Month: December, 2018

Pointing to the Messiah

Text: Luke 3:1-20   /  Pastor Don Mossman

Introduction

It was like any other day at the mall, people hurrying around, shopping, buying, chatting, eating at the food court and sipping on their Starbucks coffees.  Then all of a sudden a young woman stands up and begins singing, Joyful, Joyful, We Adore You. Then a tenor adds his voice, joined by harmonizing voices all around the food court.  Then going up the escalator were four tenors, singing O Come All Ye Faithful.  They were joined by some 30 other voices arranged around the eating area.  By now, a large crowd had gathered to watch and listen.  Go Tell It on the Mountain was the next.  “Go tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is born.”  As the crowd took pictures and videos of the flash mob, the choir began to sing O Holy Night.  It was at this time that costumed Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus made their way through the crowd to the central area.  Some onlookers had tears in their eyes; others huge smiles.  A spontaneous applause followed, and the people then slipped into shopping mood and dispersed.

For many in the food court, the carols of Advent and Christmas had warm and familiar meaning, but for others it was an unfamiliar story.  The carols pointed to Jesus.  Go tell it on a mountain, that Jesus Christ is born.  Indeed!  The flash mob was a voice in what one might called a wilderness, busy shopping mall prior to Christmas, pointing to the Messiah.

1. Another voice that God sent to the world

    A.  The voice of John the Baptist

  1. We hear the voice of John the Baptist, who spoke of a life to be lived in preparation of the coming of the promised Messiah. It was a real voice of a real man in a historical moment in time, asking the people to prepare their lives for the coming the Lord.
  2. Church officials came out to John to question him. Who was this man? They were expecting perhaps Elijah or that of the Messiah.  Malachi 4:5 says it this way: “See, I will send the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes.”  But John knew who he was, and he knew who he was pointing to, who was to follow him.

    B.  Today John the Baptizer puts us all on our backs and forces us to look admit the truth, we need of help in our spiritual lives.

EG: A few weeks ago, I was attempting to clean the gutters at my house of the leaves that had gathered there.  Most of you know the rest of the story.  I made some nice friends at the ER.  My wife, God bless her, was prepared to love me to the end!  Her words were, however, “That was a dumb thing to do.  Read my lips.  No more ladders.  Challenging words!  There are men out here I’m sure who have heard the same story.

  1. We are not the savior of our little world; and we are not in control of our lives, spiritual or physical. We are sinners.
  2. Those are difficult words. We are broken, flawed, and fragile human beings. It is as we confessed earlier- we are “poor, miserable sinners” before the sinless God.  And that sin will have to be acknowledged and paid for.

II.  The voice of God

      A. By faith you are what the voice of God ultimately says you are in Jesus.

  1. You are God’s redeemed and rescued child. You are the one your Savior draws near with the voice of grace and truth saying, I love you, I forgive you, I will protect you.  That’s what John’s voice declares to you.  You are a sinner, saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ – with a purpose in life. That’s who you are.

EG: If you’ve ever been to a McDonald’s Playland or a Chuck-e-Cheese, you know things can get a little chaotic for the kids.  This one youngster was afraid to get involved in the playground chaos.  So, Dad figured out a way to help his son.  He went in there with him.  Through the tubes, up the poles, in the ball pits, up the stairs; he stuck with his son.

      B.  In this challenging world we live in

  1. You’re that little child. Jesus is like that Dad. He’s right there in the middle of all of it with you.  Whether it’s sitting in a dentist’s chair or the doctor’s office, or with strings of lights that burn out right after you put them in the spot that’s hardest to reach, or through stress through finals and computer crashes, colds and flu, depression or cancer, even death and chaos, Jesus stands right there with you!  Right in the middle of your life is your Redeemer, your Savior, the miracle of God with you.

Conclusion   On a nine-foot tall painting by Matthias Grunewald entitled The Crucifixion, which was painted as an altar piece in Isenheim, Jesus is depicted on the cross with a collapsing Mary and St. John holding her up to this right, and Mary Magdalene kneeling, looking up to Jesus.  On his left is shown a lamb shedding its blood into the cup of blessing.  The lamb reminds us of John’s statement, upon looking upon Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.”  To Jesus’ left is John the Baptist with an open book, pointing to Jesus.  The print behind reads, “I must decrease; he must increase.”  Thank you, John, for pointing us once again to the Messiah.

Blessed is He Who Comes

First Sunday in Advent /December 2, 2018 / Deacon Rex E. Watt

Jeremiah 33:14-16 / 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 /Luke 19:28-40

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit +  Amen

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

When you were on a road trip with your family, did your kids ever ask, “Are we there yet?”  It seems that children march to a different drumbeat of time than parents do.  All they know is that they are on the way to Grandma’s, or maybe Disneyland, and they just want to be there.  They are not interested in the journey.  Their only focus is on the destination.  The Church and the World are like that too.  They march to different drumbeats.  To the world, it’s already Christmas.  And in case you haven’t noticed, it’s getting earlier and earlier each year.  I can remember when the first Christmas decorations in the stores came out after Thanksgiving.  Then they started showing up before Thanksgiving.  This year, I’m pretty sure I started to see stuff show up in the stores before Halloween!  It seems that they cannot get enough of Christmas.  But a Christmas without Christ is no Christmas.

But for the Church, it’s not Christmas yet.  Christmas is still four weeks away.  It’s Advent.  And by the way, in the Church year, Christmas officially starts at the Vigil of Christmas, known as Christmas Eve, and lasts for 12 days, beginning on Christmas Day.  Do you see how the Church and the world march to a different time?  To the world, Christmas is this ever increasing time of shopping that culminates on Christmas day.  The day after is called Boxing Day.  And while there appears to have been some sort of charitable basis for the establishment of Boxing Day, it seems to have devolved into the day you pack up all the Christmas decorations (since Christmas is over) and get on with life.  But for the Church, it’s not Christmas yet.  It’s Advent.

So, what is Advent?  Advent comes from the Latin word “Adventus” which means “coming, or arrival.”  It is the season of the Church year during which we turn our attention to the “coming” of Jesus.  You may be wondering about the texts for today’s readings.  If Advent is about the coming of Christ and precedes Christmas, shouldn’t we be hearing about the Virgin Mary; Bethlehem; a star; a manger?  Why are we reading about Jesus riding on a donkey into Jerusalem?  Dear Saints of Redeemer, the readings for this First Sunday of Advent lay the foundation for what we are going to hear for the next four weeks, and beyond.  They speak of Jesus’ coming to us, and for us; past, present, and future.

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.  In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.”  The next verse following our Old Testament reading says, “For thus says the Lord, ‘David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel…’”  Jeremiah wrote these words some 600 years before the birth of Jesus.  Jesus came, as promised, to fulfill the promises God the Father made with His people.  Those promises began all the way back in the Garden of Eden, after Adam and Eve’s fall into sin, which plunged all of humanity, including you and me, into enmity with God.  The Lord gave this first promise when He said to the serpent in Genesis 3:15, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”  Later, the Lord promises to Abraham, “Through thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” (Gen 22:18)  And in 2 Samuel 7:12 the Lord promises to King David, “I will raise up thy seed after thee, who shall build a house to my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.”  The Apostle Paul in the book of Galatians identifies this Seed, as Christ.

This Christ, this Jesus, your Jesus, comes riding into Jerusalem in our Gospel text for today, which also being read on Palm Sunday gives us a clue as to why we hear it again today.  This is Jesus coming into Jerusalem at the start of what is to become Holy Week.  He is coming to die.  Make no mistake about it, Jesus knows why He is here.  He is here to fulfill the prophecy of Zechariah which we heard in our Introit, “Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation…”  He is riding a donkey, not a war horse.  He is not here to overthrow the Romans, but to overthrow Satan’s rule over the world.  A thousand years earlier King David, on a donkey, rode out of this very city fleeing Absalom’s rebellion.  Today, Jesus, the true Son of David, is riding into Jerusalem to face the rebellion of sin, death, and the devil, and to give His life as a ransom for you, for me, and for the world.

We needed Jesus’ first coming.  Had he not come as the Babe of Bethlehem he could not have ridden into Jerusalem to fulfill God’s plan for your salvation and mine.  We are going to have plenty of opportunity to marvel at the Gift of God in the Incarnation of Christ in the weeks to come.  As we wait, let us not be like children who whine, “Are we there yet?”  Rather let us be like the Psalmist who wrote, “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.  O my God, in you I trust: let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me.  Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame… Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths…for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.”

We need Jesus’ second coming.  In case you haven’t noticed, the world seems like it’s going to hell in a hand-basket.  That shouldn’t surprise you.  Paul wrote about it in the early chapters of his letter to the Romans.  Jesus has been talking about it for the past few weeks in our Gospel lessons.  He will come, as promised; just as He came as promised the first time.  And when He does, dear Saints, He will finally “establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father.”

In the meantime, as we reflect on Jesus’ first coming in the weeks ahead, and as we await his second coming whenever that may be, let us remember His promise to be with us always, to the end of the age.  Jesus comes to you today in the humility of His Word and Sacrament to deliver the fruits of His Passion: the forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life.  He comes to you in His living and active Word, whether you hear it proclaimed from this pulpit, read it on your own, or study it in Bible class.  He comes to you in the word of forgiveness pronounced in the Absolution each Divine Service.  He comes to you every time you remember your Baptism when you repent of your sins.  He comes to you in a most real manner when you partake of His body and blood here at the foot of this Altar.  This Jesus, your Jesus, who was born in a manger in Bethlehem; who rode into Jerusalem to be our sacrifice; who laid down His life on the cross for our sins; who rose in triumph to defeat our enemy: death; who ascended to the right hand of the Father, is the one who came for you; comes to you now; and will come to get you and take you to be with Him forever.  Blessed is He who comes.  Come, Lord Jesus.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.