S-1404 1SAC/3A 12/29/2013 Hymns: LSB, (O) #94; (S) #36; LS #377; #92; #308; (C) #567
Texts: Isaiah 63:7-14; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:13-23
Theme: “Count Your Blessings!” (Isaiah 63:7-9)
Question: “How Blest Are You? Armour, SD
Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for the first Sunday after Christmas is from the O. T. 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 For He said, ‘Surely they are My people, children who will not deal falsely.’ And He became their Savior. In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them; in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; He lifted them up and carried them all the days of old’” (Isaiah 63:7-9).
INTRODUCTION: In Nomine Iesu.
Most precious people of God, a high school class mate of mine posted this on FB on 12/5/13. Listen to Diane (Furman) speak: “I just got back from Wal-mart, had to pick up my meds. While I was waiting in line to check out, the guy ahead of me was having the lady ring up his items one-by-one. He was making sure he had enough money to pay for his Roman-noodles and cans of vegetables. He ended up having to put one can of corn back. All I could think of was how I have never had to wonder where my next meal was coming from, or having to eat Roman-noodles. I was too slow to pay for his groceries so when he was done giving the cashier his $17.53 I handed him a $20.00 bill and said Merry Christmas! I cried all the way to the car. We must all count our blessings!”
As I was reading the post, I wept. I even wept again when I wrote the sermon. I sent a message to Diane asking permission to use her story and this is Diane speaking again. “You most certainly may use my experience in your sermon, Nabil! The Lord works in mysterious ways; I feel I was given an opportunity to put some joy in that man’s heart, but at the end of the day...I was the one Blessed!”
Diane stated it well. “At the end of the day...I was the one Blessed!”I wonder how many of us truly know how blessed we are. How many of us here truly count our blessings daily. I wonder how many of us lift our eyes heavenward and say, “Thank you, Jesus for being my Savior, Redeemer and Lord!” PAUSE.
By now most of you have opened up your gifts and some have even exchanged them for something that you like better. But today, in God’s holy house, there will be no returns or exchanges. Today, instead we want to lift our voices to heaven and once more thank the Lord for blessing us with every spiritual blessing.
Today, hear how the Holy Spirit uses the Prophet Isaiah to lead us to “count our blessings”: “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.”
The counting of our blessings can’t be limited to one or two days out of the year like Thanksgiving and Christmas. It can’t be limited to these because every day our Lord visits us as His very own people. He is faithful in making and keeping every promise. Nowhere do we see that promise making and keeping more clearly than what we just saw as we once again traveled to Bethlehem to behold the great Gift of Heaven to man. PAUSE.
On this 29th of December, now that Christmas has been celebrated and we turn our thoughts to a new year, it would be a great time for counting blessings! As we look back on the year past, we might well see it as a good year. But others because of heartache and hurt are eagerly wishing 2013 over. In the process it would be very easy for us to look at the past as “the good old days” and see the future as uncertain. Or we might see the past hurts and see the future as limitless joy and potential. But either way we are overlooking one very important thing: the participation of God in our world and in our lives. But today Isaiah calls us to consider both our past and our future not in the light of our current setting in history, but in relationship to the kindness and mercy of God!
Just as it was in the time of ancient Israel, so it is for us today. Our lives cannot be measured or analyzed without considering God. Isaiah began by praising God. “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.” It is interesting to note that Isaiah actually is setting out to pray for his people, and ask God to rescue and help them, but he begins his prayer by remembering their relationship with God. And that relationship is marked by the kindness of God’s steadfastness.
Just what does this steadfastness look like so that we can count it properly? First and foremost, it consists of God’s gracious choice of Israel to be His people! Isaiah says, “So He became their Savior. In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them; in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; He lifted them up and carried them all the days of old”. The steadfastness of God is in His gracious choice of His people, which always results in God taking their side and being their Savior. Notice how much like the Gospel the description of God’s relationship with Old Testament Israel sounds; In all their affliction He was afflicted, And the angel of His presence saved them; In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them. God was present among them. He suffered with them and for them. He redeemed them by sending His Son, the Babe of Bethlehem—to be their Savior and make them His very own. PAUSE.
Today, as we have been brought to the Lord’s house, we have a joyful opportunity to remember how God works in the lives of His people and us. King Solomon had plenty of wealth and could buy anything he wanted including plenty of wine. Instead, I ask you today to recall the miracle at Cana where we behold Solomon’s greater Offspring produced wine in abundance by His creating will. He is, indeed, the Divine One who can provide for us even what Solomon’s gold could not buy.
Every day, is a good occasion for us as God’s beloved, chosen and redeemed people, to count our many blessings and then take into account this realization: Only Jesus can give us something that is far more nutritious than what sits on our tables, far more warming than what is placed on our shoulders, far more powerful than what sits in our driveways and far more valuable than any of our wealth. That tremendous and invaluable gift is what He delivers by His humble birth in a stable, His perfect life, His bitter suffering; His undeserved death on the cross and by the glory of His resurrection. It is none other than the forgiveness of sins and eternal life!
King Solomon had to leave all of his wealth behind. Jesus, on the other hand has gained for you and me a royal legacy that lies ahead. In some ways we are even more prosperous in physical things than Solomon ever had. We are no more deserving; therefore, we have ample reasons to acknowledge with thanks the things that make this passing life more pleasant. But they are trifles compared to what God’s Son has gained for us.
Enjoying plenty now or doing with less, in a family circle or all alone, today we reassess Paul’s reminder: “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). And it is this richness that helps us count our blessings. But at time, we stand in line, not at Wal-Mart, but in the presence of the God Almighty and we count our good works to get a pass at life. But no matter how hard we try to buy our way into the Kingdom we fall short like the young man in our opening story. Into the line steps Jesus. He takes His pierced hands and feet, His bruised face and punctured side and says: ‘FATHER, THIS IS MY PAYMENT FOR THIS CHILD AND EVERY CHILF OF ADAM AND EVE! THE PAYMENT IS MADE IN FULL!” Thus we get a pass into the glories of heaven.
Indeed, we are rich and ought to be counting our blessings. Because of Him who became poor so that we can become rich we have been made part of the family of God. Through the splash of water on our heads, we get the privilege to dine with our Savior around His table often add to that; cases of expensive forgiveness, a wardrobe of pure righteousness fitted for rejoicing in the presence of the Designer and the Deliverer of the Universe, a crown of golden godliness—all ours to take with us.
Thanks be to God now and always as we recount our many blessings. Amen.
Now the peace of God…
SOLI DEO GLORIA.