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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

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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Many have decried the type of Christianity that portrays God as a kindly old man with a beard in heaven, “the man upstairs” and all that.  But that portrayal is  not in the Bible one bit.  I maintain it is from the culture and here is an example of it below.  My wife pointed out this stanza from the 1946 Gene Autry written song. “Here Comes Santa Claus”:

Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus,
Right down Santa Claus lane
He doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor
He loves you just the same

Santa Claus knows we’re all God’s children
That makes everything right
So fill your hearts with Christmas cheer
‘Cause Santa Claus comes tonight!

Lutherans make a big deal out of “justification by grace through faith” in Jesus Christ.  And well we should.  But according to the lyric above, we are justified, made right, by all being “God’s children”.  We are not even all God’s children:   We are His creation.  If we are all His children, then we have no need for Jesus Christ, Baptism and faith which makes us His own. At best, we are wayward children, runaway sons and daughters who have forfeited the inheritance by sheer unbelief and sin. If we are all God’s children,  He did  not need to come down from heaven and die on a Cross and before that be laid as an infant in feeding trough, a manger. Why bother with all that?  But He did!  And related to that why bother  going to church?  Ahhh, there’s the rub, Satan’s rub.  If we are all God’s children,anyway, you don’t have to fuss about all that repentance and forgiveness in His Name. Satan does not want us to hear His good Word of Law and Gospel.  Instead, the Lord is a doting Grandpa who gives gifts if you are “good” (whatever “good” is).  And note that in the lyric Santa Claus “loves us all”, i.e. Santa Claus=/equals God!  Does the Lord love us for we are?  No, He loves us for His Name’s sake to make us His own:  adopted and forgiven.  Satan wants always to stop the adoption process. Does Satan really want you to be forgiven by his Enemy above?!

Satan does not come at us with pitchforks telling us turn away from God, adulterate, thieve and murder.  Even the old Adam might be able to see that!  He comes to us in sweet songs that are religious, spiritual, to turn us astray with every hum of that song.  It is a siren song luring us to the rocky shoals of hell itself.

Not here comes Santa Claus:  here comes Jesus Christ!  Love’s pure light, true light, shining in the darkness of our supposed light!  As someone has said, It’s not who comes down the chimney that matters, but Who went up on the Cross for you and for me.

A BLESSED CHRISTMAS TO YOU IN HIS PEACE THIS HOLY EVENING!

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Found at Cyberbrethren

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The following is from the most recent edition National Review (January 24, 2011) and the italicized remarks in parentheses are my own:

The fashion of calling Christmas the “winter solstice” began with Hitler.  He liked to hold that Christianity had weakened the human spirit, and wished that Europe had instead adopted militant Islam. (Why militant Islam?  Answer:  it was, and is, as anti-Semitic as the Nazis and the Nazis had a natural ally with the militant Islamists:  see History of Hitler and the Muslim Waffen SS video-Pr. Schroeder)  His Third Reich introduced pagan festivals.  Photographs taken by Hugo Jaeger, one of this several official photographers, have just come to light showing Hitler and his cronies celebrating Christmas in a Munich beer cellar in 1941.  Saint Nicholas, or Santa Claus, emerges as the Norse god of war Odin, and a swastika replaces the customary angel at the top of the Christmas tree erected behind Hitler (The photos below are of the winter solstice celebrations in Munich) In these photographs Hitler, Goering, and others can be identified already looking gloomy–as well they might.

 

 

 

 

Why might Hitler and company be looking gloomy at such a celebration?  They were exterminating God’s Chosen People and from His people, trying to also exterminate His Beloved Son:  they thought they had no fear from the “wrath of the Lamb” (see Scripture below).  No one can take Christ out of Christmas, not Hitler, not militant secularism, not militant Islamists.

Revelation 6:   12When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, 13and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. 14 The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. 15Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

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Pr. Paul T. McCain (Cyberbrethren) asked a good question on Facebook:  “Why is it that many who love to put sweet baby Jesus on display, in their churches, or homes, recoil at the thought of using a Crucifix?”  For instance:  I have been told by reliable sources that most Lutheran churches in Europe have crucifixes.    How would you answer Pr. McCain’s question?

Another pastor posted this video clip as answer.  Warning:  it is definitely R-Rated.  It’s from ‘Talladega Nights’. What is the relation between the first half of the clip and the second half?    How does the video answer Pr. McCain’s question?  Or not?  If not, what do you say? 

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