Categories
Christmas

Sermon – Luke 2.21 (New Year’s Eve – 2021)

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

21 And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called JESUS, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.

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

Dear fellow redeemed,

Any of you familiar with a birth, knows that it is not clean. It is messy, bloody, and painful. As much as this is the case in a sterile hospital room, imagine what it was like for Mary giving birth to Jesus in a barn, with the animals and animal waste, the manger with crumbs from the animals’ feed mixed with their drool. But the nativity scenes and the descriptions in the Christmas carols clean it up a bit. They present to you a very sanitized version of the nativity, where the barn almost seems to a quaint little spot to have a child, and it’s so peaceful that even Jesus, no crying He makes.

But now you can’t really sanitize the circumcision scene. Imagine giving Christmas cards and instead of the nativity scene on the cover there is a depiction of the circumcision of Christ. You have a table, the baby Jesus, and a knife. There is no hiding the fact that this is going to be bloody, and there will be a lot of crying. The image on the bulletin is the tamest that I could find.

But this event of Jesus’ life is very important to His purpose of coming into the world. And certainly His purpose was no walk in the park. He came to save, and it was difficult, it was painful, and it was bloody.

When Jesus was circumcised, He began His active obedience—that is, His keeping the law for us. For the law required Israelite boys 8 days old to be circumcised, and this circumcision was to be a sign of the covenant that God had made with them, that He would bless the Israelites, and be their God. Circumcision was part of the covenant that they were to keep. Through circumcision, they were brought into the covenant relationship with God, being His blessed people. Now Jesus didn’t need the blessings that circumcision gave, for He is God’s own Son. But yet, because it was law that every Jewish boy 8 days old to be circumcised, Joseph and Mary brought Him to be circumcised. And Jesus being circumcised according to the law, began keeping the law in our place. For Scripture says, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

And of course Jesus was perfect. He did not sin. He didn’t even have one sinful thought. But it wasn’t easy, for He constantly suffered the temptations, lies, and deceit that the devil threw at Him. Yet through it all, He remained perfect for our sake, that there may be a righteousness that justifies us before God.

Jesus’ circumcision also is the beginning of His passive obedience, that is, His suffering and death for us. On His eighth day, He spilt the first drops of His blood which would redeem us and all the world from sin, death, and the devil. The rest of the payment is the blood He spilt on the cross, and His life which He gave up and commended to His Father in heaven.

Both the active and passive obedience of Christ begins at His circumcision. It is both His active and passive obedience, that is, His keeping of the law, and His shed blood and death, that He wins salvation for us. It is in this way He lives out the name given Him from heaven, Jesus, which means, “The Lord is salvation.”

Through the difficult, painful, and bloody work of Christ, salvation is won!

All those previous circumcisions had pointed forward to the saving work of Christ which began with His circumcision.

But then this brings us to another gruesome scene, a murder scene, you could say. Circumcision was a sacrament of the Old Testament. This cutting off of the flesh no longer has any spiritual significance, for Christ has come. But Jesus has established a new sacrament, the sacrament of baptism, which does great violence toward us. In circumcision there was only a cutting off of the flesh. In baptism there is an actual death that takes place. St. Paul speaks of that most clearly in Romans chapter 6. “Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Rom 6:4-6).

This isn’t symbolic. There is an actual death that takes place. In baptism, your old Adam, your sinful nature, is joined with Christ’s cross and death, and by being joined to the work of Christ’s passive obedience, your body of sin, your Old Adam “is done away with.” Alternatively, it could be translated, “brought to nothing.” The language sounds like some mob boss talking about what should be done with the body of a traitor. Get rid of it! Throw it in the river. This Old Adam is no value to us. We don’t want this corruption, our vices, our weaknesses, our sinful desires. Get rid of it. Throw it in the watery tomb there in the font, to be joined to Christ’s cross and death.

But the font there is also the watery womb, from which the new life springs, being born again by the Holy Spirit, not in the old flesh of Adam, but in the righteousness of the Second Adam, Jesus Christ. We are clothed in Jesus perfect righteousness through faith. His righteousness is the righteousness that saves us, the righteousness that makes us the true children of Abraham, and children of God. But also from that life of regeneration borne in us by the Holy Spirit, we also are led by the Holy Spirit to walk in that life of righteousness.

But this gruesome murder scene (and of this scene of new birth) isn’t something that has happened once in our life. It’s not that we get baptized again and again, but we live daily in our baptism through repentance and faith.

The prophets mentioned the Israelites having uncircumcised hearts and ears, though they were circumcised of the flesh. They rejected the gracious promises of God by their unbelief. Because of their unbelief, they would not hear God’s Word, they would not repent, and they would not love Him and trust in Him.

But may the Holy Spirit preserve us in the grace of our baptism. Luther says, “Such baptizing with water means that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts; and that a new man daily come forth and arise, who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

God grant this for us in the new year, and always that we may remain in our dear Jesus, who has saved us by His keeping of the law, and His suffering and death for us. Amen.

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

Categories
Christmas

Sermon – John 1.1-4 (Christmas Day – 2019)

Abraham was walking with his child of promise, the child that he had in old age, the child from whom the Messiah would come. This was a terrible walk, because God had instructed Abraham to sacrifice his son. Abraham, trusting that God would keep His promise with Isaac and would raise him back to life, obeyed the Lord. Isaac looked at what they were carrying up the mountain, there was the wood, and the fire, but Isaac asked, where is the lamb for a burnt offering? Abraham replied, “My Son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering.” God stopped Abraham in the nick of time. He spared Isaac, and there God provided a ram stuck in the thicket for the sacrifice. But there was so much more to it. The ram was only the type, the foreshadowing. Today, the Lord provides the Lamb. Like Isaac, this child is the seed of Abraham. But unlike Isaac, this offering that God provides is His only begotten Son. God provides the Lamb, and thus we celebrate the festival of His birth today! We sing the festival hymn: Hymn number 142, Rejoice, Rejoice This Happy Morn. Please rise.

The Holy Gospel – John 1:1-14

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.

This Is How You Will Recognize Him

Dear loved ones of God for whom the Word became flesh,

It’s been over 20 years since I graduated high school. I have not returned for a class reunion. One of the things that make me nervous about attending is not knowing someone I should know. I may not remember the person who comes up to me acting like an old pal. Or they may have so changed in appearance that I don’t recognize them. These would make for some awkward moments.

John here is helping us avoid that awkward moment with the Son of God. And actually it would be more than an awkward moment, it would be a moment of judgment with everlasting consequences.

But John is explaining to us this tremendous mystery, a truth that is beyond what our minds can understand, but something that we need to know, so that we may today recognize and know this Son of God.

This Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, is eternal and almighty God. He was in the beginning, not that He had His beginning at that time, but He already was there at the beginning. He who is YAHWEH, “I Am,” always is, and has no beginning, nor an end. But He is the Word through whom the Father brought about the beginning of all creation. “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” And the book of Hebrews says “You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.” He is your Creator. Your existence and your breath, you owe to him. The eternally divine is the Son, and has been from eternity. And still is.

But you wouldn’t recognize Him now. Here’s the terrific mystery! He has flesh and blood. True God is also true man. He was born of a woman, a Virgin, having no human father. But isn’t this what the Scriptures said would happen? Look that little child in the face, and there you see your Creator, the eternal Word, the Son of God. He whose life depends on the nourishing care of His mother is the very same one who upholds the universe by His word of power. That’s not how you would expect to see God, but so it is by His grace.

But then what’s more, 33 years later, His countenance was an image we would not expect of God, even if He is also true man. But again, isn’t this what the Scriptures said would happen? Isaiah foretold it, saying, “His visage was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men.” A bloody, suffering, dying face. That human face, the face of the eternal Son of God. Do you recognize Him?

But mankind doesn’t recognize Him in the first place, even before He became flesh. This was the problem of fallen man. The Israelites made God in the image of a calf with gold. Other nations had their gods they had created out of wood, stone, and gold. And the Israelites, even seeing God’s presence with them in the pillar of fire by day, and a pillar of cloud by day, and in the cloud of God’s glory that ascended and descended from the tabernacle. Yet they resisted Him, disobeyed Him, grumbled against Him, and believed that they knew better than Him. “The world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.”

But if they didn’t recognize Him then, they had an impossible time recognizing Him as God when He was Jesus of Nazareth, the lowly Son of a carpenter. Jesus spoke the truth about who He was. He said, “Before Abraham was, I Am.” But they accused Him of blasphemy. His works bore witness to who He was, but they rejected Him more and more. John says later in his gospel, “The Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God” (Jn 5:18). “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.

That’s our problem, too. We are sinners, and “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). Our nature has been so corrupted by sin that we reject our Creator and rebel against Him. And our daily sins are the evidence of this. Even now we do not always think God’s ways are best, we think we know better. And we disobey. By nature, we are children of disobedience, and because we were children of disobedience, we were also children of the wrath of God.

We were subjected to the power of the devil, for Jesus Himself says, “Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me” (Jn 8:43-45). Such was the darkness of this fallen world, the darkness that was cast over each one of us that we not only didn’t recognize the Light, but rejected Him. The world crucified Him.

So John’s gospel account here teaches us to recognize the Word made flesh! The Son of God has a face, a body. He has become a creature, flesh and blood like you, a human soul like you. John tells us of the wondrous mystery, the mystery of which John the Baptist testified, the mystery that John had also witnessed with his own eyes, for he says, “And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

But in order to recognize the Son of God in the Person of Jesus Christ, to not be offended by His lowly birth and passion, to acknowledge Him as our Lord, who redeemed us by His all sufficient suffering and death, well that ability is not in us. We are not born with a nature to receive the Word made flesh. Our will in its uncoverted stated is not able to receive Him. But it is God’s good and gracious will that you know the Word made flesh, and it is He who has caused you to believe in Jesus and receive Him.

You recognize Him. You confess Him in the creeds, such as we did in the Nicene Creed. He is true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary, and His is my Lord, who has redeemed me a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sin, from death, and the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy and precious blood, and His innocent suffering and death.

The eternal Son of God had a face of an infant, because He came to save the human race. He had a face that became bloody, full of sorrow, and dying, because it was through His blood, suffering, and death that He has atoned for all your sins, and won for you eternal salvation. And that once gory face, that very same face, shines in divine glory, because Christ is risen and ascended. And He didn’t shed His flesh once He atoned for our sins, but He remains man, and He is the Son of God with divine glory.

He is your exalted and loving brother in the flesh, and you are His redeemed, forgiven, and sanctified people. His face shines upon you and is gracious to you.

This is a tremendous mystery. The Word became flesh! And you know Him, and He knows 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
Christmas

Sermon – Luke 2.1-14 (Christmas Eve – 2019)

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!” (Lk. 2:1-14 NKJ)

Dear fellow redeemed,

When you consider the amount of details in Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth it is very striking. He is very particular about the times and places.

Consider the dating of this momentous event. It was when Caesar Augustus decreed a census. At the moment, Quirinius was governing Syria. And the birth took place while they were in Bethlehem.

And consider all the locations he brings up. Joseph went from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem. It was there that Mary delivered her Son. The location of the child’s bed was a manger. It wasn’t in the inn, because there was no room for them there. And then there’s the announcement to the shepherds that accompanied the historic event. The time was at night. And the location was in that same country, out in the fields. And the angel appeared before the shepherds, and told them the location of the child, and that they would find the baby wrapped in swaddling cloths.

What is the significance of this? Why did the Holy Spirit cause Luke to write so much about these details about times and locations? The beginning of Luke’s gospel helps us answer this question. There he writes, “Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.

Now we notice that Luke is writing this to Theophilus. Although there are various theories as to who this Theophilus is, his identity is unknown.

But the main point is that Luke desired to provide a historical account of Jesus. He did his research, not by reading second hand accounts in ancient books, but by conversing with eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life, and the ministers of the word that had followed Jesus in His ministry and learned from Him. The disciple, Peter, was likely one of his chief sources, but also among others, he likely had Mary, the mother of Jesus herself as a source of information about Jesus’ life, particularly regarding the history that we hear today.

And so the details are given. The facts are shared. This is a historical account written for Theophilus, and is ours today. We know the time in which it happened. We know the places that this took place. Imagine Mary telling this story and describing all that had happened and the news from the angels that the shepherds had told her, all these things which she had kept and pondered in her heart.

You can take the path that Joseph and Mary took. You can walk the town in which Jesus was born, and maybe even visit the very spot of His birth, which many say is below the Church of the Nativity. You can take in the landscape around Bethlehem and picture the shepherds there tending their flocks under the night sky. And you can see the very same sky the shepherds saw where the angel appeared to share the good news; the sky that was filled with the heavenly angels singing “glory to God.”

This is history! God was born in human flesh, and once lay there in a manger in Bethlehem, wrapped in swaddling cloths.

And the best news: He was born for you, to be your Savior. He is not a symbolic Savior, but a real Savior. The Christmas season brings with it much sentimentality, and rouses a variety of feelings. The nativity that sits on our altar, and the nativities that deck our homes, portray a beautiful scene of serenity. But it is more than sentiment. It is more than feelings and serenity. But what we see in those nativity, a reminder of the real birth of our real Savior, who is truly God entering the world, and who brings real peace to earth by taking away our sins, and thus reconciling us back to the Father. Once we were at enmity with God. But Jesus has come to take that enmity, to take our sins and their punishment, that we may have peace with God.

And so our sins, and sorrows, and pains in the world which are clearly very real, and we feel it, are answered by this real Savior born for us in Bethlehem.

What a Son that Mary gives birth to here, your Savior! Certainly, the woman that shouted to Jesus from the crowd spoke true words, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!” But Jesus speaks of those who are most blessed, He responded, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” Yes Mary gave birth to her Son, and fed Him and cared for Him. You will not behold him on Mary’s lap, but you have something better, you behold Him in His gospel, through which He comes to you with His completed salvation! You who hear this gospel this evening of your Savior’s birth and His forgiveness and salvation for you, and the peace of God which He has won for you, you who hear these words and keep these in faith, are most truly blessed! You are blessed, because Jesus, and the real salvation He has won is yours. 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.