Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Sunday, December 24th, 2017

Christmas Eve Sunday, December 24, 2017
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Http://www.orlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

Based upon Martin Luther’s Sermon for Christmas Vespers, Luke 2:8–14
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Today, in all of our readings and hymns, we’ve been given every reason to make this a time to celebrate; if we really are Christians then we have a lot to rejoice over, because God has sent His Son into our flesh. No one can ever really understand all that this truth means, not even when we will see Him face to face in heaven. Because you see, even the angels do not completely understand His taking on our flesh, but they know it’s something to rejoice about, even though it has nothing to do with them, but instead it’s only for us sinners. The angels are blessed spirits, because they were not conceived and born in sin like us. They have absolutely no need for a Savior. And yet, as we heard read today, they sing with great joy because a Savior has been born for sinners like us.

Look there in your mind’s eye and see that great band of angels standing and praising God. It’s as if they can barely contain themselves, waiting for the one angel to finish proclaiming:

“Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy!” [Luke 2:10]

No sooner than the last word is spoken do they break out with such a shout and song of praise that fills the heavens with great joy: “Glory to God in the highest!” [Luke 2:14]. Friends, this is a song that we can never truly understand or appreciate the power of its meaning; we can only try to sing along with them with as much power and joy that our sinful flesh can muster.

You know dear friends, even if this very great act of praise had nothing to do with us, but in reality it has everything to do with us, but even if it didn’t, we still would be obligated to rejoice along with the angels. But it does have to do with us; it has everything to do with us. You see, the eternal Son of God has taken on our flesh; He has become one with us. Even though we are poor and sinful human beings, He still chose to come to us, as one of us. If someone comes from a privileged background or they are simply related to some famous celebrity, they love to brag: “Oh, this is my brother, my brother-in-law, or my uncle the famous…,” and with that, they feel like they are someone special. So if the world knows how to rejoice in their relationships, why shouldn’t we do the same about our God; about our Savior?

Think about this for a moment, no matter how poor you may be, or how sick or unloved you are, that is only temporary, because God Himself has taken on your human nature in both body and soul for the purpose of elevating you beyond what you are now.

If only we, too, could praise Him as the angels!

If the president were to come here today and ask us to take his daughter in as a member of our church, a member who would bless us with great offerings of wealth that would assure us of a long and fruitful fully financed ministry, we would celebrate like there is no tomorrow. But what is that in comparison with the truth that the One who is God with the Father and Spirit has come down and become one of us?

Now I know that this is a different way to present the Christmas truth to you, but we need to understand what a great honor it is that the Son of God has become one of us. It is an honor that is greater than any of God’s angels have experienced. If God did nothing else for us but this great honor, we would have plenty to brag about and celebrate.   The angels can’t brag and say, “God became an angel like us.” No, but instead, He became a human being. Don’t you think that that just might be the reason the devil and his legions fell from God’s grace; could they have been jealous that God became one with us and not them?!

Why give glory to God in the highest? Because He has become your brother; that is a reason to give Him greater glory that any president, politician, celebrity, or family member. I believe that the devil saw what would happen if the Son of the Triune God came to live among us, as one of us. Isn’t it true that He is still trying to stop God’s children, the Son of God’s brothers and sisters from giving Him glory; from recognizing Him for who he is, our King? And if we are honest with ourselves, the devil is doing a pretty good job directing us away from our chief work of giving God glory. Be honest now, even without the work of the devil, how often do we really admire the beauty of the world without glorifying its creator? Oh Lord, forgive us for the lack of glory we give to you, and may you continue to beat back the devil and our own sinful pride.

Today, let’s see if we can’t let God’s light enter our hearts and help us see the need to give Him more honor and glory. Not only has God’s Son come down to be our brother, he has come down “for us men and for our salvation.” That is why the angel said:

“Unto you is born Christ the Lord (that is your Savior).” [Luke 2:11]

Listen, the fact that the Son of God became like us would be more than enough reason to give Him praise and glory, but that is not all He has done, you see, He has also become your Savior. You were born under the power of sin, death, and the devil, but it is His desire to free you from these things.

Now the devil and our sinful society laughs at this and calls it foolishness. We’re told that only simpletons believe in that kind of fairytale. They’ll say, “Now think about it for a moment. You believe that the Heavenly Father, put His Son in a young woman’s womb, then He was born and she nursed Him, only to let Him die a criminal’s death upon the cross—and all this took place for our sakes?” And to that we answer, “Yes that is the truth!” “Well” interjects the devil, “if you really believe that, then why don’t you live like you believe it? Why aren’t you praising your Savior so much that it tires you out?” And this dear saints is the predicament we find ourselves in today. For many of us, it is a source of misery and sadness, the fact that we read this scripture and hear it preached and it doesn’t seem to change us. We know that it’s the same truth that the prophets proclaimed and the angels sang about; it is the very same message that the shepherds reported and that which the apostles proclaimed and died for. It is one in the same message that the Church still sings about every Lord’s day, but it seems to have very little power over our daily lives. Why do we seem more like a lifeless stump than the brother or sister of our Savior God?

And yet, we still hear that the holy angels sang not only, “Glory to God in the highest,” but also “on earth peace among those with whom He is well pleased!” [Luke 2:14] So now, hold on just a minute; let’s not give up either our hope nor our joy just yet. Did you hear what the angel said? He said, “those with who God is well pleased.” Friends, that means that this little baby brings more than just a need to praise God, but the reality that through Him God is now pleased with us sinners. Now, I think that we are on to something. You see, God didn’t send His Son into the world to bring us fear or worry, but instead, we are to receive God’s goodwill; His desire to bring us peace. Understand now, this isn’t goodwill that you’ve earned; it’s simply a gift, or as God calls it, “grace”! This is why He encourages us to sing “Glory!”—even if we don’t seem to understand this; even if we seem to sometimes be unchanged by it, glory in your God and His Son any how; give Him the praise! Praise Him for all the works He does, but especially for this one, He gives you goodwill, peace with God! That is He gives you grace, love, and mercy even though you have given Him no reason to be so generous. Here is the reason even your sinful flesh must agree He deserves praise, not only in heaven among His angels, but even here, even from you.

Now I’m sure you can see, especially in these sinful times, we have a need for God’s goodwill; for His peace and righteousness. But won’t you agree that the fact that God has sent His Son as your brother and Savior is far greater than just saying God gives you goodwill? Isn’t that enough to move your heart to praise His name? But if you do not praise him and give him glory, won’t the devil accuse you of being separated from God? Yes he will, but that is not God’s judgment, nor His heart! God desires that you Christians should rejoice, delight, and be comforted in the truth that God has come to you, because… you… could not… come to Him!

Yes you will glory in God and give Him the praise, but not because you must, but because you can. You see, this is a different kind of glory and praise; it is the kind that does not need effort but only truth. What is that truth? Simply this: the Savior was born for you, so that you can acknowledge not what you have done, but what the merciful Father has done, so that we can boast and say, “I will praise the Lord because He has given His Son to me.” That is the praise, which God desires, “Glory to God in the highest.” So, we do not boast of the work that we do, but the work that placed the Son of God on Mary’s lap and then upon the cross.

Again, in my mind’s eye, by faith I see in this Child, this Son of God, not only a reason to glory, but I also find salvation.

Here, we see the God child nursing at Mary’s breast, and we rejoice with joy and give thanks so much that our hearts are changed and we see all things and all people in a different light. That is truly what singing with the angels, “Goodwill to men” means. Our hearts are now flooded with a joy that is not dependent upon circumstances but the simple truth that declares that through this Child, God is well pleased to dwell with you!

God came to you when there was no reason that He should come. You haven’t earned His coming but still He comes. This is the gospel that the angel was to announce, “I bring you glad tidings;” your sins are removed on account of the coming, and the full ministry of this God-child. So what is our response? Naturally, we give Him thanks and praise; we become peaceable, and have goodwill towards others.

This Child Jesus was born and given to you for this reason: that you would know that you have been honored and redeemed by God Himself. Embrace the Child and kiss Him, and say that He is your Jesus, your Lord and Savior; He is your God. He cannot just be Mary’s child, He must be yours even more than He is Mary’s Son. If He is yours, then you will be able to face anything that comes your way in this sinful world. With Jesus, you can stand firm against the devil and even your own death. Wherever He is, there you also will be, in death and in life. [John 14:3]

Today dear friends, I hope you will take this time to examine your life; let the truth of God lead you to see whether you have received this Child as your own, and whether you are glad in it. Test your life to see whether you believe in this truth, and if you do, then allow it to change your ways. If you find no improvement, no goodwill towards God and others, then you must conclude that it is not well with your soul. Christ is doing you no good. Do not think: “It is enough that I go to Church.” No it isn’t, because you haven’t yet begun to believe. But the fault for your lack of faith lies only with you and not God. He still calls out to you to believe and declare with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth (FOR ME) peace is (mine if I will not reject it).

I close with this final thought for your consideration. God has honored you above all angels and creatures, you have been blessed so highly that presidents and royalty are nothing in comparison to you; and more than that, you have been saved from your sins, and now, even death, sin, and the fires of hell can do nothing to you.

So now depart in God’s peace, and allow His Spirit to teach you to sing: “Peace to all sinful men and women, even for me.” In Him alone, may you find heavenly joy, so that nothing is so reassuring and sweet to you as Christ your Lord. If you find all that to be true, then by the power of God, may this day be a new beginning as you begin again your life in Christ. And in this new life, by God’s work, may you find peace and joy alone in Christ, His Holy Word, and the work He does for you in His blessed Holy Sacraments, as He keeps you blameless at the coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ. AMEN!

Glory to God in the Highest!

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego

Christmas Eve A, December 24th, 2013
Based upon Martin Luther’s Sermon for Christmas Vespers, Luke 2 [:8–14]

Click here for audio of this message

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

This evening, in all of our readings and hymns, we’ve been given every reason to make this night a time to celebrate; if we really  are Christians, then we have a lot to rejoice over, because God has sent His Son into our flesh. No one can ever really understand  all that this truth means, not even when we will see Him face to face in heaven. Because you see, even the angels do not  completely understand His taking on our flesh, but they know it is something to rejoice in, even though it has nothing to do with  them but only for us sinners. The angels are blessed spirits, because they were not conceived and born in sin like us. They have  absolutely no need for a Savior. And yet, as we heard read tonight, they sing with great joy because a Savior has been born for  sinners like us.

Look there in your mind’s eye and see that great band of angels standing and praising God.  It’s as if they can barely contain  themselves, waiting for the one angel to finish proclaiming: “Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy!” [Luke 2:10]  No sooner than the last word is proclaimed do they break out with such a shout and song of praise that fills the heavens with exuberant joy: “Glory to God in the highest!” [Luke 2:14]. Friends, this is a song that we can never truly understand or appreciate the power of its meaning; we can only try to sing along with them with as much power and joy that our sinful flesh can find.

You know dear friends, even if this very great act of praise had nothing to do with us, but in reality it has everything to do with us, but even if it didn’t, we still would be obligated to rejoice along with the angels. But it does have to do with us; it has everything to do with us. You see, the eternal Son of God has taken on our flesh; He has become one with us.  Even though we are poor and sinful human beings, He still chose to come to us, as one of us. If someone comes from a privileged background or they are simply related to some famous celebrity, they love to brag: “Oh, this is my brother, my brother-in-law, my uncle the famous…,” and with that, they think they are someone special. So if the world knows how to rejoice in their relationships, why shouldn’t we do the same about our God; about our Savior? Think about this for a moment, no matter how poor I may be, or how sick or unloved I am, that is only temporary, because God Himself has taken on my human nature in both body and soul for the purpose of elevating me beyond what I am now.

If only we, too, could praise Him as the angels! If the president were to come here this evening and ask us to take his daughter in as a member of our church, a member who would bless us with great offerings of wealth that would assure us of a long and fruitful fully financed ministry, we would celebrate like there is no tomorrow.  But what is that in comparison with the truth that the One who is God with the Father has come down and become one of us?

Now I know that this is a different way to present the Christmas truth to you, but we must understand the great honor it is that the Son of God has become one of us.  It is an honor that is greater than any of God’s angels have experienced.  If God did nothing else for us but this great honor, we would have plenty to brag about and celebrate.   It is a great thing that even the angels can’t brag about, saying, “God was made an angel.”  No, but instead, He became a human being. Don’t you think that that just might be the reason the devil and his legions fell from God’s grace; could they have been jealous that God became one with us an not them?!

Why give glory to God in the highest?  Because He has become your brother; that is a reason to give Him greater glory that any president, politician, celebrity, or family member.   I believe that the devil saw what would happen if the Son of the Triune God came to live among us, as one of us. Isn’t it true that He is still trying to stop God’s children, the Son of God’s brothers and sisters from giving Him glory; from recognizing Him for who he is, our King?  And if we are honest with ourselves, the devil is doing a pretty good job directing us away from our chief work of giving God glory.  Be honest now, even without the work of the devil, how often do we truly admire the beauty of the world without glorifying its creator?  Oh Lord, forgive us for the lack of glory we your church give to you, and may you continue to beat back the devil and our own sinful pride.

Tonight, let’s see if we can’t let God’s light enter our hearts and help us see the need to give Him more honor and glory.  Not only has God’s Son come down to be our brother, he has come down “for us men and for our salvation.”  That is why the angel said: “Unto you is born Christ the Lord (that is your Savior).” [Luke 2:11]  You see, the fact that the Son of God became like us would be more than enough reason to give Him praise and glory, but that is not all He has done, you see, He has also become your Savior. You were born under the power of sin, death, and the devil, but it is His desire to free you from these things.

Now the devil and our sinful society laughs at this and calls it foolishness.  We are told that only simpletons believe in that kind of nonsense.  They’ll say, “Now think about it for a moment.  You believe that the Heavenly Father, put His Son in a young woman’s womb, then He was born and she nursed Him, only to let Him die a criminal’s death  upon the cross—and all this took place for our sakes?”  And to that we answer, “Yes that is the truth!”  “Well” says the devil, “if you really believe that, then why don’t you live like you believe it? Why aren’t you praising your Savior so much that it tires you out?”  And this dear saints is the predicament we find ourselves in this evening.  For many of us, it is a source of misery and sadness, the fact that we read this scripture and hear it preached and it does not seem to change us.  We know that it is the same truth that the prophets proclaimed and the angels sang about; it is the very same message that the shepherds reported and that which the apostles proclaimed and died for.  It is one in the same message that the Church still sings about every Lord’s day, but it seems to have very little power over our daily lives. Why do we seem more like a lifeless stump than the brother or sister of our Savior God?

And yet, we still hear that the holy angels sang not only, “Glory to God in the highest,” but also “on earth peace among those with who He is well pleased!” [Luke 2:14]  Now hold on just a minute; let’s not give up either our hope nor our joy just yet.  Did you hear what the angel said?  He said, “those with who God is well pleased.” Friends, that means that this little baby brings more than just a need to praise God, but the reality that through Him God is now pleased with us sinners. Now, I think that we are on to something.  You see, God didn’t send His Son into the world to bring us fear or worry, but instead, we are to receive God’s goodwill; His desire to bring us peace.  Understand now, this isn’t goodwill that you’ve earned; it’s simply at gift, or as God calls it, “grace”!  This is why He encourages us to sing “Glory!”—even if we do not seem to understand this; even if we seem to sometimes be unchanged by it, glory in your God and His Son any how; give Him the praise!  Praise Him for all the works He does, but especially for this one, He gives you goodwill, peace with God! That is He gives you grace, love, and mercy even though you have given Him no reason to be so generous. Here is the reason even your sinful flesh must agree He deserves praise, not only in heaven among His angels, but even here, even from you.

Now I’m sure you can see, especially in these sinful times, we have a need for God’s goodwill; for His peace and righteousness. But won’t you agree that the fact that God has sent His Son as your brother and Savior is far greater than just saying God gives you goodwill?  Isn’t that enough to move your heart to praise His name?  But if you do not praise him and give him glory, won’t the devil accuse you of being separated from God? Yes he will, but that is not God’s judgment, nor His heart!  God desires that you Christians should rejoice, delight, and be comforted in the truth that God has come to you, because you could not come to Him!

Yes you will glory in God and give Him the praise, but not because you must, but because you can.  You see, this is a different kind of glory and praise; it is the kind that does not need effort but only truth.  What is that truth?  Simply this: the Savior was born for you, so that you can acknowledge not what you have done, but what the merciful Father has done, so that we can boast and say, “I will praise the Lord because He has given His Son to me.” That is the praise, which God desires, “Glory to God in the highest.” So, we do not boast of the work that we do, but the work that placed the Son of God on Mary’s lap and then upon the cross.

So in this Child, this Son of God, I not only find glory, but I also find salvation. Here, I see the God child nursing at Mary’s breast, and I rejoice with joy and give thanks so much that my heart is changed and I see all things and all people in a different light. That is truly what singing with the angels, “Goodwill to men” means.  Your heart now is flooded with a joy that is not dependent upon circumstances but the simple truth that declares that through this Child, God is well pleased to dwell with you!  God came to you when there was no reason that He should come.  You haven’t earned His coming but still He comes.  This is the gospel that the angel was to announce, “I bring you glad tidings;” your sins are removed on account of the coming, and the full ministry of this God-child.  So what is our response? Naturally, we give Him thanks and praise; we become peaceable, and have goodwill towards others.

This Child Jesus was born and given to you for this reason: that you would know that you have been honored and redeemed by God Himself. Embrace the Child and kiss Him, and say that He is your Jesus, your Lord and Savior; He is your God.  He cannot just be Mary’s child, He must be yours even more than He is Mary’s Son. If He is yours, then you will be able to face anything that comes your way in this sinful world. With Jesus, you can stand firm against the devil and even your own death. Wherever He is, there you also will be, in death and in life. [John 14:3]

Tonight dear friends, I hope you will take this time to examine your life; let the truth of God lead you to see whether you have received this Child as your own, and whether you are glad in it. Test your life to see whether you believe in this truth, and if you do, then allow it to change your ways. If you find no improvement, no goodwill towards God and others, then you must conclude that it is not well with your soul. Christ is doing you no good. Do not think: “It is enough that I go to Church.”  No it is not, because you have not yet begun to believe.  But the fault for your lack of faith lies only with you and not God.  He still calls out to you to believe and declare with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth (FOR ME) peace is (mine if I will not reject it).

I close with this final thought for your consideration.  God has honored you above all angels and creatures, you have been blessed so highly that presidents and kings are nothing in comparison to you; and more than that, you have been saved from your sins, and now, even death, sin, and the fires of hell can do nothing to you.

So now depart in God’s peace, and allow His Spirit to teach you to sing: “Peace to all sinful men and women, even for me.”  In Him alone, may you find heavenly joy, so that nothing is so soothing and sweet to you as Christ your Lord.  If you find all that to be true, then by the power of God, may this night be a new beginning as you begin again your life in Christ. And in this new life, by God’s work, may you find peace and joy alone in Christ, His Holy Word, and the work He does for you in His blessed Holy Sacraments, as He keeps you blameless at the coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ.  AMEN!

A Peaceful Departure

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

First Sunday after Christmas Year (C), December 30, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

Click here for audio of this message

““Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lords Christ. [Luke 2:25, 26]

Merry Christmas dear Christians!  In our gospel reading we remember the presentation of our Savior Jesus Christ; a time when He was  only eight days old.  But even then as a small baby, He was true God and true man; He was already the Word of God in human flesh.  The  same living Word of God who spoke these Words of comfort: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you  the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). In other words, stop fearing that thing which you fear; do not fear it any longer. Your Father has been  pleased to give you the kingdom.

Many Christians today, still fear earthly death; their own death and the death of loved ones. But how can this be, when we who are  baptized confess the certainty of life after death each and every Sunday when we speak about “the resurrection of the body” in the  Apostles’ Creed and “the resurrection of the dead” in the Nicene creed? And still, some of us fear death, and “grieve as [do] the rest of  men, who have no hope”? (1 Thessalonians 4:13)

Did you ever stop to think that the fear of death, is like a sermon that we’re preaching to the world; it’s a message that says that we  aren’t any better off than those without Christ; by our fear, we are teaching that God can’t be trusted. Instead of displaying confidence in the certainty of Christ’s death and resurrection for our sake, we are demonstrating instead a life of doubt, uncertainty, and a lack of faith or hope in the peaceful departure our God has promised us. When you live a life of fear and uncertainty because of death, you are proclaiming a false gospel about a false god who can’t be trusted, and not the story of the living God who has already acted to give you eternal life.

And so this morning, let’s consider Simeon, a man that God declared righteous and devout.  Why was he righteous and devout?  Was there something great about him?  Was he a great leader or a man who stood out in the crowd?  No, not at all, in fact we can assume that because scripture mentions nothing about him before he met the baby Jesus, he was simply ordinary; ordinary except for one thing… he was waiting for God to fulfill His promise that a Savior would come to take away his sin and make Him right with God.  And because he had faith to trust God’s promise, God declared him righteous.  You could say that He had faith in God’s faithfulness; he knew that God would do what He said He would do.  But how did Simeon become so faithful?  Friends, the very same way you become and stay faithful… through the word of God that promised him that he would not see death until the Lord’s Christ had come.

You have the very same promise, and you also have had the promise fulfilled.  In your baptism, God’s Word not only promised you a peaceful departure from this dark world of sin, but it provided the fulfillment of the promise.  Christ has come, and in your baptism you have been clothed with not only the righteousness of Christ but also the promise that He will come again for you!

But we have a problem; we are told by this world that being assured of a peaceful departure is not that simple.  Not only do we have other religions who resent and ridicule our blessed assurance, but in fact we have people who call themselves Christians who want us to believe that there must be a little something added to the promise besides our belief.  They tell us that we must do more than just trust in God’s promises.

They will point out that we are still very much trapped in our sins, and the proof of that they say lies within our own hearts, which testify against us and about our sinfulness.  They will insist that we follow certain rules and regulations in order to know that God loves us.  Or they will tell us that our own love and service of love must be great in order to finish what God started in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  They will even insist that we acquire certain gifts or demonstrate certain acts of faith in order to know the real blessings of God.

But, when others talk like this to us, it is only evidence that it is they who do not understand God’s plan of salvation; they don’t understand what true forgiveness of sin is because they are so caught up in their own idea of what righteousness is.  They don’t understand that it is God’s Word, which calls each of us who are trusting in Christ alone His saints, or people of God.  It’s a shame that they have forgotten who we are, that we are saints already, because to forget this is the same thing as forgetting our baptism and the faithfulness of God to do what He says He will do.

These folks who claim to be our brothers and sisters, really only want to punish us with heavy consciences and guilt because of the sins they commit and think are to many or to big for God to forgive; they love to remind us that our sins are an offense to God because it helps them forget about their own sinfulness.  And instead of turning to God’s faithfulness and love they want to turn us to the same thing that they hope in… our own resourcefulness and strength.

And to this thinking, let me quote Luther’s response to the same faithless logic.  He said that just as “Motherly love is stronger than the filth and scabbiness on (her) child, so the love of God toward us is stronger than the (sinful) dirt that clings to us.  (So, even though) we are sinners, we do not lose our relationship to the Father on account of our filthiness, nor do we fall from grace on account of our sins.”

And that dear friends moves us to the solution of the problem; the very thing that Simeon declared in a song that the church calls the NUNC DIMITTIS.  “O Lord now let Your servant depart in heavenly peace, for I have seen the glory of Your redeeming grace.”

In God’s Holy Word and in the Blessed Sacraments He shows us Jesus; He shows us His glory.  In the infant Son of God holy and lowly, born in a manger in Bethlehem, God shows us His love for us by showing us the solution to our sin; He shows us the God-man crucified, high and lifted up upon a cross in Jerusalem.  You dear saints are more blessed than Simeon; he had only the promise of what this child in His arms would do, but you know the story completely.  He had the promise but you have the fulfillment of the promise.  And even more than that you have yet another promise from the God who does what He says He will do; He has promised you that He will come again to take you to be with Him in paradise.

Whether He comes for you on the last day of all creation or comes to you in your final moments at death is immaterial; He has promised you that He will take you home to be with Him!  And it is to the promise fulfilled and the promise still unrealized that we grab onto to by faith.  You are asked to live a life and tell the story about God’s faithfulness so that others may believe and be saved as well.

What is it that we are supposed to speak and model?  Well what did Simeon say?  Didn’t He say that He had seen God’s saving grace that He had prepared for all the people?  Didn’t he say that this message, this good news was to be a light of revelation to the Gentiles and for the glory of God’s people Israel?

So the message we are to live and speak to the world isn’t one of fear and trembling but faith and rejoicing.  We are to hold on to both the promise and the One who promises in heaven at the right hand of the Father, Jesus Christ our Savior.  If we fall into sin, He will be there to pick us up again; by His Word, He encourages us to keep on fighting our sin until we are finally given victory over not just our sin but even the devil and our own death.  When we fall into sin we will remember our Savior who though He fell under the burden of the sin of the world that was place upon Him through the cross, He got back up and made His way to Golgotha, where He suffered and died to take away even our sin.  When we feel filthy and unloved because of those same sins, we will remember the life giving and life changing waters of our baptism that washed us clean and made us forever holy.

So you see dear friends, our Christian faith truly is different from all other religions; it is different because it isn’t based on what we will do, but on what Christ has done.  It is different because our faith in God’s faithfulness grows stronger, even in the middle of evil and sin; even in the face of death.  But we also remember that without God’s Holy Spirit ever providing and strengthening His gift of faith through His Holy Word and sacraments, we would be just as lost as any other sinner.

So when others belittle you for your child like faith, and when they try to rob you of the joy of your salvation, turn away from anger and fear, and feel godly sorrow for those who can only trust in their own resourcefulness for hope.  And by faith, turn to and trust in a Faithful God and say, “Through Jesus Christ, I am a child of God.  And as His child all of my works that are done in faith are good.  And even when my good works are lacking, God’s Word promises me that He will not condemn and leave me, but continue to change me until I lack nothing according to His good and perfect will.”

This is the message that many find so hard to accept and receive this Christmas season, but it is the only message that will give to both sinners and the dying, a peaceful departure.  It is a message that you dear saints live out and trust in by faith, and it is marvelous in the sight of God and His church…AMEN!

Behold the Word and the Light!

Sunday, December 25th, 2011

Christmas Morning B, December 25th, 2011
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
J
ohn 1:1-14

Click here for audio of this message

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; and you know what, the Word still is God!  He was  God in the beginning, He was in the manger God, He was on the cross God, and that very same God is with us right now.  How is He with  us?  In His Word, and in the light that the Word gives to us!  Will you allow that Word to be your God?  Are you willing to live in the light  that He gives to you through that Word?  Will you receive the mystery that an eternal and almighty God can and has come to save you  as a tiny helpless baby in a manger?  Will you by faith believe that He was born from a virgin, with Almighty God as His Father?  But will  you also accept by faith that before He was born, suffered, died, rose, and ascended He was always very God of very God?  Will you by  faith receive the truth that all things that were made were made through Him, and without Him, nothing made was made without Him  and by Him?  By faith along with all of the saints, will you give a loud Amen and declare that this is most certainly true?

This declaration of faith can only be made if you have been given new life; it can only be given if God’s Word has given you light, and it  is only this Word of God that can protect you from the darkness of sin that surrounds you and seeks to fill you!  This Word of God is He that is called “Faithful and True.”  He is the “Amen, the faithful and true witness,” and the absolute “Yes”, without a single no concerning the promises of God.  He is the final and absolute revelation of God, demonstrated in God’s own Son, Jesus Christ.  Jesus, the baby, Jesus the boy, Jesus the man, Jesus the crucified and resurrected Messiah is God’s final Word to you because in Him alone we find all of the purposes, plans, and promises of God.

Now, He isn’t an attribute of God, or a power that comes out of God, but a person within God.  He is the Son of God and has always been in a constant relationship with God the Father and the Holy Spirit… with One mind and One heart; the heart and mind of God!

Because the Word alone brings light and life, then all of us here this morning must admit that without the Word of God we wouldn’t, we couldn’t be alive.  But there is another kind of life that God’s Light gives us, and it is the gift of eternal life.  So the Word of God wants to take our minds out of the physical world and turn our focus onto the spiritual world.  Just as life and light are forever joined together in the physical world, in the same way they are joined in the spiritual world.  Where eternal life is given, it is only given by the Word of God.  So where true Light is, there is also the offer of spiritual life. St. John said it this way in our Gospel reading: “In Him (the Word of God) was life, and the life was the light of men.”

John uses the word “was” and not the timeless “is” because He wants to demonstrate that this Word of God entered our world in our flesh at a specific point in time; it is the time that the Word became flesh, He took on the flesh of a baby and lived among us, as one of us.  He was born and lived among us completely as one of us, but He did it without sin.

Behold your God!  Behold your salvation!  Behold the Kingdom of God, which comes to men!  Behold the Word and the light of God, which has taken on our flesh!  The Word did not stop being what He was before when He came to us, but He did become what He wasn’t… He became flesh!

The Word and Light of God has come to us, to give us faith, but He also comes to point out our unbelief.  You see there are many people who refuse the Christmas gift of God because they can’t understand this gift with their reason and logic.  They can’t accept the fact that this same Jesus who was born as a baby is also the timeless Word of God, the Only begotten of the Father, who is full of grace and truth; a Word that is the eternal God.

The Word is God’s speech, thought, and conversation with Himself and within His divine heart.  It is a conversation, a Word that is unknown to angels and men.  This Word remains unknown until God chooses to reveal it, and reveal it He has through Jesus Christ.  In Jesus the Word of God took on our flesh and proclaimed God’s love and forgiveness to us!

The creator of the world came to His creation, but His creation would not receive Him!  Why?  Isn’t He the Light that shines in the darkness?  Isn’t He the Light that reveals all truth?  Is there something wrong with the Light, the Word of God?  No, there is nothing wrong with the Light; there is something wrong with a creation that insists on living in darkness.

In our society we give a lot of respect to the men and women of science and rightly so, but when science trumps the Living Word and Light of God we can actually begin to loose God’s Light.  What I mean is this, when you let it bother you that God can’t be proven scientifically, then isn’t that kind of like lighting a candle to see the sun?

I’m afraid that the Light of God seems to make very little progress in the world because the world refuses to see Him as He chooses to present Himself.  This world of unbelief is so saturated with darkness that it doesn’t even fear God, but it does fear His light that brings them His truth and life.  Now just because the Light of God seems to make very little progress does not mean that the Light is ineffective.  In fact, I would say that we are blessed to live in this time, because the light is shining so bright right now!  It’s God’s Light that’s brought you here this morning.  It’s His light that’s brought you into the church, through Holy Baptism.  It’s the light that made you, who were once not God’s people, God’s own children!

(But) “He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him.”  That was the greeting the Word of God was given when He was born in the manger in Bethlehem.  As wise men sought out His presence, Herod, the king of Judah sought Him out to kill Him!  Even though He would grow up to enter His office as the Savior of the World; even though He performed many miracles, signs and wonders and spoke life giving Words of faith and light, His own people crucified Him!

But we aren’t doing any better today.  When if ever, do you see the church of God, the body of Christ united together as one heart and mind, setting themselves towards the very mission of God to build the Kingdom of God?  We are so fractured and even competitive; we care more about our budgets and styles of worship than we do about reaching the lost; people who are dying without Jesus Christ.

If all Christians really believed that Jesus was the only true Light of the World and they fought to keep that belief, to share that belief, then we would really begin to see the outward expression of our faith become uniformed and united towards building His Kingdom; a Kingdom that will have no end!

Listen to what Luther said even back in His time and see if it doesn’t ring true within our own congregation: “I am preaching to all of you (here).  But how few of you improve (your lives because) of my preaching and accept the blessed Light in faith and are enlightened by it!  Indeed, my sermons find faith only in a (few) of you.  But in spite of this I am and remain the pastor and teacher of you all.”

Can you hear the frustration in Pastor Luther’s words?  What was true then is still true today: not everyone here this morning believes in the Christmas message.  But that doesn’t take away a thing from the Word of God, the Light of God, and the mission and work of Jesus Christ!  He still remains the Light which saves all people.  From the beginning of the world up till its end Jesus is the true Light.

Jesus is our Light and He is very God of very God, begotten not made.  He alone is the Word that became flesh in this world and because of that, He’s has brought us grace and truth, even love from our Heavenly Father!  He alone takes away your sins, and He alone comes into this world of sin to save you!

Behold your God!  Behold your Savior!  Behold the Kingdom of God!  Behold the Living Word of God and the Light of the World!  Behold your Creator who has come to us in our world and in our flesh.  He lives among us even still in His Word.  He is the Light that no darkness can overpower, but He remains hidden to those who will not leave the darkness of sin.

Behold your God who comes to you through other sinners who have been redeemed and saved through the Word and the waters of baptism.  They are converted sinners, just as you are now.  Behold the Word and Light of God which accepts you as you are but loves you too much to leave you as He found you.  Behold the Word and light of God, which desires to continue speaking to you and filling you with faith, all so that you can one day join Him for eternity within His Kingdom of Heaven.

Behold your God who wants to work through you as He fills you with His light and faith.  He wants to use you to draw other sinners to Himself so that they like you will also become true children of God.  This is how God builds His Kingdom: Through the Word and the Light that His Word brings.  May this Word and Light of God fill us not just this Christmas season but for all eternity.  I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!