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“We Confess the Birth of our Lord,” John 1:1-18

 

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

      9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

      14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

15(John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (ESV)

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

There is reason this day to ‘Come All Ye Faithful’.  There is reason this day to come and ‘Let Us Adore Him’.  We proclaim God’s salvation today and day after day because to us, salvation has come, to us salvation is given.

In that lowly manger of time ago lay a child.

Not just any child.

There in that manger lay He of whom the angels sing, “Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14), ‘Glory to the Newborn King’.

The child born of Mary in that ‘Little Town of Bethlehem’, though infant lowly, is God, God in the flesh.

Let not the consideration of appearances fool you.

As with all of God’s works, go not by sight, but according to the Word.

If all you see in Jesus is a child, a baby boy and nothing more, you remain lost and condemned before God, as sinners apart from Christ are.

A mere child or baby saves no one.

Flesh and blood alone cannot make full payment for your sin.

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:6) (says the Lord).

Jesus, that child born to that virgin Mary, was not merely flesh and blood.  He is also God, God incarnate, God in the flesh, born for you and for me, born to deliver you from sin and death by Himself being nailed to a tree, first having lain in a manger.

This is an article of faith, an article of faith given by God through His Holy Word.

If it looks like a baby, is born as a baby, cries like a baby, good chances are, it’s a baby.

So did Jesus look like a baby, having been born through His mother’s womb, and having cried like a baby.

Jesus was, in fact, a baby.

Yet this baby, God reveals, is the Savior come into the world.

The shepherds watching their flocks by night would not have thought anything of it concerning the baby Jesus, unless the angel had announced to them the Good News, “Fear not; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).

They would have not known where to find Him, unless the angel had also told them, “This shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger (Luke 2:12).

The magi, or wise men, from the east would also not have known the child’s whereabouts, but for the star by which God directed them to the place where Jesus lay.

Mary would not have conceived in her womb, for she was truly a virgin and had not been with a man, but to her the angel Gabriel had announced, “You will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His Name Jesus” (Luke 1:31).

To this announcement, Mary responded with a “How can this be?” (Luke 1:34).

By the natural order of things, virgins, of course, do not become pregnant.  But to her the Angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).

At that Word, Mary conceived in her womb, becoming pregnant.

Joseph, engaged to this woman Mary, after finding out that she was pregnant, “was minded to put her away secretly” (Matthew 1:19).

But as he thought about these things, “An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.  And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins’” (Matthew 1:20-21).

Whether it be Joseph who was engaged to Mary or the virgin conceiving by the Holy Spirit in her virgin womb and giving birth to a Son, neither were kept in the dark regarding who Jesus was.

The shepherds were not clueless as to the signs by which they would find the child of whom the Angel spoke and of whom the angels sang.

The Magi, late, also were not lost with reference to the King’s birth place in Bethlehem.

The Lord had revealed to the Magi, the Shepherds, Joseph, and Mary herself who Jesus was and where He was to be found—through Word and sign.  This was not just any baby.  This was Jesus the Christ, God in the flesh.

So also does the Lord God reveal this truth to you, today, where Jesus is, also by means of Word and sign.  Though none of you were there, God’s Word reveals it to be so, that you firmly believe it, though the world and your reason say otherwise.

Where God’s Word is spoken, where Christ is preached, there God would have you know that Jesus is your Savior, your Savior from all your sin.

Through the darkness of the womb He was born.  In the darkness of the tomb was He laid.  Yet three days later, He burst forth from the darkness of death into the light of life, giving you life through His life.

What God has revealed, that the child born of Mary is God in the flesh, He who created the world and was at the beginning with God and was God (John 1:1), so we also believe.  ‘From Heaven Above to Earth’ did God come.  Him you see in His Son.

This is your confession, because God has so made it known through Word and sign to you.  God reveals His grace and mercy to sinners through what is preached, through the preaching of Jesus, who was “born of a woman and born under the law, who came to redeem us from the curse of the law” (Galatians 4:4-5).

Through the Word proclaimed, the Lord reveals not only your need for a Savior, but also the Savior who has come, who brings life eternal through His suffering and death.

God saw fit to become man.

God is high and mighty, but for you, because of His great and abundant love for you, He was laid “Away in a Manger.”

God humbled Himself, in order that you be exalted and receive the adoption of Sons (Galatians 4:5), becoming children of the God of heaven, not born of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but born of God (John 1:13).

God came for you, and God comes to you now, in Word and Bread and Wine, that you believe His Word and believe Him to be your Savior and your help, your refuge and your strength.

No longer is Jesus ‘Away in a Manger’ with ‘no crib for a bed’.

Once He was, but no more.

Now, Jesus sits at the right hand of God the Father, having ascended on high.

Through Word and sign, Jesus points you to where to go to receive Him and God’s blessed and undeserved gifts, His Holy Word and Sacrament.

God’s Word reveals what is, that you have a Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord.

God reveals His grace and blessing through Word and Sign, where He placed His Holy Name upon you through the washing of new birth in Baptism; and where He says, ‘Take eat, Take drink.’

We call these signs because by these, God directs you to where He says that He will be for you:  no longer in the manger, but in His Word; no longer wrapped in swaddling clothes, but wrapped in preaching and sacrament

Here, Christ gives you life.

Here, you behold His grace and His favor.

Here, He comes to you lowly, still. But on the last triumphant day, then all will see, and all will bow the knee before the Lord of lords and King of kings (Revelation 1:7; Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:9-11).

As the shepherds went and found the child just as it was told them, so do you.  Christ is right where He promises to be.

Seek Him where He is to be found, not in the manger, not on the cross, not in Your heart, but where His Word is preached and where His body and blood are given under bread and wine, for you.  There, God gives certainty of His grace, the certainty of God’s love, for you.

Skeptics, naysayers, and others will say otherwise.  They will seek their own way, their own peace, and deny or ignore the very truth laid out right in front of them, even as it is revealed to them.  But God does not lie, nor does He mislead.

Rejoice, therefore, for Christ your Savior has been born.  He has died and is raised from the dead and now sits on the throne of His Father, for you.

Jesus is the King of kings.  Salvation He brings.  No longer is He a child, but still is He the Christ, the One of whom the angels sing and unto whom the glorious songs of old still sound forth.  Amen.

 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, open my eyes to see, my heart to believe, and my mouth to boldly confess Jesus to be the Christ, my Redeemer from sin, death, and hell. Amen.

 

 

“Conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,” Matthew 1:18-25

18Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:  23“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,  and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 24When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Jesus is the confession of our faith.

Nothing surpasses the grace of our Lord and His Work in Christ.

Jesus is the center of our faith.

Apart from Him, there is no everlasting life.

Jesus is the cornerstone upon which His body, the church builds.

“No other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11).

Jesus Christ is the sum and substance, the nucleus and the center, of Christianity.

The church calendar revolves around Him and His life.

Our hymns declare His praises.

Our liturgies speak God’s Word and declare God’s work among us.

Our preaching points to Him who freely saves through His cross.

The absolution declares God’s forgiveness.

Our prayers petition the God on High to hear our requests for Jesus’ sake.

And He does.

His promises are everywhere in His Word and there we go to find them.

There does our Lord give them to us.

We need not look far.

The Lord comes to us.

He comes this Advent tide clothed in His Word, wrapped in the elements of the Sacraments, robed in preaching, giving gifts of everlasting life.

Though we give gifts to others this Christmas, our giving only shadows God’s gift to us.

We wrap with paper and bows.

God wraps His most precious gift in flesh and blood, having Mary cover Him with swaddling clothes and lying in a manger, the Christ child.

Him we honor and adore, bringing our gifts of praise and thanksgiving.

Yet these are incomparable to the riches of Christ, for as St. Paul says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:3-6).

The gifts of God are eternal and life saving.

They give what He says they give—life to those who believe, death to those who don’t.

These are not the temporal gifts that we give one another.

We do nothing to receive what our Lord bestows.  He gives freely.

It’s not like this with the one they call Santa.

Though God does know whether you’ve been naughty or nice, His giving to you is not determined by how good you’ve been.  If it did, none would receive anything good from the Lord.

God’s judgment to give or not to give what is good is not on you ‘watching out, not crying, and not pouting’ as the Santa Claus is coming to town song goes.

You are not the final factor.  God is.  He gives because He is a gracious God who Himself is love Incarnate.

It is the will of God that He forgive you, cleanse you, preserve you, sustain you, and gift you.

God offers these wonderful presents to you because of His abounding mercy and because of His steadfast love.

These never will fail. God never lies.  His promises are always certain.

Unlike we who make promises, even small ones, and fail to keep them, God keeps His Word, and not one Word of His is or will ever be broken.

The Lord God keeps His promises.

He does not change.

He even says, “I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob” (Malachi 3:6).

You are not consumed on account of God’s favor, because of His beloved Son, whose birth we celebrate on the day we call Christmas, not winter break, Hanukkah, Happy Holiday, or Kwanza.

As much as the world may want to tone down or cover up the true meaning of Christmas, they cannot and will not be able to.

God has revealed the Savior of the world in Jesus Christ, the very same One who was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin, just as it was said of Him, just as we confess.

This good news of great joy will continue to go forth throughout the world.

God continues to proclaim peace on earth and His good will toward men; not a worldly or earthly peace; and not a place of tolerance for anything and everything.

Instead of these things that the sinful world seek after, God promises something else.

God promises a peace which “the world cannot give”; a “peace that surpasses all human understanding”; a peace that is from everlasting to everlasting (John 14:27; Philippians 4:7).

This kind of peace which the world cannot give is the peace that “will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

This is the peace of which the angels spoke in the hearing of the shepherds as they watched their flocks by night (Luke 2:8ff).  It is centered on none other than Jesus the Christ, who was born to Mary, a woman who did not know a man before His birth.

He is the ‘reason for the season’.  But even more than that, Christ is your salvation.

In Him is given you all God’s love, all God’s blessing, and all God’s favor.

This Christmas season is truly about giving.

But it’s first and foremost about God who does the giving, the very giving of our merciful God of a Son for our salvation and that of the world.

True giving doesn’t start with buying presents, wrapping them, and placing them under the tree.  These things we might do, but true giving begins in the heart, only after it has truly opened the gift of everlasting life through faith in God’s Son.

From God to us, true and lasting gifts continue.

We thus confess the birth of Christ, which happened as recorded in the Scriptural text.

True confidence and lasting certainty that God gives is given only through His Holy Word.

There is nothing more sure than the Holy Word of God.

Where doubt is placed in this, uncertainty will only increase and trust in the written inspired Word will only decrease, the very thing happening in Christendom all around us.

In a Time magazine article awhile back titled, ‘Secrets of the Nativity’, so called ‘Christian scholars’ were asked questions and they responded with less than Christian answers, concluding that we may never know how the birth of Christ really happened as a result of Scriptural uncertainty.

But place uncertainty in the Word, and Christ Himself gets the snub as Savior of the world.

Our confession of faith is of Christ, but not just of any Christ—THE Christ of Scripture.

God has declared Jesus to be your Savior, born just the way it is written.

God fulfilled His Word to King Ahaz through the babe born in Bethlehem, as foretold in Isaiah 7.

The virgin really did conceive and bear a son, and call His name, Immanuel, Jesus, God with us, the savior from all people’s sins, even your own.

Thankfully, the holy God has revealed His Word and will in human language so that we too believe and so have everlasting life.  Jesus Christ was truly born of a virgin, conceived by the Holy Spirit through the Word of the Living God who spoke through the angel Gabriel.

Our Lord Jesus is the very One that God sent at just the right time to save the world from sin and sins consequences.

Just as Abraham believed God and his faith was counted as righteousness, so also is your faith counted as righteousness, as that faith is placed in the One who is Himself righteous, born of flesh and blood, who lived, died, and rose again (Genesis 15:6).

Because Christ came into the world, light has pierced through the darkness and shines in our hearts, testifying of our peace with God and of His never ending love towards us sinners.

God’s word is God’s truth and gives boldness to stand on His declarations, pronouncements, and proclamations.

Christ is your confidence and certain hope that all things are well between you and God.

It is as our Lord had spoken through the angel, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

The virgin did and Jesus alone saves.  Amen.

Prayer: Increase my faith, O Lord, that I have confidence in Your Word and believe Jesus to be Who You reveal Him to be for me, my Savior, God in the flesh. Amen.

 

 

“Christ is the One,” Matthew 11:2-15

 

2Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”  4And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.  6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

      7As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see?  A reed shaken by the wind?  8What then did you go out to see?  A man dressed in soft clothing?  Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.  9What then did you go out to see?  A prophet?  Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.  10This is he of whom it is written,

       “‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’

11Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.  12From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.  13For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, 14and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.  15He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Here we have John the Baptist, the one who Jesus calls “more than a prophet” and the one of whom Jesus says, “Among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:9, 11).

Jesus also says of John that he is Elijah who is to come, that same Elijah of the Old Testament who was said to come before the “coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord,” who would “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:5-6).

John is the one of whom it was written, ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You” (Matthew 11:10; Malachi 3:1).

It was this John of whom Jesus spoke so highly – who pointed to Christ.

He had not worn the soft clothes of king’s houses.

He was not a reed shaken by the wind.

He stood his ground.

Yet, it was this John who asked a question of Jesus that was plain and quite to the point, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

John’s question is the question worth asking.

Everlasting life and the Kingdom of Heaven are worth being sure of.

The Coming One would save His people from death, forgive their sins, and establish His kingdom forever.

This was the One promised to Adam and Eve, the One who would crush the serpent’ head (Genesis 3:15), the Prophet like Moses whom God would raise, who would speak to the people all that God the Father commanded Him, and whoever would not hear His words which He speaks in the Father’s Name, it would be required of Him (Deuteronomy 18:18-19).

The Coming One to which John referred was the One who would rule on King David’s throne forever.  He was the One who would build a house for the Lord’s Name whose kingdom would have no end.  This was He of whom the prophets prophesied and all the people had hoped to come.

Isaiah said of Him, “Say to those who are fearful-hearted, ‘Be strong, do not fear!  Behold, your God will come with vengeance, With the recompense of God; He will come and save you.’  Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.  Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing.  For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, And streams in the desert” (Isaiah 35:4-6).

In another place, of Him who would come, Isaiah writes, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound (Isaiah 61:1).

John was asking the question about this One.

This One is none other than Jesus the Christ, the Savior of the world, the One foretold by the prophets, He who fulfilled all righteousness, and He who gives eternal rest and peace to all that trust in Him.

This One is God in the flesh, born as one of us, yet without sin.

John the Baptist also looked to this One.  He declared Him to be THE ONE, and John’s ministry ended.  But the ministry of Jesus goes on.

After John had heard in prison the works of Christ, he sent to Jesus to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

This question and its answer are not without significance, nor are they without import to us in the 21st century.

John had heard.  And Jesus told John’s disciples to tell John what they had heard and seen.

John first heard correctly the things about Jesus.

Those things that John heard about Jesus were true.

Jesus’ Word and work testify to His identity.

His works and His Words bear witness to who He is.

These reveal to you that Christ is the Coming One, the Messiah, the Savior of the World.

He is the expectation of all Israel.

He is the One who delivers from sin and death.

He is the resurrection and life and no one comes to Father except through Him, the Son of living God.

The Coming One is the One that all will seek who hope to be saved.

Only an unbeliever would turn away from Him who declares God’s grace and hope to save himself.

That you not look to yourselves, or to another, or to false hopes of peace and prosperity in the world, the Lord directs you, as He directed John and His disciples, to His Word and Work.

Jesus had indeed given sight to the blind.

On one occasion, two blind men had followed Him, crying out, “Son of David, have mercy on us!  And when” Jesus “had come into the house, the blind men came to Him.  And Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’  They said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord.’  Then He touched their eyes, saying, ‘According to your faith let it be to you’” (Matthew 9:27-29).

These two men received their sight from the only one who with a Word is able to do so.

On account of Christ, the lame walked.

A man who was lying on a bed was brought to Jesus.  Seeing the faith of the men who brought the one on the bed, Jesus said to the one lying down, “Your sins are forgiven.”

To demonstrate that the Son of Man, for so Jesus was, has power to forgive sins, He said to the man lying on the bed and who couldn’t walk, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house” (Matthew 9:6).

The man walked.

Christ not only forgives with the word, but has of Himself the power to heal with the word.

At the word of Jesus, lepers were cleansed.

In the 8th chapter of Matthew, we have this account.

“A leper came and worshiped Jesus, saying, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.’  Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’  Immediately his leprosy was cleansed” (Matthew 8:2-3).

Jesus raises the dead.  Jairus’ daughter, who had died before Jesus came, was said to have been sleeping and not dead.  And the mourners and the wailing ones laughed Jesus to scorn when He said this.  “But when the crowd was put outside, He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose.  And the report of this went out into all that land” (Matthew 9:18-26).

Jesus did all of these things, and more.

Through Him, the blind received their sight.

The lame walked. Lepers were cleansed.

Deaf ears were opened.

Dead were raised.

Poor had the gospel preached to them.

These works of God testify that Jesus is the Coming One.

In Christ, the words of Isaiah the prophet find fulfillment, and in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus Himself reads them and then says, “Today, these Scriptures are fulfilled in your hearing.”

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3).

Jesus preaches the Gospel that you believe it.

He heals you with His Holy Word.

He proclaims you free from the fear of death.

What Jesus does and what He says give witness to His identity.

Jesus’ word and work point to His work of redemption for all people, not just of the body, but also of the soul.

On the cross, His work for that redemption came to its culmination, for there on that tree, Christ gave His life – that you be at peace with the Father and so live.

In Christ, you are.

John’s question whether Jesus was the Coming One or not is given answer for all to hear and see.

The Word and work of Christ reveal Christ to be your Savior and the Savior of all who call out to Him.

The proclamation of His gospel reveals that He continues His work today.

Poor miserable sinners though you are, God declares you wealthy saints in Christ, having the riches of heaven and God’s favor.

“You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Jesus Christ came, not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those that are sick (Matthew 9:12-13).

Jesus, and Jesus alone, gives true healing, not only partially, but completely.

He gives eyes of faith that you see His Works of grace and mercy.

He gives you to walk according to His Word, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

He cleanses you of your sin and declares you clean before Him.

He opens your ears that you hear and believe His promises, for they faileth not (Lamentations 3:22).

He raises you from the deadness of your sin to new and abundant life in Him.

He proclaims His Gospel through Word, Water, and Holy Supper.

Christ is the Great Physician of both body and soul.

Christ’s work identifies Him as the Coming One, for so He is—for John, for his disciples, for you!

His Word and work point to His work on the cross, through which He declares you reconciled to God.

By His Work and by His Word Jesus, proclaims to you that you need not look for another.

Jesus is the One and there is no other.  Amen.

Prayer: Lord, open my eyes to see Jesus and believe only in Him as the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the salvation of my soul. Amen.

 

 

Rod from the Stem of Jesse

 

“There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots. 2 The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. 3 His delight is in the fear of the LORD, And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, Nor decide by the hearing of His ears; 4 But with righteousness He shall judge the poor, And decide with equity for the meek of the earth; He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.” (Isaiah 11:1-4)

 

Through Isaiah the prophet, God speaks of Him who is to come, a Rod, a Branch.

Of this Rod, of this Branch, the prophets of Old foretold.  He would come.  Not at man’s time.  Not according to people’s expectation. At the set time that God Himself determined, so His arrival would be.

“When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4-5).

This Rod, this Branch of Jesse, was Christ, Son of David, rightful heir of the heavenly throne and only begotten Son of God.

Believing in this One is to believe also “in Him who sent” Him (John 13:20).

Jesus came to save sinners.  According to His Name, so He did, so He does.

Dying on the cross, His blood cleanses you from all sin, every one of them (1 John 1:8-9).

With righteous judgment He judges, not according to sight, but in truth.

By means of the Law, He condemns sin.  By means of Gospel, He forgives, saves, and delivers from sin, death, and hell.

This One who came to save, and still does, will come again, too.

On the last day, this One will appear fully in His glory.

All will notice.

We, His people, will rejoice, for with righteousness He judges, and before Him, in His righteousness, we stand, through faith. Amen.

 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, during this Holy season of Advent, direct our eyes ever to Your Son Who is coming again.  Keep us from longing for things temporal, lest we lose the things eternal. Help us to set our minds on things above, not on things of the earth, for we have been raised with Christ.  Amen.

 

 

“Worship and God”

 

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them.”  

Exodus 20:4-5, NKJ

 

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Church bodies number the commandments differently.  Though they still number them as ten, they do so in a different manner.

The passage above, from Exodus 20:4-5, Lutherans and Roman Catholics include as part of the First Commandment. Others number it as part of the Second Commandment, that of forbidding the making of idols.

The Israelites made an idol of a golden calf while Moses was on Mt. Sinai, even as God was giving the Ten Commandments (Exodus 32:1-6).  The Israelites were certainly worshiping an idol, that which was not God.

Instructive are the words of Luther from his Large Catechism.

“A god is that to which we look for all good and in which find refuge in every time of need. To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe him with our whole heart. As I have often said, the trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol.  If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true God. On the other hand, if your trust is false and wrong, then you have not the true God.” (Luther’s Large Catechism, 1st Commandment)

The people of Israel placed their confidence and trust in something which was not God.  That something which was not God, or a false god, was nothing other than an idol.  Things become idols (money, power, people, etc.) when confidence and trust is placed in them rather than the Creator.  But where confidence and trust is placed in the true God, those same things are not idols.

To worship anyone or anything instead of or in place of the true God, the God who reveals Himself in the Bible in the person of Jesus Christ, worships a false God, and therefore, worships an idol, whether that false god be a carved image or not.

Only in the God who makes Himself known through Christ, who was “born of a virgin, suffered, was crucified, died, and was buried” and who rose on the third day do you worship the true God.  Only through Him do you have sins forgiven and true and everlasting peace.

All other so-called “gods” are not gods, and do not give that peace which the Lord Jesus alone gives. Worship that is substantive is not worship invented by man, nor worship in what is invented by man, but that which is given and revealed by God—through His Son, Jesus the Savior.  Amen.

 

Luther

“There would be no harm in carving a statue of wood or stone; but to set it up for worship and to attribute divinity to the wood, stone, or statue is to worship and idol instead of God.” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p92)

 

Prayer: Father, keep me from fearing, loving, and trusting in anyone or anything above you.  Amen.

 

 

 

“He has Risen, as He said,” Matthew 28:1-10

“He has risen, as He said”

1Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 8So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:1-10)

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Jesus is risen, as He said.  These words bring joy to the ear this morning and always.  These words we cannot pass over.  He is risen.  He is risen indeed.  Alleluia!

The great joy of those women who heard the words of God’s messenger that morning and did not see our Lord in the tomb is also our own.  By God’s inspired Word, we know that our Redeemer lives.  Christ is victorious over the grave.  He who had authority to lay down His life also had authority to take it up again (John 10: 15, 17, 18).  This Jesus did on the Third day, the very day that He rose bodily from the dead.

We are not here speaking of some spirit who now lives, as if the body of Christ remained in decay.  Christ in His body is living.

“If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up — if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.” (1 Corinthians 15:14-17).

Sin is real.  It is doing what God does not command and not doing what He does command.   Death too is real.  It is a consequence of sin.  Sin brings about physical death, of which we all must face, sooner or later.  It also brings about eternal death, unless there be salvation from Another who has overcome sin and death.

This is what Christ did by His resurrection.  His resurrection testifies to the truth that death is powerless against the Lord Christ.  So too is eternal death powerless against the Lord’s brethren,  who we are, through faith in His blessed Word.

“Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-22)

The death of Christ was real.  On the cross Jesus did die.  His resurrection is just as real and true.  This is how you know that Jesus truly keeps His Word.

The Lord’s resurrection also means your resurrection.  Christ being raised from the dead means your rising from the dead, not only from the deadness of your sin to new life now by faith, but also when our Lord returns.  His resurrection means the same for you.

Christ says through the Apostle Paul, “The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”  (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

In another place, Paul writes, “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53).

Jesus Himself says, “The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth — those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29).

Here, our Lord makes distinction.  Scripture teaches that all will rise from the dead, both believers in Christ and nonbelievers.  But only those who have done good, only those who have faith in Christ’s goodness, forsaking their own, only these will be with the Father unto all eternity.

On the other hand, those who have done evil, those who do evil by not taking Christ’s Word and work as their own, these will rise to eternal death.  Having not believed the promises of the Lord while in the world, these will receive the due reward for their unbelief.

But those who do believe the promises of God, though they not see them fulfilled here and now, these “Will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).

As for Jesus only spiritually rising from the dead and not bodily, which some contend happened, Jesus ate and drank after being raised.

As it is reported in Luke’s Gospel, “Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you.’ But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. And He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? ‘Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.’ When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, ‘Have you any food here?’ So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate in their presence.” (Luke 24:36-43)

A spirit does not eat or drink.  But Jesus did these very things, right in front the disciples.

From the virgin birth to Christ’s bodily resurrection, and from the creation of the world to the Lord’s glorious return on judgment day, do not trust what you think or what reason tells you to be so.  Trust in the Lord and  what He says.  There will you find Jesus living and dying, and rising and ascending, for you.

Here is the difference between judgment and forgiveness, death and life, hell and heaven:

What God declares to be so in His Word is for your salvation.  It is not just for anyone and everyone.  It is for you.  Believing that the Bible is true is a good thing.  Believing that there is a god is good thing.  But ‘a god’ doesn’t save.

The God of salvation is knowable.  Unless the God of Scripture, even Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is your God, all the believing in the world will not help you.  Christ did die and He did rise from the dead.  But His death and resurrection will not save you unless it is also yours.

By means of His own death, Jesus Christ put your sin to death. Jesus left your sin for dead on Mt. Calvary, but on the third day, His body was not in the tomb.    If you wish to carry your own sin and have it your way, Christ’s death and resurrection does not profit you.  You will bear your own load and come the judgment, the penalty for your sin will be yours and yours alone.

But in Christ, your sin is gone forever and God does not count your daily sins against you.  In Christ, your sin is forgiven.  Lay your sins on Him, therefore, and receive His forgiveness.  Believe the heavenly Word of grace, mercy, and peace.  In Christ, these are yours.

Our Lord does not lie.  What He says is true and truly will come to pass.

Christ’s resurrection bears witness and sure testimony that He fulfills and will fulfill, and does and will do, all that He says.

Just as Christ had said, He rose from the dead.  Before that Good Friday, Jesus declared to His disciples, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again” (Matthew 20:18-19).  A few other times, too, Jesus spoke of what would soon come to pass.  And it did.

Jesus Christ, alive from the dead forevermore, is your surety and guarantee of what is to come, not only later, but even now, as you hear Christ’s Word preached, eat and drink His body and blood, and receive His blessing.  The joy of Christ’s gifts are yours.  Christ is risen, just as He said.  Your Redeemer lives.  Jesus Christ is risen today.  Alleluia!  Amen.

 

“Surety in Christ according to His Word”

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.  For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?  For what can a man give in return for his life?  For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:34-38)

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

bible-cross1It is not of the Gospel to be unsure or uncertain of God’s grace and favor in Jesus Christ.  The grace of God in Christ, without a doubt, is of faith, according to the Lord’s Word.  In this, such faith is sure and will die a thousand deaths.

In a 1992 interview of Diane Sawyer with Billy Graham, speaking about his death, Graham had commented, “I don’t want them (people) to say big things about me because I don’t deserve them.”

He’s right, and such humility is encouraging, and true.

Graham continued and said, “I want to hear one person say something nice about me, and that’s the Lord. When I face Him, I want Him to say to me, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant.’”

These latter words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” are words from Holy Scripture (Matthew 25:21, 23; Luke 19:17), and in Christ, because of Christ, the Christian has the certainty that these words will certainly be said of him.

Yet, keeping this in mind, Graham continued by saying, “But I’m not sure I’m going to hear it, but that’s what I would like to hear.”(http://newsvideo.su/video/8349827)

I pray that his answer had changed since that 1992 interview.

Graham’s statement, “I’m not sure I’m going to hear” those words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” convey, not sure faith in the Lord’s promiseGraham,  Billy.jpgs, but rather, wavering confidence and doubt, which is not of faith.

 

Certainty of faith does not come from what “we” think or what we “want,” but alone from God’s grace in Christ according to God’s revealed Word.  By this, Christians know God’s love in Christ, are sure of heaven, and are certain of God’s favor.

In the Formula of Concord, it is stated, “6. We believe, teach, and confess that many weaknesses and defects cling to the true believers and truly regenerate, even up to the day they are buried [1 John 1:8]. Still, they must not on that account doubt either their righteousness, which has been credited to them through faith, or the salvation of their souls. They must regard it as certain that for Christ’s sake, according to the promise and ‹immovable› Word of the Holy Gospel, they have a gracious God. (McCain, The Lutheran Confessions, Formula of Concord, Epitome, III. The Righteousness of Faith, 481).

Why had Graham voiced uncertainty with regard to what God would say of him in that interview when such a promise of God is made in Christ?

Graham seemed to be sure of being unsure.

A theology like this centers on something other than Christ and His Word, despite their uses and references.  Because of this, the conclusion is not the hope that the Bible gives, but whatever the person engenders, which can and will not be assertive before God of God’s undeserved forgiveness and His unmerited kindness.

Yet, God gives certainty.  This is the fruit of God-given faith.

It is therefore necessary to make distinctions between that which is, and that which is not, of God.

Not all get Jesus right and have full confidence in Him, because not all abide by the Word alone concerning Christ the Savior and His salvation.

When Peter said of Jesus, “You are the Christ,” he was of course stating the truth, the truth that he hadn’t come up with himself, but the truth that had been revealed to Him by the heavenly Father.  Not one of disciples could come to this confession of the Christ on his own.  And no one can come to faith in Christ on his own.

It is for this reason that Jesus had said in St. Matthew’s Gospel, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17).

Flesh and blood cannot make out who Jesus is on its own, for “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Man, by himself, cannot know God as He is.  He knows that there is a God, but he does not know, nor can he know, who that God is unless God reveal Himself.

This is why St. Paul can say in another place that “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

It was by means of Jesus’ Word that Peter confessed Jesus to be the Christ, because the Word of Jesus is the Word of the Father in Heaven.  To hear Jesus is to hear the Father.

To dismiss Jesus’ Word is to reject God’s Word.

To want a Christ apart from the Word is to have a different Jesus.  That’s where Peter went wrong in our text.

Peter wanted a Savior who wouldn’t suffer, who wouldn’t be rejected, who wouldn’t be killed.

Apart from God’s revelation, we, like Peter, want our own kind of god and savior.

first-commandmentApart from the Bible, man makes his own god.  As a result, he makes his own Jesus, not one who suffers and dies, but one who abides by the will of sinful man and follows the dictates of own heart.

The Jesus of one’s own making does not save.  He is an extension of man’s own wickedness.

The Jesus of Scripture is not this way.  The Jesus of the Bible is not He who would be rebuked by Peter for telling the truth.  The Jesus of the Bible is He who would rebuke Peter and who rebukes all who would have their own Jesus and their own god and not the one of the Bible.

There is no other Jesus than the one who was bloodied by the scourging, who wore the crown of thorns, who suffered miserably, and who died so ingloriously.

There is no other Jesus who conquered sin and death by means of His own death.  There is no other Jesus who humbled Himself as man in flesh and blood, though He Himself is One with Father (Philippians 2:8; John 10:30).

There is no other Jesus than He who was sent of God, who was rejected by men and still is rejected by men who don’t want to hear, because they refuse to believe what He says that they may have life and peace with God.

Just as there is no other Jesus than He who gave Himself for you and even He who gives Himself to you by means of His Word and body and blood in the Lord’s Supper for thejesuswomen4 forgiveness of your sins, so there is no other life of the Christian than coming after Jesus, denying self, taking up the cross, and following Him.

All who would go their own way bear the name of Christian in name only.

This is the easier way, for “Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matt. 7:13-14 NKJ).

The way of the Christian is different.

With Paul, the Christian also confesses, “What things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3:7-10).

The way of the Christian is the life of the cross.  It is the way of death, not only of Christ’s death, but of one’s own—dying to sin, crucifying the sinful flesh and desires and lusts which war against the soul, and seeking help and salvation in Christ alone, casting aside lady reason and man pride; having nothing to give but only everything to be given on account of the real Jesus who suffered and died; the real Jesus then, and the real Jesus now, whose Gospel word is life, lasting life.  Amen.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, aid me in putting to death my sinful flesh, denying myself, taking up my cross, and following Jesus according to His Word. Amen.

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