Sunday, December 18, 2011

Advent 4

Luke 1:39-56 - Advent IV - December 18, 2011
Mary’s Song Is the Church’s Hymn

On the occasion of the Baptism of Anne Elizabeth Preus

(From a sermon by David R. Preus)
Beholding the marvels of God by witnessing the birth of a child is about the most magnificent thing in the world.  And the advent of this little girl right here is beyond doubt for me the highlight of this winter season.  I can count on one hand the number of times that I have been even close to this happy.  Mary was pregnant too.  Great joy and happiness awaited her.  But she did not wait to rejoice.  She didn’t wait till Christmas.  It is Advent right now.  People call it the Christmas season.  And for everyone, it’s a time of cheer and joy in the midst of and despite short days and long cold nights.  People find all sorts of ways to fill this time of year with reasons to rejoice.  Whether it be babies, or the excitement of Christmas shopping, or time with family, there is an air of festivity in this Christmas season.  But seldom do we find in the predominant mood around us, the true joy of Christmas.  Seldom do people truly rejoice.  

Most people have never learned how to rejoice.  And this is because most people have never learned to sing the song that Mary teaches us in our Gospel lesson this morning.  It is called the Magnificat.  In this song, Mary teaches the Church how to rejoice in God.  But her joy was not simply that a life was being brought into the world like Monica here.  No, it was the joy that through her Child, life would be restored to sinners.  In the Magnificat, Mary teaches us how to rejoice in Christmas by providing three lessons on what it means to rejoice.  First, rejoicing means recognizing God as our Savior from sin.  Second, rejoicing means finding joy in God’s regard for us.  And third, rejoicing means recounting the works of God through faith in His promises.  Let’s consider each of these lessons, and so discover how humble sinners find perfect and lasting joy in the forgiveness of sins through the promised Christ Child.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Advent Prophet

Psalm 85 - Advent 3 Midweek - December 14, 2011
Christ Comes as our Prophet

For our midweek Advent services we have been considering a three-part theme by taking a look at what is often called the three-fold office of Christ, known as Prophet, Priest, and King.  We have considered how Christ comes as our King by ruling our hearts and consciences through the forgiveness of sins.   We have considered how Christ comes as our Priest by shedding His own blood and by continually serving us with the benefit of His perfect atoning sacrifice.  Now, this week we consider what it means for Christ to come as our prophet. 

A Prophet speaks for God.  That’s what it means to be a Prophet.  When people hear “prophet” they usually suppose that his main job is to tell the future.  Now, it’s true that throughout the Old Testament, prophets would foretell what was going to happen.  After all, the promises of the Gospel in the Old Testament were all promises concerning Christ who had yet to come until many years later.  Prophets certainly did prophesy concerning the future.  But the future events that these prophets were able to foresee were not simply foggy glimpses into the distant years ahead.  No, they were decrees of God spoken clearly to them.  Isaiah prophesied those words that we just heard about what would take place in the future, and grounded them upon that which God had already said.  He writes: “And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” 

The Old Testament prophets were not merely gifted fortune-tellers.  No, they were much more.  They heard the word of God, and in some cases they saw real visions given to them from God.  And that which they saw and heard they spoke.  They were God’s own mouthpieces through whom He communicated His will toward all mankind. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Advent 3

Matthew 11:2-11 - Advent 3 - December 11, 2011
Blessed is He who is not Offended by the Gospel

In the Old Testament, God sent prophets to His chosen nation Israel in order to preach the law against sin and to preach of the Christ who would come and take their sin away.  In the New Testament, Jesus sent out His Apostles commanding them to make disciples of all nations by preaching the law against sin, and by preaching the gospel that He Himself has taken all sin away on the cross.  There are no more prophets; John the Baptist was the last one.  But when Jesus sent out His Apostles, He instituted what we call the Office of the Ministry in order that we might believe in Him today.  A prophet’s job was to speak the word that God gave him to speak.  The pastor’s job today is much the same: to preach the word of God and to administer the sacraments. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Advent Priest

Psalm 50:1-15 - Advent 2 Midweek - December 7, 2011
Christ Comes as Our Priest
For our midweek Advent services we are considering a three-part theme by taking a look at what is often called the three-fold office of Christ, known as Prophet, Priest, and King.  Last week, we started with King, and we considered how Christ comes to us, not with earthly might, but rules our hearts and consciences through the forgiveness of sins.   Now, this week we consider what it means for Christ to come as our priest. 

But what is a priest?  God instituted the office of priest in the Old Testament so that they would offer sacrifices to God on behalf of God’s people.  That’s what a priest did.  God gave a very detailed description of the priesthood when He gave specific instructions to Moses.  But long before He brought the children of Israel out of Egypt, God had required that sacrifices be made.  In order to understand what it means for Christ to come as our priest, we need to understand the nature of a sacrifice and why God required them.  So let’s start at the beginning. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Advent 2

Luke 21:25-36 - Advent 2 - December 4, 2011
My Words Will Not Pass Away

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).  Amen.  These familiar words from Job exhibit what it means to have unwavering faith in God in the face of loss.  God gives us good things.  When good things happen, we rejoice and thank Him.  But God also allows bad things to happen by permission of His fatherly care.  Everything, from war abroad to sickness at home, affects our lives in a negative way.  But when they do, we do not despair or become cast down as though God had abandoned us, because these are not signs of our destruction.  These are signs that our redemption is near.  So instead, we lift up our heads and focus our gaze on Christ whose return is imminent. That’s what He promised.   Job didn’t trust in the material things that God gave him; that’s why he didn’t despair when God took them away.  We don’t trust in the temporal blessings that God gives us either.  Instead, we hold fast to His word which will never pass away. 

The Bible was written to teach us.  St. Paul says in our Epistle lesson, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4).  The reason Scripture is able to bestow such great benefits is because it is the word of God Himself.  By holding onto what the Bible teaches us, we are able to persevere through all trials, because the word of God promises us much more in heaven than what we can possibly lose here on earth.  This is the certain hope that we have in Christ.  And by it, we are comforted.