Month: January, 2019

Today…in your hearing

Third Sunday after Epiphany / January 27, 2019 / Deacon Rex Watt

Neh 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10 / Psalm 19:(1-6) 7-14 /

1 Cor 12:12-31a / Lk 4:16-30



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

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


Dear Saints of Redeemer, isn’t it exciting when a celebrity comes to town?  It’s even more exciting if the celebrity is a product of your own hometown.  We have some celebrities that our communities can lay claim to:  Jake Locker of Ferndale, who was starting QB for the UW for four years, and spent four years as QB for the Tennessee Titans; Hillary Swank, a graduate of Sehome HS who is an academy award winning actress; Doug Pederson, a Ferndale HS grad who went on to a multi-year NFL career, most recently as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, winning the Super Bowl just last year; and Stephen S. Oswald, a 1969 graduate of Bellingham HS who went on to the US Naval Academy pursuing a career as a naval aviator/test pilot, and eventually became a NASA astronaut with three space shuttle missions and 33 days in space to his credit.   If any of these celebrities showed up at our church services, we’d beam with pride.  Home boy/home girl made it good.  If we knew they were coming, we’d invite friends and relatives to come and see and get in on the excitement.

In our Gospel lesson for today the synagogue in Nazareth was beaming with pride.  As Luke tells the story, Jesus had returned from His temptation and been going about Galilee teaching in their synagogues, being glorified by all.  Mark gives us more details of the events leading up to our reading today, outlining several healings and miracles prior to His return to His hometown Nazareth.  But today is special!  It’s the Sabbath and Jesus has returned home.

“And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day.”  Jesus went to church regularly.  He was obedient to the Third Commandment.  This would have been his home synagogue, where he grew up, where He went to synagogue school with the other boys in town, and where He would have heard, studied and learned by heart the Scriptures.  But this Sabbath day was different from others.  Jesus didn’t come to the Nazareth synagogue because he was “the son (as was supposed) of Joseph” (Lk3.23), to be a hearer of the Word; he was there as a teacher of the Word, a rabbi, a guest preacher in his home congregation.

The people of Nazareth had never seen this side of Jesus before.  They had never heard him speak in the synagogue.  Synagogues operated without professional clergy.  Elected presidents or rulers of the synagogue would select a man to read the Scripture and expound upon it, prompting a general discussion.  Visiting rabbis were prime choices for this privilege, so Jesus was invited to read and teach.  This would be a new experience for Jesus, and the people of Nazareth, for although Jesus grew up in their midst, he had never read publicly the Scriptures nor offered his comments, since the custom was that until a man reached 30, it was required that he be a hearer; to listen to his elders.  Jesus, having now attained that age, was invited to read.  “And he stood up to read.  And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him.  He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor’” (vv 16-19).

“And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down.  And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.” (v 20)

Then came the sermon.  It was not a lecture on theology; a list of ten steps to a better you; or even a rally for some social issue.  It was simple, profound.  “Today,” Jesus said, “this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (v 21)  “What Isaiah wrote,” Jesus says, “is about me!”  It’s as if the words of the prophet walked right off the pages of Scripture and stood right in front of them.  And actually, that is exactly what happened.  Jesus, the Word who was in the beginning, who was with God and who was God, who became flesh was coming to his own, and just like the Apostle John wrote, “…his own people did not receive him.” (Jn 1.11)

The people of Nazareth couldn’t believe their ears.  “Is not this Joseph’s son?” (v 22) they asked?  No, not really.  He’s “the Son of God” (Lk 1.35) conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.  He is, as Isaiah wrote, and Jesus just declared, the Anointed One, the Christ, the Messiah.

Dear Saints of Redeemer, we don’t have to wait for some celebrity to come to our church.  The celebrity of celebrities is here.  This Jesus, your Jesus, the Word in human flesh, the Word that’s living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, is present here, as he was in Nazareth, to deliver the Good News of salvation to you who are poor and needy; to proclaim liberty to you who are in debt with sin; to give sight to you who walk in darkness; to set you who are in bondage free; and to let you know that the Jubilee of the Lord has begun. It all happens “in your hearing” – literally in your ears.  That is how Jesus makes himself and his forgiveness known to you.  Saint Paul wrote, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Rom 10.17)  So today, in your hearing, right here at Redeemer, this Scripture is again being fulfilled: Jesus, the Christ, comes with the Lord’s favor for you.

A few weeks ago I asked you why you come to church.  This, dear saints, is why.  Every Sunday, flesh-and-blood Jesus, true God and true man steps into our gathering.  He comes to us in his Word again and again, never tiring to bring us forgiveness, life and salvation, week in and week out.  Sunday isn’t about you or what you are doing here, though it is good that you are here.  What matters is that he is here…here for the depressed and despairing, here for the sinner and the sinned against, here for all who are oppressed, victimized, abused, taken advantage of, and suffering.

Unfortunately, like the people of Nazareth, not all who hear believe.  All they see when they look at Jesus is that he is Joseph’s son.  What do they want with Jesus?  Apparently not the good news he proclaims, the liberty he brings, the sight he restores, or the freedom he promises.  They want him dead.  Those people of Nazareth dragged him up to the brow of a hill to throw him off so that he’d be bruised, wounded, stricken and crushed as he fell.  Today, people simply want him silenced.  They want to shut any mention of Jesus out of the public square.  It’s as if they have an innate fear of hearing his voice – lest they be convicted of their unbelief.  Yet his voice still speaks, and you, dear saints have heard that voice.  That’s why you are here.  That’s why you keep coming back here.

The voice of Jesus cries out to you from another hill.  This one he willingly ascends for you.  Despised and rejected by his people, he carried his own cross along with all of your sins, my sins, and the sins of the whole world to the top of that hill where he, bruised and wounded, stricken, smitten, and afflicted was crucified being delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.  This same Jesus was laid in a tomb only to be raised from the dead after three days for your justification.  Just prior to his ascension, having given his disciples the commission to proclaim his gospel, baptize, teach and forgive sins in his name, he promised to be with them always, even to the end of the age.

My friends, there is no need for a celebrity.  Jesus, the Living Word, comes to you every time Scripture is read, studied in Bible class or proclaimed from this pulpit.  He came to you in your Baptism, washing you clean from the guilt of your sins, giving you his Holy Spirit as a down payment of your inheritance.  And he comes to you each and every time you kneel at this altar and receive his very body and blood broken and shed for you on the cross of Calvary for the forgiveness of your sins and strengthening of your faith.  “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them” he said. (Mt 18.20)

You dear saints of Redeemer have received the good news, so you are no longer poor, but rich in his grace; you have been set free from your captivity to sin by your burial with him in your Baptism; he has opened your eyes like he did for the two disciples on the road to Emmaus; he has freed you from the oppression of the guilt of your sins; he has brought you into his eternal rest, the Jubilee of the Lord’s favor.  Today, in your hearing, the Scripture is again fulfilled: Jesus, the Christ comes with the Lord’s favor, for you.  Amen.

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

The Baptism of Jesus


First Sunday after the Epiphany / Baptism of Our Lord

Isa 43:1-7 / Rom 6:1-11 / Lk 3:15-22

Deacon Rex E. Watt


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

Prayer for blessing on the Word.

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

Kids grow up fast, don’t they?  While the adjustment to having a newborn in the house is sometimes daunting, I have yet to hear a parent say, “I just wish they’d grow up faster!”  It usually goes something along the lines of, “They’re already walking?  They’re already driving?  Oh my gosh, they are graduating…where did the time go?”  Our pericope readings for the past few weeks have been like that.  A few weeks ago, we were at the manger peering in on the baby Jesus.  It just seems like yesterday the Magi were bringing the young child gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Today, we find Jesus all grown up!

The Bible doesn’t tell us much about the childhood of Jesus.  Other than the story of him in the temple talking with the teachers of the Law when he was twelve years old, what we’ve read over the past several weeks is about all we know.  Jesus’ childhood and growing up years were probably pretty unremarkable, pretty quite, pretty unassuming.  That is about to change.  Today we read about the event in Jesus’ life that marks his entrance, the beginning if you will, the manifestation, the revealing, the Epiphany, of why Jesus came.

We are in the season of the Church Year called Epiphany.  Do you remember the meaning of the word, “Epiphany?”  It is an uncovering, a revealing.  Something has been hidden, or unnoticed, and now it is revealed.  Sometimes we use the term in the sense of “Aha! Now I get it!”  We say that we’ve had an epiphany.  A question that I’d like you to keep in mind as we travel through this season of Epiphany is, “What is God’s Word telling me about Jesus that I would not have known, thought about, or considered before?”  Our text for today is about Jesus’ baptism, so we want to be asking the question, “What is this text telling me about Jesus that I haven’t been thinking about before?”

Have you ever wondered, “What is Jesus doing here?”  John was baptizing with a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  People were coming to John from all over confessing their sins and being baptized by him.  Jesus had no sins.  He did not need to confess anything.  Why in the world was Jesus coming to John to be baptized by him?  Shouldn’t this be the other way around?  Shouldn’t John be getting baptized by Jesus?

Jesus is here, for you!  He comes to John to be baptized not because he needs to confess anything.  He comes to John to be baptized in order to become like one of us.  In the waters of the Jordan, he is not washing away any sins he has, he is having the sins of the world washed onto him as part of the “great exchange” that the Apostle Paul refers to in 1 Cor 5.21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  In Jesus’ baptism by John, Jesus is identifying with us poor sinners.  Only sinners need to be baptized.  Jesus is taking onto himself the filth of our sin so that he can carry it to the cross where he will pay the ultimate penalty for your sin, my sin, and the sin of the whole world.

Picture with me, if you will, a pool of water where a shepherd stands and bathes his sheep who are covered with the dirt, filth, grass and dung from months of being out in the fields.  Sheep after sheep come into the pool with the shepherd and he washes each one until they are spic and span clean.  The water is a mess.  Then he spots one beautiful, totally clean lamb waiting its turn.  Should he wash that lamb?  If that lamb steps into the water, it’s going to take on all the muck floating around in that now filthy pool.  John said to Jesus, “I shouldn’t baptize you.”  And Jesus said to John, “Yes, you should!”  Your Jesus, circumcised on the eighth day shedding his first blood for you; presented in the temple at forty days old keeping the Law for you while still an infant; now steps out in public, for the first time that we know of, and so completely identifies with us, lost and condemned persons that we are, that he takes on the burden and guilt of all of our sins.

And when he does, the most incredible thing happens.  “The heavens are opened, and the Holy Spirit descends on him in bodily form, like a dove, and a voice from heaven says, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’”  God Almighty, the creator of the universe, by voice which was heard by all who were standing nearby, and by a sign, seen by all who were standing nearby affirms that his son, Jesus has begun to do all that he was sent to do.  The heavens, which were shut to mankind after the Fall into Sin are now opened.  The Spirit of God who hovered over the waters at creation and came and went upon people of the Old Covenant now rests upon Jesus to be given to whomever he will.  And the voice of God, which has been silent for 400 years is heard once again.

So what does all this mean for you and me?  When we compare Jesus’ baptism with our baptism, we see this “great exchange” at work.  In Jesus’ baptism, he is identifying himself with you, me, and every other sinful human being who ever lived or will live.  He takes on our sins, and becomes one with us.  In our baptisms, we are joined to Christ in a death like his, receive the forgiveness of our sins that he paid for on the cross nearly 2,000 year ago, clothed with his righteousness which he gives to us freely as a gift, made heirs with Christ and receive the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our inheritance.  Needless to say, it seems to me that we, poor miserable sinners that we are, get the better deal in this exchange.

Returning to our question that we asked at the beginning of our time together, “What is this text telling me about Jesus that I haven’t been thinking about before?”  What is the “epiphany” in this text?  Let me suggest a few:

When Jesus came to be baptized by John, he did it for you.  This is not just an historical note about something that happened to Jesus.  The sinless Son of God, the second person of the trinity, the savior of the world, came to John to be baptized, for you.

This Jesus, whom God declares to be his beloved son at his baptism by John, declares you to be his sons and daughters in your baptism.

As God has now made you his children, he makes you full heirs of his kingdom.  Children inherit from their parents.  God gives you his Holy Spirit as the down payment, the guarantee, of your inheritance.

As you have been united with Jesus in a death like his, as the Apostle Paul wrote, you dear Saints will certainly be united with Jesus in a resurrection like his.

“When you pass through the waters, [he] will be with you”  “He called you by name, you are [his].  No matter what you go through in life, your Lord Jesus will be with you.

Dear Saints of Redeemer, God your father, at your baptism, opened heaven for you.  He gave you his Holy Spirit to enlighten your eyes to see the work he was doing, forgiving you your sins, he also gave you ears to hear his voice anew: “You are my beloved son/daughter; with you I am well pleased.”  Amen.

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

The Mystery Revealed

Texts: Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12  — Pastor Don Mossman


I recall the time a student made an insightful statement in one of my classes.  Try as she might, she just didn’t understand the theory we were discussing.  Then she said, “Oh, now I get it.”  My response?  “Great.  You’ve just had an epiphany.”

It’s satisfying to finally understand some things after having wrestled with the mysterious for some time.  Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.”  It enables us to dream, to imagine, to see things we could never otherwise see.  For example, the Scriptures proclaim that, “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above shows his handiwork.” (Ps. 19:1)  I am told, and hang onto your hat, that there are some 10 billion galaxies scattered through the visible universe.  And when I gaze up at the stars on a clear, dark night, I am amazed at the mysteries that go into God’s creative work.

Our lessons for this Epiphany Sunday speak of a Light that sheds belief or understanding of mysteries previously unknown.  Isaiah (Is. 60:1-3), often said to be the Gospel of the Old Testament, speaks of the Light promised, the light shining on the darkness of God’s people around the world.  St. Paul sheds translucent light on the inclusion of the Gentiles peoples.  Indeed it was and still is to a great extent, a mystery too deep for humanity to grasp unless the Spirit grant it.

I.  In the darkness of sin

     A.  Herod was an evil man (Matthew 2:1-12)

  1. Herod was a wicked man. He was insecure, suspicious of anyone who would even think of taking his throne.  When he heard that the Magi were asking questions about a newborn king, the Scriptures say he was greatly troubled, together with all Jerusalem.
  2. I guess so! Because of this suspicion, he had one son killed, a brother-in-law, his own wife, and others of his royal court because of uncontrolled suspicions of someone wanting his throne.  In response to the inquiry of the Wise Men, and to eliminate any challenge to his throne as he saw it, he had every male baby up to two years killed in and around Bethlehem.  He was as spiritually dead as a stone.

     B.  Description of our society

  1. Peggy Noonan, American author of books on politics, religion and culture, is quoted as saying that in this our society, “Everyone’s in the dark looking for a light switch.”  Perhaps that is too extreme a view for some of you, but it bears similarity to our society today.  Another insight: bumper sticker: “I’m lost! Where am I going?”
  2. So it is in the lives of many in this world. The law in the form of the Ten  Commandments or that written on the hearts of men and women are ignored or trampled upon.  Living in the darkness of sin they cannot see or deal with the seriousness of their sin.

III.  The Light of God

        A.  The real star of Bethlehem is Jesus

  1. We have every reason to rejoice this 12th day of Christmas, for when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that he might be the light to lighten both the Jewish and the Gentile peoples around the world. We read as to how these Wise Men were very intelligent and were able to interpret the meaning of a new star, which is something no one else in the world was able to do.  They looked at the star and it was revealed to them that the promised Messiah had come.  Not even the Jews knew that.
  2. In our lesson in Ephesians, Paul speaks of the fact that he would never have been able to understand the promises of God if they hadn’t been revealed to him. The first of these “mysteries” as he called them, was that the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together with one body, and shared together in the promise in Christ Jesus.
  3. Now this was a very counter-cultural thing for a Jew like Paul to understand. It wasn’t easy coming to understand that God’s grace is for Gentiles also. It took direct intervention by Jesus on the road to Damascus to reveal God’s intended truth.  Yet, it shouldn’t have been surprising, for these “mysteries” are consistent with the many OT prophesies that Peter, Paul and the rest of the Jews should have been familiar with.  God’s grace was intended for all people throughout the entire world.  God’s love knows no limits and it recognizes no boundaries.  Jew/Greek, slave/free, male/female – it is inclusive.


The Hubble telescope repeatedly reveals new mysteries of the heavens.  My jaw never ceases to drop when I look upon the glorious, beautiful, amazing handiwork of God.  I don’t understand it all, yet I marvel at it and its beauty.  God’s wisdom is even more beautiful.  How can he show love to people like me who have done nothing to deserve it?  The answer is God’s Son Jesus.  His love is constant, unfathomable and limitless.  And I am ever so grateful for that epiphany.

The Mystery in the Manger

Christmas Eve – December 24, 2018  — Deacon Rex Watt

Luke 2:8-20


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

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

The contrast is striking.  While every year the Christmas retail season starts earlier and earlier and the hype gets more and more intense, the first Christmas was not an intense affair at all.  If anything, it seems to be quite calm and quiet in comparison to today’s festivities.

Now in our culture, you cannot blame people for trying to make a buck.  Ethel Merman, the famous actress/singer of a generation ago, belted out her signature song, “There’s no business like show business,” and she was right.  Show business is fine in its place.  But show business has no business in God’s business.  Christmas has its entertainment side and its retail side, but we have not come here tonight to be entertained.  We are here on God’s business.  And God’s business is to call a halt to all the busy-ness of our hectic lives and this hectic season so that we might discover anew the good news of great joy that was proclaimed so long ago to shepherds on Bethlehem’s plain: “Today… a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2:11).

As Mary looked down at the tiny baby wrapped is swaddling cloths Scripture tells us that she, “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”  What were all those things?  It wasn’t the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, for those didn’t come until later.  It was the words spoken by the angel to the shepherds, who in turn had told them to Mary and Joseph.

Could it really be that the Lord, the God of hosts, who feeds all creation, who opens up His hand to satisfy the desires of every living thing, could come as a helpless infant boy?  “Good news of great joy that will be for all people” (Lk 2:10), the angel had announced.  This was no pipe dream.  These words were from the very mouth of God.  Her firstborn son was none other than the long awaited for Messiah, the promised Redeemer, God in human flesh and bone.  No wonder Mary kept all these words and pondered them in her heart.

You and I can do no less on this holy night.  For when all is said and done, there is nothing else to say or do that could add the smallest luster to this day.  This is the Mystery in the Manger: God in diapers, here among us.  God in a crib – who some 30 years later will be God on a cross, made to be sin for us that He might remove forever the curse of sin and the sting of death.

This little baby, so cute and innocent, so meek and so mild, came for one purpose, and one purpose only.  He came for you, and he came for me.  Those cute little feet, with those tiny little toes (you know, the kind that we take ink prints of and put up on our nursery walls or on infant

t-shirts), would soon walk the dusty paths of this earth, be anointed with tears, and be pierced with nails for you, and for me.  Those cute little hands, with those cute little fingers, would soon be fashioning furniture, healing the blind and the lame, feeding the multitudes, and be stretched out and nailed to a cross for us.  Those swaddling cloths will be exchanged for a tunic that will be stripped away from his body, which will then be beat, spit upon, flogged, and crucified for you, and for me.  That cute little head will have a crown of thorns mashed down upon it causing blood to flow from head to toe for us.  That cute little mouth with those reddish rosy lips cooing in the cool evening Bethlehem breeze will before long cry out, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” as He hangs on the cross paying the penalty for your sin, for my sin, for the sins of the whole world.  Soon after that He will utter His final words, “It is finished!”

Finished!  Hmm.  Soon, in a few hours actually, the world will be finished with Christmas.  Everything will fade away.  The glitz and the glitter will soon be packed up and put away to be stored for another day, another year, actually.  The excitement of children and the happy glow of all that we’ve come to expect from this holy night is illusive and fast fleeting.  All too soon it’s come and gone.  But not this: Treasure in your heart the Mystery of the Manger, God made flesh for your salvation.  He comes for every soul distressed, and lonely, and grieving.  He comes for every wounded mind and heart.  He comes with peace that passes all understanding, with forgiveness, life, and salvation.  He comes for you…and you…and you…and you.  (Sigh) And for me.

Amen.  Come Lord Jesus.


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

The Beauty of Love

Text: 1 John 4:10   Theme: The Awesome Beauty of the Love of God — Pastor Don Mossman


Away in the Manger, a favorite Christmas carol.  While in AA, I was a member of a Lions Club that had the tradition during the Christmas season of going to a lower income retirement residence to distribute a gifts and sing Christmas carols.  I was volunteered to choose and print a number of familiar Christmas carols.  One I chose was “Away in the Manger.  However, somehow the resulting title came out “Away in the Manager.”  Manager?  I had some explaining to do.

I.  Naughty or nice

     A.  Just look at the words.

  1. Now you might also call me a Grinch (or a Scrooge) by my choice of a non-favorite Christmas carol. That would be “Santa Clause is Coming to Town.”  Why you ask?  Well, let me explain.  (Read portions of lyrics)  I find it a little creepy that for 364 days of the year Santa Claus is checking on our bad deeds.  For youngsters, that can be a bit terrifying.  That applies to adults as well.  Yes, all those naughty things you’ve done are being recorded and brought up to the North Pole and Santa.  And he’s checking it twice!  Scary, isn’t it.  (Today he probably uses twitter, text, email, or Instagram…)
  2. And to top it all, there is apparently “Elf on the Shelf” characters that are Santa helpers.  Each night they zip up to the North Pole while you are sleeping to tell Santa about those “naughty” things you’ve done in thought, word, and deed, and thus earning those dreaded lumps of coal in your stockings.

     B.  We don’t need Santa or his elves to check who’s been naughty or nice.

  1. We’ve all been naughty, that is, we have failed to live the lives of God’s people who speak of Jesus as Lord and Savior. In our busy lives, some which may resemble chaos this time of the year, we forget the reason for the season.  It happens.
  2. Sign in kitchen “Love spoke here…” Family of four young children plus two adults.  Apparently, they needed the reminder among the children as well as adult parents.

II.  The love of God that erases all sin.

      A.  Reassuring Christmas cards

  1. We received a picture Christmas card from our son, daughter-in-law and three-year old granddaughter. Simple, yet expressing love.  Their daughter appeared comfortable, happy, and loved, yes, so very loved.  And there was no way that she could fully know the height, the depth, or width of the love that she generated in the hearts of parents and extended family. Yet she lived securely in the glow of that love.
  2. That’s the way it is with God’s love for us. We acknowledge the love, we welcome it, we speak of it, and it is warm and deep and real.  It is as beautiful as in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world…”   And with us, there is no way we can fully know the depth of the Father’s love or us 24 x 7, every day, every hour, a love that doesn’t change or diminish.  Christmas expresses and shares a picture of that beautiful love in the person of Jesus, born of Mary, born to the world.  See LSB, #425, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, verses 1, 3 and 4.  “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”    

      B.  A love that does not diminish.

EG: Some months ago, I went into my stash of handwritten letters that I had received from my wife when we were dating.  Yes, I still have them.  I’ve read a few of them to her after dinner in the evenings.  On occasion my wife would say, “I said that?  No way!”  Letter after letter reminded us both of the love that we received from each other then and the love we now live in.  (By the way, all the letters I had written to her, she threw away.  Seriously!)  And we have had to be reminded of that love a few times in our lives.  As Shakespeare said in A Midsummer Night’s Dream “The course of true love never did run smoothly.”

  1. Our Lord Jesus will take your sins to the Father and say, “Here’s what I found, and here’s what I am going to do with them. I am going to pay for them, and take their names off the naughty list and place my name there instead. In exchange I will give them mercy, forgiveness, peace of heart and mind, and the promise of eternal life.”
  2. So today we bask in the beautiful love of God, a love that never wavers, flickers, or goes out. There is no one whom he doesn’t love, no one who has been so naughty that he would turn his back on them or deliver a lump of coal in the manger. No one!


In place of “Santa Claus is coming to town”, substitute “God loves me dearly.”  Read 1st and 4th verses.  Nobody telling on you or gossiping about your naughty behavior.  You are loved dearly.  Toss the elf on the shelf out the window.  Free up your children.  Free yourself.  “Unto you this day in the city of David is born a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”



Are You The One?

Third Sunday in Advent, December 16, 2018 — Deacon Rex Watt

Zephaniah 3:14-20 / Philippians 4:4-7 / Luke 7:18-35


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

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

Have any of you read the Judith Viorst book, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day?”  In it, little Alexander is having the worst day of his little life.  One thing after another goes wrong for him.  He went to sleep the night before with gum in his mouth and woke up with gum in his hair; when he got out of bed, he tripped over his skateboard, and then dropped his sweater in the sink while the water was running.  He could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.  Later, at school, his teacher Mrs. Dickens liked Paul’s picture of a sailboat better than his picture of an invisible castle.  At singing time, she said he sang too loud; at counting time she said that he left out the number 16.  At lunchtime, he discovered that his mother had forgotten to give him dessert.  It was just one thing after another, all day long.  It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.  Little Alexander didn’t have much reason to be Gaudete.

Have you had days like that?  I know I have.  Days in which it is impossible to Gaudete, to rejoice.  In our text today, John the Baptist doesn’t seem to have much reason to rejoice.  He is in prison.  John had been placed there because he called out Herod for committing adultery with his brother’s wife.  Prisons in those days weren’t like prisons today.  There were no TV’s, beds or showers, toilet facilities, libraries, internet access, medical care, or three hot meals a day.  Prison was essentially a dark, dank dungeon where you’d be chained to a wall, left to waste away.  If, and when death came, it was a blessing.

There are two schools of thought about John’s question to Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”  One view believes that John is expressing doubt about whether Jesus is truly the Messiah or not.  The other view believes that John could not possibly have such doubts given his earlier proclamations about Jesus.  “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on Him…And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God” (Jn 1:29ff).  This view believes that John is sending these two disciples to Jesus for their benefit, not because he didn’t believe.  While the text doesn’t explicitly say which of these two views is correct, I tend to think that John is like you and me.  He was born of sinful flesh just as you and I were.  He has the Old Adam in him just as you and I do.  When we have terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days; weeks, months or years, we sometimes struggle in our faith, don’t we?  Why should we think John is any different?

I think John was struggling in his faith because he had the same expectations as the rest of the people concerning the Messiah.  While his earlier preaching did point out that Jesus was the Son of God, he also talked a lot about the axe swinging at the root of the trees; the wrath to come; the winnowing fork clearing the threshing floor and separating the wheat from the chaff; a baptism with holy wind and fire.  All that language was in line with the expectation of a coming Messiah who would rescue the people of Israel from the Roman rulers.  But Jesus wasn’t cooperating.  Jesus was going around and preaching about liberty to the captives and the oppressed.  He wasn’t raising an army; he was eating with tax collectors and sinners.  Are you the one, or shall we look for another?”

Jesus answers John’s question by His actions.  “In that hour He healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight.”  Then he told John’s disciples to go back to John and tell him what they had seen and heard, quoting two passages from the book of Isaiah: “the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the good news preached to them.”  Jesus pointed John back to the Scriptures to answer his question.  Scripture doesn’t tell us what John’s response to these words was.  Did he smile?  Did he shed a tear?  Did he dance for joy?  Maybe, like Mary, he quietly pondered these things in his heart.

The most important thing Jesus says in His response to John is, “and blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”  That word “offended” in the Greek means “scandalized.”  Jesus is saying, “Blessed is the one who is not scandalized by me.  Blessed is the one who does not stumble over my unwillingness to use power, my apparent weakness against the forces of darkness, my victory hidden in defeat.  Blessed is the one who believes what is written of me in spite of what he sees around him, who sees life in my death, who sees kingdom in my cross.”  Dear Saints of Redeemer, today listen to what Jesus says to John, and to you.

John’s struggle with doubt gives encouragement to all Christians, for all Christians struggle with doubt.  Doubts can have a variety of causes.  One of those causes is unmet expectations.  One reason we have doubts about Jesus is that He turns out to be different than our expectations.  Some of us expect Jesus to be the provider of all good things that we want: the giver of bling.  Some expect Jesus to be the healer of all that besets us or ails us, whether physical or emotional: the good therapist.  Some want a Jesus who is a social justice warrior.  Others want a Jesus who is a good moral example.  When you listen to some so called contemporary Christian music you might even think Jesus is your boyfriend.  You may be struggling to make ends meet.  Always seeing more bills to pay than resources.  You may be wondering why your Jesus isn’t supplying your every need.  Maybe that cancer has come back, that injury isn’t healing, your feelings of inadequacy or depression won’t go away.  You may be wondering why your Lord hasn’t relieved you of your suffering.  You look around the culture today and wonder where is God in all this mess.

Dear Saints of Redeemer, rejoice!  Gaudete!  As we heard from Zephaniah this morning, “The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst.”  This little baby, whose birth we will be celebrating in a little over a week from today is not only the King of the Jews, but is in fact the King of Kings.  Do not be fooled or scandalized.  Beneath the weak little legs of this Babe of Bethlehem is the power to crush the head of the devil.  Attached to the little thumb being sucked on, is the hand that will be nailed to the cross for your sin and for mine.

Everyone wants to have a little Jesus in a manger with their Nativity sets at home, but no one wants a crucifix (a cross with a body on it) displayed, either in their home, or God forbid, in their church.  My friends, you cannot have an empty cross until you have an occupied cross.  This little baby Jesus, who’s first coming we are getting ready to celebrate, came for one reason and one reason only.  He came for you!

He came to take away your spiritual blindness and give you eyes to see so that you would turn from darkness to light; He put His fingers into your ears so that you would hear the good news preached to you and believe; He has lifted your drooping hands and strengthened your weak knees so that you may no longer be lame but walk as children of the light; He has cleansed not only your leprous diseased flesh, but washed you with the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit; and He has raised you up with Him and seated you with Him in the heavenly places.  He did all this for you by His birth, life, death, burial and resurrection.  He is the one who is in your midst today.

With joy we listen to His Word…words we heard earlier today: “The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down” (Psa 146:8); “The Lord, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil” (Zeph 3:15); “He will quiet you by His love” (Zeph 3:17); and, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Php 4:7).

Blessed is the one who is not scandalized by the cross of Jesus.  Blessed is the one who has not seen yet believes.  Blessed is the one who sees the dawning Day in the darkness.  Blessed are you, trusting that Jesus is the One, who came, who comes, and will come again.  You need not look for another.  “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.”  Come Lord Jesus!  Amen.

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