Archive for December 27th, 2019

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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 apostle and evangelist John, may come to the light of everlasting life;   for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy  Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Intro: St. John was a son of Zebedee and brother of James the Elder (whose festival day in July 25).  John was among the first disciples to be called by Jesus (Matthew 4: 18-22) and became known as the “disciples 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 a 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 (also known as The Apocalypse of St. John the Divine).  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
  • the raising of Lazarus from the dead:  John 11
  • Jesus’ encounter with Mary Magdalene on Easter morning:  John 20: 11-11
  • Jesus’ long godly one to one conversations:  with Nicodemus, chapter 3; with the Samaritan woman at the well, 4: 1-45;  with the man born blind, chapter 9;  with Mary and Martha after the death of Lazarus, chapter 11
  • And probably central:  the “I Am” passages: John 6:35,  John 8:12John 8:58John 9:5John 10:11John 11:25John 14:6John 15:5

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, with additions by the blogger)

Reflection:  In one of years of the 3 year lectionary for Lent, the long godly one to one conversations I referenced above, are the Gospel readings.  Entire chapters!  But this is important to hear these conversations, not only that they are the Word of God, but also for this lesson:  Jesus spent the time with people.  In evangelism, we look for the quick and easy to “get people to come to church”.  First, as a colleague liked to say to congregants who want to know how the pastor will increase membership:  “I am amazed that anyone is there to begin with”!  In other words:  ‘membership’ is the work of the Holy Spirit through the preaching of Jesus Christ.  He is the Vine and without Him we can do nothing (see John 15) Membership is the Holy Spirit’s great work and miracle of His Word. Second: we think the right program will do the trick.  It won’t.  “Spiritual problems can not be solved by administrative techniques.” (Abraham Heschel, Jewish theologian). It is only by Christians in and through the Word of God, in the Scriptures, going through the Word to bring one to Jesus Christ as He comes to them.  Jesus Christ took the time with people where they lived, not to keep them the same in the lives, to lead them forth to the wells of eternal life in His Name.

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 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. This verse is  literally, When the angel of the Lord stood by them, the shepherds.  Luther knew the true Biblical trajectory of the birth of the Lord, the King of Israel, From heaven above to earth I come.  The angel was not up in the sky floating like some UFO, but right there standing by the shepherds…and further it is reported, “and the glory of the LORD shone around them”, around, not above them, but encircling and enveloping the shepherds. God’s glory is three-dimensional and then some. 

The glory of the LORD is two-fold: holiness and love. God’s love is holy and the shepherd’s love was not holy as is mine.  No wonder the shepherds feared with a great fear. Yet the Lord’s love is for them and you and so all the angels say, Fear not! There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. Heaven on earth is brought to the forefront that after the angel messages the sign of the child wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.  This is the first sign of the Cross to come. Fear not~and with the angel, still standing on terra firma,..heaven on earth: 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!”  Peace not as the world gives, by threats, force and compromise, but by the Lord Himself who is uncompromising with wrong, and reconciling man to God and to each other.  He is pleased with those who in faith know their poverty of spirit, as in, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”, and so in faith which is trust in the One come to save us.  It is so sad when in pride so many turn away from such a great salvation, such a great Savior. The Lord’s own peace is amongst those who in true faith,He is pleased as man to dwell, our Lord, Emmanuel, here and now and in the life of the world to come. 

The angel brought the greatest piece of news in the history of mankind: The good news, the news of the birth of the Savior, the King of Israel, the Messiah. All news we read or hear day by day is mostly and even always fearful or tinged with fear about politics, culture, our lives and even religion.  It is so much the work of the world, the flesh and the devil. While at the same time, so many care for their families, love their friends, pursue their vocations with due diligence, build houses and homes and believe and pray to the Lord. We fail in our converse with each other also day by day. And Jesus came and He  gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness.The angel brought the fear-less good news for all people of the One who saved us from our sins in the Lord’s own mercy and to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of (our) sins. 

The Child would one day preach and teach, Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Heaven come down upon earth. Heaven is not some eternal vacation but the Lord’s eternal vocation, that is, His calling for us to be His so that His reign comes among us. God’s reign and kingdom will come of His own accord but we pray that it come amongst us.  It does by His Word, the fearless and eternal Gospel, or Good News. As in the fearful daily news, rulers and kings tend to reign by the love of force, the Lord reigns by force of His love and mercy through His Word.  

Of all people, the angels appeared to the shepherds. Can you imagine, keeping watch over their flocks by night, a hundred sheep, not bathing for days on end and the resulting smell? Shepherds were not part of the ruling class and the elites.  They were blue-collar workers and yet the shepherds’ care of their flocks, faithful shepherds, this lowly image was and is so fitting for our Lord. As another shepherd was inspired by the Holy Ghost to sing, The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want, He maketh to lie down in green pastures, He leadeth me beside still waters. And one day on earth, the LORD would teach, I am the good Shepherd my sheep know Me and I know them.  The good Shepherd lays down His life for the flock.  A good shepherd searches for the one lost sheep till found. A good shepherd envelopes his flock with the knowledge of his love and care.  An experienced shepherd knows his flock, sheep and lambs. He knows a lamb without blemish or spot, to find such a lamb, that is, the Passover Lamb..and there in a feeding trough, behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The angel told them the sign of the Lamb of God. And only the one laid in the feeding trough can feed us, as the Lamb is also the Shepherd.

Sic Gloria transit mundi…thus passes the glory of the world.  This is the glory of the self, man exalting in man, the ruins of civilizations, turned in upon themselves…as we tend to do. Love’s pure light enveloped and grasped the shepherds, drawing them out to the Lord in hidden glory. The glory of the Lord is His love all around us. As it is written in 1 Corinthians 13, “Love never ends.” and,  “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. Love, agape is the Lord’s never-ending glory. He gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

We are told the shepherds’ good work, And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. As in Go tell it on the mountain.  The shepherds became some of the first evangelists of the Gospel and brought wonder to those who heard it.  Heaven come down to earth, the glory of the Lord amongst us.  We don’t need to raise hell, but live as those raised to heaven in our Baptisms into the Child born for us, zealous by faith for good works, to love as we have first been loved. 

I found this meme saying, What should not be heard by little ears, should not be said by big mouths. So true, but also, What SHOULD be heard by little ears, should be said by big mouths, that is the shepherds’ good news, unto us a Son is given. The glory of the Lord encircles and encompasses His people in Jesus Christ.  People are dying to hear the good news come down to earth to this very day and we ourselves, for as He is without end, so is His love. We continue our praise with the whole company of heaven, IN the Name of the Father, and of the +Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

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