Tuesday, December 8, 2009



(The idea for this message came from a colleague of mine Rev. Terry Forke, the President of the Montana District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, who wrote an article in the November Lutheran Witness titled “Listen to Him”).

Over 2000 years ago, the angels announced to the Shepherds of Bethlehem the Greatest News in the world. Thus the angels spoke: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you Good News of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:10-12).

That is the Voice of Christmas, telling the world that the Savior has been born. That the heaven-sent Messenger has taken up flesh and blood, and came to live among us to redeem us from the punishment of hell and to forgive our sins.

The Voice of Christmas is telling the world the reason the Savior came. The Voice of Christmas is God’s gift to the world. The Voice of Christmas is God undoing the work of the devil and man in the Garden of Eden so that man may have life and peace and joy in His presence.

However, something has happened since that Voice of Christmas was first spoken. Today, the Voice of Christmas has nothing to do with Christmas at all. Some have even attempted to drown that Voice and replace it with something else because it is no longer “politically correct” thing.

To be sure there are many voices and noises that we hear during this time of the year. The weeks before Christmas we hear many different voices. But these voices are nothing but clinging noise that fills the air and our ears with empty, shallow and hollow promises and leave the most important part of Christmas out–the birth of the God-Man Jesus.

We hear all types of voices that vie for our attention. Have you noticed how long and winsomely the voices of the world have been wooing you into their stores for their godless version of Christmas? Wal-Mart began right after Halloween (skipping right over Thanksgiving). The Salvation Army bell is clanging. Clerks are wishing a politically correct “Happy Holidays” while the cash registers dance to the noise of change and credit cards being used. Children are chattering about this year’s sensational toy. Hollywood is barking over its year-end offerings. The family is arguing about where Christmas dinner will be at. And Wall Street is whining that we haven’t spent enough this season. Amazingly, we are rarely aware of this voice (the noise in the background). We live with it, without knowing what it does to our psyche or to our spiritual walk.

There are other voices too, that steal us away from the Voice of Christmas that tells of the Savior’s birth. Have you noticed how many songs that are sung on the radio, malls and even in our homes have nothing to do with Christmas? Here are but a few of these songs (don’t hit me on the head as you see me in the street since these could be your favorite). “Deck the Hall” “Jingle Bells” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” “I Am Dreaming of A White Christmas” and of course we can’t leave out the favorite of many, “Santa Claus is coming to town”.

Santa’s voice is jolly as he makes his rounds in the streets and chimneys. Have you noticed how Santa’s voice beckons us to experience the joy of giving? He speaks of laughter, of tradition, of suspense and of good little boys and girls. All these things are fun, they make you feel good, put a smile on your face and quick step in your feet; but they are NOT the Savior of the world. Santa’s voice is very, very loud. He is not just another voice, but he has become the Voice of Christmas for the majority of listeners. The world can ease its Christmas conscience by listening to him instead of the true Voice of Christmas–Jesus–the New Born King. The Savior comes to speak to our burdened hearts and guilty consciences, but we are eager to change the channel and listen to someone else.

Whose voice are you listening to during these Advent days? Now I am not a scrooge or one who doesn’t enjoy good music or laughter or traditions. I do. But in our Advent and Christmas preparations, let us not forget to listen to the true Voice of Christmas. Of course there are many things to be done and completed before we kneel at the manger. Care must be taken so that this preparation does not drown the voice of Jesus in our attempts to make Christmas more Christmassy.

The voice of the Savior was first heard as the cry of a little baby in His mother’s arms. His voice was heard as He read the Hebrew Scripture (Old Testament), and explained the Scriptures to all who would listen. Later, His Father revealed Jesus to the disciples saying: “This is My Beloved Son, listen to Him”.

Regardless of how many voices vie for our ears and hearts, Jesus will not be silent. He didn’t remain in Bethlehem as a baby. His message became more emphatic and articulate than the cries of a newborn baby. He grew up and went to the cross to earn man’s salvation. In His death and resurrection, we hear most clearly the message of Jesus. All the other voices of the world can’t save us by taking our sins and giving us righteousness. His is a unique voice-the VOICE OF CHRISTMAS.

The Voice of Christmas is God’s Good News to man. The Voice of Christmas is the eternal coming to earth to make us live with Him in eternity. The Voice of Christmas is calling you to listen to Him and rejoice as you prepare to kneel at the foot of the manger, for there in you will know peace–peace that is heaven-made for the world.

My prayers for you during this Advent and Christmas Season, is by the Spirit’s power to listen to the Voice of Christmas–the Voice of Jesus as He calls you a sinner to be saints through Him.


In Christ’s love and in His service,

Rev. Nabil S. Nour Pastor and Foot Washer Phil. 1:6

“I Send My Messenger” (Malachi 3:1)

S-1151 12/06/09 2SIA/3C (O) #63; (S) #66; LSB; (C) #60

Texts: Malachi 3:1-7; Philippians 1:2-11; Luke 3:1-14

Theme: “I Send My Messenger” (Malachi 3:1)

Question: “Would you say you are messenger?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our Second Sunday in Advent is from the O.T. Lesson: “Behold, I send My Messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to His temple; and the Messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, He is coming, says the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 3:1).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

Saints in Christ, there are many messengers that we know of. There is the messenger that is the news anchor on the radio or TV who delivers the news (mostly bad!) of the day. I am sure that you have listened to the bad news lately—Afghanistan, Tiger Wood’s problem and others. There is Instant Messenger that you may have on your computer or cell phone that allows INSTANT contact with someone a world away. But during this Advent season we turn our attention to ancient messengers. These ancient messengers would do heroic things to bring the message that they were called upon to deliver.
No greater example of this exists in antiquity than the messenger Pheidippides,( FUH-dip-I-dees). According to legend, during a time of war between the people of Ancient Athens and the Persians, the battle was not going well for the Athenians. The commanders send Pheidippides, from Athens to Sparta to ask for help. He ran the entire 150 mile ONE WAY trip. When he arrived in Sparta, the Spartans were not willing to send troops to help. So he RAN all the way back to Athens to deliver the depressing news. Then after getting to the site of the battle the next day Pheidippides, was again sent to deliver a message. This time the message was not bad news. He carried the message of victory over the Persians back over the 26.2 mile distance between Marathon and Athens. But the messenger service came at a price. All of the miles covered in such a short time cost Pheidippides, his life. According to lore, he delivered the message of victory as a last act before he collapsed and died.

Ever since Pheidippides ran from Marathon to Athens people all over the world have been trying to repeat what was done so long ago. We know it today as a Marathon. Today, we have a messenger sent by God not to run a Marathon, but to convey the Message of God to His people.

Listen to the way the Holy Spirit moved Malachi to write these words: “Behold, I send My Messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to His temple; and the Messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, He is coming, says the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 3:1).

The reading from Malachi says that God will send His messenger to prepare the way of the Lord’s coming. The name “Malachi” means “My messenger.” Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament. He was the last prophetic voice until John the Baptist, a period of four hundred years. His ministry took place following the return of the captives from exile in Babylon. He came pointing to another messenger John the Baptist.

John came as the forerunner who will prepare the Way of the Lord. The Baptizer came to call sinners to repentance. The Baptizer came to tell people to prepare for the coming of Christ. They needed to know they are in need of a Savior who will take away their sins and make them saints.

In these Words of Malachi the Lord of heaven and earth stated. “Behold, I send My Messenger…” This messenger is not John the Baptizer, not even Malachi himself; even though they are messengers of God. He was pointing to the True messenger—the heaven-sent Messenger Jesus the babe of Bethlehem.

Notice what Malachi calls Him: “The Messenger of the Covenant.” He is reminding the people of God of His covenant and promise in the Garden of Eden. There God promised our fallen parents that He would send His Son as the seed of the woman to crush Satan’s head; to take away their sins and cover them with His righteousness.

Down through the centuries, God’s people raised expectant eyes to the heavens waiting for the Savior to come. Now four hundred years before Bethlehem, Malachi says with great joy, “The Messenger of the Covenant” the Promised Savior will come. And the way he says it as if He has already come.

400 years prior to Bethlehem’s visit, the words were announced that He is coming. The Eternal God would come down to earth He had created to work among the creatures He had made and who in sin had turned away from Him. That’s the miracle in the manger. That’s the real reason for my joy. Others look at the poor baby wrapped in rags and miss the meaning of Christmas. They see only a man and actually see nothing. How sad for them.

If Jesus were only a human being, I would have reason to celebrate and rejoice. Then I could just as well forget about Christmas or change the name of the season for whatever makes me feel good. However, the One who has come, is the Messenger of the Covenant—Jesus the babe of Bethlehem.

And why did He come? He came for me a sinner. He took on flesh and blood for me. He lived for me a perfect life. He died my death and He rose for me so that I can be assured that I will rise from the grave some day.

The Messenger of the Covenant has come. And what a strange Messenger He is. It led Him from the throne of splendor into the poorest crib imaginable, a manger full of straw. It surrounded Him with our skin and saddled Him with our sins. It brought Him into our lives and hearts.

Behold, “I Send My Messenger!” God spoke the prophet Malachi. Sadly the messenger has been replaced with another. We know him as Santa Claus. But do you know how Santa Claus even came to be? Today, the Church remembers the man known as St. Nicolas. (My wife would enjoy this as she is of Dutch Origin). St. Nicolas in the Dutch language is Sente Klaus. And from the Dutch to the English we have Santa Claus. But Santa Claus is not the Messenger. Even thought many people think he is the reason for Christmas.

Malachi told us of the Messenger who is to come and has come. What about the 21st Messengers? Is it you? Are you willing to be the bearer of God’s Good News to the world? I pray that you are. For God uses all types of messengers. Just as Pheidippides brought the news of victory over the Persians, we, God’s beloved people His messengers of today, take the message of the victory that the Messenger of the Covenant has won for us; to the world—a world who still don’t know this Messenger—Jesus Christ.

God grant us the strength and stamina to be faithful messengers sharing with them the Grace and peace of the Lord, Jesus—the Babe of Bethlehem. Amen.

Now the peace…

“Gabriel and Zechariah—Two Different Kind of Angels” (Luke 1:18-20)

S-1150 12/02/09 1MIA/3C (O) #56; (S) #368; LSB; (C) #364 LSB

Texts: Daniel 9:20-24; Philippians 1:1-7; Luke 1:5-25

Theme: “Gabriel and Zechariah—Two Different Kind of Angels” (Luke 1:18-20)

Question: “How observant are you?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our First Sunday in Advent is the Gospel Lesson: “And Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.’ And the angel answered him, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time’” (Luke 1:18-20).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

Saints in Christ tonight we rejoice that once again we are privileged and honored to walk on the journey of Advent. By the power of the Holy Spirit we shall continue this journey until we reach the manger, kneel and worship the New Born King who came and is coming again to take all believers to His mansion in heaven.

Beloved in the Lord, open God’s Holy Book, study it, dig deep into its goldmine and you shall see treasures beyond your wildest dreams. Within this treasure, the Holy Spirit has used angels to convey the messages of God and carry on the ministry of the Lord Yahweh.

We are introduced to angels after Adam and Eve sinned against God and fallen from His grace. God in love and mercy drove them out of the Garden lest they live in sin forever. To protect them from eternal death and eating from the tree of life, the angels stood guard at the entrance of the Garden.

Again, we see the angels as they make a pit-stop at Abram’s tent and proclaim to him that his wife Sari would have a child and call his name Isaac meaning laughter. In chapter 6 of Isaiah, the angel comes to the aid of this man of God as he cries out that He had seen the Lord. The angel comes to the rescue and removes a coal from the altar and touches Isaiah and wipes away his sins and commissioned him to go and share the message of salvation. In the den of lions, the angel shut the mouth of the lions and spared the life of God’s servant Daniel.

In the New Testament, the angles of God continue to play a prominent role in the lives of the saints. In the Gospel of Luke, we meet the angel Gabriel (God’s mighty one) speaking with Zechariah about the forthcoming son–the forerunner of Jesus who will prepare the way of the Lord.

Tonight by the grace of God, we come into God’s presence. And in this place we hear Gabriel speak to aged Zechariah. We rejoice in the story as told to us by Luke of Gabriel’s visit to the soon-to-be father in the promise of the giving of John {John means Gift of God} This story tells of how God brings life where death ought to win - at least according to the fall into sin; joy where sadness is.

Barren Elizabeth and Zechariah knew what it meant to have promise all around them, yet see the empty well in their own front yard - no child to hold and embrace, no child to help in their old age and no heir. Ah, but the Lord would provide - and so He did, and so He does! Yes, John, Gift of God was provided. John would go forth in the spirit of Elijah to turn hearts toward his God.

Gabriel, God’s mighty man comes with hope in his words and help in his message. He introduces Himself to Zechariah and informs him that God has heard his prayers. And his prayers will be answered. But Zechariah doubts the message and for his doubting God’s messenger and God’s message his tongue is tied until the birth of his son John.

For us who are living this side of the grave we at times are challenged by the Words of God. We doubt His power in our lives. We lack trusting Him to fulfill His promises.

Two different kinds of angels: one with message of certainty and the other with message of doubt until he sees his son and then his tongue is loosed and he praises the God of heaven and earth. And this second angel, is a sure and certain sign from God Himself that He provides for all our need, but especially the need of delivering man from death and hell replacing doubt with certainty, forgiving sin and restoring those who fear and doubt – folks like Zechariah… and you and me!. Our gracious Lord fulfills His promises by providing what is lacking. He provides life and laughter - not the kind that fade when the comic departs the stage or when age and infirmity strike their final blow. Our Lord, the Pre-Existent One He provides even for today, and even unto all eternity. Zechariah came to understand that over time.

Listen to Zechariah’s faith-filled words which tell us the blessings that he and you and I receive from the Lord because of the One announced by John (read Luke 1:68-79).

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David, as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant, the oath that He swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear,
in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways, to give knowledge of salvation to His people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace
(Luke 1:68-79). PAUSE.

Yes, two different angels – one from heaven – the other redeemed by heaven and destined to now call heaven his home. Even as Zechariah doubted but then declared: God’s gift, the Gift of God {John} is given… and lo and behold, the Seventy Weeks, the complete time, they are accomplished. Yes those who confess their sins, even as did Daniel the mighty prophet of God, now sees that the Seventy Weeks are done – the forerunner of Messiah, this Gift of God, he is come.

Now even as Gabriel, the messenger from heaven gave strength to this messenger born of woman, born in time, this second messenger, Zechariah declares that “God is Remembered” and that God has remembered” – that the time has come! Now His Son, this Gift of God would declare the coming of our Savior. This is a grand prophecy, given from heaven and from earth, for He who is from Above is about to put on the cloak of our humanity, to be clothed in our flesh, and in that, our need, that we would be clothed with His eternity, His forgiveness, His peace, yea, His life. To this God, our Coming One who is also the Pre-Existent One belongs all the glory, now and forever, Amen.

Now the peace of God…

Soli Deo Gloria


“Do You See the Need?” (Luke 19:32-34)

S-1149 11/29/09 1SIA/3C (O) #60; (S) #70; L.S.#73; #307; #74; (C) #72

Texts: Jeremiah 33:14-16; 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13; Luke 19:28-40

Theme: “Do You See the Need?” (Luke 19:32-34)

Question: “How observant are you?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our First Sunday in Advent is the Gospel Lesson: “So those who were sent went away and found it just as He [Jesus] had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’ And they said, ‘The Lord has need of it.’” (Luke 19:32-34).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

Saints in Christ a terrible car accident took 8 people to the hospital in critical condition. The hospital staff called upon people to come and donate blood to save the lives of those injured. Many came to donate blood.

A neighbor’s house was on fire. As firemen gathered and began to extinguish the fire, they needed help getting as many items out of the house as possible before it all burned to the ground. The call went out for help in the hour of need.

A 3 years old girl wondered into her father’s corn field and was lost. As the family began to look for the 3 years old, they realized they needed to get more help before the night came upon them. The call went out to get as many people to look for her. Neighbors, other family members and even strangers came to the farm. They formed the lines and began to search for the young girl. There was a need.

These three stories show us there was a need—a need to help someone get blood, another to save the precious family heirloom and a young child lost in a corn field. Today the Evangelist Luke tells us in our Gospel reading of Jesus’ need. Jesus has a need for a donkey to aid Him to come into the city of Jerusalem. Why such a need for the Lord of heaven and earth? Why would the One who Created all things have such a need? To fulfill the promises of God and the prophecies of old.

Jesus as the heaven-sent Savior is the promised Messiah. He came as the Son of David who will establish His Throne and Kingdom forever. When Jesus came upon the scene He didn’t come riding on a stallion as a conquering hero; He didn’t come with fanfare parade to show Himself as a King; but rather, He came riding on a donkey as the humble Servant of the Most High God of Israel. He came not to rule but to redeem those who are bound and captives as slaves of satan.

Jesus came on a mission—a mission that His Father sent Him on to earth. That mission is to save the human race from the punishment of sin, the destructive power of satan and the sting of the grave. His mission was the most important mission in the world to save you and me because without His help we would be doomed forever.

Throughout His earthly ministry Jesus clearly saw the needs of the people. In the Gospel of St. Matthew we are given this image that burns in our hearts forever. “When He [Jesus] saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Mt. 9:36).

Yes, Jesus looked at the crowd and had compassion on them because He knew they needed Him. He saw their needs and for this reason He sent the disciples to bring the colt so that He may come into the city of peace to help those who were in need. But that city and its leaders would plot to destroy Him by hanging Him on a tree.

In interesting to note what Dr. Luke speaks in the text before us today: “And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. And as He rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As He was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of His disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’” (Mt. 35-38).

Here they are crying out in praise and adoration to this King—a King that came on a mission to save them and all of mankind. In another Gospel account, we are told the same story however with a different twist. “And the crowds that went before Him and that followed Him were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’” (Mt. 21:9).

The people of Jesus’ day cried out for help without knowing it. They cried out to Jesus saying: “Hosanna” which means “Save us now!” And Jesus came for that very purpose to save and deliver and redeem His children from satan’s hold and sin’s death.

Surely they cried out to Him Hosanna, but they had no concept how He would save them. The Parade of that Palm Sunday was a joyful day in the lives of the people of Jerusalem and the disciples but not the religious leaders. These religious leaders even complained to Jesus to quiet the crowd and not let them speak, but He told them, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Lk. 19:40). This cry on the Palm Sunday Parade was like none other. The parade doesn’t lead to giving Jesus the Keys of the city, or to the King’s palace, but rather to the cross of a criminal. Jesus rode into Jerusalem filled with expectations. And He delivered. He delivered by going to the cross to free the people both then and now from an oppression that was far worse than the Roman oppression. The King of Kings delivered His people from sin and death by dying on the cross. He did what the people of His day and ours don’t expect Him to do. For Christ’s death on the cross is not a defeat but victory. Because the very same Christ who died is the Christ that is still arisen from the dead for now and forever! PAUSE.

Beloved in the Lord, Jesus saw the need before Him and He acted upon it. How about us? Do you see the need that is before us? Do you see the multitude who are living but actually dead. They think they are rich but are poor in relationship with God. They think they are going to heaven, but are heading towards to hell.

Oh that we would see the need that Christ has told us about—a need that is found in this place, in this town and in this world. This need is not for material prosperity, peace on earth or social ministry. But to introduce them to the heaven-sent Savior, Jesus Christ who comes to us this Advent Season to remind us again of our need and His mission of mercy on our behalf.

Lift up your eyes and see the state of our nation and the people of this world. Many are concerned with getting more of earthly goods. Why then is Black Friday such a big day? Why do people get up in the wee hours of the morning to stand in line in the cold to buy this item or that, but we can’t get over a 100 souls on a Sunday in God’s house? Why is it that people spend and spend and spend on this gift or that, but we can’t meet the Church’s budget? Isn’t because people don’t see the need? Of course it is.

On this First Day of Advent, Luke exhorts us to hear the Words of Jesus. For He doesn’t speak of a need to take pilgrimages or fasts or to do penance. That’s not what He wants from us. He speaks of the love He has for you and the love He wants you to reflect in your life with those around you. Listen to Him. Do you want to please the King who gives you Himself, life, and salvation? Love and unselfishly serve all those in need. Do you want to bring a smile to the face of the Almighty God? Stoop down to help someone who can’t pay you back. Would you like to do God a favor to show Him your gratitude? Forgive someone who has hurt you and deserves no forgiveness. Are you looking for a way to thank Him for His help and generosity not only in spiritual things but in all that you are and have and hope to be? Give back some of what He has given you by giving to the church and the needy.

Do you see the need? Do you…? Jesus did. And He met that need by coming as a babe of Bethlehem to give His life as a ransom for you and me. Thank God with me today, that He has met our needs through His death and resurrection. Amen.

Now the peace…

“A Good Reason to…” (Deuteronomy 8:2)

S-1148 11/26/09 Thanksgiving Day (O) #574 LSB; (S) #36; L.S.#572; Choir; (C) #894 LSB

Texts: Deuteronomy 8:1-10; 1 Timothy 2:1-4; Luke 17:11-19

Theme: “A Good Reason to…” (Deuteronomy 8:2)

Question: “How many reasons can you think of to give Thanks to God?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our Thanksgiving Day celebration is from the O.T. Lesson: “And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD Your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” (Deuteronomy 8:2).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

Saints in Christ Lincoln’ original 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation came - spiritually speaking - at a pivotal point in his life. During the first week of July of that year, the Battle of Gettysburg occurred, resulting in the loss of some 60,000 American lives. Four months later in November, Lincoln delivered his famous “Gettysburg Address.” It was while Lincoln was walking among the thousands of graves there at Gettysburg that he committed his life to Christ. As he explained to a friend:

When I left Springfield [to assume the Presidency] I asked the people to pray for me. I was not a Christian. When I buried my son, the severest trial of my life, I was not a Christian. But when I went to Gettysburg and saw the graves of thousands of our soldiers, I then and there consecrated myself to Christ.

Listen to this Christian President as he gives the many reasons for this nation to give thanks and establishing Thanksgiving Day as a national holiday.


By the President of the United States of America

The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful years and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the Source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict, while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the field of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than theretofore. Population has steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.

In testimony wherof I have herunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Singed Abraham Lincoln

It has been 146 years since those words were spoken by this great leader of the free nation. President Abraham Lincoln encouraged all the Americans to give thanks to the Almighty Father for His gifts of grace.

146 years later, we still have many reasons to give thanks to the Lord. Here are but few of these reasons:

* America controls nearly 20 percent of the world’s wealth. There are around 6 billion people in the world, and there are roughly 300 million people in the U.S. That makes America less than 5 percent of the world’s population. And this 5 percent owns fifth of the world’s wealth.

* Every seven seconds, somewhere in the world a child under age five dies of hunger, while Americans throw away 14 percent of the food we purchase.

* Nearly a billion people in the world live on less than an American dollar a day. Another 2.5 billion people in the world live on less than two American dollars a day.

* More than half of the world lives on less than two dollars a day, while the average American teenager spends nearly $150 dollars a week.

* Americans spend more annually on trash bags than nearly half of the world does on all goods.

As you look at these statistics you come to see and understand what blessed people we are. Not because we have great material wealth, but because we are God’s sons and daughters. We who live in these great U.S. have freedom that many countries know nothing about. Freedom to worship. Freedom to bear arms. Freedom to travel without any restrictions.

To be sure we don’t need a president to tell us to give thanks. We do so because there are many good reasons. How many reasons can you count today for which you are thankful? We can speak of family, friends, loved ones, jobs. But how about having a house of worship; Bibles to read; the opportunity to witness; and to share and to grow? All of these are but the fruits of God’s love for us. Because of what He has done for us, we have a good reason to thank Him for all of His blessings and bounty. PAUSE.

During the slave trade business, some slaves were brought to the Auction market to be sold. Among the slaves was one young beautiful lady. She was brought up to the front and the rich men of Virginia gawked at her. Some touched her ribs and said, “She will be a good wench.” Others opened her mouth to check her teeth like a horse. The auctioneer began the bidding. And the amount was steadily climbing higher and higher. At last one young man paid a pretty price for this young. As the money was exchanged, the man took his possession and began to walk away. When they were all alone, the man who purchased her, turned around and gave her the bill of sales and said, “I bought you so that I can set you free. You may go where you want and no one will bother you again!” At hearing these words, the slave girl fell to the ground and thanked the man and said, “Sir, I am free because of your kindness and generosity, let me spend the rest of my life thanking you by serving.”

This lady was appreciative to the kindness of this man. She thanked him by becoming a willing slave in his house. Read the text of O.T. again and you will see how God’s hands of mercy and grace were caring and providing for the people of Israel throughout their wilderness. God set them free to be His chosen people and as such it was their privilege to thank Him.

How about us? We too, have been set free from the auction block and the wicked master—the Devil. As the price for our souls was going higher and higher, someone stood on the side and raised His hands high to pay the ransom price—a price not paid with gold or silver, not even in green dollars; but with blood and flesh on the wooden beam of the cross. Jesus set us free to be slaves to no man, but to love and obey Him as our Lord and Master. And just as that young lady ran in front of the man who freed her and said, “I will serve you for the rest of my life,” we too, as the blood-bought souls, with joy on this Thanksgiving Day say, “Lord, I will serve you with my whole life. I thank You for my freedom. I thank You for Your forgiveness. I thank You for the gift of faith. I thank You for the fellowship I will have around your table today and every day you make it possible.

Beloved in the Lord, fathers are a gift from the Lord to their wives and children. You know what I mean. There is nothing quite like hearing your father’s voice. You know I just returned from the old country (Israel), where I heard my father’s voice often. As I think about my dad’s voice, I also think of my heavenly Father’s voice, whose words at times may be as difficult to listen to as that of our own earthly fathers’ as it was evident in the text before us today. Yet, how thankful I am for the voice of my father—as most certainly, God’s voice—His voice brings comfort for trouble hearts and peace for guilty conscious. How thankful I am to have such a loving Father, who is so much greater than our President. The President issued a proclamation for Thanksgiving Day, but the King of kings gives us the true reason to be thankful for.

Today, in this house, we hear the voice of King of kings spoken again to give us joy in our hearts. We hear the loving Father saying: “On account of my Son, you all have become My children!” How reassuring is that? “Because of My Son, I will not hold your sins against you?” How wonderful is that message! “Because of My Son, I forgive you; feed you and fellowship with you!” How blessed we are to have such a loving Father!

Indeed, saints in Christ, we have a good reason to give thanks—we are loved by God—THE ALMIGHTY FATHER. Amen.

Now the peace of God…

“Ending and Dozing” (Mark 13:32-33)

S-1147 11/22/09 LSOY/3B (O) #599 LSB; (S) #609; L.S.#306; #308 (C) #52

Texts: Isaiah 51:4-6; Jude 20-25; Mark 13:24-37

Theme: “Ending and Dozing” (Mark 13:32-33)

Question: “Do you doze often?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation is from the Gospel lesson: “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.” (Mark 13:32-33).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

Saints in Christ a story is told of a businessman who was building a bar right next door to a church. The owner also wanted to have some women dancers at his bar. The people of the Church were really upset with the building project and made their objections known to the businessman. The Church prayed that something will happen to the bar and be destroyed. The night before the grand opening a lightening struck the bar and burned it to the ground.

The owner was so upset with what happened that he sued the church for damages. As the court was in session, the bar owner said, “Your honor these Christians prayed that my business be destroyed. And now that it is destroyed I feel they should pay for the damages.” To which the Church responded, “Your honor we had nothing to do with it, this is an act of nature and we can’t control storms! We shouldn’t be paying any restitution for the burned down bar.” The judge mused over this for a while and said, “I will need to evaluate this more. I really don’t understand what is going on here. I have a heathen who believes in divine intervention and the power of prayer, but I have a church who denies the power of God and the power of prayers. Go figure!

We may laugh at this story. But this is not a laughing matter. Even though the people of the church wanted an end to the bar, they dozed off when they had the opportunity to witness about God’s power and love in their lives. Many who claim to be followers of Jesus, have wondered from the truth and are no longer holding to that which is absolute truth—God’s holy Word. This is a sign of the end times.

Here we are again, at the end of the Church year. We have made a full circle and soon Thanksgiving Day and Advent will be upon us. Thursday we will gather with family and friends and will do three things—eat, watch football and visit with family. But that is not the only thing that will take place. Dozing and Ending also will take place. The dozing that happens as the tryptophane kicks in after eating the Turkey and the ending of the day and meal. Dozing and Ending, two themes found in our texts today - both redeemed and fulfilled only in Christ our Savior!

In our Old Testament reading, the prophet Isaiah gives the promise that Christ is coming: He is the “Light to the Nations” – He is that Salvation, He has drawn near to all the world - to every sinner - and although the earth will wear out like a garment and come to an end - the ending is just the beginning - His salvation is forever, His righteousness will never be dismayed. Our Yeshuah- Our Jesus is forever and His righteousness will never end. We who are clothed with that righteousness, who were laid in the tomb of His death and raised to eternal life with Him - through our Baptism - we are to never be dismayed. Why not? Because ETERNITY IS OURS.

Today, you have witnessed the ending and the beginning of a new life. Through the means of the Water and Word the Gerber’s—Chareen, Baylee, Ashlee and Bryson (mother and her 3 children) died to sin in the baptismal font and rose again to a new life by the mighty miracle of water and Word. Today, a miracle took place. And ending of life of sin and death and a new life of righteousness began by the power of the Holy Spirit. PAUSE.

Beloved in the Lord, do you remember as a child being carried by your mother, or taking your father’s hand? Do you recall going on an adventure with them! You asked, with the precision of a child, “Are we there, yet?” or “How much more minutes?” It didn’t matter if it was raining or getting dark, if we were tired - we were going there with the family and we were going to get “there.” Simple childlike faith/trust ruled the day. And what we realized, maybe later, was that the destination was not the main prize, but who was taking us!

Heaven is ours now, because our Yeshuah, our Salvation, He is forever, and His righteousness, not dismayed by the Cross, will never dim, diminish, or die, nor wear out; never be dismayed. The heavens and earth shall surely pass away - ah but He, and we who are in Him through Baptism, shall never die (John 11:25-26a).

Yes, the ending brought on by the grave gives way to a new reality, or maybe it’s an old one - the original plan - life forever with God - going through eternity with our Beloved - knowing He has us in the Palm of His hands. We will see earth and the heavens pass away, and we see that our Lord and our Salvation, He abides, and we get to be in heaven forever with Him. What a hope! What a promise! What a Gift! JUST FOR YOU!

Today we celebrate the end that is an eternal beginning. Jude, Jesus’ very brother, wants us to show mercy to those who are perishing, to those who doubt - yes, to snatch them from out of the fire. Yes, Jesus is able to present you as one who is blameless, without stumbling - and that is eternally so - His righteousness and salvation is yours. The King has transformed you - and you shine the glory of that newness. In that glory you are enabled to speak surety to doubt, the confidence (with faith) of Christ to doubting hearts, both in the church and in the world. Yes, every time you speak of His great love to doubting hearts, eternity, and more to the point, our Yeshuah, our Salvation, He brings another one along for the ride. And this is the ride that is ever and always, at His side. “Are we there, yet?” Of Course! For He is here - our Christ, our King - He is here with us.

But how can I know this is true, how can I be sure? You and I doubt, we fail, we fear and we falter. But Jesus says, “Behold the signs, like the changing of the seasons”. Know this, that when He comes, it will be at the Father’s directing only. Even He who comes does not know the time or the hour.

Now before we dismiss this too quickly - let us take comfort in and from it. Jesus tells us in v. 32 of our Gospel that even He does not know when He is returning to close out this age. What comfort! To use the child traveling with his parent’s analogy, Jesus models the simple trust in His Father that He gives, gives fully, to you and to me. He is not our good example, our older brother. Oh no! He is so much more: In His perfect obedience to the Father (And you thought that was only by His submitting to death on your cross!) Jesus continues to call us home by perfectly submitting to His Father and our Father, to His God and our God (John 20:17). He does more than “lead the way, or show the way.” He is the way, the truth, and the Life, and yes, no one comes to the Father, except, through Him (John 14:6). Here is comfort: In His submission to the Father, He brings us home for eternity.

As we look at our world today, we see so many things coming to an end. The good life in the USA is not what it used to be. All around, we hear of wars and rumors of wars. We see death and destruction. And we at times realize that the end is near, nearer than we like. The end of the world as we know it is here. Even the movie 2012 reminds us that the world is going to end; but not like the directors displayed it on the screen, but in accordance with the Word of God.

So what should we do with these two themes of Ending and Dozing? Should we be afraid of our failing health? Should we be afraid the way our economy is going? What about our children and their troubles... our grandchildren and their growing needs? Christ our King has us in His hands, so the trials we are enduring have an end. And, we and those we love who are found in Him - we have no end - and neither does His mercy in grace.

Jesus’ final command in our Gospel, to “Stay awake!” is not a fearful thing, but it is a joyous gift. We can stay awake. The tryptophane of the Turkey needn’t bother us. We are commanded to watch and wait for this coming in Glory of our Yeshuah - of our Salvation - for surely He is coming! We wait for what we do not see, true enough, but we wait in the assurance, in the surety of Him who was crowned our King with a Crown of Thorns, given the thorns of our Cross, numbered with the transgressors - that is with you and me - so that we might be raised to newness through His resurrection.

Ending and Dozing. We do a lot of it. Like the people of the Church in our opening story. Yet, we dare not do so. We are encouraged by our Savior, Jesus to Wait! And Watch! Yes, we’re on the journey with our Father. “How much more minutes?” The answer is joyous - for ever, and ever, Amen!

Now the peace of God…

“Where IS God?” (Mark 13:5-9)

S-1146 11/15/09 (O) #5; (S) #514; (C) #412

Texts: Daniel 12:1-3; Hebrews 10:11-25; Mark 13:1-13

Theme: “Where IS God?” (Mark 13:5-9)

Question: “How often have you heard someone say ‘Where is God?” SOLI DEO GLORIA, Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation is from the Gospel lesson: “And Jesus began to say to them, ‘See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I Am He!’ and they will lead many astray. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains. But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them.’” (Mark 13:5-9).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

The pastor sat in his darkened office late on Saturday night and wondered why did God place him in this church? These people didn’t care for him, or his style of ministry. They didn’t long to hear the Word of God. They were apathetic to the message of the Gospel. They turned there noses on the gifts of the Altar. They didn’t want to be in God’s house. In the darkened office the pastor lifted up his head heaven-ward saying, “Where Is God?”

The couple sat in the delivery room. They held tightly their still-born child to their breast. As they clutched to their child that the mother carried for 9 months in her womb, they wept tears over this gift that was taken away from them. With tears streaming down their cheeks, they cried out, “Where Is God.”

The father along with his three young daughters stood by silently as they watched the coffin of his wife and their mother slowly lowered into the ground. The young lady had died abruptly from cancer at a very young age of 44. Her husband spoke softly, “Where Is God?”

In a world full of sadness and sorrow, troubles and tragedies, death and destruction, we at times ask the same question, “Where Is God?” God if you love me as you say then why am I suffering like this; why am I hurting like this; why do you allow these things to happen?

The question of where is God is a question that has been asked by people in the Church and outside the church. That question is asked when things are not going well. Hardly ever is asked when things are going well. But when the evil of this world encompass us then we think about God.

Today, St. Mark speaks to our hearts about where God Is. In the Gospel reading today, we hear that those who endure to the end shall be saved. Mark speaks clearly of the destruction, of disasters and of death that will take place. But as these things take place don’t be alarmed. For God is still with us.

Sadly many have forgotten where God is. Many have forgotten what worship is. Many have forgotten the holy things. Worship is not an entertainment; but a place where God comes to us with His means of Grace. Some of us work at our play, we worship our work, and we play at our worship. This is not what God meant for us as His redeemed children.

We go to God’s holy house because is there. We go to church to meet Him who is love in person and be transformed by Him. The blessings come when worship is held in the highest form and revered as the noblest thing. For Here in this place in this oasis God comes and refreshes us with His Spirit, with His Word of forgiveness and with His gift of the Lord’s Supper.

What saddens me is the fact that many in our world have lost the sense of what is holy. They don’t fear, love or trust in God above all else. Many don’t even know anymore what it means to be in the presence of God. This is perhaps the greatest tragedy of our age and time.

We don’t know where God is anymore. We don’t have a place set apart and separate where we meet God. We’ve walled God out of our world, our hearts and even some of our churches. And if by chance, we have a place for God in our lives, we meet Him not as an awesome holy God, but a as a friendly buddy—only a little above. We no longer consider sin to be a disease that destroys life. We are not fearful of the judgment that will come upon us.

These times are evil. Evil is everywhere, and it wants to deceive you into thinking that it is stronger than Jesus, stronger than the Father’s love, stronger than the Holy Spirit’s call. On this Tuesday of Holy Week Jesus knows the disciples are confused, disoriented, that sin clings to them and death surrounds them. This is why He has come - to speak peace to hearts in need of His comfort. Yes, He knows what you need. He knows we like “sparkly things.” He knows that wealth and power and influence can deceive. He knows our hearts and He knows that we need to drink deeply from the Cup of Salvation - and so He drank deeply from the Cup of Suffering, that leaving not one drop of that suffering in that cup for us to consume, that the Cup of Salvation would be ours. That is the means that allows us to not lose heart, even amidst wars and rumors of wars.

Looking at the headlines we see despair everywhere. Looking at our own lives we see the upheaval of earthquake and the dryness of drought, of famine and pestilence, of warfare and darkness. The evil one wants us to despair and turn from God - to punctuate these words, where is God with a question-mark. Ah, but we may use these words with the punctuation of Grace, Where is God! Why, right here! Where else! He walks through the valley of death on our behalf, so that it now becomes the valley of the shadow of death. Death has been to the dentist. It has lost its bite, for although it bit at the heel of Jesus, He crushed his head (Genesis 3:15).

When Hebrews 10:24-25 commands us to meet together and to encourage one another, even as we see the day (both evil and its answer in Christ) approaching, we are given the gift of shining, not with stones and buildings that decay and decompose, but He shines through us, as His living stones (1 Peter 2:5). The Law to be pronounced here is that He has worked with common stones - our sinful hearts - and we need to die, and we need daily to die - and to be raised anew in the living hope of Him who endured to the end. And now, the Gospel: He has fashioned you, even as He did our dear saints, to shine and reflect His glory, a precious stone, a living stone. As you endure in His endurance you wait with patience, for He who could go through Tuesday, to get to Thursday and then Friday, He is faithful! Even so, Amen.

Now the peace of God. SDG