Archive for December, 2012

David, the greatest of Israel’s kings, ruled from about 1010 to 970 BC. The events of his life are found in 1 Samuel 16 through 1 Kings 2 and in 1 Chronicles 10-29. David was also gifted musically. He was skilled in playing the lyre and the author of no fewer than seventy-three psalms, including the beloved Psalm 23. His public and private character displayed a mixture of good (for example, his defeat of the giant Goliath [1 Samuel 17]) and evil (as in his adultery with Uriah’s wife, followed by his murder of Uriah [2 Samuel 11]). David’s greatness lay in his fierce loyalty to God as Israel’s military and political leader, coupled with his willingness to acknowledge his sins and ask for God’s forgiveness (2 Samuel 12; see also Psalm 51). It was under David’s leadership that the people of Israel were united into a single nation with Jerusalem as its capital city. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Reflection:  David was born in Bethlehem. Beth-le-hem means “house of bread”.   The Lord promised that the throne of Israel would never lack a descendant of David upon it.  The Lord told Israel through the prophets that the house of David and Jerusalem would be desolate because of desolation of their idolatry and immorality;  then in 587 B.C. the Babylonian Empire captured Israel and brought her into exile and destroyed the Temple.  The Lord is true to His promise that a son of David would sit on the throne forever.  Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the Bread of Life born in the House of Bread. The genealogies in Luke and Matthew’s Gospels testify to His lineage.  Joseph, the Lord’s Stepfather was of the house of David.  

The first multi-part mini-series that was a mega hit was “Roots”, the story of Kunta Kinte and his family from West Africa.  They were captured by slavers and Kinte became a slave in the United States.  The mini-series was about his family and his descendants.  Commentators at the time noted that the “Roots” popularity had to do with rootless American society.  Few grow up and stay in the place they were born.  We forget who we are. Genealogical studies and websites are very popular.  Baseball’s whole goal is to go home.  Worse, we forget Who’s we are.  Christ Jesus has roots deep into in Israel and creation as the genealogies in Matthew and Luke testify.  Unto us a Son is born.  He made us part of the genealogy of Israel, adopted as the Lord’s sons and daughters, grafted into the olive tree of Israel (cf. Romans 11:  16-18).  The true King rooted Himself in Israel and His creation for us wandering and lost.  Jesus is King David’s Lord and Jesus was so before He was born. Here is an excellent article on St. Matthew’s Genealogy at Brothers of John the Steadfast.When Jesus’ ancestor according to the flesh was hungry,  the priests gave David holy bread, the Bread of the Presence.  Jesus is the Lord of life, of bread and gives us the Bread of His Presence.  We come as sinners in repentance and in need of His forgiveness so to receive worthily.  Come into His Presence tomorrow and every First Day of the Week to receive the Bread  of Life, His Body.  


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Collect of the Day

Almighty God, the martyred innocents of Bethlehem showed forth Your praise not by speaking but by dying.  Put to death in us all that is in conflict with Your will that our lives may bear witness to the faith we profess with our lips;  through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Intro:  Matthew’s Gospel tells of King Herod’s vicious plot against the infant Jesus after being “tricked” by the Wise Men.  Threatened by the one “born King of the Jews,”  Herod murdered all the children in  and around Bethlehem who were two years old or younger (Matthew 2: 16-18).  these “innocents,” commemorated just three days after the celebration of Jesus’ birth, remind us not only  of the terrible brutality of which human beings are capable but more significantly of the persecution Jesus endured from the beginning of His earthly life.  Although Jesus’ life was providentially spared at this time, many years later, another ruler, Pontius Pilate, would sentence the innocent Jesus to death. (From:  The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection: “Some accounts number them at more than ten thousand, but more conservative estimates put their number in the low dozens.” (from the Wikipedia article)  10,000 children or 1 child murdered is one child too many.  The image above by Giotto di Bondone (1266/7 – 1337), is eerily prescient of  the many pictures of the bodies of Jews in piles in the concentration camps. Their only crime was they were of the same religion as the One born this holy season.  It makes no sense.  Neither does the abuse of children sexually, physically and/or emotionally from Newtown to your town.

Herod was probably a functional atheist; he thought he ruled by his own right and authority.  He was his own god as all dictators and tyrants vainly and terribly imagine themselves.  We read a lot about the atheism of a Christopher Hitchens, but he pales to the tyrants. With no fear of God in the multitude of  Herods, it seems in our days and centuries and it’s lack of the fear of the Lord, we are in the most functionally atheistic of all time.  We do what we please.  Children are expendable. We are own gods.

In the clip below is from the gripping movie, Judgement at Nuremberg.  This movie is about the trials after World War II of the lower level Nazis, in particular, the judges who sent the ‘mental defectives’, and other “undesirables” to their deaths after a “legal trial”.  A  key character is the judge, Ernst Janning (played by Burt Lancaster).  He was known in the Weimar as one of the greatest legal minds in Germany.  He participated in the crimes against humanity for the Nazis.  In one of the last scenes of the movie, Herr Janning asks the main judge (played by Spencer Tracy) to come and visit him in his prison cell.  This scene picks up at the counter 6:11 with the real reason he asked the American judge to visit him:

The death of one man or one child makes it easy for the autonomous, ‘kingly’, ‘great’ self to kill more and more. Mother Theresa said, “… if we accept that the mother can kill her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? Any country that accepts abortion, is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what it wants.”  It took one Child to reverse the sin of Adam.  The holy innocents unwilling death and the grief of Rachel, their mothers,  weeping for them who are “no more”, fulfilled the Scripture that the Child of Mary would die as One for them all.  

The murder of even one child, spiritually and/or physically, begins the spiral into hell, for a person, a  church, a nation, a family.  His love begins with one child, first protected by His Law, “Thou shalt not murder” and now by His Resurrection. We are even killing ourselves by the plummeting birthrate instead of heeding the  Lord’s command to be fruitful and multiply.   We are to receive His children in His Name.  And so the Lord Jesus set great store about the faith of a child which must be inviolate.  This is only a  speculation:  Jesus’ Mother and Step Father may have eventually told Him what had happened on the day of infamy in Bethlehem.  The Lord Jesus Christ taught as a man:

1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless youturn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

 5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,[a] it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

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Translation: “The Word became flesh”

Collect of the Day:  

Merciful Lord, cast the bright beams of Your light upon Your Church that we, being instructed in the doctrine of Your blessed apostel and evangelist John, may come to the light of everlasting life;  for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, oneGod,now and forever. Amen.


Revelation 1: 1-6

Psalm 11

1 John 1: 1-2: 2

St. John 21: 20-25

St. John was a son of Zebedee and brother of James the Elder (whose festival day is July 25). John was among the first disciples to be called by Jesus (Matthew 4:18 -22) and became known as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” as he refers to himself in the Gospel that bears his name (e.g., John 21:20). Of the Twelve, John alone did not forsake Jesus in the hours of His suffering and death. With the faithful women, he stood at the cross, where our Lord made him the guardian of His mother. After Pentecost, John spent his ministry in Jerusalem and at Ephesus, where tradition says he was bishop. He wrote the fourth Gospel, the three Epistles that bear his name, and the Book of Revelation. Especially memorable in his Gospel are the account of the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-12), the “Gospel in a nutshell” (John 3:16), Jesus’ saying about the Good Shepherd (John 10:11-16), the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11), and Jesus’ encounter with Mary Magdalene on Easter morning (John 20:11-18). According to tradition, John was banished to the island of Patmos (off the coast of Asia Minor) by the Roman emperor Domitian. John lived to a very old age, surviving all the apostles, and died at Ephesus around AD 100. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

St. John 1

 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.2He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

 6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12But to all who did receive him,who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

 14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Reflection:  My wife, a chemist and scientist, once pointed out to me that physically you can bring light into the darkness, but you can not physically bring darkness into  the light.  I can cup my hands like making a snowball  so that the interior is darkness and I open my hands and the dark dissipates.  But we can spiritually bring darkness into the light.  In fact, by nature, separated by sin from the Lord, we are darkness (Ephesians 5:8). Into the darkness the light shines, Jesus Christ.  This is the great theme of Apostle and Evangelist remembered this day in the Scripture the Lord breathed into him to write.  The Gospel above is the appointed Gospel reading for the last service of Christ Mass Day. It is the light of love’s pure light, Jesus Christ, the dark world needs and yet knows not Him.  This is the light of His Word made flesh that His Church is to shine in the world.

Lord Jesus Christ, we implore You to hear our prayers  and enlighten the darkness of our hearts by Your gracious visitation;  for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

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Collect of the Day:

Heavenly Father, in the mist of our sufferings for the sake of Christ grant us grace to follow the example of the first martyr, Stephen, that we also may look to the One who suffered and was crucified on our behalf and pray for those who do us wrong; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.


2 Chronicles 24: 17-22

Psalm 119: 137-144

Acts 6: 8–7: 2a, 51-60

St. Matthew 23: 34-39

We are now  in the Twelve  Days of Christ Mass which concludes on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6th (this year it is a Sunday).  The first 3 days after Christ Mass are today’s feast, then tomorrow St. John, Apostle and Evangelist and then The Holy Innocents, Martyrs.  The contrast between this day, along with The Holy Innocents and the common sentimental understandings of Christmas are sharp but should not be.  Pr. Kaj Munk, a Danish Lutheran Pastor (13 January 1898 – 4 January 1944), who was  executed by the Nazis for his resistance to their tyranny, caught this contrast in the sermon cited after the biography on St. Stephen.  Stephen was the first martyr. “Martyr” is from the Greek word for witness.  Pr. Munk also so witnessed and many do to this day.  We thank the Lord for their faith and hope and love in service to Jesus Christ and their neighbors.–Pr. Schroeder

About   St. Stephen, Martyr, from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House:

St. Stephen, “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5), was one of the Church’s first seven deacons. He was appointed by the leaders of the Church to distribute food and other necessities to the poor in the growing Christian community in Jerusalem, thereby giving the apostles more time for their public ministry of proclamation (Acts 6:2-5). He and the other deacons apparently were expected not only to wait on tables but also to teach and preach. When some of his colleagues became jealous of him, they brought Stephen to the Sanhedrin and falsely charged him with blaspheming against Moses (Acts 6:9-14). Stephen’s confession of faith, along with his rebuke of the members of the Sanhedrin for rejecting their Messiah and being responsible for His death, so infuriated them that they dragged him out of the city and stoned him to death. Stephen is honored as the Church’s first martyr and for his words of commendation and forgiveness as he lay dying: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” and “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:59-60).

“The Christ Child is the world’s Savior and Prince of Peace because He is the world’s greatest war Lord. Apparently there is the most glaring contrast between the Christmas gospel and that for St. Stephen’s Day–between the Christ Child and the first Christian martyr. But in reality there is the closest connection.

The pagan Christmas with eating and drinking and parties and family joy may well be contained in the Christian celebration, but it can never take the place of it. Jesus Himself took an interest in family life, and He attended parties; but He was, nevertheless, ever on the way to the cross. Let us sing Ingemann songs and eat goose and play with our children about the glittering Christmas tree; but we must never forget that the coming of Christ to earth means dauntless struggle against evil. And if we kneel by the manger in other than sentimental moods, we shall become aware that one hand of the little Child is open and kindly, the other clenched in blood.

We wish one another Merry Christmas. And we mean; may your Christmas goose be delicious–or your meatballs, if that is the best you can afford this year; may you have fuel to keep your house warm; may you have friends and loved one about you; may your tree glitter in its wonted beauty and the hymns sound with their old power. And may there, through it all, be one song in your heart: ‘My Jesus, I want to be where Thou alone wilt have me.’ Yes, but there are so many doubts and questions that spoil my Christmas joy.

Well, but who promised you joy? It may be better that you have a poor Christmas. Don’t be like a spoiled child and think of God as a great Santa Claus who has in His bag some sort of electromagnet with which to give your brain cells such a shot that everything becomes gloriously clear to you, and that you can be happy, in harmony with yourself and the world. My friend, perhaps your doctor can do that for you with a stimulant that will send the blood to the brain and clarify your mind so you see things in bright perspective. This has nothing to do with real joy. True Christmas joy, no matter how much or how little of it you may comprehend, means that you have Christ, and that you go where He wants you to go.”

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You better watch out
You better not cry
Better not pout
I’m telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town
He’s making a list
And checking it twice;
Gonna find out Who’s naughty and nice

 If you believe that secular mythology, then Christmas is for nice people, not even good and faithful people.  Santa is one scary individual. He won’t even let you cry. He won’t listen to your heart’s joys and sorrows. You just better watch out. Naughty and nice…Nice…have a nice day?  No thanks, I have better plans.  The Lord has the better plan. The plan is simple:    Christmas is for sinners. Christmas is for you.  Nice is not the same as good.God is good. He is not nice. When Isaiah in the Temple saw the utterly good God, he cried out I’m a man of unclean lips living among a people of unclean lips. When Peter saw his boat sinking for the great catch of fish at Christ’s Word and command, Peter cried out, depart from me Lord for I am a sinful man.  It is the utter goodness and holiness of the Lord, which go together as His love that overwhelms. 

And  naughtiness is not the same as sin and evil. Naughty belittles the immensity and propensity of sin and evil in and around our lives from Adam on down to us. Naughty and nice minimize the struggle and so they are a lie, well, g-damnlie. I think this is so done in order to get a handle on good and evil, our struggles and so rely on our efforts. But we can’t.  We even say society or my family is guilty instead of ourselves.   As nice does not describe His love and mercy, so naughty does not describe Newtown, war, abortion, child abuse, hatred, anger or troubles in a family and His judgment of such. Such overwhelms and the Lord goes to the source of it all:  He became flesh, us and yet utterly not us to save us to be overwhelmed and so in Him to overcome. Christmas is for sinners. Christmas is for you.   

The Lord tells us in His Word regarding His Son:

a bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not quench

A bruised reed and a smoldering wick are so frail. In fact, by any worldly standard, worthless, not good for anything.  He will not break nor quench either.  He comes to give His mercy up close and personal and intimate in your body and soul so that by faith through His grace you may cling to the One who is for you more than you are for yourselves. His Body and His blood.  Christmas is for sinners. Christmas is for you. Those who were brought together by the Lord God of Hosts this evening were an unlikely cast of characters: the Virgin Mother, an elderly stepfather, shepherds and eventually Persian astrologers, the magi.  He brings down from their thrones the rich and powerful and lifts up those of low degree. He did not break either nor quench the smoldering fire of their lives.    Instead, by the breath of His Holy Spirit He brings to life, His life, those longing for His coming again.  All our words, all our deeds, and our attempts to fix sin, which can do good up to a point, but apart from Him will fall flat.  Can you really forgive your self?  Your neighbor? On your own? “When everything else has declined to a dead end, when human reason no longer knows how to come up answers…Where human help come to an end, there divine help comes to the rescue.” (Johann Gerhard) Christmas is for sinners. Christmas is for you.

Therefore, Christmas is for the Child…we say at the birth of a husband and wife’s first child, a baby changes everything.  It sure does…a husband and wife become Father and Mother.  Now because of the Child born this night He alone could teach us to pray:  Our Father who art in heaven…no matter how people try, no one can take Christ out of Christmas.  If you know your frailty and not your strength, your sin and not your supposed goodness, Christmas is for the Child who is for you. The Gospel is a costly balm for spiritual wounds. However, what is the use if one wanted to pour the most costly balm onto a rock; that is, preached the Gospel to a hardened heart? (Johann Gerhard) 

For to us a child is born,   to us a son is given  In doing a long addition problem the old-fashioned way, on a piece of paper and with a pencil, you come to the sum and it’s wrong, I have to go back to where I went wrong.  This is what the Incarnation is all about:  to go to the place where we went wrong, Emmanuel God with us. He does so not to say what you have done is okay and I accept it, but I come to change it and this Child changes everything, at the source in a feeding trough and at His Mother’s breast and finally and fully on a cross.   He loves us more than we love ourselves by our selves, which is a lonely God forsaken love.  He knew the opposite:  the intimate love from His own faith-filled Mother.  IN that, mercy to minister to fallen world. How corrupt a world?  Mother Theresa said, “… if we accept that the mother can kill her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? Any country that accepts abortion, is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what it wants.” This Child’s love is God’s forgiveness to change us from the inside out. No violence as a Man He ever did but violence done to Him for you, for us all.   We can only change on the outside but it never sinks in. Let this sink in: Christmas is for the Child, born for you that we are re-born.  Already, the wood of the manger points to the wood of His Cross and the third day…

There are many visits by angels in four Gospels…at the beginning of the Gospels and at the end of the Gospels which are really the new beginning.  Many visits bringing message, good messages, good news to the Lord’s chosen regarding the births of John and Jesus.  Birth announcements… and at the beginning, the Resurrection:  He is not here, He is risen!  Angels first announced He is here and then at the Resurrection,  He is not here: the wonder of it all is the manger could hold Him but not the tomb. The Virgin’s womb could hold and nourish Him but not the tomb.  Such is the humility and power of Jesus Christ for you, for us all.  Death could not hold Him:  not murder, injustice, massacres, abortion, infanticide, hatred, anger and genocide.  He is the life of all the living.

 Christmas is for kids,we say.  Now it makes sense that Christmas is for children. Christ is for children.  He said the only way one can receive the Kingdom of God is as a child, which He knew as God and as a child Himself:  trusting the Lord surely, the Kingdom He builds securely, naught from Him can sever, Alleluia.  Even when Herod the Great killed all the male children under the age of two to kill the Child, Jesus knew how precious life is  and He took care of them. When parents were bringing children to Jesus, the disciples were stopping them and the Lord said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”  This is the text read at a Baptism.  Even an adult who is baptized receives the Kingdom as a child.  Christmas is for sinners. Christmas is for the Child, for you.  Christmas is for His baptized children and all those so washed in His Name to be His children.

 Our mission’s Christmas tree has been the Charlie Brown Christmas tree.  Again, the only time Linus ever parted with his security blanket was in that show when he read the Christmas narrative in Luke 2 which we heard tonight. He dropped it to read the Scripture.  He eventually laid down his blanket at the foot of the tree.  We can lay down everything at the foot of His tree, the Cross.  In the show, Snoopy decorates his doghouse in gaudy Christmas decorations to Charlie Brown’s chagrin who does not like the commercialization of Christmas (this TV show was done in ’65!), and has discovered the true meaning of Christmas:  Christ.  The whole gang comes up and takes down all the gaudy decorations on Snoopy’s doghouse to adorn the bent over tree and it is glorious.  You are clothed in Christ in your baptism and one day it will be glorious, even now a taste of the glory to come in Jesus Christ. Walk wet in your Baptism.  He trains you renounce all ungodliness and  worldly passions to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.   This age needs the Son of God, Son of Mary and all His baptized children.  The world did not know Him. His own people did not receive.  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.(St. John 1)  And the light of the Child still shines in the darkness and the darkness has not understood nor overcome it.  Amen. Now the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will  guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. 


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O King of the Nations

Isaiah had prophesied, “For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.” (9:5), and “He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” (2:4) . When questioned by Pilate:  “Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world.”  (John 18:36In the fulfillment:   Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness,the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.”  (Revelation 1: 4)

Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind 
In one the hearts of all mankind; 
Oh, bid our sad divisions cease, 
And be yourself our King of Peace. 
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel 
Shall come to you, O Israel!


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O Dayspring, splendor light everlasting:  Come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Oh, come, our Dayspring from on high, 
And cheer us by your drawing nigh, 
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, 
And death’s dark shadows put to flight. 
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel 
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Light is one of the great themes of the Bible and of the coming of the Messiah.  The glory of the Lord shone about the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night. The dayspring would arise as prophesied by Malachi: Malachi 1 “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2But for you who fear my name,the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. 3And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the LORD of hosts.

Then the well known verses:
Isaiah 9:  2 The people who walked in darkness   have seen a great light;those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,   on them has light shined.

Light is sign and symbol of seeing with heart, soul and mind by faith through God’s Word.  Etymologically, it is important that the word translated as “dayspring” in Latin is “oriens” which can also be rendered, “east”.  The obvious is the sun rises in the east.  Note: from “oriens” we have our word “orient” and “orientation”.  We humans can only be oriented correctly by light.  Light does not shine from us but on us that we not lose our way, physically, intellectually or spiritually.  His Word is Lamp unto our feet (Psalm 119).  The Temple in Jerusalem faced the east.  Traditionally, Christian church buildings faced the east and Christians are buried facing the east.  In the Church, in times past, the west was considered the haunt of the demonic but the east is from whence comes our Savior and so we face His way and are oriented.  We lose our way so easily.  We seek direction from people who say they know the way but do not have the good guide,  the Bible.  The Lord caught the attention of Persian astrologers, the magi and led them by a star.  But it was finally the Bible, the Word of God, that led them to Bethlehem.  Don’t trust your senses to find God, He will find you by His Word. His Word is more trustworthy than even your thoughts and feelings.  His Word will orient you to your heavenly home.

St. John 1:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.2He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

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By Rembrandt von Rijn

Collect of the Day

Almighty and ever-living God, You strengthened Your apostle Thomas with firm and certain faith in the resurrection of Your Son. Grant us such faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, that we may never be found wanting in Your sight; through the same Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  

Appointed Scripture for this day:  

Judge 6:  36-40

Psalm 139: 1-12

Romans 10: 8b-15

St. John 1:  35-42a

All four Gospels mention St. Thomas as one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. John’s Gospel, which names him “the Twin,” uses Thomas’s questions to reveal truths about Jesus. It is Thomas who says, “Lord, we do not know where You are going. How can we know the way?” To this question Jesus replies, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:5-6). John’s Gospel also tells how Thomas, on the evening of the day of Jesus’ resurrection, doubts the report of the disciples that they had seen Jesus. Later, “doubting Thomas” becomes “believing Thomas” when he confesses Jesus as “my Lord and my God” (John 20:24-29). According to tradition, Thomas traveled eastward after Pentecost, eventually reaching India, where still today a group of people call themselves “Christians of St. Thomas.” Thomas was martyred for the faith by being speared to death.

 (Collect and Intro from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

 Reflection on St. Thomas and this Verse:

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.            St.John 20: 29

 We may think that our Lord’s only Beatitudes are those recorded in St. Matthew 5 at the  beginning of His Sermon on the Mount.  No, they are throughout the Gospels including this one to Thomas and us all.  In a sense, Thomas was privileged in his doubt to be an example of the maxim “seeing is believing”.  But our Lord’s beatitude directs us to the more Biblical understanding of the centrality of the Word of God:  hearing is believing.

14How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”  (Romans 10)

The Lord was preparing Thomas and his brethren for the apostolic Ministry of preaching and teaching the Word of God, the Word of His Gospel to repentant sinners for many to hear and so believe.  Even what Thomas and the apostles saw that first evening of the new creation were wounds of a crucifixion.  Not glorious by any stretch of worldly imaginations  but glorious in love’s pure light who died for sinners…as Thomas, as you, making faith.  His wounds are preached scars of our forgiveness in the One Who alone is the way, the truth and life, no one else, as Thomas also heard.  Pastors are called to preach the blood, preach the manger, preach the cross: preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  And Thomas was called to preach His wounds! From His side flowed water and blood (John 19:34), Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.  Pastors are called to administer the Sacraments.  Thomas’ eyes were blessed in seeing but his feet were beautiful in the sermon he preached: Jesus Christ.

Crown him the Lord of love.
Behold his hands and side,
Rich wounds, yet visible above, 
In beauty glorified.
No angels in the sky
Can fully bear that sight,
But downward bend their burning eyes
At mysteries so bright.

Rev. Edward Shillito was an English minister who survived the horrors of artillery, machine guns, and trench warfare during World War I. I think his poem “Jesus of the Scars “is a fine commentary on Thomas and his faith in these dark days:

If we have never sought, we seek Thee now;
Thine eyes burn through the dark, our only stars;
We must have sight of thorn-pricks on Thy brow;
We must have Thee, O Jesus of the Scars.

The heavens frighten us; they are too calm;
In all the universe we have no place.
Our wounds are hurting us; where is the balm?
Lord Jesus, by Thy Scars we claim Thy grace.

If when the doors are shut, Thou drawest near,
Only reveal those hands, that side of Thine;
We know today what wounds are; have no fear;
Show us Thy Scars; we know the countersign.

The other gods were strong, but Thou wast weak;
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.

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O Clavis David:

O Key of David and scepter of the house of Israel, You open and no one can close. You close and no one can open:  Come and rescue the prisoners whoa re in darkness and the shadow of death.

Isaiah had prophesied, I will place the Key of the House of David on His shoulder; when he opens, no one will shut, when he shuts, no one will open.” (22:22), and “His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, from David’s throne, and over His kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever.” (9:6). In the Book of Revelation (Apocalypse), the Key is the Lord’s Resurrection: 17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me,saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.  The most significant and even dramatic time of the mention of keys, the Key of David is after Peter, by apocalypse of the Father, confesses Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Matthew 16:18-20

Reflection: His Nativity is the key-note address of the Gospels and our lives together in His.  It sets the  theme of the fulfillment of the promises of the Scriptures.  As in:  shepherds are told of the birth of the Lord, the Good Shepherd, son of David the Shepherd King.   As in:  magi, Gentiles come to worship Him so that the Word goes forth from Zion.  As in:  the gift of myrrh, a spice used for burial.  As in:  the old Zechariah praising God and saying He will give us knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of our sins. As in: the government will be upon His shoulder and the slaughter of the Holy Innocents.  He is the Key of our forgiveness and eternal life for us and our salvation and the salvation of all. He has the key to your heart.

Oh, come, O Key of David, come, 
And open wide our heav’nly home; 
Make safe the way that leads on high, 
And close the path to misery. 
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel 
Shall come to you, O Israel!

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The Temptation of Eve by Lucas Cranach

Prayer of the Day

Lord God, heavenly Father, You created Adam in Your image and gave him Eve as his helpmate, and after their fall into sin, You promised them a Savior who would crush the devil’s might. By Your mercy, number us among those who have come out of the great tribulation with the seal of the living God on our foreheads and whose robes have been made white in the blood of the Lamb; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Adam and Eve

Adam was the first man, made in the image of God and given dominion over all the earth (Genesis 1:26). Eve was the first woman, formed from one of Adam’s ribs to be his companion and helper (Genesis 2:18-24). God placed them in the Garden of Eden to take care of creation as His representatives. But they forsook God’s Word and plunged the world into sin (Genesis 3:1-7). For this disobedience, God drove them from the garden. Eve would suffer pain in childbirth and would chafe at her subjection to Adam; Adam would toil amid thorns and thistles and return to the dust of the ground. Yet God promised that the woman’s Seed would crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:8-24). Sin had entered God’s perfect creation and changedit until God would restore it again through Christ. Eve is the mother of the human race, while Adam is representative of all humanity and the fall, as the apostle Paul writes, “For in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).

Reflection:  The woodcut above is interesting for this detail:  please note the one woman has a serpent’s tail which Cranach is telling us the devil has become a woman, but not just any woman.  It has become  Eve.  Eve is being tempted by Eve, her own image.  The image of man and woman, created in the image of God is powerful but it was to reflect the Lord’s love and dominion but not him or her self as a self-existing all attractive being.  Romans 1:

1For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Then immediately Paul teaches about homosexual passions:  loving the same and not the other, literally, the “hetero”.  It is easy to love the same.  The Lord loves us, even when Eve bought the damn lie. We live in a society in thralldom to the self, from “Self” magazine to a talk show host who’s magazine only features her every time to the worshiping the stars.  There are only two types of people: self-seekers or Kingdom seekers or  seekers of the Savior.  As the Christmas states it well:  Christ was born for this.  Born into a world in which everyone is looking out for #1 in sheer adulation, He came a mewling baby in a feeding trough, the Son of God.  He came to be last and least of all. The Coming One who sought purely the reign of God for you. Colossians 1:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

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