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Intro: On this date, December 29, A.D. 1170, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Fr. Thomas Becket was killed by four knights in the Cathedral. The English poet, T. S. Eliot wrote a poetic play, “Murder in the Cathedral” about Thomas’ martyrdom. Becket’s King was tired of this pesky priest stopping his plans by asserting the moral authority of the Church.

No matter what you may think about President Trump, nevertheless, this proclamation below both teaches us much about this Saint and the actual foundations of our American democratic republic.  No doubt this proclamation was written by a presidential speech writer who seems to have done a good job, as he pointed out the historical connections of Becket with our own time. President Trump had the good sense to sign it. So many governments want to stop the interference of the Church even in government plans that only seem to be for the good, but are promoting amoral and immoral restructuring of our nation and an alien catechesis.  

Eliot caught the spiritual temptation Becket may have faced as in the play Becket is tempted. Becket’s last temptation was to be a martyr so he could be lauded and remembered. This line from the play is the truth about such a temptation and I think has general applicability to much in our day: “The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason.”

Proclamation on 850th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of Saint Thomas Becket, by President Donald J. Trump, the White House; Issued on: December 28, 2020

Today is the 850th anniversary of the martyrdom of Saint Thomas Becket on December 29, 1170. Thomas Becket was a statesman, a scholar, a chancellor, a priest, an archbishop, and a lion of religious liberty.

Before the Magna Carta was drafted, before the right to free exercise of religion was enshrined as America’s first freedom in our glorious Constitution, Thomas gave his life so that, as he said, “the Church will attain liberty and peace.”

The son of a London sheriff and once described as “a low‑born clerk” by the King who had him killed, Thomas Becket rose to become the leader of the church in England. When the crown attempted to encroach upon the affairs of the house of God through the Constitutions of Clarendon, Thomas refused to sign the offending document. When the furious King Henry II threatened to hold him in contempt of royal authority and questioned why this “poor and humble” priest would dare defy him, Archbishop Becket responded “God is the supreme ruler, above Kings” and “we ought to obey God rather than men.”

Because Thomas would not assent to rendering the church subservient to the state, he was forced to forfeit all his property and flee his own country. Years later, after the intervention of the Pope, Becket was allowed to return — and continued to resist the King’s oppressive interferences into the life of the church. Finally, the King had enough of Thomas Becket’s stalwart defense of religious faith and reportedly exclaimed in consternation: “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?”

The King’s knights responded and rode to Canterbury Cathedral to deliver Thomas Becket an ultimatum: give in to the King’s demands or die. Thomas’s reply echoes around the world and across the ages. His last words on this earth were these: “For the name of Jesus and the protection of the Church, I am ready to embrace death.” Dressed in holy robes, Thomas was cut down where he stood inside the walls of his own church.

Thomas Becket’s martyrdom changed the course of history. It eventually brought about numerous constitutional limitations on the power of the state over the Church across the West. In England, Becket’s murder led to the Magna Carta’s declaration 45 years later that: “[T]he English church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished and its liberties unimpaired.”

When the Archbishop refused to allow the King to interfere in the affairs of the Church, Thomas Becket stood at the intersection of church and state. That stand, after centuries of state-sponsored religious oppression and religious wars throughout Europe, eventually led to the establishment of religious liberty in the New World. It is because of great men like Thomas Becket that the first American President George Washington could proclaim more than 600 years later that, in the United States, “All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship” and that “it is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights.”

Thomas Becket’s death serves as a powerful and timeless reminder to every American that our freedom from religious persecution is not a mere luxury or accident of history, but rather an essential element of our liberty. It is our priceless treasure and inheritance. And it was bought with the blood of martyrs.

As Americans, we were first united by our belief that “rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God” and that defending liberty is more important than life itself. If we are to continue to be the land of the free, no government official, no governor, no bureaucrat, no judge, and no legislator must be allowed to decree what is orthodox in matters of religion or to require religious believers to violate their consciences. No right is more fundamental to a peaceful, prosperous, and virtuous society than the right to follow one’s religious convictions. As I declared in Krasiński Square in Warsaw, Poland on July 6, 2017, the people of America and the people of the world still cry out: “We want God.”

On this day, we celebrate and revere Thomas Becket’s courageous stand for religious liberty and we reaffirm our call to end religious persecution worldwide. In my historic address to the United Nations last year, I made clear that America stands with believers in every country who ask only for the freedom to live according to the faith that is within their own hearts. I also stated that global bureaucrats have absolutely no business attacking the sovereignty of nations that wish to protect innocent life, reflecting the belief held by the United States and many other countries that every child — born and unborn — is a sacred gift from God. Earlier this year, I signed an Executive Order to prioritize religious freedom as a core dimension of United States foreign policy. We have directed every Ambassador — and the over 13,000 United States Foreign Service officers and specialists — in more than 195 countries to promote, defend, and support religious freedom as a central pillar of American diplomacy.

We pray for religious believers everywhere who suffer persecution for their faith. We especially pray for their brave and inspiring shepherds — like Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong and Pastor Wang Yi of Chengdu — who are tireless witnesses to hope.

To honor Thomas Becket’s memory, the crimes against people of faith must stop, prisoners of conscience must be released, laws restricting freedom of religion and belief must be repealed, and the vulnerable, the defenseless, and the oppressed must be protected. The tyranny and murder that shocked the conscience of the Middle Ages must never be allowed to happen again. As long as America stands, we will always defend religious liberty.

A society without religion cannot prosper. A nation without faith cannot endure — because justice, goodness, and peace cannot prevail without the grace of God.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim December 29, 2020, as the 850th anniversary of the martyrdom of Saint Thomas Becket. I invite the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches and customary places of meeting with appropriate ceremonies in commemoration of the life and legacy of Thomas Becket.

This is the Genealogy of Jesus, Matthew 1: 1-16 and so this the Lord’s Family Tree in the history of Israel

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 David that the throne of Israel would never lack a descendant of David upon it….and 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 royal Davidide 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.  I think that baseball somewhat symbolizes our lostness as baseball’s whole goal is to go home. Christmas is the time bar none 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 His chosen nation Israel and His creation for us wandering and lost.  Jesus is King David’s Lord and Jesus was so before He was born. 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.  He gives us our daily bread and gives us the Bread of His Presence.  As King David sinned, repented and was restored, we come as sinners in repentance and in need of His forgiveness to be received by the Lord.  We come into His Presence  every First Day of the Week, singing the Psalms of David, to receive the Bread  of Life, His Body and Blood. The Church is Bethlehem, the House of Bread.

“The Church celebrates the triple advent (or “coming”) of Christ.

First is the advent into flesh, which is despised and humble before the world, of which Zechariah 9[:9] says, “Behold, Your King comes to you, gentle and poor, sitting upon a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden,” [cf.] Matthew 21[:5].

The second is the spiritual advent, which happens daily into the minds of the righteous, since He is present constantly with the Church, hears her, helps and consoles her, concerning which Christ said, John 14[:18]: “I will not leave you orphans, but will come to you.” Again, [v. 23:] “If anyone loves Me, We will come to him and make Our dwelling with him.”

The third advent of Christ is His glorious return to judgment, concerning which Isaiah 3[:14] says, “The Lord will come into judgment.” And Matthew 24[:30] says, “And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with much power and majesty.”

It is useful always to consider these three advents of the Son of God—into flesh, the minds of the righteous, and for the last judgment—and to have them set forth in the Church for stirring up faith in minds, invocation, and the fear of God or repentance. St. Augustine says thus on Luke, “This time is called the Advent of the Lord for good reason: so that every believer will prepare himself and mend his ways, so that he may have strength worthily to celebrate the nativity of his God.” —Lucas Lossius

Concordia Publishing House. Treasury of Daily Prayer (Kindle Locations 31903-31910). Concordia Publishing House. Kindle Edition.

Chrismons are ornaments portraying Scripture for a Christmas tree. They were begun in a Lutheran Church in Virginia. Chrismon means “Christ monogram”. Using the Chrismons from the tree at Ben Salem Presbyterian Church, this meditation has illustrations…

This Chrismon illustrates St. Matthew 3Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” My Grandfather Kintzi was a farmer in southern Minnesota, born in 1900.  Before I was 10, my family lived in Westchester County outside of New York City. Dad and Mom thought it would be good if a spent three or four  weeks in the summer with my Grandparents.  I learned so much.  One day, I was maybe around 8 years old or so, Grandpa and I were talking about fathers punishing their sons.  Grandpa told me how his Father did so.  When Grandpa did something wrong, his Father would go the grove and make a switch, to hit Grandpa’s behind.  Now Great grandfather would not immediately hit his son’s  behind.  Instead, he would put the switch in Grandpa’s bedroom and leave it there for the night, then the next day take the switch to his son’s behind…sometimes, though, Grandpa said, his Father would come into the bedroom in the morning and take the switch, talk with him about what he did wrong, and not use it, and Grandpa said to me:  “Just seeing the switch laying there, Mark, keeping me awake thinking about what would happen because of what I did was punishment enough.”

Laid, past tense of “to lay down” …like Grandpa’s switch lying in his bedroom.  The ax of God’s just judgment of sin is laid at the root of the unfruitful trees, of the unrepentant as John preached to the Pharisees and Sadducees.  Grandpa saw the dreadful terror of the impending judgment and sought His father’s forgiveness, not simply to escape his punishment, but knowing his father’s  judgment was just and my Grandpa needed forgiveness. Forgive me, for I have sinned. 

Advent means to draw near and is the root word of Adventure. John drew near as the Lord called him as His prophet in the womb, to draw near with the God’s judgment of sin, of the darkness…still today as we celebrate the birth of Christ, and all births, as the  dark world celebrates the death of birth in the womb. John preached not that we could free ourselves, but One is coming, he said, mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie frees us in His forgiveness. I have baptized you with water for repentance, He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  John preached our repentance and the Christ our redemption in His blood, born in Bethlehem. God’s Law shows us ever our sin, His Gospel shows us His Son forever.

This Chrismon illustrates the Lord’s parable of the five foolish and five wise virgins, as they await at ANY time the coming, the Advent of the Bridegroom for the marriage feast of the Lamb.  The five wise virgins had oil to fill their lamps. Christ means literally anointed with oil, Hebrew, Messiah. He is the Word made flesh, the light shining in the darkness which the world has not put out.  It cannot, even when the darkness seems to be winning.  His Word is the oil of Christ to fill our lamps, shining in the darkness as Christ is “love’s pure light”.

My wife Natalie was a chemist, a scientist.  One year she pointed out that physically you bring light into a dark room but you cannot physically bring darkness into a lit room. My hands cupped, its dark in there, now I will release the darkness, no one can…but spiritually we can bring darkness of wrong, and anger, and spite, and greed, and lust into the light of our families, church and nation. In His Advent, born December 25th, the true light of mercy has entered our dark world, the adventure of Immanuel, God with us. Don’t curse the darkness, light a candle.  It has been lit. We are living in dark times.  In these dark times, it makes no sense not to use the flashlights, the light we have been given in and through love’s pure light.

This Chrismon illustrates our Lord’s Parable of the Good Samaritan.  In well known parable a Levite and a Priest walk by on the other side, not stooping down to help the man left dead, a fellow Jew, member of the covenant.  Let’s update our Lord’s parable a bit…a government official sees the man beaten but can’t stop because he’s late for City Task Force meeting, discussing making the road to Jericho safe.  Then a person comes busy texting on her smart phone, sees the man, and takes a picture: This will make a great meme to heighten awareness of oppression, gotta make the meme and post it.  But a heretic and Samaritans were heretics, despised by the majority bound the man’s wounds, put him on his own donkey (bottom of the Chrismon), and on his own dime put him up at a inn, promising to come back and pay the balance.

When Facebook first began in draw in the masses, a comedian said, so I can have a friend on this website?  But can I call up that facebook friend and will that friend help me move into my new apartment Saturday?  Of course not.  A friend’s face is to be seen, not a picture of a friend I have never seen nor met.  We don’t need virtual friends, but actual ones, as we all well know: a hand to help, an ear to listen, a mouth to speak truth in love, a shoulder to cry on, a face showing joy or sorrow.  The Lord first showed His face in His Son’s birth, for it is God “…who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”  Jesus is the Good Samaritan, cast out by our sin, to be our Savior, and stoop down to forgive us.  Jesus is the man beaten and robbed, and not half-dead, but dead, and is risen, and will come again, showing us again the face of love’s pure light.

This Chrismon illustrates the parable of the Prodigal Son…the Father who runs out to his son in the far country, the son who squandered his inheritance, his life in a far country. Jesus by His grace for sinners welcoming us home.  This is Christ’s call of the Church to put out the welcoming mat of His Word, but even more, these two chrismons …

The top, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet:  Alpha and Omega.  “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Rev. 1: 12  He is the bookends of the Church’s mission, our lives and His first Advent and the Second Advent when He comes to judge the quick and the dead.

Peter called fisherman of men and women, ready to be caught, brought out of the depths of darkness, of the water that God used to destroy the earth in its sin, now saves us through those waters in Holy Baptism.  Our God-given mission as His Church is to proclaim the good news of salvation as the messenger of God told the shepherds: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” The “you” is important in this verse and so many others.  It is the second person plural which English has lost, but not in the South: y’all. For y’all, everyone we know and meet. Let us not only love to tell the story of Jesus and His love but tell it! And as if they have never heard it as to it’s meaning:  Jesus:  God saves. Not because of our works, otherwise we boast, but born and laid in a feeding trough to feed us His Word, day by day. As He was born in Bethlehem, literally in Hebrew, “House of Bread” and as He would teach: “I am the Bread of Life.” 

For the Chrismons seen here which are the best, go to Ad Crucem

O God, our refuge and strength, You raised up Your servant Katharina to support her husband in the task to reform and renew Your Church in the light of Your  Word. Defend and purify the Church today and grant that, through faith, we may boldly support and encourage our pastors and teachers of the faith as they proclaim and administer the riches of Your grace made known in Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Katharina Luther, nee von Bora (1499–1552) was placed in a convent when still a child and became a nun in 1515. In April 1523 she and eight other nuns were rescued from the convent and brought to Wittenberg. There Martin Luther helped return some to their former homes and placed the rest in good families. Katharina and Martin were married on June 13, 1525. Their marriage was a happy one and blessed with six children. Katharina skillfully managed the Luther household, which always seemed to grow because of his generous hospitality. After Luther’s death in 1546, Katharina remained in Wittenberg but lived much of the time in poverty. She died in an accident while traveling with her children to Torgau in order to escape the plague. Today is the anniversary of her death. (Collect and Intro from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Katharina Luther died on this day in 1552.  She died in the Advent Season with the approach to Christ Mass (Christmas).  The associations of Dr. Luther and Mrs. Luther are close and intimate with Christ Mass and so much so that there is a legend, passed on as fact, that Dr. Luther had the idea of the Christmas tree.  He and his wife may have started the custom of giving gifts, but for this godly couple it was the gift of the Child-for-us that was the wonder:  the Incarnation.  In this quote we hear Luther’s amazement:

“God must be much friendlier to me and speak to me in friendlier fashion than my Katy to little Martin. Neither Katy nor I could intentionally gouge out the eye or tear off the head of our child. Nor could God.  God must have patience with us.  He has given evidence  of  it, and therefore  he sent  his Son  into our flesh in order that we may look to him for the best…When I reflect on the magnitude of God’s mercy and majesty, I am myself horrified at how far God has humbled himself.” (Luther’s Works, Vol.54, Table Talk)           

The evidence of things not seen is the only begotten Son of the Father was born of the Virgin Mary:  “…into our flesh”. Mrs. Luther, her family and household, and so many guests could see in Luther his cheerful countenance in this blessed time.

Just think:  Fr. Luther, the priest, was the first father of a child, in his own family according to the laws of God and man in maybe over a thousand years. Here is Luther marveling at birth and motherhood, in his beloved Katy:

“It’s difficult to feed two guests, one in the house and the other at the door.” This he (Dr. Martin Luther) said when he saw his son Martin being nursed at his Mother’s breast at the same time that Katy, the doctor’s wife, had become pregnant.” ((Luther’s Works, Vol.54, Table TalkBetween June 12 and July 13, 1532/Paul Luther was born January 28, 1533)

Luther seems to have been taken aback by the strength of his wife.  As I was of my wife who died too soon, but the Lord knows better than I.  He knew better than I when at Church I met my intended.  Natalie had strength of body and soul, and yet was humble.  She gave birth to our three children. Like Luther, she loved to sing and play music. Luther saw in this  holy season the wonders of God’s love as he had a living example in his Katy and their fatherhood and motherhood to open his eyes to the Incarnation.  Don’t take your family for granted, but give thanks for such a gift and the Child born for us Who of all the sons of men began to bore your sin and sorrow on the 25th of December. Come home for Christmas…to your home and our Lord’s House.

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.

About Today’s Commemoration:  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 changed it 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 as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).

“Writing In the midst of paradise stands the tree of life. From this, Adam [and Eve were] driven away so that [they] would not eat of it but instead would die according to God’s judgment on account of the sin [they] committed. But the cross of Christ is the noble tree of life on which hangs the noble fruits that bring us eternal life. “No forest produces such foliage, blossoms, sprouts.” Whoever consoles himself with the precious merit of Jesus Christ shall live, even though he die. “And whoever lives and believes in Him shall never die” (John 11:26). Because of their sins, Adam [and Eve and their] children were locked out of paradise, but through the key of the holy cross, it will be opened once again to all repentant Christians. Crux Christi clavis Paradisi, that is, “The cross of Christ is the key of paradise,” says John of Damascus. To this, the fathers of the Church relate the key of the house of David, which can open so that no one can shut [Isaiah 22:22]. Let all evil spirits be defied, who would like to lock heaven to us, which the Lord Jesus opened by His cross and death.” —Valerius Herberger

The quotes above are from Concordia Publishing House. Treasury of Daily Prayer (Kindle Locations 31418-31425). Concordia Publishing House. Kindle Edition.

We are Adam.  “But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” (Gen. 3: 9).  The Lord God knew exactly where Adam, and Eve, were as they were hiding, and we cannot hide from God.  The first husband and wife had eaten of the fruit to become like God.  In Hebrew “Where are you” is one word, Ayekah. When Dad or Mom asked it sometimes, it was scary because I did something wrong: Ayekah?!  Where are you is a contemporary question and during the 60s similar questions were asked, Where are you at? (as life), or Where are you coming from?  Many times, we don’t want to tell because of shame and hurt, otherwise we would just die. We have. “For as in Adam all die…”.  We are dead in our trespasses and in the Incarnation, the birth of Jesus, the Lord has come to find Adam to save him from himself that is the self (the Old Adam), immersed in sin, death, and power of the devil.  Jesus lets himself be found in a feeding  trough and on the Cross and a thousand stops in  between and now where you are. “…so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).  His holy and whole calling is to find, for instance, read St. Luke 15. Why does He let Himself be found?  So we be found in Him.

The doctrine is not of compulsion; the Word of life is of free will. Whoever desires to hear the doctrine, let him cleanse the field of his will so that the good seed may not fall among the thorns of vain questions. If you would heed the Word of life, cut yourself off from evil things. The hearing of the Word profits nothing to the man who is busy with sins. If you want to be good, do not love dissolute customs. First, trust in God, and then listen to His Law.

You cannot hear His words while you do not know yourself. And if you keep His judgments while your understanding is apart from Him, who will give you your reward? Who will guard your payment for you? You were baptized in His name, so confess His name! In the Persons and in the naming, Father and Son and Holy Spirit—three names and Persons—these three shall be a wall against divisions and disputes for you. Do not doubt the truth, lest through the truth you may perish. You were baptized from the water; you have put on Christ in His naming; the seat of the Lord is on your person and His stamp on your forehead. See that you do not become another’s possession, for you have no other Lord. He is one who formed us in His mercy; He is one who redeemed us on His cross. It is He who guides our life, who has power over our feebleness, who brings to pass our resurrection. He rewards us according to our works. Blessed is he who confesses Him, and hears and keeps His commandments! You, O man, are a son of God, who is high over all. See that you do not vex the good and gracious Father by your works. —Ephrem Syrus


Give to Your Word impressive pow’r,
That in our hearts from this good hour
As fire it may be glowing, That in true Christian unity
We faithful witnesses may be,
 Your glory ever showing.
Hear us, cheer us By Your teaching; Let our preaching
And our labor Praise You, Lord, and serve our neighbor.
—O Holy Spirit, Enter In (LSB 913:2)
 
Prayer of the Day
Lord Jesus, You sent Your angels to the churches of Asia Minor to announce to them either their fidelity to the Gospel or their departure from the true faith. By the preaching of today’s pastors, continue to bring to our churches the Good News of Your liberating death and resurrection by calling us to repentance and faith; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
(All of the above, cited from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, appointed for this day, Concordia Publishing House)

I would think the contrast between a pure virgin, such as Saint Lucia, and sex obsessed Roman culture was palpable. It is today as well. St. Lucia was a non-conformist as she was virtuous. Have you ever heard a sermon on the virtues of chastity and virginity? Maybe a saint as Lucia is an antidote to the socially sanctioned rampant filth of our times as it was in the Roman Empire.

Concordia and Koinonia

According to tradition, St. Lucia’s were gouged out and so she is depicted holding them. Her eyes saw the fair beauty of the Lord for herself and others.

Collect of the Day:

O Almighty God, by whose grace and power Your holy servant Lucia triumphed over suffering and remain ever faithful unto death, grant us, who now remember her with thanksgiving, to be so true in our witness to You in this world that we may receive with her new eyes without tears and the crown of light and life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

One of the victims of the great persecution under the Roman emperor Diocletian, Lucia met her death at Syracuse on the island of Sicily in the year A.D. 304, because of her Christian faith. Known for her charity, “Santa…

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Pastor and Hymnwriter Born in Trier in AD 340, Ambrose was one of the four great Latin Doctors of the Church (with Augustine, Jerome, and Gregory the Great). He was a prolific author of hymns, the most common of which is Veni, Redemptor Gentium (“Savior of the Nations, Come”). His name is also associated with Ambrosian Chant, a style of chanting the ancient liturgy that took hold in the province of Milan. While serving as a civil governor, Ambrose sought to bring peace among Christians in Milan who were divided into quarreling factions. When a new bishop was to be elected in AD 374, Ambrose addressed the crowd, and someone cried out, “Ambrose, bishop!” The entire gathering gave their support. This acclaim of Ambrose, a thirty-four-year-old catechumen, led to his Baptism on December 7, after which he was consecrated bishop of Milan. A strong defender of the faith, Ambrose convinced the Roman emperor Gratian in AD 379 to forbid the Arian heresy in the West. At Ambrose’s urging, Gratian’s successor, Theodosius, also publicly opposed Arianism. Ambrose died on Good Friday, April 4, 397. As a courageous doctor and musician, he upheld the truth of God’s Word. (Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Hymnody

For You are the Father’s Son

Who in flesh the vict’ry won.

By Your mighty pow’r make whole

All our ills of flesh and soul.

 —Savior of the Nations, Come (LSB 332:6;  attributed to St. Ambrose)

Prayer of the Day

O God, You gave Your servant Ambrose grace to proclaim the Gospel with eloquence and power. As bishop of the great congregation of Milan, he fearlessly f bore reproach for the honor of Your name. Mercifully grant to all bishops and pastors such excellence in preaching and fidelity in ministering Your Word that Your people shall be partakers of the divine nature; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Writing by St. Ambrose regarding his sudden Baptism and then ordination as Bishop

“…I do not therefore claim for myself the glory of the apostles (for who can do this save those whom the Son of God Himself has chosen?); nor the grace of the prophets, nor the virtue of the evangelists, nor the cautious care of the pastors. I only desire to attain to that care and diligence in the sacred writings, which the apostle has placed last among the duties of the saints [1 Corinthians 12:10]. And this very thing I desire, so that, in the endeavor to teach, I may be able to learn. For one is the true Master, who alone has not learned what He taught to all; but men learn before they teach, and receive from Him what they may hand on to others.

But not even this was the case with me. For I was carried off from the judgment seat, and the garb of office, to enter on the priesthood, and began to teach you what I myself had not yet learned. So it happened that I began to teach before I began to learn. Therefore I must learn and teach at the same time, since I had no leisure to learn before. —Ambrose of Milan

Ambrose knew he needed to learn more of God’s Word.  Don’t we all?  A good preparation for Christmas is learning God’s Word from His Bible and His Word in hymns.  His Gospel is the song of salvation in Jesus, the Father’s Son in the Virgin pure and fresh. 

Ambrose learned the Song of salvation and the Lord gave him the gift of writing hymns, as He did Luther.  A Lutheran Seminary Professor, Peter Scaer, told us at seminar that when a church council meeting became rough, he had them together sing a hymn and it cleared the air.  When Bishop Ambrose’s church was about to be taken over by troops, the congregation, afraid for their lives, barricaded themselves in the basilica with their pastor Ambrose. The imperial troops surrounded the basilica in an attempt to starve them out, but on Easter Sunday all the people were still inside. In the face of arms and soldiers, Ambrose said, “My only arms are my tears. I will never depart willingly but I won’t resist by force.” 

In order to calm the frightened people Ambrose taught them to sing hymns he had composed. He split the congregation in two in order to alternate verses of the hymns. This is our first record of communal singing in church. The music of praise and prayer seeped out through the walls of the basilica and into the hearts of the soldiers. Soon the soldiers outside joined in the singing. The siege ended. 

A psalmist in exile with Israel in Babylon sang, “How shall we sing the Lord’s song
in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137).  How shall we sing the Lord’s song in our Babylons and Romes? Answer: in faith in Jesus Christ and just sing it.  Through Christ’s song, even the enemy may join the hymn of salvation. Cajoling, pressuring, getting upset about way things are, evangelism tactics, won’t do anything.  The Lord through His Word and His Word sung can clear the air.  His Word alone works. Ambrose found that out. Sing the Christmas carols and hymns, not only for you but for others. 

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