S-1226 1SAC/3A 12/26/10 Hymns (O) #97; (S) #87; LS #91; #92; #95; (C) #102
Text: Isaiah 63:7-14; Galatians 4:4-7; Matthew 2:13-23
Theme: “Count Your Blessings!” (Isaiah 63:7).
Question: “Did you get the gift you wanted?’
SOLI DEO GLORIA, Armour, SD
Faithful followers of the Savior, Merry CHRISTmas to you! Alleluia! The text for our first Sunday After Christmas is from the Old Testament lesson: “I will recount the steadfast love of the LORD, the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel that He has granted them according to His compassion, according to the abundance of His steadfast love” (Isaiah 63:7).
Introduction: In Nomine IESU
You who are blessed by the Father of love—His most Holy Bride: Oh, how blessed you are to have a gracious, compassionate and merciful God like ours. He is no ordinary God, but He is the True and Everlasting Father, Son and Holy Spirit, whose love never ceases and whose mercy is new every morning.
If you were to pause for a few moments today and consider what you have gotten this Christmas –you would have to agree that the blessings of God overflow. To begin with, consider the gifts that you unwrapped. These were gifts given from the heart from those whose hearts overflow in love for you. The blessing of this is almost incalculable.
But don’t stop there. Consider the blessings of God to you in your family, grandchildren (Brody/Myles) friends, colleagues, neighbors, country, your church family and military personal. Consider how each person you know has been used by God to bless you and be a blessing to others. Oh, if only you take inventory you will truly bow the knee before the manger and with true humility give thanks to Him for all of the blessings He showers upon you and me daily, weekly, monthly and throughout our lives.
Certainly the steadfast love of the Lord has been poured upon you abundantly to overflowing. Today, the Prophet Isaiah tells us of counting the steadfast love of the Lord. Yes, count your blessings and see what you have gotten from Him—no not just the gifts under the tree (which are from His loving hands) but the GIFT of His Son, born in Bethlehem, laid on a manger of straw and became the Savior of the world.
Why should you count your blessings? To start with, because “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (Jam. 1:17). Yes, every good and perfect gift comes from Him who made heaven and earth and everything in it. His steadfast love is yours daily. This is a unique Hebrew word (Chesed) meaning it is given to you not because you deserve it, but because God is generous, gracious, loving and giving.
You should know that the love of God to you His beloved children has no limit. It doesn’t change with every circumstance or condition. No His love is pure and it is reserved for you whom He made in His image. This love will not run out, or run dry, or fade with the days or seasons. It is YOURS now and always.
You who are blessed by the Father, who is love, be assured of this—The Steadfast Love of the Lord is intimate; it walks with you, supports you, and remains in you. God does not view or know of your pain and need from afar. If the last two days’ “Good News” is to be good at all it is that God is with us as one of us as the prophet Isaiah told wicked king Ahaz, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Is. 7:14) –of course we have good reason to say: “Merry CHRISTmas!” Yes, I will say it again, “Merry CHRISTmas!” PAUSE.
When the families lost their infant children in Bethlehem at the hand of wicked Herod’s jealousy we may ask: Where is the God of love, where is the God of Chesed and where is the God of Christmas? This question stands behind the story of the Slaughter of the Innocents. Jesus is spared while other families must bear the brunt of an evil man. It just isn’t fair. What happens to the steadfast love of the Lord? Well, Christmas is the answer to these questions and this deep pain, this horrible loss.
Read my lips and hear my words saints in Christ—LOVE. This Love which is Steadfast abides forever. His love is revealed in the flesh and blood of the Child of Bethlehem. God does not know your pain from afar. He has no remote control device to handle us. You are held firmly but gently in the nail-pierced hands of your Redeemer. In your tough times He is there so that this trouble does not consume you. PAUSE.
Many call Christmas only a “holiday.” They see it as an escape from the dreary reality of life. To them it is nothing more than a happy day of bows and boxes, wrapping and ribbons. But here is the question I have for you: If you are only looking for an escape from reality why not go to a movie? Why not go hunting, or bowling, or just spend a couple of hours doing other things to drown your sorrow, troubles and heartaches. But after all the fuss and fret over this hoiday, we have to come back to reality of who we are and what we are—sinful beings with troubles and difficulties, struggles and sufferings. The light of day shows that all our troubles are just as bad as they were few hours ago? It would be better story than the one about a child in a cow’s feeding trough! – If He is just a God for a day or a season!
But Christmas is Eternal—Christmas is love made visible in a tender child lying in a manger. Yes, Jesus in our flesh, He alone is the Answer to every evil, pain, and loss. You see, at just the right time God sent His Son, His only-begotten Son, born under the law to redeem those under its curse. Christmas is the reality that you and I are truly “redeemed” - that is, handled in those nail-pierced hands as a brother or sister, as a son or daughter of the true God. Christmas is the reality that God is a “hands- on” with you and for you.
Do you see why you and I should count our blessings? Because the steadfast love of the Lord is ours in the Babe of Bethlehem. He came for the purpose of fulfilling what we couldn’t do—redeem us for the tyranny, troubles of life and terrible death that awaits us because of sin.
That word “to redeem” as (I told you yesterday) means to buy back. Paul uses it here is a word of the slave-trade block. When a slave is put on the auction block, he is up for sale. He is just a commodity and not a person. When someone would “buy” a slave to set him free, he would “redeem” him. The newly freed slave is now fully vested with freedom, without shackles. Their whole life is now before them as full men or women, they are no longer property but people! This is not a gift that will break, burst, blown away, or something whose batteries will fail, some movie that will distract for the moment but leaves us with the harsh realities of pain and loss. This is the gift of life.... no, it is the gift of Eternal Life! Slavery is shackled and life that is free and full is given to each and every one of you.
Beloved, you and I have been pastor and people long enough to know that I hate (yes, that harsh word - hate) when the eternal gifts of God are cheapened to be today’s fad. Jesus never comes as a visitor. He never loves from afar, nor does He love for a time or a season. His love is Steadfast! He came in Steadfast Love by wearing diapers and being laid in a manger. He came in time, and for eternity, and not to show us the way, but to become our way. He came to be our Savior and redeem us from the shackles that our sins have fixed on hands and feet, on our heart and life.
Yes, as Isaiah could speak of the Holy Spirit here in Isaiah 63 giving them His everlasting Name, so we are given the everlasting Gospel, the everlasting joy, the Steadfast Love of the Lord. No wonder we want to count our blessings. I am thankful to my son Tony and daughter Brenda who have taught my grandson Brody a prayer. This pray of Brody is a reminder to daily count our blessings: “Thank you Jesus! Thank you Jesus! For our food! For our food! Many, many blessings. Many, many blessings. Amen and Amen.”
Go forth today my beloved counting your blessings and knowing that all the hymns we sing are for YOU, that all the promises have no expiration date, and that as YOU face the trials of life, Him who could even care enough to come in our flesh, and keep the little prophecy that Jesus is called a “Nazarene” will care for all YOUR “Small” needs too. Merry CHRISTmas Beloved, Christ is with Us, Steadfastly! Amen.
Now the peace of God…
Soli Deo Gloria