have a tendency to look inside ourselves, as we are encouraged to do through so much of social and secular media and then we find that we really do not have any answers only more questions. And, as I have witnessed over the years, we humans beings tend more often than not to be wrong and we find we do not have the answers, just more questions. Although we may not want to admit it, we find out that we are not as smart as God and as I have said many times, I do not want to be as smart as God, because I do not want the position.
 

So, why and how could God do this? How can I say that God is love? Simple, my problem is myself and my human thinking. The problem is not God, but me. We just celebrated true love and the greatest love and something that truly does not make sense, humanly speaking. We just celebrate the birth of God in human flesh.
 

When God created the world He did so because of His great love for us, His creation. When God created the world it was perfect, of course we have no clue what that is like because the world we live in is no longer perfect but is cursed and no, that is not God fault, that is the fault of those God created, Adam and Eve. The one thing God told Adam and Eve to not do, the one thing, that is what they did. They disobeyed God. Kind of like our children constantly do to us as parents. Yet, God did not do what we as parents would like to do, instead, He simply promised that He would take care of the problem. And in case you have forgotten, God had told Adam and Eve that if they did what He told them not to do, the threat was death. Human death for human sin. Yet, again, God said He would take care of that punishment.
 

So, how can I say that God is love? Do we as parents take the punishment for our children’s disobedience for them, or do we take it out on our children? It really would not make any sense if we did not discipline or punish our children if they broke the rules. They would never learn their lesson if we did. And interestingly enough, God actually knew what was going to happen even before He began creating the world. And this fact that God knew what was going to happen, that He is so much wiser than we humans is how we know that He is true love. He knew that Adam and Eve would disobey Him and would bring sin, death and a curse on the world. He knew that He would have to take care of their punishment because they would not be able to. Yes, God knew that His threat of death for disobedience would have to be fulfilled by Himself. The cost for the sin of disobedience of Adam and Eve, for the cost of sin for human beings is death. Human death for human sin. Why do people die, why is there death in the world? Simply stated, because of sin. Because we are not and cannot be the people God would have us to be and sometimes because we too are like Adam and Eve, we rebel against God. We refuse Him, we reject Him, we deny Him, we act like spoiled children.
 

Yet, what does God do? How can we say He is a God of love? Well, think about it . . . think about all that God gives and does for us, all that we fail to recognize and acknowledge. Indeed, none of us chose to be born, our birth, our life is a gift from God. And what we are born with and what we take with us when we pass on is what is truly ours. So, nothing is really ours. What God gives to us while we live in this world is simply a trust, on loan to us while we live in this world. The gifts, talents and abilities He gives to us, the ability to work in a job, or a career, truly, all that we have, clothing and shoes, meat and drink, house and home, etc., etc., etc., all are gifts from our loving God.
 

At her conception Alicia was given the gift of life. At her baptism Alicia was given the gift of new life, eternal life in heaven. At her passing the Lord called her home. During her life in this world the Lord gave her a wonderful gift, one I don’t have, the gift of music. And she responded to His gift by playing and giving glory to Him through her playing. Now that she has been called to her true, eternal home in heaven she is giving glory to Him in person. And now too, she is no longer suffering from anything, any of the pain or sorrow of this world. Now she is living in perfection. She is now rejoicing with her grandparents, with Maisie, and with all those who have gone on before.
 

We live in a world that truly does not know what a great and loving God we have nor what all He does for us and gives to us. We live in a world that would deny, refuse and reject God because He does not fit into our own understanding or misunderstanding of who He should be and what we think He should do. So, instead of rejoicing in all that He does and gives, we attempt to look inside ourselves and then wonder and become angry and frustrated.
 

Let me assure you, God is great, and God is love. Again, we just celebrated the birth of God’s answer. Last Sunday’s Gospel reading was the account of the presentation of Jesus in the temple and the meeting of Simeon and his words to Mary. Mary, Jesus’ mother, understands what many of us feel today. Mary gave birth to God in flesh. Mary raised a perfect child, of course that is something we cannot relate to, but Mary had to watch as her Son was hated, reviled, mocked, accused, and sentenced to death. Mary had to watch as her Son was crucified, hung on a cross, because of the sins of the world.
 

Is God a God of love? Most certainly, our problem is that we simply do not understand because of our human nature and point of view. Perhaps this analogy might be helpful. When you look at a piece of cross stitching, you look at it from the top, a beautiful piece of art. But when you turn it over you see all the knots and tangles. We are looking at life from the bottom with all the struggles and pains. God is seeing our life from the top, the beautiful life He is creating for us.
 

Yes, while we live in this world we will continue to have pain and suffering, heartache and struggles, but that is not God’s fault, that is our own fault. The answer is not inside you. Inside are just questions and struggles. The answer is in the manger. The answer is on the cross. The answer is the greatest love anyone can ever have, to lay down their life for another. The answer is the one who threatened punishment, but took that punishment for us. We do have a God of love. While we live in this world, we are continually reminded, as we need to be reminded, that our time in this world is short. Especially compared to our time in our real world of heaven. And so we all need to be ready.
 

Do we want to see Alicia again? Then we need to be ready. And we get ready or better said, God gets us ready through the means He has given to get us ready, His means of grace, His Holy Word and His Sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. While we live in this world, the closest we can get to Alice is at the Lord’s Table. When we gather at the Lord’s Table Alicia and all the saints are gathered there with us. No, they cannot see us nor can we see them, but they are there as God promises.
 

As I have shared with my children, my biggest concern in this world is their eternal salvation, that is that they will be in heaven with me. Personally, I am confident of my salvation. If the Lord were to return today or tomorrow, or if I were to pass on to Him today or tomorrow I know I will be with Him in heaven. To me that is the most important thing in this world, being ready for the real world of forever in heaven, because the alternate would be eternal torment. And so, that is my concern for everyone here who has come to celebrate Alicia’s life. I know where she is, I am confident in her being in heaven. Now more than ever, if anyone is not ready or sure, now is the time to get ready. Because it will happen.
 

Isaiah’s words have been fulfilled in Alicia, “But for those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not be weary, they will walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). Alicia’s hope in the Lord has renewed her strength as she is now perfect in strength. She is now soaring, running and not growing weary, walking and not fainting.
 

So, let me assure us that Jesus is the Messiah. He is the one promised by God. He is the one who fulfilled all the law perfectly, for us, in our place, because we are unable to. Jesus came to give His life. How comforting to know that we will not be held accountable for our sin and their punishment. The wages of sin is death and Jesus paid that price for us.
 

Let me assure you that we have forgiveness of sins. Because of what Jesus did, because He lived perfectly for us in our place, because He took all our sins upon Himself, because He suffered the eternal punishment for our sins, because He gave His life for ours, because He paid the price for sin, by faith in Him, which He gives to us as well, we have forgiveness, which means that when God looks at us He sees Christ’s perfection. Notice how I am looking outside myself!
 

Which means that we are also assured that we have life, eternal life. By faith in Jesus, His death has become our death, His life has become our life. By faith in Jesus we have forgiveness of sins and life, life in this world and eternal life in the world to come, heaven. By faith in Jesus, when we pass on from this world, we too will be robed with His robes of righteousness as we are gathered together with Alicia and all the saints in heaven.
 

This morning we come to be comforted and strengthened because of our loss. I pray that my words and more importantly that God’s Word may give you that comfort, strength and confidence that we will see Alicia again because God is great and God is love. Amen.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Jesus Is the Christ - December 27, 2020 - First Sunday after Christmas - Text: Luke 2:22-40

Two days ago we celebrated the birth of Jesus. Today we fast forward forty days to what is called the presentation of Jesus in the temple. The purification rites after the birth of a son required the mother to wait for forty days before going to the temple to offer her sacrifice for purification. The sacrifice was to be a lamb and a pigeon or dove. If the person could not afford this sacrifice, then the sacrifice could be two pigeons or doves. This morning we journey with Mary and Joseph as they present Jesus in the temple, in accordance with the Law, to fulfill the Law.
 

Our text begins by introducing us to Simeon. Simeon was a righteous man and he was devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel. In other words, he was waiting to see the one promised from God, the Messiah, the Savior. Luke tells us that it was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the “Lord’s Christ,” the Savior. By the way Luke recounts these events we would believe that Simeon is now rather old and is waiting to see the Savior so that he might die in peace. And so, not by any coincidence, but by the action of God moving in Simeon, he went to the temple at the same time that Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus and for Mary to make her sacrifice for purification. Have you ever wondered about what we call coincidences? I believe there is no such thing as a coincidence, instead what we are seeing is God’s, usually, unseen hand acting in our time to make something happen to His glory. Such is the case with the events of our text. Simeon, moved by the Holy Spirit, came into the temple to see the consolation of Israel.
    As Mary and Joseph enter the temple Simeon is there to receive the child. He takes the child and by inspiration of the Holy Spirit he gives to us the words which we sing in the Nunc Dimmitus, or in English, the Now Dismiss. Simeon praises the Lord because He has allowed him to see the Savior of the world. Simeon’s words are words of faith. He is now ready to be dismissed. Literally, He is ready to die and be taken to heaven because he has seen the one who was promised and who was to come to save the world. Notice that Simeon’s words are not just focused on God’s chosen people, the children of Israel, but are words which reveal that Jesus came to save all people, Jew and Gentile alike as he says that Jesus is “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for the glory of your people Israel.” Here we are reminded, once again, that God has always had one covenant with the people of the world, never two covenants. Jesus came to save all people, even and especially us, you and me.
 

Luke tells us that “the child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him.” I think that might have been an understatement. Yes, God had revealed to both Mary and Joseph that Jesus was God born in human flesh, but still, for Mary and Joseph, these events would all be quite “marvelous,” unexpected and maybe somewhat dumbfounding.
 

But Simeon does not stop with the Nunc Dimmitus, he continues by speaking to Mary and Joseph. He tells Mary in particular that Jesus is “appointed (or as some translations put it, “destined”) for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce your own soul also),  so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” Jesus is destined to be the one who will save many people and at the same time, to those who do not believe, He will be their fall, they will be doomed to eternal death, hell in other words. Jesus is a sign. He is the one who came speaking about His Father and His relationship with His Father. Many would not believe that He was God, that He and the Father were one. The hearts of the unbelievers was shown through their speaking out against Him. And this continues to be the way it is in our world today. Many people do not believe in Jesus. Many do not believe He is God in flesh, as He shows and tells us in His Word. Many do not believe and instead are destined to eternal death in hell and this is not God’s fault nor Jesus’ fault as some attempt to blame Him. Those who fall, those who are destined to hell are destined because of their own fault, their own refusal and rejection of Jesus as the Savior.
 

Probably the hardest words that Simeon speaks, however, are the words to Mary that a sword will pierce her own soul too. Mary, who pondered all these things and kept them in her heart is, after all, the mother of this child whose destiny is a cross. She will watch her own child be cursed by others, be hated by others, be deserted by all His friends and be hung on a cross. She will watch her own Son suffer the agony and torment of the cross and die, for the sins of all people, her sins as well. Certainly a sword of pain will pierce through her own heart.
 

Luke, the faithful Doctor and Historian shows us that Jesus is the Messiah, but if Simeon’s words are not enough “proof” if you will, he also introduces us to Anna, who is also in the temple. About Anna we are told that she was “very old” and that she was a widow since the time of her husband’s death which occurred after only their seventh anniversary and that now she was eighty-four years old. She now lived her life in the temple. Luke tells us “she did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and praying night and day.” And again, like Simeon, she did not come into the temple at this time by accident or coincidence, but by the leading of the Holy Spirit.
 

Anna came up to Mary and Joseph and said a prayer of thanks to God and spoke about this child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem, that is to all those who were still looking for the coming of the promised Messiah, those who had not given up hope. Like Simeon, her words confirm the fact that Jesus is the one who was sent from God to save, not only the children of Israel, but all people, of all places of all times, you and me included and I would say, especially.
 

Finally, our text tells us of one final fulfillment of Holy Scripture, it says that Mary and Joseph returned to Nazareth. Luke writes with a purpose. His purpose is to give proof of Jesus and who he is. He shows us that Jesus came to fulfill the Law and that He fulfilled the Law perfectly. His parents did what was required. Again, we are reminded that the fullness of the Gospel is seen in the fact that what Jesus did He did for us, in our place, everything that we are unable to do. He fulfilled the Law perfectly, for us, in our place, because we cannot. Even more, Jesus came to fulfill the Law perfectly for the whole nation of Israel, again, because they could not, even as God’s chosen people.
 

We are told by Luke that Jesus moved to Nazareth, thus was fulfilled the promise that He would be a Nazarene. And we are told that the child grew and became strong. He was filled with wisdom and the grace of God was upon Him. And as we know, as we have seen, as we continue to rehearse in our recounting of the life, the history of Jesus, after this event we do not hear of the events of Jesus’ life until we hear the account of Him in the temple at the age of twelve, but that is for another time.
 

This morning we have Luke’s accurate account of these events as an assurance of our faith in Jesus. Luke’s words assure us that Jesus is the Messiah. He is the one promised by God. He is the one who fulfilled all the law perfectly, for us, in our place, because we are unable to.
 

Luke’s words assure us that Jesus came to give His life. How comforting to know that we will not be held accountable for our sin and their punishment. The wages of sin is death and Jesus paid that price for us.
 

Luke’s words assure us that we have forgiveness of sins. Because of what Jesus did, because He lived perfectly for us in our place, because He took all our sins upon Himself, because He suffered the eternal punishment of hell for our sins, because He gave His life for ours, because He paid the price for sin, by faith in Him, faith which He gives to us as well, we have forgiveness, which means that when God looks at us He sees Christ’s perfection.
 

Which means that Luke’s words also assure us that we have life, eternal life. By faith in Jesus, His perfect life has become our perfect life, His death has become our death, His resurrection and new life has become our resurrection and new life. By faith in Jesus we have forgiveness of sins and life, life in this world and eternal life in the world to come, heaven. By faith in Jesus, when we pass on from this world, we will be robed with His robes of righteousness as we are gathered together will all the saints in heaven.
 

This morning we come to worship our Lord. We come to rehearse the events of old. We come to hear the good news of salvation. We come to see, once again, as an assurance of our salvation, that Jesus is the One promised of old. This morning we come to be strengthened in our faith and being strengthened in our faith we are moved to say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Friday, December 25, 2020

We Praise You, Jesus, at Your Birth - Christmas Day - December 25, 2020 - Text, Sermon Hymn, #382 - We Praise You, Jesus, at Your Birth; Scripture Readings: Luke 2:7-14; 1 Tim. 3:16; 1 John 1:1-3

Today, well, actually last night we began to celebrate, but today is the official day we begin to celebrate the birth of the One promised back in the Garden of Eden, the Messiah, the Savior of the world, God in flesh, Emanuel, Jesus. The author of our hymn for today is unknown. The hymn was originally one stanza and in Low German. In the fourteenth century it was a kind of one-stanza folk song bringing adoration of the shepherds and the angels into the tongues of the worshipers. Martin Luther took this tiny text and made it into a major hymn by adding six stanzas. So, let us look at the stanzas.
 

Stanza one, “We praise You, Jesus, at Your birth; Clothed in flesh You came to earth. The virgin bears a sinless boy And all the angels sing for joy. Alleluia!” This first stanza is a reference from Luke and the song of the angels, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.” And there is a reference to 1 Timothy and the mystery of God in flesh, as Paul writes young Pastor Timothy and says, “16Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory” (1 Timothy 3:16).
 

Stanza two, “Now in the manger we may see  God’s Son from eternity, The gift from God’s eternal throne Here clothed in our poor flesh and bone. Alleluia!” Here again in stanza two we have another reference from Luke and the baby in the manger, and from 1 Timothy and the mystery of God in flesh here clothed in poor flesh and bone. What a mystery that God has taken on flesh and bone in this helpless little baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger, a feeding trough for animals.
 

Stanza three, “The virgin Mary’s lullaby Calms the infant Lord Most High. Upon her lap content is He Who keeps the earth and sky and sea. Alleluia!” Once more here in stanza three we have a reference from Luke about the baby wrapped in cloths and from 1 Timothy about the mystery of God in flesh. The young virgin Mary is holding in her lap the Lord of all, the God who keeps the earth and sky and sea in its place and yet is here in her lap as an infant human baby, what a mystery indeed.
 

Stanza four, “The Light Eternal, breaking through, Made the world to gleam anew; His beams have pierced the core of night, He makes us children of the light. Alleluia!” The fourth stanza reveals that this Child is the true Light of the world. As we have sang at other times during the Advent season and leading up to today, Jesus is the Light of the world. He is the Light shining through the darkness of our sin filled world, exposing the sin of the world and truly more importantly bringing forgiveness of sins to all the world.
 

Stanza five, “The very Son of God sublime Entered into earthly time To lead us from this world of cares To heaven’s courts as blessed heirs. Alleluia!” The fifth stanza declares that this Child, only begotten from the Father, came to bring us to His mansions in heaven. Here we have a bit of a reference to 1 John 1 where John tells us, “1That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—2the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—3that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:1-3). John’s words and the words of our hymn stanza declare to us the very purpose of Jesus’ birth, God in flesh who came to pay the price for sin, to give us forgiveness and to take us to heaven to be with Himself for eternity.
 

Stanza six, “In poverty He came to earth Showing mercy by His birth; He makes us rich in heav’nly ways As we, like angels, sing His praise. Alleluia!” This stanza brings us back to our reference from Luke and the angels song. Luke writes, “7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 8And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.’ 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’” (Luke 2:7-14). Our God, Jesus, was in heaven enjoying all the glory of heaven and yet He gave that up in order to take on human flesh and blood, in order to be born as one of us. Even more, His was not a royal birth but a birth to poor parents having an animals feeding trough for His first bed. He was born to live and do what we are unable to do, live in perfection. He was born to take our sins and pay the price of eternal death, hell for us. He was born to give, to trade His perfection for our imperfection. He was born to make us rich in heavenly ways.
 

Stanza seven, “All this for us our God has done Granting love through His own Son. Therefore, all Christendom, rejoice And sing His praise with endless voice. Alleluia!” Once more this stanza brings us back to a reference from Luke and the angels’ song and a reference from 1 John and the trinity. Greater love can no one have than this that one will lay down their life for another. As we have said before, God’s great love is seen in the fact that even before He began creating the world He knew what was going to happen. He knew that Adam and Eve would sin and bring death into the world. He knew that He would have to take on human flesh and blood in order to pay the price for our sins, that is that human life was expected for human sin. Yes, His love for us is seen in this that He still created this world and that He created us. He created us to love us and that is what He did and does.
 

We have spent twenty-seven days preparing ourselves to once again celebrate this historic event, the birth of our God in human flesh. We will continue to celebrate for the full twelve days of Christmas, until we celebrate Epiphany and the visit of the Magi, the wise men from the east. We celebrate because the birth of this Child shows what great love our God has for us. This Child, God in flesh was born for a purpose, to live for us and to die for us. Yes, as always we celebrate Christmas with the cross in focus. Following Epiphany and the Epiphany season we will celebrate the Transfiguration of our Lord after which we will celebrate Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent. The Lenten season prepares us for our Maundy Thursday and Good Friday remembrances but even more it prepares us for our Easter resurrection celebration. Our church year moves us to remember what a great God we have, what a loving God we have, what a gift giving God we have, what a forgiving God we have.
 

And as we have been reminded so I remind you once again, we worship a God who has already done everything for us and gives everything to us. It is a done deal. Jesus has already been born. He has already lived a perfect life, the perfect life demanded of us for us in our place. He has already taken all our sins, our sins of omission, our sins of commission, our sins of thought, word and deed, even those sins we have yet to commit. He has suffered and died and paid the eternal death penalty of hell for us in our place. No more needs to be done. And He has already risen from the dead. He has ascended into heaven where He is seated at the right hand of the Father watching over us, ruling over us and interceding for us. He is now waiting for the time when He will return to gather us and all the saints and take us to be with Himself in heaven for eternity. Indeed, come Lord Jesus, come quickly.
 

And so, we praise our great God because of His great love for us. We praise You, Jesus at Your birth, God in flesh made manifest. We praise You, Jesus for Your love for us, a love that knows no bounds, a love that brought You to live for us, to die for us, to rise for us, to give us forgiveness and eternal life and to promise to return to gather us and all the saints and take us and all the saints to be with You in Your kingdom in heaven for eternity. To You and You alone be all glory. Amen.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Impossible - December 20, 2020 - Fourth Sunday in Advent - Text: Luke 1:26-38

Excitement is in the air. Can you feel it? We have lighted our fourth, and last, candle on the Advent wreath. There are only five days left until our celebration of the birth of God in human flesh, Emmanuel, Christ the Lord. It is only five days till Christmas. To anyone hearing the news which is being proclaimed for the first time this news must certainly sound unbelievable, even impossible. Think about it, angels announcing the births of children, John the Baptist and Jesus. An old man and an old woman, well past child bearing years, giving birth to a child. A virgin giving birth to a child and to a child who is to be God in flesh, no less. If this were the first time we were hearing this news we might say, “impossible.” But, as the angel told Mary, “nothing will be impossible with God” (v. 37).
 

This morning we are back in the Gospel of Luke. Luke you might remember is our faithful Doctor and Historian. Luke is very specific and precise in his account, wanting to make sure that we have the facts and the historic setting correct. Luke wants us to know that this is not just a story, a made up fable, a myth or just pretend. He wants us to know that these events actually happened in human history.
 

What Luke says about Mary is that she was chosen by God. The angels greeting was, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” (v.28). Notice, it was not Mary who greeted the angel, but the angel who greeted Mary. It was not that Mary had chosen God, but that God had chosen her. It was not because of some innate goodness that God chose her, but simply that she is the one He chose. Again, Luke is precise in his words, he tells us about Mary, “She was greatly troubled at [the angels] saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be” (v. 29). Mary was a sinner that is why she was afraid to be in the presence of an angel of the Lord. And it was the angel, again, who assured Mary, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (v. 30). I must confess, I get pretty perturbed when I see any kind of depiction, written or art work, depicting the angel in submission to Mary, down on bended knee, even kissing Mary’s hand. Or when I hear of Mary’s, supposed perfection or of her perpetual virginity. Notice, again, the words of our text, Mary was frightened. Certainly the Apostle Paul reminds us that perfection and perfect love casts out all fear, but in our text we read that Mary was afraid. She was afraid because she knew she was not perfect, but that she, too, was a sinful human being standing in the presence of this messenger of God, this angel. It was not Mary who was the catalyst in these events, but God who chose Mary.
 

Luke continues telling us about these events, the angels words to Mary continue, “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus” (v. 31). Now Mary is pretty young, anywhere from thirteen to sixteen years old. She has reached puberty and she does know how babies are conceived and born. She also knows that she is betrothed and that she and her fiancee, literally her betrothed husband, have never had relations. She knows that she is a virgin and that it is physically impossible for her to have a baby, so she naively asks, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Unlike Zechariah’s question of doubt concerning the birth of John the Baptist, Mary was not questioning God’s ability, she was merely questioning the procedure of the events. And so, the angel explains what will happen, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; Therefore the child to be born will be called holy–the Son of God” (v. 35). And to emphasis his point, the angel adds, “Your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren” (v. 36). Again, what Luke is telling us might, to the first time hearer, sound rather impossible and humanly speaking, it is impossible, but not so with God.
 

Luke goes on, he tells us more about Jesus. He tells us that about Jesus, “The Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (v. 32b-33). This baby, Jesus, will be truly human. He will be from the human line of David, the once mighty King of Israel. He will be truly human as He will be born of a woman, Mary. Jesus will be one hundred percent a human being, but He will be different from us because He will be born without sin. This fact will be accomplished because, not only is He human, but He is also one hundred percent God.
 

Again, Luke tells us about Jesus that He will be conceived in Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, thus He will be true God. Jesus is, as Matthew tells us, “Immanuel, which means, God with us” (Mt.1:23).
 

This morning we continue to rejoice with the news that Luke brings to us. Luke tells us the facts. He puts them in their historic context. Luke tells us who Jesus is (v.32) and what He will do (v.33). He tells us who Jesus is and as he is telling us who Jesus is, he is also showing how this Jesus is the Jesus who was promised throughout the Old Testament. He tells us what Jesus will do and, again, as he tells us what Jesus will do, he is also showing how this Jesus is the Jesus who was promised throughout the Old Testament. Just check out the last verse from our Old Testament reading for today. God’s promise to David continues in Jesus. “And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16). Jesus, the human descendant of David, will reign and rule on His throne in heaven forever.
 

As I have said, someone who is hearing this account for the first time might exclaim, “impossible.” And, yes, we must admit that this account does sound a bit far fetched. Let me review. An angel comes to a young teenager who has never had any sexual relations with any man or boy and the angel says that she will become pregnant by the power of God and the child she will bear will be both God and human. That does not sound very scientific or realistic especially in our world today. Or, let us explain it this way, suppose Mary were to try to explain this to her parents. “Well, you see, mom and dad, there was this angel. And this angel came to me and said that I would become pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit. Really, I have never had sexual relations with anyone. Oh, yeah, the angel also said that this baby would be both human and divine.” I think you are getting the idea, this sounds impossible, at least, humanly impossible.
 

Let me add one more bit of discomfort. In Mary’s day, the penalty for sexual promiscuity, for adultery, that is, for sexual relations outside of marriage, was stoning, to death. Now, Mary needs to come up with an explanation, not only for her fiancee, and for her parents, but also for the general public. Again, who would believe such a story? It all sounds impossible.
 

But there is that one verse which we read earlier, the one where the angel reminds Mary and us, “For nothing will be impossible with God” (v. 37). Mary’s response to those words are words of faith, “‘I am the servant of the Lord,’ Mary answered. ‘Let it be to me according to your word’” (v. 38). The angels words are words which reminds us that the God we worship is not a wimpy God, but a great and all powerful God, a God with whom nothing is impossible. And Mary’s words remind us of what our attitude should be as she graciously submitted to the will of the Lord.
 

We live in a world in which many things happen, and in which many things that happen do seem rather unbelievable. As Christians, as believers in Jesus, we worship a God who is almighty, all knowing, everywhere present, and so on. We worship a God who is the one who gave us this world in the first place. He is the one who gives us life at conception and new life through Holy Baptism and faith. He is the one who gives us the faith to believe His Word and what He tells us in His Word. He is the one who made the first promise to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to send a Savior to bring us back into a right relationship with Himself, a relationship which was broken because of the sin of Adam and Eve. We worship a God who gives us His Word which tells us of the many times in which He reiterated His promise to send a Savior. God’s Word is so full of many of the great deeds which our God has done for us. And our Bible does not have all of Jesus’ deeds recorded as John tells us, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25).
 

Our response is the response of Mary, to be the servants of the Lord, to spread the News of Salvation. The world says, “impossible,” we say, “with God, all things are possible.” Day in and day out we bear witness of the “impossible” things our Lord does. He gives faith, He strengthens faith, He keeps us in faith. He gives forgiveness of sins. He protects from sin, death and the power of the devil. What a great and almighty God we do have. We do not have a God who is powerless, but a God who can do all things. We worship a God for whom nothing is “impossible.”
 

It is so important that each year we rehear this “impossible” event. The same God who created all things, and the same all things which were created perfect and yet gave up that perfection through disobedience and sin, this same God promised to reconcile the world to Himself. Yes, we are, today, sinners living in an imperfect, sinful world. Left to ourselves it would be impossible for us to be saved. Left to ourselves we would follow after false gods and idols. Left to ourselves we would worship the creation instead of the Creator, we would worship the mother instead of the child. Thanks be to God that we are not left to ourselves. Thanks be to God that in order to save us He became one of us, He took on human flesh and blood. He humbled Himself and was born of a woman, Mary. He lived perfectly, for us, in our place. He took all our sins upon Himself and suffered and died so that we might have forgiveness of sins and so that we might be brought back into a right relationship with Himself. What is truly impossible for us is not impossible for God. For with God, all things are possible. Which leaves us simply to stand in awe of our great God and to say, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Hark! A Thrilling Voice Is Sounding - Advent Mid-week 3 - December 16, 2020 - Text: Sermon Hymn, Sermon Title: #345 - Hark! A Thrilling Voice Is Sounding; Scripture Readings: Luke 1:76-79; Is. 60:1-3, 19-20; Eph. 5:8-14; Is. 25:7-9

This week our hymn of the day for last Sunday was, of course, the hymn we just sang, Hark! A Thrilling Voice Is Sounding. As with the hymn from two weeks ago, so too, the author of this hymn is Ambrose of Milan. With this hymn we continue our preparations, our getting ready to celebrate the first coming of the Messiah.
 

Stanza one, “Hark! A thrilling voice is sounding! ‘Christ is near,’ we hear it say. ‘Cast away the works of darkness, All you children of the day!’” In this first stanza we hear a reference to the Gospel of Luke and the work of John the Baptist calling the people, in particular the Children of Israel, but even us today, to repent, to cast away the works of darkness, the deeds of sin. We also have a reference to Isaiah and the problem of the darkness of sin. In Jesus day, in our day, indeed throughout time every generation can see the works of darkness and every generation thinks theirs is the worst and that certainly God will return soon. Yes, we do live in a world where sin abounds, where the thick darkness of sin covers the earth so this hymn calls to us today as well, to repent for the kingdom of God is near.
 

Stanza two, “Startled at the solemn warning, Let the earthbound soul arise; Christ, its sun, all sloth dispelling, Shines upon the morning skies.” Here in stanza two we have a reference to Ephesians and the call to walk as children of the Light. Paul says, “Walk as children of light 9(for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you’” (Ephesians 5:8b-14).
 

In stanza two we also have a reference to Isaiah 25 and the veil of darkness and unbelief that covers the earth. Isaiah says, “7And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. 8He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. 9It will be said on that day, ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation’” (Isaiah 25:7-9).
 

Stanza three, “See, the Lamb, so long expected, Comes with pardon down from heav’n. Let us haste, with tears of sorrow, One and all, to be forgiv’n;” Here in stanza three we have another reference to John the Baptists and his call to repentance. It was John who pointed to Jesus and exclaimed, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” And we again have another reference to Isaiah 25 and God’s salvation, “He will swallow up death forever.”
 

Stanza four, “So, when next He comes in glory And the world is wrapped in fear, He will shield us with His mercy And with words of love draw near.” Here in stanza four not only are we called to get ready to celebrate Jesus’ first coming, but also we are called to focus our attention on the fact that as God kept His promise to send Jesus and as Jesus promised He would come again so we need to be ready for His second coming as well.
 

Here in stanza four we have another reference to Isaiah 25 and the promise that God will wipe away tears, the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces and the reproach of his people he will take away. And another reference to Ephesians and the promise of God’s love.
 

Stanza five, “Honor, glory, might, dominion To the Father and the Son With the ever-living Spirit While eternal ages run!” Here in stanza five we have a doxology of praise and a reference to Isaiah 60 and God’s promise that our days of mourning will end. Isaiah says, “19The sun shall be no more your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give you light; but the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. 20Your sun shall no more go down, nor your moon withdraw itself; for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended” (Isaiah 60:19-20). Indeed, as Isaiah speaks of the everlasting light of the Lord, so it is with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit while eternal ages run.
 

So it is fitting to sing a word of praise to our triune God. It is God who promised to send a Savior. Actually, we should be reminded that God in His eternal omniscience knew what was going to happen even before He began creating the world. He knew that Adam and Eve would sin. He knew that He would have to send His Son, God Himself in human flesh to fulfill the demands of Himself, God the Father that is to live in perfection. He knew all that was going to happen even before He began creating the world and yet, because of His great love for us He created the world anyway.
 

We sing a word of praise to our triune God who not only promised, but fulfilled His promise to send a Savior. We sing a word of praise to our triune God as we continue to prepare our hearts and minds to celebrate once again, as we do every year, Jesus birth. This season of Advent is the beginning of the Church Year because the journey of Jesus to bring us salvation begins with His birth. We sing a word of praise to our triune God because Jesus was born, true God in human flesh. He was born, shining the light of truth into the darkness of our sin filled world. Jesus is, as John points to Him and says, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus lived in perfection. Jesus obeyed all God’s laws perfectly never sinning even once. Jesus fulfilled all the promises of God. Then, because of His great love for us He took our sins, all our sins, our sins of omission and sins of commission, our sins of thought, word and deed. He took all the sins of all people of all places of all times and suffered and died paying the price for those sins, eternal death and hell. His works of paying the price for sin was so complete that nothing more needs to be done.
 

We sing a word of praise to our triune God because of His great love for us as seen in Jesus. And as we prepare to celebrate His first coming, so we continue to prepare ourselves, our hearts and minds so that we are ready for His second coming when He will come in glory to gather us and all the saints and take us and all the saints to be with Himself in heaven for eternity.
 

What a fitting hymn for this third and last midweek Advent service. Next week we will celebrate. We do not celebrate yet, but we continue to prepare so that when we do celebrate it will be a great and grand celebration. What a great God we have. What a loving God we have. What a forgiving, gift giving God we have. Certainly our desire now and always is to give praise to our triune God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To Him be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Getting Ready - December 13, 2020 - Third Sunday in Advent - Text: John 1:6-8, 19-28

This morning our count down to Christmas continues. We have lighted the third Advent Candle and we have only twelve days left until we once again celebrate the birth of the Savior of the world, Christ the Lord. Are we ready for Christmas? How do we get ready for Christmas? How do we prepare? And how do we get ready and how do we know we are ready for Jesus’ second coming? Those are the questions we have been asking over the past couple of weeks and the questions we continue to ask, and prayerfully answer today.
 

John the Baptist came to get the people ready for the work of the Messiah. John began his work some thirty years after Jesus’ birth on that first Christmas. John came to testify concerning the Messiah, the Christened One or the Christ, the Savior. Our text puts it these terms, “[John] came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light” (John 1:7-8). Our Lord wanted to make sure that the world did not miss the coming of His Son, so He sent a messenger, John the Baptist, to prepare the people for His coming. John came, not to call attention to himself, but to point the people to the Messiah, or as he calls Him in our text, to the Light.
 

Jesus is the Light. He is the Light that shines bright in the darkness. He is the Light who draws all people to Himself. In much the same way as a very small light will brighten up a very dark room, so Jesus is a very bright light who came to brighten up the universe. In much the same way that we are drawn to a light in order to be able to see better, so we are drawn to Jesus who helps us to see clearly.
 

So John came to testify concerning the coming of the Light of the world. He came to call all people to faith so that all people might believe in the Messiah. John never speaks about himself, he only talks about the Light. He only points to Jesus.
 

When he was questioned by the priest and Levites John made his confession concerning Jesus. “He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, ‘I am not the Christ’” (John 1:20). John knew that he was not the one who came to give his life for the people. He knew that he was not the Christened or anointed one. He knew that he was not the Messiah and so he freely confessed that he was not the Savior.
 

Rather, John did confess that he came to prepare the way for the Messiah. John’s work and calling were simply to call the people to be ready for the coming Messiah. His work was to point, not to himself, but to Jesus. Notice how, when they asked him pointedly, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” (John 1:22b). John’s reply was to point to Christ. In the words of Isaiah the prophet John says, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord’” (John 1:23b).
 

And John knew his limitations. He tells the people, I baptize with water for the remission of sins. I am here to call you to turn from your ways of sin and unbelief, to forgiveness and faith. I am here to call you from following the gods and idols of this world, to believe the words of Holy Scripture concerning the coming of the Savior.
 

Again, he was questioned by the Pharisees who asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” (John 1:25b). Although we are told elsewhere that John came in the spirit of Elijah, he confesses that he himself is not Elijah. Many among the Jewish people expected the return of Elijah, whom you might remember did not die, but was bodily assumed into heaven, or they were expecting the return of a variety of persons in association with the coming of the Messiah, thus, the barrage of questions to John. John confesses, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even He who comes after me, the strap of  of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie” (John 1:26-27). Again, John knows his place. He knows his role. He came, not pointing to himself, but pointing to the coming of the Messiah.
 

In much the same way as John came to get the people of his day ready for Jesus’ first coming, so we read and hear his words still today to help us get ready to celebrate Jesus’ birth. At the same time, our getting ready for Christmas today is also much different than that of John’s day. Please bear with me as I bring to mind some of our customs today of getting ready for Christmas and as I attempt to put them into a Christian perspective. Today our getting ready for Christmas often includes putting up a Christmas tree. Our custom of putting up a Christmas tree, either real or artificial, reminds us of life. The green of the tree reminds us that we worship a living God. Very often our green tree is decorated with lights and with ornaments. The lights reminds us of the stars shining through the trees and in particular they might remind us of the star which lead the wise men to the house to see the newborn King. The tree is often topped with either a star or an angel. The star, again, reminding us of the star which lead the wise men to the house of the newborn King or the angel reminding us of all the work of the angels at this time of the year, making announcements to Zechariah and Mary, and to Joseph and the Shepherds.
 

Our Christmas preparations often include putting lights on the outside of our houses. Just as Jesus is the light of the world, so we would share our faith, not by hiding it under a bushel, but by letting our light shine before the world so that they might bear witness to the faith that is in our hearts.
 

A more recent custom is that of hanging a nail toward the center of the Christmas tree. This nail is quietly placed in remembrance of the reason for Christmas, that is that the reason the Child was born was to die, nailed to a cross. Most of the time we do not like to talk about death and dying, and especially during this season of celebrating the birth of a child death and dying talk seem so out of place. But for us Christians that is the reason for the season, the birth of this Child, God in flesh, who came to give His life, to die on the cross, to pay the price for our sins, for your sins and mine, so that we might have forgiveness and eternal life.
 

Our Christmas preparations often include putting a nativity set, either under the tree or out in the yard, or both. The nativity reminds us of that night on which Jesus was born. It reminds us of Jesus poor and lowly birth, his first bed being a manger, a feeding trough for animals. And very often, the manger, the feeding trough for the animals, is left empty until Christmas Eve or Christmas morning when the birth of the Christ child is celebrated at which time the baby is placed in the manger.
 

   Most of us include the custom of exchanging presents during the time of Christmas. Certainly this would remind us of the season of epiphany when the wise men came and brought gifts of gold, incense and myrrh to the baby Jesus.
 

For many the season of Christmas brings an anticipation of “getting” gifts. Children and adults alike anticipate “what they are going to get for Christmas.” In keeping with the eight commandment and in putting the best construction on everything, I pray this anticipation is also an anticipation of “getting” or begin given the greatest gift of all, the gift of God’s grace through His Son, Jesus.
 

For some there is the custom of baking a cake to celebrate the birth of the Savior of the world. Christmas is the day we celebrate the birth of the Savior, Jesus Himself. Just as we have a custom of baking and eating cake for our own birthdays, why not celebrate Jesus birthday with a birthday cake.
 

My intent this morning is not to exhaust all the customs that we Christians have or all the traditions each and every family has during the season of Christmas. I simply wanted to name a few in comparison and contrast to the preparation which happened at Jesus’ first coming. Sometimes it is good to take a look at the traditions we have in order to understand why we do what we do and that we are doing what we are doing not just for the sake of doing something. Some of you may have heard this story before. There was a young mother who cut off the ends of the ham before putting it into a pan and into the oven. When her child asked her why she did this, she did not know why. All she could say was, “that is the way my mother always did it.” So, she called her mother to ask her way she cut off the ends of the ham before cooking it and her mother did not know either, she simply said, “that is the way my mother always did it.” So, she called her mother (who happened to still be living) to ask her why she cut off the ends of the ham before cooking it and her mother told her, “because we did not have a pan large enough for the whole ham.” Why do we do the things we do? I can think of some positive reasons for many of the customs and traditions we have at this time of the year. If I cannot, then maybe it is time I think of a different custom or tradition.
 

Most important in getting ready for Christmas is the getting ready, not of the physical things of our lives, but of the preparing our hearts, minds and souls for our celebration of the newborn King. We prepare ourselves by making use of the means that God has of getting us ready, His means of grace, His Word, the Bible, as well as we do every Sunday morning, confession and absolution, and His sacraments, the Lord’s Supper and Holy Baptism. As we even quietly and unassumingly prepare our own lives for our celebration of Jesus’ birth we may also be a light for others, pointing them, through our actions and words, to Jesus whose birth we celebrate. And we may also reap the benefit of continuing to get ourselves ready for Jesus’ second coming.
 

Hindsight is twenty-twenty as the saying goes. What we are preparing to celebrate is a done deal, and yet at the same time we continue to prepare ourselves for Jesus; second coming, on the day of judgement, the day He returns or the day we go to Him, which as we have been saying will be sooner than we know and sooner than we might imagine. We are prepared, then, when we have our hearts, minds, and soul firmly secured in Jesus, who was born, who did live a perfect life, who did take our sins upon Himself, who did suffer and die, paying the price for our sins, eternal death and hell, who did rise from the dead, who has ascended into heaven where He is watching over us, ruling over us and interceding for us, and who is awaiting the day when He will return to robe us with His robes us righteousness and take us to be with Himself and all the saints who have gone on before us, to heaven to be with Himself for eternity.
 

As I have said from time to time, we do not know what might lay ahead of us in life, how much or how little time our Lord will give us in this present world and so it is so important to always be ready. It is important to be ready for when Jesus comes again, and it is important to be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in us. May the Lord work through the means that He has given us, as we make uses of those means, in order to get us ready, so that when He does come again we might stand with all the saints and say, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Prepare - December 6, 2020 - Second Sunday in Advent - Text: Mark 1:1-8

Only nineteen more days until Christmas. Are you ready? Someone once suggested that instead of our going through time, it is more like time is rushing toward us, maybe even like a freight train. Have you ever noticed how, when you are getting ready for something, that time does not stand still and wait on you, rather it just keeps coming at you, whether you are ready or not. Well, Christmas is coming, again, already and it will be here on December 25 whether we are ready or not.
 

This morning we focus our attention on the getting ready of the world for Jesus’ first coming. Interestingly enough, the world of Jesus’ day, that was waiting for His first coming, was probably a lot like our world today. The people of Jesus’ day were going about their lives not worrying about getting ready for anything, just living as if this world was all there was. As Jesus Himself said, “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days of the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man” (Matt. 24:37-39). So, today, as we get ready for Jesus’ second coming, and as we get ready to celebrate His first coming, we live in a world which is pretty much oblivious to Jesus and His coming again and will be oblivious until He does come again, at which time it will be too late. Just look around you at the people in our world. How often do you hear anyone express any interest in getting ready for Jesus’ coming. I am not talking about those who have a fanatical fascination about the end of this world and are looking for whatever god they have created in their own minds to appear. I am talking about how often do you hear your friends concerned about being ready either for their own death, at which time they will see God, or about getting ready for Jesus to come to take us to heaven. It is not something we dwell on. Let me assure you, it will happen. Either Christ will come again, during our own life, or we will go to Him. Either way, the question remains, are we ready? And if we are not ready, I think we need to be getting ready?
 

Getting to our text, I want you to keep in mind, that as we hear about the preparation and the first coming of Jesus, this all parallels with our preparation to celebrate Jesus’ first coming and our getting ready for His second coming. The people of Jesus day did have and we today do have the promise, God’s promise to send a Savior. In Jesus’ day the people had the Word of God which foretold that a messenger would come to prepare the way for the Messiah. In our Old Testament reading for this morning we heard the same words the people of Jesus’ day were hearing, that one would come calling to prepare the way for the Messiah.
 

And what would the messenger come calling. He would come to call all people to repentance. Repentance is defined as turning. Repentance is turning 180 degrees, that is to turn away from sin to go the opposite direction, the direction of not sinning. When we say we are sorry it means nothing unless we are determined, with the help of God, to turn from what we are doing wrong to do something different, what is right. Too often it happens in our world that we think that if we just say, “I’m sorry,” then we can go on and do whatever it is we have been doing, because we can always say, “I’m sorry,” again. Repentance means turning from the direction you were going and instead, going in the right direction.
 

In our text for this morning Mark begins by reminding us of the promises which were made and now he is laying out the fulfillment of those promises. John the Baptist is the one who came calling in the wilderness to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah. John came calling the people to repentance. He came calling them to turn from their ways of sin to a way of not sinning.
 

John came calling the people to be baptized. His baptism was a baptism for repentance. What you need to know and understand about John and the people of John’s day, and really, about many religious groups and organizations even today, as well as our own Christian church, is that baptism, that is religious washings were and are pretty important parts of religious activity. For John to call the people to be washed, to be baptized, was not an unusual calling for the people. They were used to such religious callings.
 

However, John’s calling was different in this respect, he came pointing not to himself and his own thoughts, feelings and ideas, but he came pointing to the Messiah, the One who was to come to be the Savior of the world. The One who was promised from of old. The One who would come to give His life for the lives of all people.
 

About the Messiah, John tells us that He will come baptizing with the Holy Spirit. You might recall that on the day of Pentecost Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, the counselor, to give the people the strength and the courage, even His authority and promise, to spread the news of Jesus to the rest of the World. Still, today, we are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes into us at our Baptism in order to give us faith, forgiveness and life, even to strengthen us and give us the courage not only to live our lives to the glory of the Lord, but to share our faith with others.
 

About the Messiah, John tells us that He will come giving forgiveness. John refers to Jesus as the Lamb of God. In the same way that a lamb was sacrificed, that a lamb’s blood was shed, to remind the people that the cost of sin is death (someone’s life), so Jesus, God’s Son, came to give His life. Jesus came to shed His blood, to offer His life for ours. It is through His death that our sins are forgiven and that we have the promise of eternal life.
 

Again, John tells us that Jesus comes giving the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who gives faith, strengthens faith and keeps us in faith until Christ comes again. Notice John’s focus. Notice Mark’s focus. Their focus in not on themselves, it is not on us. Their focus and our focus is always a focus on the one who saves, Jesus Christ alone.
 

Which brings us to our preparation. Are we ready to celebrate Jesus’ first coming, that is Christmas? And are we ready for Jesus’ second coming? If we are not ready, then, now, more than ever, is the time to get ready. So how do we prepare our hearts, minds and souls for Jesus?
 

We prepare ourselves by recognizing that our time on this earth is short and is fading fast. Have you ever taken the time to look at the obituaries in the newspaper? The listings are sometimes two, three and four pages long. And the list includes people of any and all ages, any and all ethnic backgrounds, any and all religious persuasions. The list includes people who are a few days old all the way to people who are eighty, ninety and even a hundred years old. When will the Lord return? We do not know. When will we die? That we do not know either. How much time do we have on this earth? Again, we do not know. All we know is that we need to be ready at any time and at all times, because we will meet the Lord, either at His return or at our going to Him. It will happen, thus, we prepare ourselves by having an urgency about being ready.
 

We prepare ourselves by making use of the means that God has given us to get ready, His means of Grace, His Word, the Bible, confession and absolution, and His Sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These are the means that God uses to come to us to give us His good gifts and blessings. We go to Him in prayer. He comes to us through His means of grace. When we absent ourselves from these means we remove His usual means of coming to us to give us His gifts. It is very much like failing to go to the grocery story to purchase food for our bodies. When we do not go to the grocery store we have no food in the pantry and we starve physically. When we fail to go to God’s Word store, when we absent ourselves from divine service and Bible Class, when we fail to read His Word, we starve spiritually. To use an analogy appropriate for the season of Christmas, failing to make use of the means of grace is like waking up on Christmas morning and refusing the presents that have been purchased especially for you. It is like saying to God, “No gifts for me today Lord, I have plenty, maybe next week.”
 

We prepare ourselves by being on guard against the enemies that constantly attack; the devil, the world, and our own sinful nature. We live in a world which is trying to tear down your Christian faith. The world attacks you on every side. It brings false conclusions and expects that you accept them as truth. Such false conclusions as, “everyone else is doing it,” meaning that majority rule equals truth. But we know it does not. We hear such false conclusions as “it’s the twenty-first century,” as if newness equals truth, and that is not necessarily so. We hear false proclaimers misuse God’s name suggesting that there are things we need and must do in order to gain salvation. As I continually remind my confirmands and those in Bible class, watch who is doing what. You know what a verb is and you know what a noun is. Watch who is running the verbs. If someone is suggesting that you run the verbs, that there is something you need to do to be saved, then be wary. But if someone is telling you what Jesus is doing, how He is running the verbs, then you know that they are on the right track. Do not let the devil con you into believing anything except the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
 

Most importantly we prepare ourselves by letting God run the verbs, the show, by letting God prepare us. Remember, everything is a done deal. Jesus has already lived perfectly for us, in our place. Jesus has already suffered and died, paying the price for our sins. Jesus has already risen and ascended into heaven where He is seated at the right hand of the Father, watching over us, ruling over us and interceding for us. Jesus is getting ready to return when He will gather us and all the saints, robe us with His robes of righteousness and take us to be with Himself in heaven for eternity. Until that day we continue to get ready and be ready. We continue to be where the gifts are given out. We continue to revel in the gifts, rejoicing in being given to. My prayer for you is that the Lord will fill you with His Holy Spirit. That the Holy Spirit will guide you and prepare you so that you are ready, so that when Jesus comes again we might stand together with all the saints and proclaim, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Savior of the Nations, Come - Advent Mid-week 1 - December 2, 2020 - Text: #332 - Savior of the Nations, Come, Scripture Readings: John 1:1, 14; Luke 2:30-32

This year during the season of Advent through to New Year’s Eve we have chosen to use hymns, and in particular, the hymn of the day as our sermon texts. Which means, since on Wednesdays there is no hymn of the day we will use the hymn of the day for the previous Sunday. Also, please understand that this does not mean we are not preaching on a text from the Bible as all our hymns have a Biblical foundation. And let me say right off, as much as I thought this idea of using hymns as sermon text would be a great idea, and a great way to get to know some of our hymns a bit more, and it is, it was not the easiest of tasks to prepare a sermon with a hymn as a text. But enough of that, let us get to our hymn and text. First let me announce our hymn which we just sang and let you know, and you can find this information in your hymnal at the bottom of the hymn the author of our hymn for today is Ambrose of Milan. If you wish you can follow along in your hymnal as we look at the verses of our hymn.
 

Stanza one, “Savior of the nations, come, Show yourself the virgin’s son. Marvel, heaven, wonder, earth, That our God chose such a birth.” So, we are in the season of Advent which is the season that begins our church year. Advent means coming and is the time we use to get ourselves ready to celebrate Jesus’ first coming. Verse one speaks of our yearning for Jesus’ coming. The world has waited since the first promise of a Savior back in the Garden of Eden and this verse speaks of the marvel of how God fulfills His plan of salvation and the promise made to Adam and Eve.
 

Stanza two, “No man’s pow’r of mind or blood But the Spirit of our God Made the Word of God be flesh, Woman’s offspring, pure and fresh.” In this verse we hear the words of the Gospel writer John as he writes about the Word, that is Jesus. Indeed, Jesus is the Word, the spoken Word in the beginning, the written Word in Holy Scripture, the tangible Word in His Holy Supper. Jesus is the Word promised in Eden and given flesh in Bethlehem. This verse attributes this miraculous birth of God in flesh to the power of the Holy Spirit.
 

Stanza three, “Here a maid was found with child, Virgin pure and undefiled. In her virtues it was known God had made her heart his throne.” In this verse the author speaks of the virtue of the Virgin Mary. While the author speaks of the virtues of Mary I pray he understood as we do that although she was a good person, chaste and decent, she was not a perfect person, as we know that no one is perfect except Jesus Himself. However, he does speak of, shall we say, the mundane fact of God being born of an ordinary human, that is that God Himself was born of an ordinary human being so that He Himself is an ordinary human, and God as well.
 

Stanza four, “Then stepped forth the Lord of all From his pure and kingly hall; God of God, becoming man, His heroic course began.” In this verse we hear Simeon’s Song from Luke two, the song we sing following our partaking of the Lord’s Supper, the song we call the Nunc Dimittis or the Now Dismiss. Simeon was in the temple at the direction of the Holy Spirit as he was promised that he would not die before seeing the Lord’s Anointed. Thus, this verse reflects Simeon’s joy of the salvation of the world and the fact that he is now ready even to die.
 

Stanza five, “God the Father was his source, Back to God he ran his course. Into hell his road went down, Back then to his throne and crown.” In this verse we are reminded of God’s plan of giving up His glory, all the glory that was His in heaven, in order to come to earth. Jesus came to earth to do the will of God the Father, to live a perfect life, to obey all of God’s laws and commands perfectly, to fulfill all His promises perfectly, to take all our sins upon Himself, to suffer and die on the cross and as the verse states to descend into hell to declare victory. Then as this verse continues we are reminded of the rest of God’s plan of returning to His throne following His earthly victory.
 

Stanza six, “Father’s equal, you will win Vict’ries for us over sin. Might eternal, make us whole; Heal our ills of flesh and soul.” This verse is a confession of our faith in God’s victory over sin, death and the devil. As we are conceived and born in sin so Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection has brought healing of our souls, bringing us back into a right relationship with God the Father.
 

Stanza seven, “From the manger newborn light Sends a glory through the night. Night cannot this light subdue, Faith keeps springing ever new.” This verse again reminds us of John’s Gospel as he relates to us that Jesus is the Light of the world, the light shining in darkness, the darkness of sin and unbelief to bring forgiveness and faith. The Light the devil and the world do not always understand and most certainly that the devil did not overcome. The Light of Christ shines though the darkness of sin to reveal sin so that there is confession and forgiveness. It is the Light of Christ that brings victory.
 

Stanza eight, “Glory to the Father sing, Glory to the Son, our king, Glory to the Spirit be Now and through eternity.” What a better way to end this hymn of anticipation and jubilation than with a doxology, a hymn of praise to our triune God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. A hymn of praise that transcends time, now and through eternity.
 

This hymn, Savior of the Nations, Come, is quite a fitting hymn to begin the Church Year and the season of Advent. While the people of Jesus’ day were waiting expectantly for the birth of the one promised in the Garden of Eden, we today continue to eagerly wait His return. Just as God kept His promise, even though it took some four thousand years, or so, so God will keep His promise to return to gather us and all the saint and take us to be with Himself in heaven for eternity.
 

Our hymn for the day reminds us of Luke and John’s words of God’s promise and His fulfillment. Jesus is the Word. He was there with the Father and the Holy Spirit at the creation of the world. Jesus is the spoken Word, the Word of promise of a Savior to Adam and Eve. Jesus is the written Word as God gave Moses the Word to write the first five books of the Old Testament. Today Jesus is the Word, the tangible Word of His body and blood in His Holy Supper. As we begin this Advent season we are preparing our hearts and minds to once again celebrate that Jesus is the Word in flesh being born of the humble human woman, the Virgin Mary.
 

Jesus is the Word, God in flesh who gave up the glory that was His in heaven. He lived the perfect life demanded of us. He never sinned. He fulfilled all God’s promises and perfectly obeyed all God’s commands. He took our sins and the sin of all people of all place of all times upon Himself and paid the complete price for sin. He descended into hell to declare victory over sin, death and the devil. He ascended to the place from which He descended. And now we wait in eager anticipation for His return to gather us and all the saint in order to take us to heaven to live with Him forever in heaven so that we praise His glorious name.
 

This hymn is a great creedal hymn speaking of our confession of faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior. So as always we rejoice and say, “To God be the glory for His name sake.” Amen.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Be On Guard! Be Alert! - November 29, 2020 - First Sunday in Advent - Text: Mark 13:24-37

If I had known you were coming I would have baked a cake! How often have we heard that expression. More often than not, the meaning behind that expression is that if we had announced our coming our host would have been able to prepare something special for our arrival and visit. Today is the first Sunday in a brand new church year. I might as well have begun by saying, “Happy New Year!” As we begin this new Church year our Scripture readings are concerned with getting us ready to celebrate Jesus’ first coming, as a baby, in a manger, in Bethlehem. At the same time, our concern continues to be in getting ourselves ready for Jesus’ Second coming. Jesus gives us fair warning that He is coming again, because He does not want us to be left saying, “If I had known You were coming I would have baked a cake.”
 

“Be on guard, keep awake.” is the warning Jesus has for us. “For you do not know when the time will come.” We do know Jesus will return. We do know the time will come. A quick review of history will refresh our confidence in God and His promises and especially in Jesus’ promise that He will return. Way back in the beginning, and I do mean in the beginning, in the book of Genesis, we are told that God created. With mere words God created. God created all things, out of nothing. God spoke or breathed them into existence. God said, and it was. On the sixth day, God crowned His creation with the creation of the man and the woman, Adam and Eve. After each day of creation God said that “it was good.” After all was created, about all His creation God said, “It is very good.”
 

God created Adam and Eve in a special way, different from the rest of His creation. He did not simply speak or breath Adam and Eve into existence, instead, God formed Adam from the dust of the ground and breathed into him the breath of life and Eve He formed from Adam’s side. God created Adm and Eve and especially for them He created a Garden. He placed them in this beautiful garden and in His infinite wisdom He gave them a way to respond to Him, that is a way to show their love and gratitude to Him for all that He had done for them. He told them that they were to care for the garden, you see, work is not a result of the curse of sin. They could eat from all the vegetation of the garden, except the tree in the middle, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Of this tree, God warned, that if they disobeyed and ate of it they would surely die.
 

Soon after creation the devil, a fallen angel who thought himself equal with God, Satan or Lucifer, came into the garden in the form of a serpent. He tempted Eve and Adam with the lie and the desire that they could be come like God, if only they ate of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Up until this time Adam and Eve only knew good, not evil. So the woman and the man disobeyed God and ate of the fruit. That one act of disobedience brought sin into a once perfect world and with sin came death, eternal death or hell and physical death. Now Adam and Eve knew evil as well as good. What was once perfect, even very good,  is now tainted.
 

However, God, being a God of love, immediately stepped in so that He might reconcile the broken relationship of His creation to Himself. God had to do this because His creation could not reconcile itself with the Creator. God’s plan was to send a Savior. The Savior God promised to send would be His one and only Son. The Savior God promised to send would be God in flesh. Truly human in order to live in the perfection demanded of His creation and in order to give His life for ours. And truly God in order to be perfect and in order to raise Himself from the dead.
 

However, God did not immediately fulfill His promise. It was only after some 4000 years that God fulfilled His promise. During this season of Advent, the beginning of our current church year, not only are we getting ourselves ready to celebrate Jesus’ first coming at His birth in Bethlehem, we are also getting ourselves ready for Jesus’ second coming. In the days of Jesus’ first coming, in fulfillment of God’s first promise, the people were waiting, expectantly for a Savior, for Jesus to come, at least that was the case with some of the people.
 

Jesus did come to earth. In a few weeks we will celebrate that coming on Christmas morning. Jesus gave up the glory that was His as true God in heaven in order to come to earth and while He was here on earth He did for us what we are unable to do. He lived for us, perfectly. He overcame all temptation for us, perfectly, including temptation above any we may ever suffer. He obeyed all of God’s laws and commands perfectly, for us. After living a perfect life He took our sins upon Himself and suffered and died in order to pay the cost, the price, the wage that our sins had earned. And after He rose from the dead, before He ascended into heaven Jesus said He would return.
 

Before Jesus left this earth, before His ascension, He left us with His great commission. He gave us His instructions, His authority and a promise to share the good news of Jesus to all nations through baptizing and teaching. We have His instructions and we have His authority and promise. As we are living our lives we are to proclaim His name with His authority and we have the promise that He will be with us to help us in carrying out His work.
 

But there is more, Jesus gives us gifts, talents and abilities in His Church to do the good works He has for us to do. We are not left to our own devices, we are to work as our Lord gives us to work. As we heard two weeks ago, He also will hold us accountable for doing the work He has for us to do as well as making use of the gifts, talents, and abilities, and here we would include the gifts of time, talents, and treasures that He has given to us and we are to use these in service to Him in His kingdom.
 

So far Jesus has waited some 2000 years and He has not yet returned. God took some four thousand years to fulfill His first promise to send a Savior. That does not necessarily mean that He will wait another two thousand years, for a total of 4000 years before He fulfills this second promise to come. He may wait another 1000 years. He may wait only 100 years. He may not wait even one more year. What we do know from his keeping his first promise is that just as He fulfilled His first promise, so He will fulfill His second promise. And so we wait. And as we wait we keep watch.
 

Jesus says, “Be on guard, keep awake.” We do not know when Jesus will return, neither does He, only the Father knows. We have an indication when He will return, as Jesus tells us, “just as in the days of Noah, so will it be in the last days.” In the days of Noah people were eating and drinking and marrying and being given into marriage so that they were oblivious to the fact that the flood was coming soon and they perished in the flood. So it is today that so many people are eating and drinking and marrying and being given into marriage and living their lives as if this world is all there is and are oblivious to the fact that Jesus will come again soon.
 

Our focus again today is on getting ready. How do we get ourselves ready? Or how do we know if we are ready? We get ourselves ready or better said, God gets us ready and we know we are ready when we believe that Jesus is God’s Son. That Jesus came in fulfillment to God’s first promise. That Jesus suffered and died in order to pay the price for my sins. We are ready when we believe that just as Jesus came the first time, so He will keep His promise and will come again, soon.
 

We know we are ready when we speak about being ready. It is interesting how our psyche, if you will, works. Have you ever noticed how it is when you get really excited about something? You can not keep it to yourself. You have to share it with someone. Faith works in a similar fashion. When God gives us faith it wells up inside of us so much so that we can not keep it to ourselves, we have to tell someone.
 

We know we are ready when we act like we are ready. Here again, following the analogy of getting excited about things. When we get excited we talk about it, we even get kind of antsy. Our body language tells others that we are excited. Even more so, as we get ready and as we are ready for Jesus second coming we know it and believe it in our hearts. We speak about it in our conversations. Our whole body language, our lives show it in our actions. We do those things which reflect our getting ready for something wonderful.
 

This morning then, just as Jesus says, Be on guard, keep awake, so I say to you, “Be on guard!” - “Keep awake!” Do not fall into the trap of thinking that Jesus will not come during our lifetime. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that the things of this world are more important than the things of the world to come. Do not get sidetracked by the temptations of the devil as he tries to pull you away from Christ and His church through filling your life with so many unimportant and trivial matters other than getting yourself ready for Jesus’ return.
 

When will Jesus return? We do not know, but we do know that He will return. I believe that God intentionally does not tell us when Jesus will return, because He knows we have a short attention span. He knows that if we knew when Jesus would return then we would waste our lives up until the last minute. By not telling us when He will return He is assuring that we live our lives in such a way that we are ready at any time and at all times. And if we are ready at any time and at all times, then we will work at getting others ready as well so that when He does return He will be able to gather even more into His kingdom.
 

God gives. God gives life at creation. He gives each of us life at conception. He gives us faith and new life through Holy Baptism. He has given His life for our forgiveness. He gives us gifts, talents and abilities to use in our vocations, to use in service to Him through our service to others. He gives His promise to return to take us from this valley of tears to be with Himself in heaven where He will robe us with His robes of righteousness. How can we not be excited? How can we not yearn and desire His return? How can we not yearn and desire to continually come into His presence, to come to His house to be given more and more of His gifts, forgiveness and strengthening of faith? How can we not live lives of faith showing that we believe His Word that He will return, soon and showing that we are indeed, ready?!
 

Finally, as you are ready for Jesus’ return, my prayer for you is that of Paul’s words in our Epistle lesson, “4I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—6even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—7so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” To God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

God Shall Provide All Your Needs - November 26, 2020 - Thanksgiving Eve - Text: Philippians 4:6-20

Tomorrow has been declared by the President of the United States as a national day of thanksgiving. It has become sort of automatic that each year our President makes the same proclamation. Tomorrow is not a religious holy day as we think of most holidays, but tomorrow is a national, social day of giving thanks. And to whom do we give thanks? For us, we give thanks to the one we acknowledge as the giver of all good gifts and blessings. We give thanks to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This evening I would like to make three points from our text.
 

Our first point comes from Paul’s words, “6do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (v.6). By these words Paul encourages us to be in constant prayer to the Lord. That does not mean that we are to be constantly kneeling, bowing our heads, folding our hands and offering up prayers and petitions. It does mean that, really, our whole lives should be lived as a prayer to the Lord and a prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord. We remember that prayer is a heart to heart talk with God, anytime and anywhere. I do not know about you, but I find myself in constant prayer to the Lord. Many times each day I find myself praying for one need or another, for one bit of rejoicing or another.
 

Paul also encourages us to give thanks as we present our requests to the Lord. We present our requests with thanks knowing and having confidence that the Lord will answer our prayer. And we know that the Lord will answer our prayer according to what He knows is best for us according to His good and gracious will, not necessarily according to what we might think we need. And yes, we even give thanks when our Lord in His infinite wisdom says, “no.”
 

The second point I will make this evening comes from Paul’s words, “7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (v.7). This it the phrase we hear after many sermons, perhaps not from this translation, but from another. Just as our hearing the Word of the Lord gives us true peace, so as our lives become a prayer to the Lord, He will give us true peace. True peace is that peace which is not simply a worldly peace, not simply a few moments or even an hour of earthly calm and serenity, but true peace is that peace which comes from knowing our sins are forgiven, because with forgiveness we know that we have life and salvation. What other, or better peace can we have than to know that our eternity is set, that heaven is a present reality.
 

God’s peace is a peace that is beyond all understanding. His peace is beyond our understanding because we cannot understand how God could love us so much that He would give the life of His Son for ours. We cannot understand how a Creator could love His wayward creation so much that He would reconcile the debt the creation owes its Creator. It is the life of His Son on the cross which earned for us our forgiveness and eternal life.
 

Paul gives his life as an example of the transforming power of God’s peace. God’s peace is that which makes it possible for us to be content in all things. It is God’s peace which makes it possible for us to keep our thoughts and minds on all things true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable. And we remain in God’s peace by being in His Word.
 

Another example that Paul gives concerning the power of peace in his life is the example of contentment. He has learned to be content by learning the difference between wants and needs. As blessed as we are in this country, we continually have a difficulty understanding this difference. Most of us probably believe that a telephone in every room of the house is a necessity, or every member of the family having a phone, or that a television in every room, or today, a computer in every room is a necessity. We believe having more than one change of clothes or more than one pair of shoes is a necessity. We have been and are so blessed that many of the things we have we believe to be necessary. Paul helps us distinguish what is necessary and what is simply a want. Please understand, to want things beyond what is necessary is not in and of itself wrong. What is sin is when our wants dictate our actions and so consume us that we forget what is important. Paul’s example is one which we would do well to imitate as we live in the peace of the Lord.
 

The third point I would like to make this evening comes from Paul’s words, “19And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (v. 19). When it comes to contentment we learn to be content by learning that it is the Lord who gives first. The Lord gives us everything that we need and even more than we want, although according to our human nature I am sure we can always want more. I have challenged many people from time to time and I will offer than same challenge to you. Can you name even one thing that is yours that did not in some way come from God? In one way or another, everything we have, except our sin, has its beginning with our Lord. What we are born with and what we take with us when we die is what is truly ours and everything else is simply on loan to us from God while we live in this world. Being content begins with learning the difference between wants and needs. Again, for us in America, most of us have so many things. We have more than we need and many times, more than we could or should want, although, again, I know we can always want more. Tomorrow and truly every day is the day to take time to give thanks for all those things, the things we need and the things we have that are wants.
 

The second part of contentment is to respond in thanks. Being content is recognizing that all things, in one way or another, come from God and then thanking Him for all His good gifts and blessings.
 

And as the Lord gives and as we return a portion from what He has first given with thanksgiving to the Lord, He gives us even more. He does this to remind us that we cannot out give Him. The Lord gives to us everything we need and He gives to us a whole lot more.
 

As we celebrate our national day of thanksgiving we do so by giving thanks. I guess I do not see how a family can sit down at a thanksgiving meal and not give thanks, yet there are many who will do so tomorrow. I do not see how a family can begin a day of thanksgiving without first giving thanks to the Lord for He is the giver of all good gifts and blessings.
 

As I think about the gifts that God gives I am reminded that; first the Lord has given me the gift of life. He gave me that gift at my conception. The first spiritual and really the most important gift I was given by the Lord happened thirteen days after my birth and that was the gift of new life at my baptism. At my baptism the Lord gave me the gift of faith, forgiveness and eternal life in heaven. He has provided this forgiveness by giving His Son and the life of His Son, yes, even His own life as God in flesh so that I might have this forgiveness, but not just me, He has provided this forgiveness for all people. And with forgiveness we know that we have life and salvation, indeed there is no greater gift.
 

But I know that God has not just given me these spiritual gifts, although with just those gifts I know that I am especially blessed by God. God gives me physical things as well. He has provide me with a loving wife and four loving children. He has provided for us a nice house which we are making into a nice home. He allows for me to arise each day as each day is a gift from Him. He gives me the ability each day to do whatever work He has prepared for me to do. He has brought us to this congregation to love and be loved by the members of this congregation. He gives me food and clothing. He gives me all that I need. He even gives me more than I need and more than I want.
 

He also stirs in me to give thanks. I know that in and of myself I am a selfish person. I take what God gives me and I always want more. That is why I am so thankful that the Lord also stirs in me a desire to give Him thanks for all that He gives to me, for all His good gifts and blessings.
 

I am going to leave here this evening. I am going to wake up in the morning and around noon I am going to eat some turkey and southern cornbread dressing. I am going to watch one or even both and maybe even three football games. I am going to enjoy the company of my family and friends. I am so glad that you have been with me this evening to begin our Thanksgiving celebration right, by coming to Divine Service, to be given God’s gifts through His Word and by being able to give Him thanks and praise for all His good gifts and blessings. May the Lord be with you this day, tomorrow and always as you give thanks to Him. To God be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.