Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Now that We Have the Gift?

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance. Hebrews 6:4-6a

Likely all of us can recall as parents or children unwrapping all the gifts at Christmas and being so excited about playing with them for days or even weeks, and then not touching them again much at all.

Unfortunately, so it is with some and the greatest gift of all at Christmas, Jesus Christ coming to be our Savior from sin, death and devil. Many at first and for awhile (see Matthew 18-23 for the various links of time Jesus identifies here with believing) trust in the Gospel for their salvation and then put this gift on the shelf of their life, or give it back, or ignore it. We must all be on guard lest this happen to us as well. The temptation always is to fall back, fall away from faith life at church where the precious means of grace: the gospel preached in its purity and the Sacraments are administered according to Christ's mandate, are able to keep us in this one true faith.

If as parents we are upset with our children who so grieve and anger us by their "love it and use it" attitude with our hard earned Christmas gifts that they then ignore and don't use, how much more will our Heavenly Father be grieved and angered over those who ignore and don't use His gift of salvation?

As Martin Luther wrote, so let us pray: "Thanks be to God, however, for preserving us in the Word, in faith and in prayer! We know that one should walk in himility and fear in the sight of God and not presume upon our own wisdom, righteousness, doctrine and courage. One should rely on the power of Christ. When we are weak, He is strong; and through us weaklings He always conquers and triumphs. To Him be glory forever. Amen." AE 26:196

Monday, December 21, 2009


JOHN 1:9

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born

It is not fair to ask anyone to pick a favorite Christmas carol, but one that every year touches me is "O Holy Night." From the outset it speaks of the Season's Reason: "It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth!" For on that holy night burst forth new and glorious Light, true Light, Light divine!

Whether it's stringing Christmas lights or watching them pop up in my neighborhood or glimmering on the trees, that this marvelous Light invaded earth's and human's darkness to enlighten us comes to mind. Luther explained this enlightening so well in his explanation to the Second Article of the Apostles Creed: "I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but instead the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with with his gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith."

And this Light continues to radiate to all the earth through the pure preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments as Christ has mandated and the darkness still cannot "overpower" them. (John 1:5) Even though many resist the Spirit's efforts to permit this Light to call them out of the darkness and captivity of their sin, yet those given the right to become the children of God receive Him still throughout the world. (John 1:10-13)

May His Light continue to shine bright in you this Christmas Season and in the Year to come!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

Monday, December 14, 2009

O Come Emmanuel

Now all this took place that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which means 'God with us.'" Matthew 1:22-23

We hear of this God coming to be with us, Emmanuel, in many Christmas carols and hymns this time of year such as "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" or in the final words of "O Little Town of Bethlehem"--- "O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel."

God comes to be with us, for us and in us. He comes as one of us under the law as a human in order to buy us back. (Galatians 4:4) This redemption that Emmanuel earned for us He imputes to us by grace through faith with His Word. Thus, He is always with us through this powerful Word and Sacraments. And He promises to do this until the very end of time.

What a glorious name we have to cling to when times cause us to wonder and doubt if we are alone in this world of suffering and tears. Is Emmanuel still with us? For us? In us? The resounding answer of course is Yes! His presence with His people is constantly there where He is proclaimed to be the Crucified and Risen One for sinners.

God has intervened and revealed to us that He is "for us" in Jesus! Emmanuel is always "with us" in His Word and Sacraments! For "to us" a child is born, to us a son is given!

"O Come, O come, Emmanuel, and ranson captive Israel. That mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to you O Israel!"

Monday, December 7, 2009

Prepare the Royal HIghway

As it is written in the book of Isaiah the prophet, "A voice of one crying in the wilderness, make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight. Every ravine shall be filled up, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough roads smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God."
Luke 3:4-5

Only 17 shopping days left! So much too prepare for the holidays and not enough time! Doesn't' all this express that possibly these individuals are preparing for the wrong celebration? Who, why or what are they preparing for?

The prophet Isaiah foretold what John the Baptizer would proclaim: Prepare the way for the Salvation of God! This is something entirely different than what most people prepare for in December these days. For sure this prophecy is about the Coming Messiah, the Christ child Jesus. He would most assuredly bring salvation from heaven above.

Why do so many get this vital message lost amid so many other messages that should not merit our attention and preparation as the Coming Messiah should? The answer is given in verses 4 and 5: our valleys and mountains and crooked ways and rough places. In essence, this is describing the problem for which the Savior comes to earth to be born Our Savior: sin. Sin raises up mountains so high from God's holiness that no one could ever get over them back to God. Likewise, sin deceives us into thinking that we have valleys so low that God could never reach us, paths so crooked that will never reach our hopes and aspirations, paths so rough that we are convinced they are the norm, all that is possible for us. These all must be removed. And removed they are by this one whom Isaiah and then John the Baptizer prophecy will come and save us from them all: the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ our Lord. His first Advent was to overcome each and every one of these sins by His perfect life being sacrificed on the cross as the acceptable punishment and way back to fellowship with God.

So prepare the royal highway for Jesus' Second Coming/Advent! Repent of your mountains, valleys, crooked ways and rough places, and turn to Jesus' forgiveness of sins in the Precious Gospel. "Prepare the royal highway; the King of Kings is near! Let ev'ry hill and valley a level road appear! Then greet the King of Glory foretold in sacred story: Hosanna to the Lord, for He fulfills God's Word!"