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Showing posts from December, 2016

By His Blood and in His Name

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“And at the end of eight days, when He was circumcised, He was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb” (Luke 2:21). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! Those of you growing up with siblings can probably relate to this scene. It’s the day after Christmas. As you shower, get dressed, and eat breakfast, you plan your entire day. It’s going to be a great day! You’re going to spend all your time playing with that favorite gift. But when you go to get it, it’s gone! Immediately, you know where to start looking. You noticed that covetous look in your brother’s eyes. Barging through his bedroom door, you catch him red-handed. “Give it to me!” you yell. “That’s mine!” And even though he knows full well it was your Christmas present, he replies, “I don’t see your name written on it!” Thinking back, I realized that’s maybe why Santa brought my brother, sister, and me label makers. Wise old …

Mid-week Advent: The Lord Will Give You a Sign--Himself!

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“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). Ahaz, the king of Judah, was in a tight spot—mostly of his own making, and he was very afraid. He was facing two enemies, the northern kingdom of Israel and Syria, both of whom were looking to conquer the Promised Land. To make matters worse: Ahaz was looking in all the wrong places for help. When God offered to help, Ahaz refused, and sought an alliance with heathen Assyria instead. Rather than worshiping and trust the Lord, Ahaz was bowing down to false gods—he even sacrificed his own son as a burnt offering to one idol. We could cite more examples of his faithlessness, but that’s enough to demonstrate that Ahaz was dead in sin and an enemy of God. But Ahaz was the king of Judah, and God had promised to preserve a remnant of Judah. Therefore, God sent Isaiah to the wicked, fearful king and said, “Ask a sign of the Lord you God; let it be …

Good News of Great Joy for All People

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“And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger’” (Luke 2:10-12). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! The heavens are not silent in shame when the eternal, almighty God is born a helpless baby. They sing! “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!” Perhaps they’ve chosen the shepherds as their audience because they are the only ones who might appreciate a Savior whose birthing room is filled with the pungent aroma of hay and manure. But there in the manger lies the swaddled Creator, all wrapped up in the things of creation—infant holy yet infant lowly, a diapered divinity. You might suppose all this to be beneath God, but you’d be wrong. The Incarnation is…

Mid-week Advent: How Has He Saved Us?

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“They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you’” (Isaiah 35:2b-4). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! Almost plaintively, the cradle hymn cries, “Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay close by me forever and love me I pray” (Lutheran Service Book, 364:3). How every Christian’s heart burns with this desire! To have the Lord near us, to have Him so close at hand, you can see Him and hold Him and hear Him! That would be wonderful, wouldn’t it? As we have heard repeatedly this Advent, the Lord has heard our cry. Jesus became Incarnate and lived among us, starting His life here on earth humbly, His glory hidden as the Baby in the manger, fully newborn man though fully eternal God. As St…

Midweek Advent: For What Has He Come?

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Your God Will Come with Vengeance

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“Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not! 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 unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy’” (Isaiah 35:3-6). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! Today is the Third Sunday in Advent, Gaudete, the Sunday we light the pink candle as a symbol of joy. So why are we talking about God’s vengeance and recompense? Why do we need the pep talk? Even John the Baptist, the last of the Old Testament prophets and the first of New Testament, seems to need his weak hands strengthened, his shaking knees made firm, his anxious heart stilled. Where is the joy? I suspect that John might have been having the same questions. Locked in prison, facing immin…

Flee from the Wrath to Come

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Click here to listen to this sermon. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:7-8). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! John the Baptist is preaching in the wilderness of Judea, down by the Jordan River. This is a big deal. And Matthew wants you to realize this, so he gives you some of John’s credentials. John is the fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 40:3, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight.’” John is there to flatten mountains and fill valleys, to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah—and the saving comfort that He brings. John’s wardrobe and diet is as coarse as his demeanor: a robe of camel’s hair and a leather belt tied around his waist, locusts and honey for breakfast, dinner, and supper. It’s not the lates…