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2019 Sermons Christmas

Christmas Day John 1.1-14

Sermon – John 1.1-14 (Christmas Day)

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Exordium: We have spent the Advent season as a time of preparation for the advents of Christ. We have considered His coming to us through the means of grace, and His coming into the world in glory on the Last Day to judge the living and the dead. And today we celebrate the birth of Christ, our Immanuel. And we are ready to celebrate, for we have heard the words of John the Baptist, who said, “Make straight the way of the Lord.” We have heard the Law, that we may acknowledge our sinfulness and need for the Savior to come. He has come. The angels have announced His birth, and sang their praise to the glory of God. The shepherds go and see the wonder of God’s love. And we with repentant and believing hearts go and ponder this thing that the Lord has made known to us. The Son of God is born in human flesh. What a wonder this is! It is the miracle of the incarnation. God became human for our sakes, so that we, through Him, would be reconciled to God. Our Savior is born, and it is this truth that makes today a great festival day of the Church.

Therefore, let us joyfully sing the praise of the Incarnate Son of God! We will sing the festival verse, hymn number 142, “Rejoice, Rejoice This Happy Morn.” Please rise.

Text:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

 2 He was in the beginning with God.

 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.

 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

 7 This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe.

 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

 9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.

 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.

 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.

 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:

 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

These are Your Words heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your word is truth. Amen.

Dear Christmas worshippers,

In the Age of the Enlightenment, the prevailing thought of the day was that the human mind was capable of the greatest things. It could understand all things, conquer all things, solve every problem, and some even thought that by the power of the human mind could create a utopia. The mind is supreme, and everything beyond what the human mind must be denied, that is, the supernatural. And so life, our beginning, sustenance, our experiences, feeling, our behaviors, our motivations, our meaning, and values all consists in merely natural processes. This kind of thinking is still fairly common today.

But this way of thinking about life, has been surpassed today with the idea that life is defined and shaped by our feelings, emotions and experiences. Led by these, we supposedly can achieve fulfillment and our purpose in life. 

But whatever man tries to use as their life and light in this world fails, whether it is human reason, or emotion and experience or whatever it is. To think that life is found in our reason, or emotions, or experiences, is in fact rebellion against God. It is not the way of life, but the way of death. Such has been the case since the fall into sin.

Adam and Eve as the source and center of their lives God, the Creator. They lived in perfect communion with God, knowing God as perfectly as a creature is able to know His Creator. They had the image of God, their reason perfect, their feelings perfect, both completely in line with God’s will, enlightened by God, holy and good.

But Adam and Eve, at the tempting of the devil, were tempted to find life and light outside of God. The devil led them away from God and His Word, and tempted them to trust in him and his words. He tempted them to covet another way of life, one independent from God, one that they could have in themselves, for the devil said, “Your eyes will be opened, and will be like God, knowing good and evil.

And the moment they disobeyed, they recognized the darkness and death that had just come to them-the just consequence of their sin. God entered the Garden where they were. What do they do? They do not welcome Him with joy eager to hear the words of His grace. They do not run before Him and bow down to Him. They are afraid. They see that the shame of their sins have separated them from God. Sinning against Him, they had broken their relationship with Him. And God’s holiness, basically the law, made them very well aware of this.

At least they noticed the problem. Much of the world today goes about completely unaware that they live in darkness. They desire independence from God, thinking that they have life in their own wisdom and feelings, that they are self-sufficient in themselves, and God can take a hike. But independence from God means separation from their creator, from His life and light, and being left in darkness and death. They exalt their reason, experience, determination, strength and power as gods, yet all these are under the power of sin and death, and lie in darkness. 

Separated from God, there is only darkness, sin and death.

But, behold, life and light have come! Don’t look within yourselves. Well actually, yeah, first look for a moment within yourselves, not to find the source of life and light, won’t find it there, but look within with a humble and honest heart, and see the darkness of sin in your hearts. Yes, even though we are believers born anew in Christ that sinful nature still remains within us. See how we have exalted our wills, our reason, and our feelings above God and His will. See how we have sought independence from God, to be little gods ourselves, to think that we know better than God. Look there, see it within, and repent. And behold, your Life and Light comes to you.

He is Jesus, the child born of a Virgin. No mere human child can help us. No man has life in himself, and therefore, much less could any man bring us into life with God. But the good news is found in who this child is. And John gives us some beautiful theology about Him!

He is called the Word. He is the Word that has been with Father from eternity. He was there in the beginning when there was only eternity, and through Him, even time came into existence. 

The child is the Word who was with God. The Word was not the Father. He is distinct from the Father, and from the Holy Spirit, for that matter. And He has always been with them from eternity.

And the Child is the Word who was God. The Word is not just sounds put together by the mouth of the Father, like the words that come from our mouths. Rather the Word was Himself 100% almighty God—of the very same divine substance as the Ffather and Holy Spirit.. And in creation, He was not simply an inanimate and powerless tool of the Father, but He, with the Father, is the almighty Creator of the universe. Through Him all things came into existence as we read here in John and also in Colossians and Hebrews. We owe our existence to Him. He is our Creator and we are His creation.

And this eternal and divine Word became flesh. The Creator became a creature, and He was born in Bethlehem. The divine nature and the human nature are there united in the one Person, Jesus Christ.

In the Word made flesh was life. This is the life that we had been without, the life of being united with God, of dwelling in His peace and joy, a life of knowing God, and living in perfect righteousness and blessedness in His presence forever. Only in Him can we be restored to life and light as Adam and Eve first enjoyed.

In His love and mercy He shines the light of His life upon the world. Though the world in its darkness did not see Him. The devil has so blinded the world and the world has so fallen away from God, that it turns away from Him and chooses darkness. The world put the Word made flesh on the cross. The world today rejects His life and light, and prefers the darkness of sin and death. It still prefers the life, rather than the death of going its own way.

But you have received Him, not by means of blood or of the might of your will, but by the working of God who gives you a new birth, a new life through His baptismal waters. The Holy Spirit has opened your eyes to see what John saw. John saw the glory of the Christ. Though Jesus’ divinity was hidden throughout much of His life, John saw glimpses of His divinity through the tremendous miracles that He performed, and His resurrection from the dead. And you see that Jesus is the Word made flesh.

And He is the perfect Mediator between God and man. He comes between us and His Father, and restores to us the life that we lost. He has taken upon Himself your rebellious independent sinfulness, comes between us and the Father and takes the Father’s wrath in our place. So since it isn’t just the suffering of one man, but the hellish suffering of God Himself for all the sins of the world, you are forgiven. The price has been paid. Christ has made full satisfaction, and now you have peace with God. In this saving work of Christ, is found the life we lost in the fall. And through faith in Him, we are restored to life! There is no longer need to hide from Him like Adam did, like that would do any good anyway, but because you trust in Christ as your Savior, you freely repent before Him and receive His forgiveness and life with joy! You have that perfect peace with God; you live in communion with Him as His dear people. You have eternal life with Him. That is the true life, the life of Christ in which you live.

And having this life, means that we also are new creations in Christ, having the new self which is created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Thus we put to death the Old Adam which desires to direct our reason and hearts in darkness, and let Christ be the Lord of our reason and our hearts, directing them in righteousness and holiness according to His gracious will. Surely, we need this renewing each day, living the baptismal life, repenting of our sins, and being renewed by the gospel, sanctified, and strengthened to follow our Lord’s lead.

What a blessing it is to have Christ’s life. But make sure you recognize where we find the source of His light today as we live in this world of darkness. And in this we also get to rejoice. Jesus says, “My words are spirit and life.” Here we have the bright beaming Sun of righteousness shining on us with His precious life. And not only there, but He shines His life upon us in His holy Supper, where the very body and blood of the Word made flesh, that once lied in that manger, was given up into death, and now is in heaven, that very body and blood is given to you for your life!

No man could save us from the gloom of darkness. No mortal could give us eternal life. No sinner could restore us to God. No creature can save us from the sadness of fallen creation. But the Word became flesh. In Him was life, and His life is your light and your salvation! Thanks be to our God made flesh, our Immanuel. Amen.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. Forevermore. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto everlasting life. Amen.

Categories
2019 Sermons Christmas

Christmas Eve – 2018 Luke 2:1-16

Sermon – Luke 2:1-16 (Christmas Eve – 2018)

O God, as You once caused this holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light, grant, we beseech You, that we who have known the mysteries of that Light here on earth may come to the fullness of Its joys in heaven; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

Grace to you and peace from God, our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.

 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.

 6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.

 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

 8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.

 11 “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

 12 “And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

 14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

 15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”

 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.

These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

Dear fellow redeemed,

We find in a number of Christmas carols in which the author used some artistic license with some of the details about the night of Jesus’ birth. What animals were really there around the holy family? Were the stars shining in the bright sky that night, or was it a cloudy night? Did baby Jesus really not cry? And did Joseph Mohr, who wrote Silent Night 200 years ago, mean to say that radiant beams shone from Jesus’ holy face? Was there a glow?

But, of course, there are a number of details that we do know that Scripture tells us. One thing we know is beautifully said by Mohr in Silent Night, right after he mentions the radiant beams from Christ’s holy face, he says that in that face, is the “dawn of redeeming grace.”

What did the shepherds see when they came to Bethlehem? They saw Joseph and Mary, and the Babe lying in a manger. Whatever kind of night it was, and whatever animals were there around the manger, when the shepherds looked at the face of the child there wrapped in swaddling cloths, they saw the dawn of redeeming grace.

The night has ended, the day has broken the darkness! Surely, God’s promises are as good as done. Every promise God made of the coming Messiah foretold through the prophets were as good as done, for through this promise, the Old Testament believers already had the forgiveness and righteousness that Christ would eventually win. But there becomes a time, when the promise is no longer promise, and it becomes fulfillment.

This night the Christ has arrived! Look at that face, and you see God’s redeeming grace. It is grace, because in Him we see the undeserved love of God. What benefit was there in it for God? What was there that led God to do this, for we are sinners, unworthy of His love or for one act of kindness from Him. But He shows His undeserved love for us in this Child.

And it is a redeeming grace, because this love of God is active, it is self-sacrificing. The shepherds saw in that face of baby Jesus, the one who will live a perfect life and die an innocent death to save us from sin, death, and hell.

And so in faith, behold this wonderful thing that we ponder tonight, that Christ, the Savior is born! God’s promise of redemption is now fulfilled in the Christ who has come for us and our salvation.

Let the dawn of His redeeming grace shine upon you who sorrow over your sins, for it is for sinners that He is born, to be the sacrificial Lamb to free you from the condemnation of all your sins.

Let the dawn of His redeeming grace shine upon you, brokenhearted, for He has come to make all things new! He delivers you from the evil one, from this evil generation, and from the brokenness of this fallen world. And He brings you into the newness of life in His kingdom of light, where we have peace with God!

Let the dawn of His redeeming grace shine upon you, o you who mourn in this the valley of the shadow of death, for His light swallows up the darkness of death. The child born in Bethlehem, has redeemed us from death, and all who die in Him, are delivered from this land of the dying, and are welcomed into heaven, the land of the living!

May the dawn of His redeeming grace bring you all great peace and joy today and always! God has fulfilled His promises. Christ is born for you! Amen.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.

Categories
2019 Sermons Advent

Advent 3 – 2019

Sermon – Matthew 11.2-10

Lord God, heavenly Father, You gave Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to become Man and to come into the world that He might destroy the works of the devil, deliver us poor offenders from sin and death, and give us everlasting life: We beseech You so to rule and govern our hearts by Your Holy Spirit that we may seek no other refuge than His Word, and thus avoid the sin to which we are by nature inclined, in order that we may always be found among the faithful followers of Your Son, Jesus Christ, and by faith in Him obtain eternal salvation; through the same, Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

2 And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples

 3 and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”

 4 Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see:

 5 “The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.

 6 “And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”

 7 As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?

 8 “But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.

 9 “But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet.

 10 “For this is he of whom it is written:`Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.’

These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

Faithful Preaching; Faithful Hearing

Dear fellow redeemed,

There’s a large church in North Carolina that requires anyone seeking membership in the church and leadership positions there, to subscribe—not to Scriptural doctrines—but to the vision of the pastor.

Though other churches may not be so bold to require such a subscription, many are built around the leadership of the pastor. It sometimes happens that when a pastor is found to be teaching error, and is removed from the church body, the congregation that should know better, instead of sticking to the faith once delivered to the saints, sticks with the pastor, because of the pastor’s vision, his charisma, his style and so on.

Is this how John conducted his ministry? Is this how he obtained the disciples he had, two of which we hear about in our gospel reading? Did he build his ministry around himself, his vision to gather people to himself?

Definitely not. John faithfully preached the Word of God, which is all about Christ. He didn’t make it about himself. Many did come out to see this strange figure out by the Jordan, this man who wore camel hair clothing and ate honey and locusts. But John preached repentance, and pointed them to the coming of the kingdom of God in the person of Jesus Christ.

Jesus said as much about John. “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?” In other words, did they go out there expecting to find a man teaching the latest fad in Jewish teaching? Were they going to see a man who’s message was formed by the popular culture or the popular philosophies of the day, only to be change as the new wind of ideas comes upon him? Did they expect to find him to be the hip, up with the times kind of preacher? They found him to be something very different.

Then Jesus asked, “What did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments?” –the the kind of preacher welcomed into kings houses. In other words, is he a people pleaser, a king pleaser? Did they go out expecting him to tell them things that they want to hear? Is he the kind of preacher that speaks whatever may gain the peoples’ favor, their esteem, and their riches? That he would even gain the acceptance of kings? Again, they found John to be very different. Certainly if John wanted to find himself comfortable in kings’ houses, it would have been the Pharisees and Sadducees that he would have had to warm up to, but instead he calls them a “brood of vipers” and said, “Bear fruits worthy of repentance.” And he certainly made it impossible to live in king’s houses after confronting the ruler Herod Antipas about his adultery.

But what did they see out there in the wilderness? The world’s first prophet in 430 years. The one promised by Malachi. And this prophet, John, did what prophets do, and that is preach the Word of God. He was merely the messenger. He didn’t call people to follow him, to abide by his vision. Rather he preached the Word which draws people to repentance and faith in Christ. John was a pointer. He pointed people to Jesus, the king of heaven, and the sacrificial Lamb by which we may have entrance into His kingdom!

This is what John did when he sent his disciples to Jesus. He directed them to Jesus, that they may witness His works and preaching and follow Him. They were to ask the question: “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”

And what did Jesus do? He provides an example for preachers by simply preaching the Word to them. He quotes from Isaiah, words that speak about what the Messiah would do. “The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” The Word reveals the Christ. Here in this point of history a multitude of miracles are being performed. These two disciples of John heard the reports and saw these miracles, some of which never had happened before. One man born blind was healed by Jesus, and he said before the Pharisees, “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

And so the Word reveals Jesus and draws people to Him. He is the Coming One, just as the Word describes.

And so the faithful preaching is the preaching of the Word, centered on “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” as Paul put it. Preachers are to be as John, preaching repentance and pointing to Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

But let us all be faithful listeners, too. One of the difficulties with this text is this question: “Was John, who was in prison, struggling with doubt about Jesus, whether He was the Coming One, and sent his disciples to ask for his sake.” It’s hard to imagine John doubting. He baptized Jesus, and heard the Father’s voice from heaven, and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove landing upon Jesus. He faithfully preached God’s Word, even though it meant imprisonment and even death.

But should we find it hard to imagine John doubting? He is, after all, born in the likeness of Adam. He is a poor sinner going through a difficult time, imprisoned and likely to die there. So John wanted to hear his disciples preach to him the words that Jesus had said. John knew the answer. John knew that Jesus was the Coming One, but he needed to hear it again to receive the comfort of that knowledge, and be strengthened. He needed to hear that Jesus is for him.

And so consider how John, the great forerunner of Christ, desired the Word of God. You, too, consider your poverty, and your need to hear it. It’s like the story of the husband and wife, who’ve been married for several years. And the wife said to the husband, “You don’t tell me that you love me anymore.” And the husband said, “I told you once, and if anything changes, I’ll let you know.” We need to hear of Christ’s love and salvation.

You who wrestle with doubts know you need that assurance. And if you don’t feel that need, consider your sins, that they’re not simply mistakes that you make. A little lie, a word of gossip, a passing lustful thought, a little bit of haughtiness, these are not merely little sins, but they are outward signs of a heart that is corrupted, and completely fallen in sinfulness. And this sinfulness places you squarely at odds with God, and in the bonds of Satan’s prison. Consider, too, the trials that you may be facing, or will face. We will all go through them. John faced imprisonment and death. You will also face crosses of your own. Do you think that you are so strong that you can bear them on your own two feet? You are not, and besides your hope is misplaced. Do not find it in yourself.

How poor we are? How pitiful our situation? Can God forgive such a one as me? Could it be that God has given up on me and abandoned me to suffer on my own? Is God really a gracious God, and is He gracious to me?

Luther said, of all the works that Jesus did, of which He quoted from Isaiah, the greatest one is not that the blind receive their sight, or that the lame walk. The greatest work is that He preaches the gospel to the poor. And isn’t that true!

So you, the poor and those struggling with doubt, Behold, the Lord and His gospel for you: He is indeed the Coming One foretold in the Old Testament, who came in love for you for your salvation. He is also the Righteous One, who clothes you in His perfect righteousness. He is also the crucified One, who has atoned for all your sins, and saves you from your sinfulness. He is also the Risen One, who gives you newness of life and life everlasting. He is also the Ascended One who is with you always even to the end of the age. He is also the Returning One who will come again and take you to Himself in eternal joy.

Thanks be to Jesus, from whom we have this precious and certain gospel to comfort us, strengthen us, and quell our doubts. Amen.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.

Categories
2019 Sermons Advent

Advent 2 – 2019

Sermon – Luke 21.25-36

Lord God, heavenly Father, by Your Son You have revealed to us that heaven and earth shall pass away, that our bodies shall rise again, and that we all shall appear before the judgment seat: We beseech You to keep us in Your Word by Your Holy Spirit; establish us in the true faith, graciously defend us from sin and preserve us in all temptations, that our hearts may not be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, but that we may ever watch and pray and, trusting fully in Your grace, await with joy the glorious coming of Your Son, and at last obtain eternal salvation; through the same, Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

25 “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring;

 26 “men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of heaven will be shaken.

 27 “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

 28 “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”

 29 Then He spoke to them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees.

 30 “When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near.

 31 “So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near.

 32 “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place.

 33 “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.

 34 “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.

 35 “For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth.

 36 “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Lk. 21:25-36 NKJ)

These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

Dear fellow redeemed,

The apostles were gathered together with Jesus, and all of a sudden they saw Jesus ascend to heaven. The apostles lifted their heads to watch Him go, and then a cloud received Jesus out of their sight.

With their heads still raised, two angels appeared among them and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”

Jesus who was taken from view by a cloud in His ascension, will in a cloud come with power and great glory.

And when the signs of His coming point to His coming on that Day, like a fig tree pointing to the coming of summer, they ought to look up and lift up their heads.

So in these days between Jesus ascension and His return, what are we to do? Look down, or look up? In what way shall we live our lives?

The meaning of the angels message to the apostles was basically, “Jesus will return, so you will have work to do! And the Holy Spirit will prepare you for this work. Do the work of the ministry! Do as Jesus commanded, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all things that He had taught you. Also break bread with one another in the holy Sacrament of the Altar, for Jesus said, “Do this.” And encourage the people in the good works that are the fruits of their faith. In this way you will prepare them for Jesus’ return, so that when He draws near they may confidently lift up their heads and welcome their Redeemer.”

So too, we must keep our heads down (and I don’t mean to be worldly), we are to be about the faithful use of the ministry, and the life of love that flows from the faith the Holy Spirit has created and nourishes in us. And in this way we will be prepared to look up and lift up our heads for the end of the world and Jesus’ return.

For you are redeemed. That means you have been bought back. The holy and precious blood and innocent suffering and death of Jesus Christ was the purchase price to save from your fallen condition and from the curse of the law for your sin, by which you belonged rightfully to Satan and his kingdom. You are redeemed from the futile ways of the fallen world. You have been saved from this generation, which is those who remain in sin and unbelief and rebellion against God. For this generation will remain here until Christ returns, but they will pass away, just as the heavens and the earth will pass away. Therefore you have become strangers here. You remain in the world, but you are not of the world. Rather you are of Christ, sons and daughters of God, heirs of the new creation which is perfect, incorruptible, where you shall dwell with God forever. Your inheritance will never pass away.

And so we do not look to heaven to find the source of this redemption and life. But we turn our heads down here, where Christ says He will be. We hear the Word, repent of our sins and believe the gospel of Christ’s free forgiveness for you. We receive the Sacrament of the altar. We make use of the ministry which Christ established and sustains for the nourishment of His Church, which He redeemed. You know Christ has redeemed you and forgiven you all your sins, and won for you a glorious righteousness that justifies you before God. And desiring these things, you don’t look up to heaven for them. You go to your Bible. You go to the pastor and hear Him speak to you, “I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” You go to the altar, and receive the body and blood of Christ given and shed for you.

And as the Redeemed of Christ, we know that our true and better portion is with the Lord in the life to come. We look forward to His coming to take us to Himself. Yet, we remain in the world, and live as Christ’s redeemed in the world. Since we are redeemed from our sins, from selfishness, pride, and greed, and given new life of righteousness and love, we then live as God’s redeemed and holy people in the world, and in the places in which we live. The love He has shown to us, we reflect and show first to our fellow believers, and then also to the world. In your homes, in your workplace, at church, at the store, wherever you are, we show the love of Christ to others, keeping the commandments in fear and love for God.

And in this way, keeping our heads down here in the ministry of the gospel, and living in love and service for our neighbor, we live heavenly minded and are ready for Christ’s return.

But beware, for down here all around us, and at all times are things to weigh us down. There are the cares of life and vices that would distract us and consume us. Our sinful flesh might lead us to drunkenness, sexual immorality, greed, and other vices, that we eventually be consumed by these things, that we may no longer be repentant of these, no longer seek the forgiveness of Christ and amendment of life, until we again are members of this generation that will be condemned. Or there are the cares of life, family, money, sports, health, work and so on that would also consume us and weigh us down that the treasures of this fleeting life become more important that the treasures in the life without end. How pleased is the devil, when we come up with so many excuses for missing church, and leaving our Bibles unread?

Those weighed down by these vices and cares of the world, the people of this fallen generation, will not be lifting up their heads when they see that this broken world they so loved is literally falling apart. It will be a terrifying time for them as the heavens are shook and the laws of nature break apart, and when Christ comes their heads will be bowed down in dread and shame.

So repent lest you be weighed down also by the vices and cares of this life, and thus be caught by Jesus unprepared. Repent, because Christ has redeemed you, and saved you from this generation, and from the corruption of the world. The heavens and earth will pass away, but the word of the Lord will not pass away. And so look down here. These are the sure and certain words of everlasting life: “You are forgiven all your sins.” Here is the meal that gives you everlasting life: Take and eat, receive the body and blood of Christ given and shed for your forgiveness, partake of the wedding feast of the Lamb that continues forever.

Keep your eyes down here, and look around you at your neighbors, whom God has called you to love and serve.

God has blessed us with this life as His redeemed, the baptismal life, the life of repentance, and live lived under Christ’s continual forgiveness and righteousness.

And so then, when we see the creation falling apart, it will be terrifying. And even now we are seeing some of it with death, decay, and wickedness increasing around us. We are not surprised. This world must pass away. But that means that Christ is near! With Christ’s forgiveness and righteousness, with clean consciences, and confidence, we will look up, lift up our heads, for our Redemption draws near! God will make all things new, and we shall enjoy our eternal home with Him. Amen.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.