Monday, December 28, 2015

A Christian New Year's

Our Redeemer will have a New Year's Eve service, with Holy Communion, at 6:30 pm.

"And at the end of eight days, when He was circumcised, He was called Jesus" (Luke 2:21).

A Christian celebration of New Year's would endeavor to include three things:

1. The ongoing celebration of Christmas (December 25-January 5)

2. The circumcision and naming of Jesus (Luke 2:21)

3. Prayer at the start of a new year

The following hymn, "Now Greet the Swiftly Changing Year," manages to incorporate all three things.

Now greet the swiftly changing year with joy and penitence sincere.
Rejoice!  Rejoice!  With thanks embrace another year of grace.

Remember now the Son of God and how He shed His infant blood.
Rejoice!  Rejoice!  With thanks embrace another year of grace.

This Jesus came to end sin's war; this Name of names for us He bore.
Rejoice!  Rejoice!  With thanks embrace another year of grace.

His love abundant far exceeds the volume of a whole year's needs.
Rejoice!  Rejoice!  With thanks embrace another year of grace.

With Him as Lord to lead our way in want and in prosperity,
What need we fear in earth or space in this new year of grace!

"All glory be to God on high, and peace on earth!" the angels cry.
Rejoice!  Rejoice!  With thanks embrace another year of grace.

God, Father, Son, and Spirit, hear!  To all our pleas incline Your ear;
Upon our lives rich blessing trace in this new year of grace.

(Lutheran Service Book, 896)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, begun in the name of Jesus who shed His blood for us!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Heroic God

By Richard Wurmbrand

"Unto us a child is born" (Is. 9:6).

In the Hebrew original this prophecy about the coming of the Savior continues as follows: "Unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, heroic God (El Ghibor)...."

It was surely a heroic decision to leave heaven and the world of angels, having decided for Himself to be born in a stable, to be in danger of death from early childhood, to live an entire life of sorrow which end would be crucifixion, for the salvation of mankind who would show no gratitude for this sacrifice.  Our Lord knew that ultimately good would triumph because of this sacrifice, so He made it.

Christmas is the memorial of the birth of a heroic God.

The main feature of His followers is heroism.  Shallowness and lukewarmness do not belong to Christianity.

A renowned preacher, whose father had been a drunkard and his mother a pious woman, was taught by the latter from early childhood a particular spiritual exercise.  He would put on the floor a wine glass, playing cards, dice, pornographic magazines, some money, his own picture, and would trample on it all, shouting, "No!  No!"  And again, "No!  No!"  Then he would say to himself, "I belong to a heroic God, and I will always say 'No!' to any temptation to sin."

Let us commemorate the Nativity of a divine hero, forsaking the comfortable ways and making the decision which all heroes in history have made: "To win or to perish, but never to yield."

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Christmas Is for Children

This Sunday, December 20, the Sunday School children will present their Christmas program.  The following devotion is in honor of that.  I wrote it years ago, but annually it helps me prepare my heart for Christmas.
 
God must have had children in mind when He planned the Christmas Gospel.  For the story is just full of the sort of things children like and can understand.
 
For starters, there are lots of animals: a donkey, sheep, camels.  There's a barn with hay, and more animals.  Add to that shepherds, angels, a special star, kings with treasures, and a curious object called a "manger."  In the middle of it all a mommy keeping her baby warm.
 
Luke 2:1-20 reads like a play for children to put on, complete with manageable speaking parts and a little carol for all to sing:
 
Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace, good will toward men.
 
The only one littler than the children is their Lord in the manger.  The children learn in this way to go near to Him, love, and trust in Him.
 
God is nothing if not a teacher, a teacher of children, and a teacher about Himself.  The Incarnation (God coming in our flesh) is the single greatest theological mystery.  Yet God conveys it in a way understandable to a child.  And then calls all of us to "become as children" (Matt. 18:3).
 
God grant you - this Christmas and always - the wonder, joy, and faith of a child!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Comings of Christ

"Blessed is He who comes" (Ps. 118:26).

This time of year (the end of one Church Year and the beginning of another) we intensify our anticipation of the coming of Christ on the Last Day.  And soon we will celebrate Christmas and His coming from heaven the first time.  We speak, therefore, of the "first" and "second" comings of Christ.

But there are, all together, three comings.  A third coming of Christ is His coming in Holy Communion.  The three go together.  What they have in common is the true bodily coming of Christ.

It is helpful, though, to put things in order and so to refer to the "past," "present," and "future" comings.

Past = His conception, birth, life, words, actions, suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension.

Present = Holy Communion.

Future = "He will come to judge the living and the dead" (Apostles' Creed).

He came.  He comes.  He will come.

We keep a right and balanced faith when we put our trust in Christ and hold each of His comings in equally high regard.  No coming is greater or less than the others.

Yet, the present coming in Communion plays a special role in that it touches both the past and future and joins them together.  Listen for this (if you have the chance) in the Communion liturgy.  It looks both back and forward, even as it accents the forgiveness of sins delivered right here and now.

He camecomeswillcome!

Rejoice greatly that our King comes to us in such a marvelous threefold way!