Wednesday, December 29, 2010

“Count Your Blessings!” (Isaiah 63:7).

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?’


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

Monday, December 20, 2010



“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests’” (Luke 2:13, 14).

A long time ago, on a cold night over the Judean hills, a most amazing event occurred. The night’s skies were lit up by heavenly beings announcing the birth of God’s only Son, to a virgin from Nazareth in the town of Bethlehem. This is indeed a great story—the Greatest Story ever told of the Savior of mankind being born to fulfill God’s promise to Adam and Eve of a Son who will destroy Satan, sin and death; and undo all the wrong that was done.

And who were the privileged recipients who heard this great and marvelous news? Not princes, priests, presidents or politicians. Not kings or queens. Not Sadducees or soldiers. Not tax agents or ambassadors; not even the Roman emperor heard the angels’ announcement. Just shepherds, common shepherds, were in atten­dance for this premier performance. To the commonest of the common, to the crustiest of the undercrust—God sent His angelic chorus to deliver the greatest message ever heard.

“Why?” we ask. The answer lies in the fact that humble shepherds fit right in with God’s choice of a humble village named Bethlehem and a humble mother named-Mary. In emphasizing such details, the heavenly author of the Christmas story is making a most important point: When it comes to Bethlehem and when it comes to Calvary—where salvation and heaven are involved—this story is for anyone and everyone who walks the dusty roads of earth. In fact, this story is for all people, no matter what color, race, tribe, nation or language they are. Certainly, no one is excluded. The Savior was born, died, and rose again for one and for all—including you and me.

For over 2000 years, people have called the birth, death and resurrection of God’s Son only Son, and Mary’s Son, the Greatest Story ever told for a reason. No writer could have thought it or wrote this story, except the Author of the Universe. Christmas’ Author, with His finger penned the most amazing story of love and compassion. The Greatest Story ever told reveals the depth of the heart of God—a heart that oozes with His unending and unconditional love; a heart that tells us we are special, valuable and cared for.

What would bring a God who dwells in the magnificent splendor of heaven into a scratchy straw-filled manger? What would bring Him to a Hill to be hung on rough timber with nails, spear, and crown of thorns? And what would bring Jesus to a tomb as a bloodstained corpse? HIS LOVE FOR YOU!

Let everyone know that this is indeed the Greatest Story ever told or ever will be told. It is for us that the Babe of Bethlehem needed to come to restore us and renew us as ONLY He can. He came to empty us from our arrogance and pride. He came to remove our false hope—man’s power that we cling to. He came to do the impossible—to restore the ruined world. And He did that as He took our place on the cross. Because of Him the lion and the lamb will dwell together in harmony. Because of Him streams will flow again in the desert and flowers will blossom. Because of Him joy fills the fearful hearts. Because of Him hope fills the troubled hearts. Because of Him peace will reign again in the world, but more importantly in our hearts.

Why is it the Greatest Story ever told? Because it is the story of our Redemption, the story of our liberation; and the story of our Salvation.

I encourage you to take advantage of this time of year and hear this story again. If you have a church home, make the hearing of this story an appointment you won’t miss. If you don’t have a church home, come join us at Redeemer so that we can share in the wonder of this Greatest Story ever told together!

Our Christmas Eve worship service is @ 6:00 p.m. and Christmas Day @ 9:30 a.m.

Merry CHRISTmas to one and all.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

“Something is about to happen!!!” (Mark 13:33-37)

S-1223 3MIA/3A 12/15/10 Hymns (O) #68; (S) #370; (C) #376

Text: Jeremiah 29:10-14; 1 Peter 5:5-11; Mark 13:33-37

Theme: Something is about to happen!!!” (Mark 13:33-37)

Question: “Have you been afraid lately?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our Third Midweek in Advent is from the Gospel lesson: “Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come” (Mark 13:33-37).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved His most holy Bride: tonight we conclude our final midweek in Advent dealing with the Theme: “Did You Know…” On November 13th of this year something happened when I was in Jerusalem with my tour. Normally, I have my guide in the front leading the way, the tourists in the middle and I am the last person making sure my people are safe as we travel from place to place. We had just got done visiting the Holy Sepulcher Church. Just as we were making the corner to go to our next destination, I overheard 5-6 young men between the ages of 18-22 discussing how soon they should start. I wasn’t sure what it was they were discussing, but I knew something was about to happen. It was imminent and I felt uneasy about their discussion. My people were spread out over 100 yards or so. As I began to motion them to move away from the area, all of sudden, I heard one of the young men holler, “Now!” As soon as the words were spoken, I saw a shadow go by me with a baseball bat and ran to a souvenir shop and began destroying the store. Seeing the danger, I hollered, “Nour Tour keep moving forward!” I wanted to get my people out of the dangerous area. Thankfully, none of our people were hurt or injured.

As I thought about it afterwards, I knew something was about to happen but didn’t know what it was, until it was upon me. Did you know that this is a common theme for the Advent Season as well—something is about to Happen? What is about to happen? Its Christ’s coming again.

Something is about to happen is an Advent theme. The parable of St. Mark in our reading tonight about the master of the house coming soon; testifies about this. It is the theme of the early Christian church. You may say that the early Church lived on tiptoes waiting with great expectations for the day of the One who came as the Babe of Bethlehem and went to the cross, died and rose and will return to take His beloved people home forever.

Mark tells us, “Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.” Yes, this is the Advent theme for the followers of Jesus, the Son of Mary. Stand and be ready. Stand and be on watch. Something is going to happen. We are to be standing on tiptoes, eyes focusing upward, and hearts for Him who has promised to come again—even Jesus Christ our Savior.

As the Church of old took their marching orders from Jesus, so do we. We live with the great celebration and great anticipation of His coming to be among us and with us. We take to heart the words: “The kingdom of God is at hand, the night is far gone, this present age is passing away, come, Lord Jesus, come.” Every word, deed, and prayer seemed to be shaped by Jesus’ second coming, Judgment Day, and the end of the world.

We, at times, live on tiptoes anticipating the future. We all know the energy an anticipated future can give to life in the present. Consider all the presents, cards, decorations, programs (and sermons!) that must be prepared before Christmas arrives. Consider an engaged couple and their wedding preparations or expectant parents who assem­ble a crib and paint the nursery. We also know the sense of disappointment when the hoped-for future doesn’t come or it comes and goes without significance. Consider when Christmas comes and goes and things didn’t work out as planned, when wedding plans don’t work out, when the baby doesn’t arrive.

When things do not work out as we anticipate, we ask, “Is something about to happen?” At times we wonder, Is Jesus ever coming again? Are my efforts in this life mak­ing any lasting difference for the future? Is something about to happen? Is my future secure? Is the world around me right when it pronounces, “There is nothing certain but death and taxes”?

This is the way of the world. The world lives for today. They constantly reminds us saying, “Only 10 more days to shop and wrap your presents.” But for us, you and I, Christ’s followers, our Advent preparations are more than just shopping, more than wrapping, more than baking, more than hoping for the good deals to come our way. It is knowing that something is about to happen very soon.

Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.... Stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the eve­ning, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning” (w 33, 35). I was on guard. In Jerusalem as I was listening with one ear to the conversation of the men standing near me and my eyes on my people, I was apprehensive to what was coming down the line. I was on my tiptoes. However, we can’t remain on tiptoes forever. There are times when fatigue and distraction, weakness and weariness make constantly being on our toes just impossible.

Study, the life of the saints before us and you would have to agree, they could join us today in confessing that we do not have the strength within ourselves to stand on tiptoes, to be sure of our future, to fix our hope firmly in God. We are sinners whose faith falters. Our future seems too slippery. Our hands are not strong enough to hold on to God’s promises. But in our text from the Gospel of Mark, Jesus has good news for us. This good news is cross-shaped good news. The source of our hope and strength is not our faith. It is not our ability to stand on tiptoes. It is not even in our being alert at all times. The source of our hope is an act of God in history. It is an accomplished act and an accomplished fact. What we are speaking of is a humble birth in a manger, Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins and His glorious resurrec­tion from the grave.

You and I, as the Redeemed of the Lord have wonderful news to believe and share with all people. Yes, you and I do have something glorious to share with those who walk around as if God is not in control; if He is not coming back, if He is not concerned about each and every one of us. We can by the Spirit’s power share His love that took Him to the manger and the cross for you. PASUE.

Something has happened. In the parable of our text, Jesus said, “You do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morn­ing” (v 35). Mark uses these words’ of Jesus to structure the rest of his Gospel account. He does this to give his first hearers and to give us a cross-shaped hope. See how Mark does it:

Jesus says that the Lord may come at evening — and in the very next chapter, chapter 14, we read, “And when it was evening, He came with the twelve” to the upper room (14:17). Jesus is at table with His disciples. Taking bread and wine in His hands, He tells them that this is the same body and blood that will soon be broken and shed on a cross for the sins of the world.

In the parable, we are told that the Lord may come at late night — and Mark soon records how late that night Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemane to prepare for His appointment with a cross the next day; His disciples have had too much day already (14:40-42).

In the parable, we are told that the Lord may come at cockcrow — and in the next chapter Mark describes the event of Peter denying Jesus the third time as the cock crows and Jesus’ date with the cross draws ever nearer (14:66-72).

In the parable, we are told the Lord may come in the morning — and Mark records that “as soon as it was morn­ing” (15:1), Jesus is bound by Roman soldiers and led to trial and the cross.

What has Mark heard in Jesus’ parable of the soon-returning master of the house? He has heard and proclaims to us that everything uncertain in our future is anchored in the certainty of the cross. The cross tells us what is our true and lasting hope: the Lord Jesus crucified and risen for me! This is the message of Advent. That Christ came into the world to save me the sinner. That Christ lived the humble life to make mine rich. That Christ died so that I may never die.

By His grace alone we know of something that is going to happen. Every time we enter the most holy house of the Lord, the Word is spoken, and when the bread is broken and the cup is given we receive blessing after blessing. When we gather in this place, we know something is going to happen—Here Christ forgives us our sins and blesses with His presence. Every time we gather in this place we know something is about to happen, we see a child baptized in His name and the heavenly hosts dance at another child of Abraham being delivered from the clutches of hell and death.

Remember, what I told you about knowing something was going to happen while in Jerusalem? Indeed I was afraid that my people would be hurt and harmed in the market place. We all stand in the market place and the voices of doom are everywhere, following by the REACTIONS of the desperate. Yet, tonight, as we gather in God’s house, we know that something wonderful is going to happen. Here Christ takes our fears away. Here Christ comes among us. Here Christ blesses with His peace and sends us on our way rejoicing. Here, we know the act and the fact that along with all Christendom, we stand on tiptoes waiting for His arrival.

Yes—something has and is indeed happening as we live now, under the cross. And—something is about to happen. Come, Lord Jesus, come. Amen.

Now the peace of God…


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

“He Will Return!!!” (Luke 21:25-28)

S-1221 2MIA/3A 12/08/10 Hymns (O) #73 vv 1-3; (S) #74; (C) #73:4-5

Text: Isaiah 13:9-13; Revelation 6:12-17; Luke 21:25-36

Theme: “He Will Return!!!” (Luke 21:25-28)

Question: “Are you anticipating anyone to come to your home for Christmas?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our Second Midweek in Advent is from the Gospel lesson: “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:25-28).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved His most holy Bride: tonight we continue with our Midweek Advent Sermon series “Did You Know…?” Did you know that the great magician and escapologist Harry Houdini right before his death told his wife and doctor, “that he will return from the other side of the dead, or at least communicate with them?” However, he neither communicated nor returned. Many of our brave men and women who have gone to war, have said, “I will return!” Some however never did; they paid the ultimate price—of giving their lives for this great nation. Did you know that when Jesus said, “He will return”, that He meant it?

Tonight, the Holy Spirit challenges us as we contemplate these words of the Babe of Bethlehem in our Gospel reading. In this portion of the Word of the Lord we are reminded and challenged to be alert for Christ’s return—to be on guard and to watch.

As I mentioned to you before that Advent means coming. And we live in the tension between His first and second coming. In Advent, we already know the nativity story and our Savior’s first and humble incarnational coming, we already know of His coming into our lives in Baptism and through His life-giving Word, but we know that His triumphal coming is not yet here.  And, we anticipate it with great joy!  Liturgically, it works very well to follow the anticipatory mood reflected by those who, ages ago, longed for His first Advent just as we long for His final Advent.  And so Advent is this season of irony in which we both celebrate and anticipate Jesus’ Advent(s).

Luther Reed (Worship, Fortress, 1959, p. 39) gives this nice Advent statement:  “The Lutheran Church regards [Advent] as a time of sober penitence mixed with holy joy.  It serves not only as a preparation for Christmas, but as an introduction to the entire church year.  Early Lutheran writers said that the church in Advent celebrates the lowly coming of Christ in the flesh, His spiritual and daily coming in the hearts of the faithful, and His glorious return to judge.  The Lessons, Collects, and other Propers stress the importance of spiritual preparation, sober living, and faithful witnessing.”

Yes, Advent is a time that we, His most beloved, chosen and Holy Bride, prepare our hearts for the coming of the Savior lest we be caught off guard. During these days of Advent our eyes stay focused on the Messiah who promised to return.

While we wait, we don’t lose heart at what we see. Certainly there are many signs of terror and trouble, pain and punishment, sorrow and sadness. Those who don’t know the Lord are fearful of the end days and Christ’s return. They will be caught unaware as the people of New York woke up on 9-11, and the people of Haiti with the earthquake and soon the debris and mayhem filled the air. Dead bodies were everywhere and people ran for their lives hiding from the horror that they were witnessing.

This is the picture that Luke describes for us. When the Lord returns, He is not coming down as the humble child of the manger, but as the Everlasting King of the Universe and the Judge of all people. No one will escape this terrible and frightful day.

Indeed Jesus will return as promised. You can take His Word to heart. He told His disciples that the Son of Man, must go to Jerusalem, suffer, be crucified, die and be buried and on the third day He will rise again. And He has risen from the grave and proved once and for all that His Word is true and faithful.

Even now, He comes to us through His mighty and powerful Word to bring us the joy of heaven while living on earth. The hymn writer captured this when he wrote: “He came down to earth from heaven, Who is God and Lord of All.  Christ, by highest heav’n adored, Christ the everlasting Lord, Late in time behold Him come, Offspring of a virgin’s womb.  Veiled in flesh the God-head see, Hail the incarnate Deity!  Pleased as Man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Immanuel. (Hark the Herald Angels Sing vs. 2)

Yes, the Immanuel, God with us has come and He will return. He will return on the final day by the mighty power of His cross. For us—you and me—His chosen, beloved and Holy Bride, have nothing to fear—for He returns in glory to bring us healing and forgiveness, joy and peace. He will return as He promised.

For us His most Holy Bride, we need not wait for His return to bask in His glory. We have it now and we celebrate it even as we anticipate His return because He comes to forgive, to bless, to deliver and to enrich our lives beyond our wildest imagination. He comes not only for a brief time, but to dwell with us and take us to be with Him where He abides—in the glory of heaven. PAUSE.

And who is this who will return? Who is this that causes us to plan great feasts to be shared with our families? For His sake we put aside our differences for a short time and try to get along, if only for a few hours. In His honor we give gifts to one another, are nice to one another, try to recapture the warm, loving feelings we remember from childhood. Who is this guy? Who is this miracle worker? Who is this person who comes once a year and makes us all try to be better people, at least for a while? Who is this guy that we worship and try to please and curry favor with?

We tell stories about Him. We have television programs about Him - some that have been on since I was little. We have parties to celebrate His coming. The very thought of Him brings peace and goodwill among our friends and neighbors and co-workers.

Who is He? He is none other than the heaven-sent Savior—the Son of Man and the Son of God, Jesus the Babe of Bethlehem. He is Your groom and lover. He is the One who cares for you to give you the best and most—Himself in the crib and on the cross. He is more than just a guy; He is Your Lord and God returning to take you where you can’t go on your own. PAUSE.

A pastor tells a story about a car he saw one day while driving home. He’s sure it was the ugliest car he had ever seen. He said this car was not just ugly—it was ugly on top of ugly. If you looked up the word ugly in the dictionary, you’d find a picture of this car. It had a large gash on its side. One of the doors was held together with wires. Several body parts were quite rusted. He couldn’t tell the original color. Between the rust and multiple paint jobs, any one of several color options could have been the first coat. The most interesting thing about the car, though, was the bumper sticker. As if to be sure there would be no misunderstanding. It said: “This is not an abandoned car.”

A long time ago, a baby was born in a manger. He was and is the Savior of the entire world. He was a sign to us, a sign that tells us that this is not an abandoned world. You and I are not abandoned. Yes, we, Christians are not abandoned people. You know why? Because the Incarnate Son of God was nailed to the cross and shed His blood so that forgiveness, joy & peace was made possible through that sin-atoning sacrifice. We have the promise of forgiveness from our Lord and the promise that He will return. Jesus will be back. You can count on it. Amen.

Now the peace…


Sunday, December 5, 2010

“Can It Be…?” Isaiah 11:1, 10)

S-1220 2SIA/3A 12/05/10 Hymns (O) #63; (S) #370 LSB; #70

Text: Isaiah 11:1-10; Romans 15:4-13; Matthew 3:1-12

Theme: “Can It Be…?” Isaiah 11:1, 10)

Question: “Is your home peaceful?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our Second Sunday in Advent is from the Old Testament lesson: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit… In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of Him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious” (Isaiah 11:1,10).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved: Is life that simple? Is it plain black and white? Can it be that what we hear on TV, radio and read in magazines and newspapers really make us happier? I just recently heard a commercial of a woman who is over 50. They asked her how she felt about herself. Her response, “I am invisible!” However, they gave her anti-wrinkle cream and that took away the wrinkles and now everybody notices her. Can it be that a cream takes away years of your face and makes you young again and everyone notices you so that you are visible? Can a diet pill make you skinner and more beautiful? Can the right medicine, the right diet, the right car, house, popularity, prestige, make your life more complete?

Can extending the unemployment benefits bring about a change and get the economy going? Can Secretary of State Hillary Clinton bring about peace in the Middle East? Can the latest toys, gadget, cell phone, ipad, and any other item, make your life happier and healthier? PAUSE.

During the month of December, as we go from store to store, there is soft music playing and the one theme for Christmas is PEACE. But do we have it? Is it available? Look at our world. It is far from perfect, far from having peace and far from being joyful. In Haifa Israel, a negligent act burned many acres and causes massive evacuation. In Juarez, Mexico murder is rampant and out of control. Many homes are in turmoil and pain. Many families are at odds with one another. Certainly, people want peace, but there is none. Some don’t even have joy or hope in their homes.

But listen carefully to what the Prophet Isaiah says today about the Messianic age. “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.” (Is. 11:6-8) Can it really be? Will we ever see anything like this with our own eyes?

It seems absurd to even think that this will take place and peace will fill the animal kingdom and the world we live in. You don’t need me to tell you that as you watch TV, you know that it is not just the animal world where peace on earth seems missing in action. Terrorism won’t go away, car bombs go off, and innocent people are killed. Street crime takes lives of teenagers or even younger children. Drug deals and gang violence scare us out of the cities. No peace in those places.

And inside, in our hearts and minds, peace eludes us as we listen to the news and see an economy in free fall. Retirement funds shrink. Jobs disappear. No one seems safe and secure anymore.

In Isaiah’s picture, a little child plays with a snake with­out fear, but in the world we live in, peace on earth seems as far away as angels singing a couple thousand years ago to shepherds on a lonely hillside, “Glory to God in the high­est, and on earth peace” (Lk 2:14). And yet, that angelic song, sung at the birth of Jesus, has it right. True peace on earth has to start somewhere, and in Bethlehem, long ago, true peace arrived as child, born so humble and vulnerable.

Isaiah’s prophecy, written hundreds of years before Jesus was born, described His arrival as a shoot out of a stump. The nation of Judah was almost destroyed. Its rebellion against God had led to foreign nations taking it over and sending the people into exile. It looked dead, like a stump. But God had promised that a Messiah would come one day, and He would be called the Prince of Peace.

However, in this prophecy, the glory of King David is not mentioned. The time when Israel is at the pinnacle of power and prestige is not the heart of the message. No, Isaiah goes back to David’s early family, when he is a part of a little-known family of shepherds. King David’s father, Jesse, is named to show that the promised Savior of the nations would be born in humble surroundings. And he was. Mary and Joseph are not famous: a carpenter and his wife—simple working-class folk. Jesus is born in a manger, not a palace. He is raised in a small town among fishermen and other hard-working people, not in a capi­tal city.

Yet He is the shoot out of that stump who will bring peace on earth. He has the wisdom and counsel, the knowledge and might, to bring true peace. Isaiah says His delight is the fear of the Lord. Not frightened fear like a lamb before a wolf, but reverence and total submission to His Father’s will. Every breath he takes is to do just what the heavenly Father has sent Him to do.

What was He sent to do? He was sent to bring peace. He was sent to bring justice. He came in all faithfulness to do what was right for us, for all creation.

What was right was to make peace between God and us. God’s wisdom and counsel was a cross. His death would take care of whatever anger and hostility God had against us because of our sin and rebellion. We call it for­giveness, but we can also call it peace. Listen to how Paul describes it: All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ” (2 Cor. 5:18). Again, “For in Him [Jesus] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross” (Col 1:19-20). Did you catch what all is included? All things—animals and people alike are included in God’s wise plan to bring peace to this scary world, where violence and hate destroy the peace we so desire.

And then came that day where peace flowed from Jesus to His first followers. He rose from the dead. The violence done to Him was undone. On that first Easter, the disciples were huddled in a locked room, afraid for their lives. Then the frightened disciples saw Him alive and standing in their midst. He greets them by saying a powerful word, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I Am sending you” (Jn 20:21). With that, the true peace that Jesus brought into the world began to spread into the world. The disciples took it wherever they went in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy (v 10). And we His chosen and beloved people take it wherever we go.

During the 2008 presidential race, John McCain was asked by Time magazine to share his “personal journey of faith.” In response he told a story from his experiences in a North Vietnamese prison camp during the Vietnam War. He tells how he would often be tied with ropes that pulled his head down between his knees. Sheer torture. Often He was left that way the entire night.

Then one particular night a guard came to him, and without saying a word loosened the ropes. In the morning, before anyone knew, he returned and tightened the ropes again. No one else was aware of what had happened, but McCain was deeply grateful for his night of relief

The two men never exchanged a word, but some weeks later, on Christmas Day, the same guard came to him in the courtyard of the camp. Again, he said nothing, nor did he look McCain in the eye, but with his foot he drew a cross in the dirt. The two men looked down at that cross, a wordless conversation that said everything.

Our eyes do not yet see the wolf dwell with the Lamb (Is. 11:6), but the little Child who came at Christmas has brought with Him a whole new age. For now, the peace of this messianic age is often hidden. Amen.

Beloved in the Lord when Christ rules the heart, peace rules the day. How is this all possible? How can peace abound in our hearts and heads and even in our homes? It is all because of a child promised of old and fulfilled in Bethlehem. How can a child do ALL of this? This is no ordinary child, but the heaven-sent Child. He is the Savior of the world; the One who came to fulfill what was promised in Eden’s Garden after the fall. He is the message of God’s love and peace flowing from His heart.

Can it really be? Yes, it can. The cream may/may not make you visible or take your wrinkles away. Hillary Clinton may/may not succeed to bring peace in the Middle East. The extension of the unemployment benefits may/may not improve the economy. The diet pill may/may not cause you to lose weight.

However, the Root of Jesse will accomplish all that He promised. In fact He already has! You find this in the manger, the cross and the empty tomb. We may not see it because our eyes still focus on the world rather than on the child.

Now the peace of God…


Thursday, December 2, 2010

“Wait Till Your Father Comes Home!” Isaiah 64:1

S-1219 1MIA/3A 12/01/10 Hymns (O) #58 vv 1-4; (S)#240; (C) #66

Text: Isaiah 64:1-9; Revelation 22:12-21; John 1:1-14

Theme: “Wait Till Your Father Comes Home!” Isaiah 64:1

Question: “Are you afraid of your father?


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our Midweek in Advent is from the Old Testament lesson: “Oh that You would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at Your presence (Isaiah 64:1).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved I hate to admit it while growing up in Israel, I was a trouble maker and often gave my mother lots of heart ache. Whenever I gave my mother a hard time, she would often say “Wait till your father comes home!” Perhaps, you too, had heard these words. Maybe even some of our young folks are still hearing these words today: Wait till your father comes home! When you hear these words, what comes to your mind? Are they words of comfort and joy or pain and sorrow? Do they stir emotions within you? Do they bring tears to your eyes?

I remember one particular time when mother with all of her strong voice said, “Wait till your father comes home!” I knew I was in trouble. I had done exactly the opposite of what she asked me to do, and I knew when dad got home it was not going to be pretty. I knew there will be judgment and not much compassion. I knew the dues of my bad behavior will be collected when dad got home. He did… and I DID!!! PAUSE

As we begin our Midweek in Advent, we remember first and foremost that Advent means coming. The season of Advent has two focuses. First the coming of the baby Jesus to Bethlehem at Christmas and the second, Christ’s second coming as the King of kings and Lord of lords on Judgment Day. Whenever we think of Advent, more than likely we focus on Christ’s coming as the Babe of Bethlehem and the joys He brings at Christmas. As children can’t wait for Christmas, so, too, we as God’s people, His chosen and beloved children in faith, can’t wait for Christmas and all it has in store for us. Isaiah even speaks of this joy when he states in our text: “Oh that You would rend the heavens and come down,”

This is Isaiah’s prayer. At first we might think this is good. But wait, there is more here than meet the eye and ear. Study the Word of the living God and you will find that both the Old and New Testament connect Advent to Judgment Day. The Apostle Paul put it this way in his letter to the Church at Thessalonica “For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:2). Again, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command with the voice of the Archangel and with the sound of the trumpet of God” (4:16). And we can’t forget the Words of Jesus Himself: “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour when the Son of Man Comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious Throne” (Mt. 25:13, 31).

Yes, Advent means God is coming. Our heavenly Father, the Holy and just God is coming and we are sinners to the core. At first, it appears as if Isaiah is eager for the Father to come down, “Oh that You would rend the heavens and come down,” But then he seems to change his mind and contemplates what was he praying for. Isaiah goes on to say, “Behold You were angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?” (v. 5). Oh, no, now that I think about it, Father, maybe, just maybe, I am not that excited about You coming down to earth to see me in all of my filth. This prophet realizes that God has reasons to come to us in terrible judgment.

God’s judgment is real and true. Isaiah knows this very well. For he states: “We have all become like one who is unclean and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” (v. 6). To put it another way, Isaiah declares all my good deeds in the sight of God are nothing but filth and rubbish. These deeds of ours don’t win any favor with God. Even our attempts to do the right thing or the good deeds are sin. Our sin brings us destruction. The prophet goes on to say, “We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away” (v.6)

How is your Advent going so far? Are you looking forward to Christ’s Second coming? Are you prepared for the Father to come? “Wait till Your Father comes home!” You should. After all, Advent does mean God is coming. This holy and just God must deal with sin. The Scripture teaches clearly also, that God is our loving Father. As His redeemed, chosen and beloved people, we can wait for His coming and with great joy and expectation. Oh, I can’t wait till my Father comes home! Listen again please to the Words of the prophet, “But now, O LORD, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are our potter; we are all the work of Your hand Be not so terribly angry, O LORD, and remember not iniquity forever.  Behold, please look, we are all Your people.” (vv 8-9). PAUSE.

People of God chosen and beloved, during this Advent Season know this truth and hold on to it dearly, God is indeed our loving Father. He is the Potter; we are the clay. We belong to Him. We are precious in His sight. He has created us in His loving and caring hands. He has personally created each and every one of us. He loves us more than anything in the world.

Being sorry for our sins, we humbly go to our loving and compassionate Father for forgiveness. And we know for a fact that He does forgive us all of our sins. How do we know that? Advent announces the coming of our loving Savior in the flesh.

In our Gospel reading for tonight we read these words: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). The “Word” is a title for Jesus. This single verse is John’s commentary on the miracle of Christmas. The Eternal Word of God became flesh, became a human being, and was born among us. He took upon Him flesh, blood, veins and muscles so that He might be our Savior a gift from the Heavenly Father.

This loving God-in-the-flesh comes to us at Bethlehem’s manger. Look inside that manger. Look inside that feed trough. What do you see? You see not just a cute baby boy. You see God in the flesh come for YOU!

Look at Calvary’s cross. What do you see? You see not a just a victim of an unjust punishment. You see God in the flesh paying for your sins, the world’s sins and my sins!

Look inside that empty tomb on Easter Sunday morning. What do you see? He is not there! He has risen from the dead. He is God in the flesh, victorious over sin, vic­torious over death, victorious over the devil. And He did this for YOU!

When the end of the world and Judgment Day arrives, look! Who is coming again? Look! Who is coming in glory to take to heaven you and all who trust in Him? Who is it? It is God in the flesh, the King of kings and Lord of lords. PAUSE.

“Oh, wait till your Father comes home!” Were often used by my mother and am sure by many mothers here tonight. I remember again from childhood the day when Father did come. Growing up, we were very, very poor. Dad did all he could to supply us all we need. At times he wouldn’t eat so that we children could. On this particular day, mother had saved the crumbs of the bread, soaked them in water, put parsley, mint and spices and presented it to us to eat. But I didn’t want to eat this food. And so mother said, “Wait till your Father comes home!”

I wasn’t looking forward to that hour when dad comes home. But he did arrive. I went to him with head bowed low and said, “Dad I am sorry, and I just can’t eat this food. I know you work hard. So does mom, but dad please, please forgive me?” I waited for the worst. What happened next completely surprised me. Dad did not get angry. His eyes were wet with tears. He knew I was sorry. He knew I deserved punish­ment.

Instead, he showed me compassion. Picked me up and said, “Son, I wished I could give you more! I wished you didn’t have to eat this food, but that is all we can afford now son. Oh, the love of my Father that day made me appreciate him and his sacrifice to the family. I was so glad that dad came home. For on that night he picked me up and carried me in his arms and kissed me and assured me I am SPECAIL to him and always will be.

Advent tells us our Lord is coming. He is coming as the babe in the manger and as the King at Judgment Day. He is holy and just and takes seriously our sin. But He is espe­cially merciful and forgiving and loving. So it’s only fitting that at the beginning of Advent we pray that last prayer recorded in Holy Scripture and pray it eagerly: “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22:20). Yes, Father, come and hold us in these pierced and wounded hands for ever. Amen.

Now the peace of God…

Solie Deo Gloria