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Tuesday, December 31, 2019

God's Christmas Card

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son..." (John 3:16).

This picture (below) was taken on Christmas Morning, and I felt as though it was God's Christmas card.

The only thing hanging on my living room wall is that crucifix.  The rest of the "card" is the result of the sun shining through my living room window, near which I had put two small Christmas trees, and in which I had put "Merry Christmas" (facing out).  The head at the lower left is mine.

It's the whole Gospel.  It's a reminder that the Gift given on Christmas would become the Gift given on Calvary.  The rising sun, which made the picture possible, may remind us of the resurrection.  I am a firm believer in this Gospel, and I know that you are too!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

With love,

Pastor Matt


Friday, December 27, 2019

John's First and Last Loves

On December 27 of each year, the Church remembers St. John - apostle, evangelist, and the disciple whom Jesus loved.

The Gospel of John has more occurrences of the word "love" than Matthew, Mark, and Luke put together.  "Love" is used in one form or another over fifty times.  For a devotion, a person could read through the Gospel of John and carefully mark each time the word "love" is used.  But simply looking at the first and last times offers an important lesson.

The first time is John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life."

The last time is John 21:20: "Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them...."

The lesson is this: God loves the whole world and all people to the point of freely sacrificing His only Son.  But this cosmic, worldwide love is at the same time a personal love felt deeply by the one who believes in Jesus.

Make the Gospel of John your own.  Believe that "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29) knows, loves, and forgives you personally.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Mary CHRISTmas

"And she gave birth to her firstborn son" (Luke 2:7).

Thought: "Merry Christmas" could also be written, "Mary CHRISTmas," keeping the focus on Christ and yet remembering to honor His blessed mother.

Mary CHRISTmas!

Saturday, December 14, 2019

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!

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

A New (Church) Year's Resolution

"I was glad when they said to me, Let us go to the house of the Lord!" (Ps. 122:1).

No, this devotion is not a month early.  Sunday was new year's day in the Church, the beginning of a brand new Church Year.  And the first season of the year is Advent.  If Friday was "Black Friday," Sunday was "Blue Sunday," the color of Advent.

As I told my congregation, new year's day in the Church calls for a new year's resolution.  And ours is this: To be filled with gladness at the thought of going to church.

Psalm 122 is the Psalm for the First Sunday in Advent.  And its opening statement should be memorized: "I was glad when they said to me, Let us go to the house of the Lord!"  Or: "I was glad when they said to me, Let's go to church!"  I was glad.  I rejoiced.  I sang in the car on the way to church!

You'll find yourself thinking, I can't wait to get up on Sunday morning and go to church, because it's the Lord's Day, in the Lord's house, with the Lord Himself, with my brothers and sisters in the Lord, with my pastor, and with our faith in the crucified-risen Lord Jesus Christ!

That's the spirit!  That's the Holy Spirit, whom you have!!  Don't put anything in His way!

This year, ask God to make you say, pray, and sing from all your heart, "I was glad when they said to me, Let us go to the house of the Lord!"

This devotion is in memory of John Hosie.