Sunday, December 26, 2010

Feast of St. Stephen

Today's readings were 2 Chronicles 24:17-22; Acts 6:8-7:2a, 51-60 (sermon text); and Matthew 23:34-39.

St. Stephen's story reminds us that we are to be martyrs in the church militant until Christ's return. Stephen, with other elders in the early church, was chosen to distribute bread to widows to facilitate apostolic Gospel preaching. In his ministry we see three patterns:
  • Martyred for preaching the Word. Israel was constantly against God and against His prophets. Stoning was supposed to be reserved for blasphemers, but with Stephen it was reversed. Prophets were killed by their hearers.
  • Sermon like Peter's (Acts 2). Stephen preached the Law to show that Jesus is the Christ; he intended to convict the hearers' hearts. You crucified Jesus - but God made Him Lord and Christ.
  • Death like Christ's. The crowd thought it was doing the right thing. Regardless, like Jesus, Stephen forgave his enemies and commended his soul to his Father (notably, to Jesus Himself!).
Preach the Word; point to Jesus; be ready if needed to die for your faith.

Soli Deo gloria.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Day

This morning's readings were Isaiah 52:7-10 (sermon text), Hebrews 1:1-6, and John 1:1-14.

Today is a feast day! This birthday is of Someone who was born - and died - and lives again for eternity. Christ, the Glory, the Word, is flesh among us! This is good news for all people, so proclaim it. All the ends of the earth receive good news by the messenger with beautiful feet. This good news concerns a triumph in battle, that for our souls. Our Champion accomplished His goal! We can be joyful in this, regardless of personal circumstances. Look at Christ. In His presence is fullness of joy.

Soli Deo gloria.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

Tonight's readings were Isaiah 9:2-7, Titus 2:11-14, and Luke 2:1-14 (sermon text).

Seven points about the Christmas story...
  • DECREE. Jesus is born under the law, even Caesar's. He fulfills all prophecy about Himself.
  • JOURNEY. Christ is born into David's lineage, in David's city, Bethlehem, for both His earthly parents were descended from this king.
  • BIRTH. Jesus is born into utter humility - a stable.
  • SHEPHERDS. Christ is born for all vocations, even the lowliest. Angels, fear-inspiring, were sent first to these men in their fields! Appropriately, He is the Good Shepherd, the most holy and glorious God, of which glory we all fall short.
  • PEACE. Jesus is born as the good news to all men, so the angels told the shepherds not to fear.
  • SIGN. Christ is born as God's humble sign, a fulfillment of prophecy, a swaddled, manger-lying baby.
  • GLORY. Jesus is born to bring peace to His children. The angels therefore sang that glory is ascribed to God in the highest, and peace given to those with whom He is pleased.. God loves you and is pleased with you for Jesus' sake, not for whatever good you've done. Responsively, worship Him every day, every hour, your whole life. Rejoice in His forgiveness of your sin! God is love.
Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Advent 4

Home for the rest of the month. Today's readings were Isaiah 7:10-17 (sermon text), Romans 1:1-7, and Matthew 1:18-25.

God told a prophet, Isaiah, to give a king military advice - ! Why? God wanted to protect the future Messiah's tribe. Israel and Judah certainly needed this protection because of pugnaciousness (civil war after 3 kings, invasion by surrounding countries). Ahaz didn't trust God's promise to protect, so he trusted in Assyria instead. God still gave him a sign although he refused one.

Understand that your plans are in the LORD's hands. You have a brain, but He made that brain! All depends on Him, not on you. Looking for a sign at every turn isn't the way to go; listening, however, is. Trust, obey, love Him. Heed His voice; do not harden your heart to it.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Advent 3

Lessons and Carols! Today's readings were Genesis 3:9-15, 22:15-18; Isaiah 9:2, 6-7; Micah 5:2-5a; Luke 1:26-28, 2:1-16; Matthew 2:1-12; and John 1:1-14.

Music surrounds us, teaches us, tugs our heartstrings, permeates our psyches. The LORD tells us through His prophets to make music to Him - glorifying Him and edifying our brethren. Christmas carols, for example, teach Scripture. Four notable setting of Christmas-related Scripture:
  • Magnificat - Mary magnified the infant Lord while yet pregnant with Him.
  • Benedictus - Zechariah blessed God after John's birth.
  • Gloria in excelsis - angels proclaimed the good news to the shepherds.
  • Nunc Dimittis - Simeon prayed upon seeing the Christ-child.
Weigh your music by God's Word! Lies can be catch; the truth of Scripture is our norm, so steep yourself in musical settings of it. sing your Lord's praises at all times and in all places - join the Church choral!

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Advent 2

Today's readings were Isaiah 11:1-10, Romans 15:4-13, and Matthew 3:1-12 (sermon text). The theme: "The Ax, the Trees, and Good Fruit."

"Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." In each Lutheran church, before each sermon, these words are proclaimed. Our pastors preach thereby the good news of Christ to us, unfaithful sinners, each Sunday. What about the hearers of John the Baptist? They got nothing but Law - produce good fruit, or else! Isaiah proclaims this today as well - because Israel was proud of its sin, God would chop it to a stump. Historically, this had already happened several times.
  • When the golden calf was made, 3000 died because of it.
  • When the spies came out of Canaan, doubt prevented an entire generation from entering the Promised Land.
  • Kings of Israel and Judah were repeatedly unfaithful.
It left a stump, as Isaiah said. But how could there be a shoot as well? And was that shoot immune from amputation? Isaiah 53:2, 5 says that God cut off Christ Jesus at the Cross - but there the ax was laid down. God gave up His own Son, showing GRACE to us. In MERCY He made Christ our propitiation, freely offering forgiveness. He came to us as a frail shoot to give us strength. We find PEACE where Isaiah says it is: the King's place of rest, His church with its gifts. Sinners kneel adjacent to receive forgiveness; children are baptized into Christ.

Soli Deo gloria.