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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

This is what Christmas looks like without Christ, ala Star Wars, as ‘Princess Leia’ sings the “Life Day Song” at the end of  the worse TV special ever filmed!  

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A church member asked me once, “Pastor, what do the 4 Advent candles mean?” I might have said that there is nothing in the Bible about it as there is nothing about Advent wreathes. Nothing wrong about them and some good as a wreath is without beginning and end and so is the Lord, the four candles signify time, God entering time, the right time for us all.  I told the fellow member I don’t know and she rather dogmatically stated what they stand for… well, I forgot the answer.  The answer usually go along this route:  the Advent Candles  stand for  Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love, or something like that.  Hope, peace, joy and love are the first things we all want. But on a blog, a Roman Catholic priest, looking at the superficial slappy-happy, sentimental time that Advent/Christmas has become, suggested that the candles should stand for Death, Judgment, Hell, and Heaven!  The last things.  We want the first things first…without pain or struggle, without the Cross, without judgment, without His hard birth.  As Reformed theologian H. Richard Niebuhr wrote, 

“A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.”

But we are not without sin and that’s the point.  The Lord must reckon with that and He has.  The last things do come first, then in joyful repentance we accept our death sentence as true and see the true Lord born in a feeding trough (manger) through His death on the Cross. Only then do we receive the gifts of Peace, Joy, Hope and Love. The Lord went through the last things and will in the end of all things. The Lord’s last things make the first things last, otherwise it’s all tinsel, and Santa and sleighs and chimneys.  A fantasy Santa comes the chimney but the real Lord came down from heaven and went up on the Cross.  Feed on His Word in His feeding trough, manger, this week in the Church.

 

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Lessons:

Exodus 19:1-9

Psalm 113

 Romans 8:12-27

St. John 14:8-21

GRADUAL:   Acts 2:17b, Rom.10:10

I will pour out my Spirit  on all flesh,*and your sons and your daughters shall  prophesy. With the heart one believes and is  justified,* and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

VERSE: Alleluia. Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love. Alleluia.

Intro:  Pentecost is the third, but by no means the last, of the Three Great Holy Days of the Christian Church year.  Each day, and its season, corresponds to the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity.

  • Christmas, originally Christ Mass, is the celebration of God the Father.  God the Father in the fullness of time sends His Son to be born of the Virgin Mary and He is the Word made flesh.
  • Easter, or Pascha, is the celebration of God the Son, Who after His earthly ministry and then sufferings, crucifixion, rises again on the Third Day.
  • Then Pentecost, 50 Days after Pascha, on , the Holy Spirit is publically pored out upon the 120 (Acts 1: 15) gathered together and they begin to speak of wonderful deeds of the Lord He accomplished in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  

As the Holy Trinity is one so are the 3 great feast days of His Church.

Reflection:  The word “spirit” in Biblical Hebrew is “ruah”.  Spirit in Biblical Greek is “pneuma”.   Our English word, which is from the Latin, “spirare” translates well both Hebrew and Greek: all three words can also be translated as “breath” or “wind”.  So our Lord uses these different definitions in a word play  in John 3.  Scripture reports in Acts 2 that the descent of the Holy Spirit was like a “mighty rushing wind.”

Now our English word “spirit” and it’s Latin original “spirare” is also the second syllable of these following words and taken together form a whole Bible study of the work of the Holy Spirit.

  • expire
  • respire
  • inspire
  • conspire
  • transpire
  • perspire
  • aspire
Expire:  literally without breath .The “s” has dropped out in our pronunciation.  We were dead in our trespasses, spiritually dead, expired.  In sin we are spiritually in the tomb with Lazarus until the Lord calls out by His Word: Come out!   When we sin again we are without breath till repentance and forgiveness.
 
Respire:  literally, to breathe again. The Holy Spirit performs resuscitation in the work and word of Jesus Christ so we  can breathe again.
 
Inspire:   breathe in.  All Scripture is inspired by God, God-breathed.  He breathes in the Word and makes it alive as Jesus Christ is alive.  Scripture is also for the Holy Spirit to rebuke sin and reconcile us once again to the Lord.  Every Word of the Bible, either Law or Gospel, is inspired.
 
Conspire:  literally breathe together.  The Holy Spirit builds us up in Christ to the glory of God the Father, a holy conspiracy, that is, His Church so that the Word is preached, taughted, administered, served, confessed and believed upon in the world.

From Dr. Martin Luther’s The Large Catechism, 3rd Article of The Apostles’ Creed:

 If you are asked: What do you mean by the words: I believe in the Holy Ghost? you can answer: I believe that the Holy Ghost makes me holy, as His name implies.  But whereby does He accomplish this, or what are His method and means to this end? Answer: By the Christian Church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  For, in the first place, He has a peculiar congregation in the world, which is the mother that begets and bears every Christian through the Word of God, which He reveals and preaches, [and through which] He illumines and enkindles hearts, that they understand, accept it, cling to it, and persevere in it.

 
Transpire:  literally breathed across, as in the whole history of Israel culminating in the 3 great feast days of the church and in the Church today till the day when forgiveness will no longer be needed in the Resurrection: Come, Lord Jesus, come. The Spirit and the Bride say come!
 
Perspire:  literally breathe through, that is sweat! The Holy Spirit works and man sweats, when we know the depth of our wrong and nothing we can do to extricate our selves from it.  We sweat and panic and the Holy Spirit blows upon us the Word of Christ to soothe,cool, heal…forgive and so make us holy. 
 
Aspire:  to breathe towards, to want to do better.  We can not aspire and be saved on our own, we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ.  But once baptized and forgiven, we aspire to be made holy in our lives through faith, the fruit of which is love, joy, peace, etc. by walking in the Spirit, feeding on His Word and Sacrament day by day, for as branches are to the vine, we can do nothing without Him.
 
All of these words describe the work of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is not an independent operator but works in perfect sync with the Father and the Son, who is forever to be worshiped and glorified in His Church, one God, one Lord,  both now and forever. Amen!
 
Almighty and ever-living God, You fulfilled Your promise by sending the gift of the Holy Spirit to unite disciples of all nations in the cross and resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ. By the preaching of the Gospel spread this gift to the ends of the earth; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.                                   

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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 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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From AgnusDay

From AgnusDay

Note:  Advent is the beginning of the Church’s new year.  Obviously, it does not correspond to the secular year which can remind us that God’s time is not as our time (2 Peter 3:7-9).  Back when,  I heard of a congregation that on the Saturday before the 1st Sunday in Advent had the Divine Service and then a ‘new year’s’ eve party complete with champagne.  The first service is good, the second not-so.   Advent use to be a season of preparation for Christmas (actually, Christ Mass) which meant fasting.  Still can be.  Rev. Professor Johann Gerhard (1582-1637) taught clearly the evangelical understanding and practice of fasting.  Considering our Lord’s warning recorded in Advent One’s appointed Gospel, St.  Luke 21:  25-36 (see the cartoon above!), it is well to consider Pr. Gerhard’s pastoral encouragement:

             “Christ wanted to teach true fasting with His example: It does not consist of a person refraining from certain foods at certain times and regarding that as being meritorious and as a satisfaction for sin. Instead, the following is a true, God-pleasing fast, namely, “The primary, great universal fast,” as Augustine calls it, is a person abstains from the lusts of the flesh which strive against the soul, I Pet. 2:11, where a person then does not fulfill the lusts of the flesh, Gal. 5:16. Also, all members can fast in this manner if they do not give in to the servitude of impurity, but instead to the weapons of righteousness, Rom. 6:13 and 19.

            Following this there is a daily fast: moderation. With it is observed an appropriate restraint in eating and drinking in order that one becomes adept at praying, skillful at his calling, and in the exercise of godliness. Also, this is of such a vital, essential necessity that Christ speaks with words worthy of reflection and contemplation: However, you be on guard so that your hearts do not become burdened with gobbling food and boozing, lest this final Day comes upon you like an ensnaring trap, Luke 21:34-35. If it were not of the utmost importance, Christ never would have used such stern words.”

 

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Lessons:

Exodus 19:1-9

Psalm 113

 Romans 8:12-27

St. John 14:8-21

GRADUAL:   Acts 2:17b, Rom.10:10

I will pour out my Spirit I on all flesh,*and your sons and your daughters shall I prophesy. With the heart one believes and is I justified,* and with the mouth one confesses I and is saved.

VERSE: Alleluia. Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love. Alleluia.

Intro:  Pentecost is the third, but by no means the last, of the Three Great Holy Days of the Christian Church year.  Each day, and its season, corresponds to the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity.

  • Christmas, originally Christ Mass, is the celebration of God the Father.  God the Father in the fullness of time sends His Son to be born of the Virgin Mary and He is the Word made flesh.
  • Easter, or Pascha, is the celebration of God the Son, Who after His earthly ministry and then sufferings, crucifixion, rises again on the Third Day.
  • Then Pentecost, 50 Days after Pascha, on , the Holy Spirit is publically pored out upon the 120 (Acts 1: 15) gathered together and they begin to speak of wonderful deeds of the Lord He accomplished in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  

As the Holy Trinity is one so are the 3 great feast days of His Church.

Reflection:  The word “spirit” in Biblical Hebrew is “ruah”.  Spirit in Biblical Greek is “pneuma”.   Our English word, which is from the Latin, “spirare” translates well both Hebrew and Greek: all three words can also be translated as “breath” or “wind”.  So our Lord uses these different definitions in a word play  in John 3.  Scripture reports in Acts 2 that the descent of the Holy Spirit was like a “mighty rushing wind.”

Now our English word “spirit” and it’s Latin original “spirare” is also the second syllable of these following words and taken together form a whole Bible study of the work of the Holy Spirit.

  • expire
  • respire
  • inspire
  • conspire
  • transpire
  • perspire
  • aspire
Expire:  literally without breath .The “s” has dropped out in our pronunciation.  We were dead in our trespasses, spiritually dead, expired.  In sin we are spiritually in the tomb with Lazarus until the Lord calls out by His Word: Come out!   When we sin again we are without breath till repentance and forgiveness.
Respire:  literally, to breathe again. The Holy Spirit performs resuscitation in the work and word of Jesus Christ so we  can breathe again.
Inspire:   breathe in.  All Scripture is inspired by God, God-breathed.  He breathes in the Word and makes it alive as Jesus Christ is alive.  Scripture is also for the Holy Spirit to rebuke sin and reconcile us once again to the Lord.  Every Word of the Bible, either Law or Gospel, is inspired.
Conspire:  literally breathe together.  The Holy Spirit builds us up in Christ to the glory of God the Father, a holy conspiracy, His Church so that the Word is preached, taughted, administered, served, confessed and believed upon in the world.
Transpire:  literally breathed across, as in the whole history of Israel culminating in the 3 great feast days of the church and in the Church today till the day when forgiveness will no longer be needed: Come, Lord Jesus, come. The Spirit and the Bride say come!
Perspire:  literally breathe through, that is sweat! The Holy Spirit works and man sweats, when we know the depth of our wrong and nothing we can do to extricate our selves from it.  We sweat and panic and the Holy Spirit blows upon us the Word of Christ to soothe,cool, heal…forgive.
Aspire:  to breathe towards, to want to do better.  We can not aspire and be saved on our own, we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ.  But once baptized and forgiven, we aspire to be made holy in our lives through faith, the fruit of which is love, joy, peace, etc. by walking in the Spirit, feeding on His Word and Sacrament day by day, for as branches are to the vine, we can do nothing without Him.
All of these words describe the work of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is not an independent operator but works in perfect sync with the Father and the Son, who is forever to be worshiped and glorified in His Church, one God, one Lord,  both now and forever. Amen!
Almighty and ever-living God, You fulfilled Your promise by sending the gift of the Holy Spirit to unite disciples of all nations in the cross and resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ. By the preaching of the Gospel spread this gift to the ends of the earth; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.                                   (Collect of the Day)

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