Thursday, December 8, 2016

Advent 2 Midweek Sermon

Jesu Juva

“Magnificent Magnificat Verbs: He brings down and exalts
Text: Isaiah 2:11-19; Luke 1:46-55

Mary said . . .
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty.

God sometimes works His greatest good when He tears down, takes away, sends away, and humbles you.

We don’t usually think that way. Those things seem not good to us. But Mary is telling us tonight: that is how God works. 

If you think you are strong, He might humble you that you learn to rely on Him and His strength.

If you are clinging too tightly to the things of this world, He might take them away that you cling to Him alone.

If you are full and satisfied, He might make you empty and without that you turn to Him for what you need.

If you think you’re not that bad a person, He might let your sin bear its awful fruit in your life, that you repent of who you are and receive His forgiveness.

For if you think you are something or have something for God or come to Him full of yourself and your accomplishments, you get nothing. For you want nothing. You want to give. But what do you have that God needs? What can you do that God cannot do? What are you that God hasn’t made you?

So God tears down, takes away, sends away, and humbles, that He might give. Not so we. We tear down, take away, send away to exalt ourselves. But He to give. That you might receive. He doesn’t need us. We need Him. And to know that is life. To come to Him with an empty sack is exactly what He wants. Or maybe better to say: to come to Him with nothing but our sins, our weakness, our lowliness, so that He can fill us with His forgiveness, His strength, and His beauty. That is what He wants. And nothing makes Him happier.

Again, we usually don’t think that way. Our world today tells us that growing up and maturing means becoming less and less dependent and more and more independent. Stand on your own two feet. Be less needy and more self-sufficient.

We should not be surprised that, once again, the world’s thinking is exactly the opposite and the reverse of God’s. For growing in faith means becoming less and less independent and more and more dependent on Him. Growing in the faith means becoming more and more aware of our sinfulness and our need of His forgiveness. And being a child of God means not being self-sufficient, but relying on the all-sufficient merits of Jesus alone.

To those who would be independent, those who would rely on themselves and what they have done, Isaiah speaks tonight, and says this: the Lord is against you. Ten times he uses that word in these verses. And, he says to them, you will be brought low on the Last Day, the Day of the Lord. For the Lord alone will be exalted in that day. Everything and everyone else will be brought low. And this too: For those brought low, it will be a day of terror.

But that is not what God wants. For anyone. He warns so that it will not happen. That we change our thinking and be humbled in repentance. For better to be brought down and humbled now rather than later. Brought down now and humbled now not in judgment, but to where Jesus is. For where He is, there is what we need. There is the forgiveness and life we need. 

For it is not in our power and strength where Jesus is, it is not in our successes and accomplishments, but in our weakness and failure, in our lowliness. For that is where Jesus came for us. In Bethlehem. In the manger. In Nazareth. With no place to lay His head. And finally to the rock bottom of the cross. He came all the way down into the depths of our sin and death, that we, like Mary, might be called blessed. That we, like Mary, might have great things done for us. That we who are nothing might be mercied and receive everything.

And so Jesus was lifted up on the cross, so that He might also then be lifted up in His resurrection. And lift us up with Him. To exalt those of humble estate. You and me. That we not be sent away empty, but filled with good things. His things. Divine things. Eternal things.

Now, this is all hidden from our eyes. Lowliness doesn’t look grand and humility does feel glorious. We don’t look exalted and filled with good things. But Mary’s words remind us of the truth and call us to believe not what we see and feel, but what we hear. The Word that came to Mary from the angel Gabriel caused Jesus to be conceived in her womb, and that same Word causes faith to be conceived in us and be strengthened in us. And by such faith, all the gifts of God are received. And when Jesus finally comes again in glory, the Bridegroom for His Bride, the Church, all that is now hidden will be revealed, and we will finally see what we now believe. 

Until that day, we take our place with Mary and marvel at the verbs of God - all that He is doing and has promised to do for us. That in all things we are blessed. When He casts us down, we are blessed. When He lifts us up, we are blessed. When faced with trials and struggles, we are blessed. And when at peace, we are blessed. In all times and in all places, we are blessed because Jesus is the Immanuel, God with us. With us even in the lowest places, that we may be with Him in the highest.

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

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Congregation at Prayer

For the Second Week of Advent (December 5-10, 2016)

Invocation: In the Name of the Father and of the (+) Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Speak the Apostles’ Creed. 

Verse: James 5:8 - “You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”

Hymn of the Week:  Lutheran Service Book #345 “Hark! A Thrilling Voice Is Sounding”
Hymns for Wednesday: 345, 335, 877
Hymns for Sunday: 349, 357 (v. 6), 345, 618, 343, 350, 341

Readings for the Week: [The readings for Tuesday-Wednesday are the Scriptures for Wednesday night’s Thanksgiving service. The readings for Thursday-Saturday are the Scriptures for this coming Sunday.]

Monday:  Psalm 146
Is it easy to praise the Lord? When is it not? Why? What can this psalm therefore teach us?

Tuesday:  Isaiah 2:11-19
What is the Lord against? Why? What is the “day” spoken of here? What should we therefore do before that day?

Wednesday:  Luke 1:46-55
Who does God exalt? Who does God fill? Why?

Thursday:  Isaiah 35:1-10
What is happening in this chapter? What reversals? Why? How is this God saving us (v.4)? From what?

Friday:  James 5:7-11
Be patient, James says four times. Why is that so hard? But why is it necessary?

Saturday:  Matthew 11:2-15
What other Saviours do people look for? Why? But is there any other? Why?

The Catechism: Confession: What is Confessions? [Part 1] Confession has two parts. First, that we confess our sins, and second, that we receive absolution, that is, forgiveness, from the pastor as from God Himself, not doubting, but firmly believing that by it our sins are forgiven before God in heaven.

The Prayers:  Please pray for . . .
+ yourself and for all in need (remembering especially those on our prayer list).
+ all suffering from addictions of various kinds, for the Lord to set them free.
+ God’s blessing, wisdom, and guidance for our congregation’s Sunday School teachers.
+ the Confessional Lutheran Church of Chile, for God’s blessing, guidance, and provision.
+ God’s blessing, guidance, and provision for the Luther Academy.
Conclude with the Lord’s Prayer and Luther’s Morning or Evening Prayer from the Catechism.

Now joyfully go about your day (or to bed) in good cheer, child of God!

Advent 2 Sermon

Jesu Juva

“The Kingdom of Heaven Is at Hand!”
Text: Matthew 3:1-12; Isaiah 11:1-10; Romans 15:4-13

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

It is hard to overestimate the amount of excitement there was in Jerusalem and Judea and all the region about the Jordan when John the Baptist appeared on the scene and started preaching. Because it had been generations since something like this had happened. No ones grandparents or even great-grandparents, no one alive at that time, had seen something like this. It had been some 400 years - or about as long ago as the Pilgrims came to this land on the Mayflower - since a prophet had come. The words of the prophet Amos had come true. The words that said: “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “when I will send a famine on the land— not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11). A 400 year famine and drought.

But now a propet had come again. The famine, the drought, was over. God is speaking again! The word spread like the wildfires we see out west or in Tennessee. And so the people come flowing out from all quarters - from the cities, from the country, the entire region, to hear what God has to say to them. 

And what does He say? “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 

We’ll get to that in a moment - but first, I think it fair to say that the same kind of thing is happening today. At this time of the year there is a high level of excitement that Christmas is coming. But the holiday, not the holy day. It hasn’t even for us been 400 days and yet people are flowing out from all quarters - from the cities, from the country, the entire region, to the Jordan of our mall and stores, both brick and mortar and cyber. Because the call has gone out once again - not to repent, but to buy. And not buy just gifts, but if you listen closely . . . to buy happiness. That’s the promise. That’s the hope. That’s the expectation.

So that mall parking lot full of cars with no more spaces to be had - that’s what the Jordan was like in the days of John the Baptist. And the people who went out didn’t buy, but received a gift: the gift of repentance. Which doesn’t sound like much of a gift, right? But it is. Because with the gift of repentance comes the promise of forgiveness. The all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present God who said: Be holy! (i.e., Leviticus 11:45) Be perfect! (Matthew 5:48) or else . . . isn’t threatening, but is once again, promising to give that holiness and perfection He requires and demands. And along with that, this gift and promise too: eternal life. 

And so not only was the famine and drought of God’s Word over, but God was lavishly and abundantly pouring out life. Because not just a prophet, but the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Is at hand - is here and now. Is at hand - within reach. Because now, not just the words of Amos’ prophecy were fulfilled, but the words of Isaiah’s as well, that we heard today: the shoot from the stump of Jesse had come.

Jesse was King David’s father. At the time of King David, Israel’s kingdom was grand, powerful, and glorious. If it were a tree, it was one unlike any other. The awe and desire of every other. But it didn’t last. The tree rotted from the inside out. Idolatry took over the hearts and lives of the people - kings, prophets, priests, and people. And so God cut it down. Reduced it to a stump. But with this promise: that someday, it would grow again. That a shoot would appear and this tree once again bear good fruit. And so the shoot that would come from the stump would be a descendant of Jesse and David. A son of David

And now it had come. He had come. The shoot had appeared in Bethlehem.  He grew up in Nazareth. And now the kingdom of heaven is at hand - the shoot was now going to establish a kingdom even greater than David’s. God’s Word is not only being proclaimed, it is happening.

So you can’t blame the people for being excited! Not even John’s wild appearance could stop them. And they willingly and joyfully confessed their sins. They wanted the gift: of forgiveness, holiness, perfection, life. The kingdom of heaven.

Even the Pharisees and Sadducees came. They reluctantly slithered out of their den in Jerusalem and came to the Jordan. But John’s message for them was a bit different. For the Word of God not only provided the gift of repentance and the promise of forgiveness, but also swings the axe at every false god, to chop down every idol, and destroy every false hope. And so the Pharisees and Sadducees, who came out to be baptized but not to repent, needed to be warned. So John told them: The axe that cut down David’s tree is at your rotten roots as well. For your hope in your own goodness is a false hope that produces rotten fruit. Your trust on being a physically descended child of Abraham is an idol. And when you believe in your own lineage and works to save you, then you are your own false god. And every tree . . . that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

But John is just the messenger. The prophet who broke the famine and the drought. The one coming after him, the one whose way he is preparing, the one who is coming after [him and] mightier than [he], whose sandals [he] am not worthy to carry, Jesus - He is the one who will do it. Who will do both those things. He will gather His own in the forgiveness of their sins, those who believe in and rely on Him. But those who do not, the chaff, he will burn with unquenchable fire.

And that is the Word still going out today, going out here, today. Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Repent, for this is the way to pepare for the coming king. Repent, for what are you relying on? Where are you looking for happiness? When you look at your life, what fruit do you see? Is it good fruit or rotten fruit, or a bit of both? 

Are you relying on yourself and the good that you are able to do, the improvement you are able to achieve, your own change and dedication, like the Pharisees and Sadducees?

And where are you looking for happiness? Are you, too, listening to the voice of false gods, saying that happiness is here or there, in this sale, that person, or the fulfillment of your dreams?

And what about the fruit in your life? Have your deeds been always filled with love, your words always kind and helpful, your thoughts always for the good of others, and your desires always holy and pure? Or is there rottenness in you as well?

I know how I answer those questions. The same as you. 

And so the call goes out today just as at the Jordan: to repent. But not just to repent, but to receive. To receive the gift of repentance and the promise of forgiveness. To return to the Jordan, to return to your baptism, and so not return the gift you’ve been given, but return to the gift you’ve been given. The gift with the promise of forgiveness and life. The gift of Jesus, who ascended the tree of the cross for you, that the axe of justice chop Him down instead of you, but then the shoot begin to grow again in His resurrection. The shoot now growing in you as your drought is broken with the waters of baptism, your famine is satisfied with the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper, and a child of Abraham by faith is raised from a hard and stony heart. These gifts, for you.

And for all people. The day is coming when the wheat and the chaff will be separated, but that day is not yet. Now, the Word of God goes forth. Now the Word of the Lord is proclaimed. That just as the perfect Son of God became chaff for us on the cross, we who are born chaff might become wheat - sons of God with His new and resurrected life. No matter who you are or what you have done. As St. Paul said today: it is for Jews and Gentiles alike. This gift is for all people. The God of hope wants to fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. By the power of the Holy Spirit you find your hope in Him, not in the things of this world. You find your confidence in Him, not in what you are able to achieve or in how you can improve your life. That you find it all in Him.

So while the message of repentance isn’t a popular one in our world today, perhaps that is a sign that it is needed now more than ever. Change is seen as good as long as it is the change I want. But maybe the change you don’t want is exactly the change you need. And while there may not be any parking spaces at the mall this time of year, there is plenty of parking here. And a gift that costs you nothing and will never run out. The messenger doesn’t look quite like John, and I am very grateful that his diet isn’t the same - but the Word is the same. And the promise is the same. 

For the kingdom of heaven is at hand here. Is at hand - is here and now. Is at hand - within reach. Reaching out to you with a handful of water that isn’t just water, but a washing away of sin. Reaching out to your ears with words that aren’t just words, but words that say: I forgive you. And you are. And reaching out with bread and wine that aren’t just bread and wine, but the Body and Blood of the King, of the Immanuel, the God with you. 

And so our prayer is answered. The prayer sung at the beginning of the service again this morning: O Come, O Come, Immanuel (LSB #357). He has. He is. And He will again. That when that day of winnowing comes, when He comes again, you be as excited as the crowds at the Jordan that day. Actually, even more. For you know the judgment. The gift is already yours. And with it, more than happiness - but joy. No axe or fire for you, only life. Isaiah’s Paradise restored. By the shoot from the stump. Life from the dead. And a little child shall lead them, Isaiah said. A Christ child. 

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

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Advent 1 Midweek Sermon

Jesu Juva

“Magnificent Magnificat Verbs: He regards
Text: Deuteronomy 7:6-14a; Luke 1:46-55

Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on - or regarded - the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

To appreciate the fact that God regards us, consider for the moment all the people in the world we do not regard. Everyday. People we walk by without even noticing. People we do not look at because we do not want to regard them. People we avoid either because we are angry with them or don’t want to get involved with them. People that we think are not worth our attention, time, or effort. 

But not so God. How different we are from Him and He from us. For He regards, He looks upon, the lowly, the humble, the down and out. And He does so not in disgust - but in love. He does so in order to help. And the greater the distance, the lower and more humble the person, the greater His compassion. He is the champion of the weak, the poor; those no one wants anything to do with. 

Think of the examples we have from Jesus’ life. When a Canaanite woman keeps crying out to Him for help because her daughter is demon possessed, the disciples ask Jesus to send her away - disregard her. Jesus won’t do it (Matthew 15:21-28)

When a blind man keeps calling out after Jesus: Lord, have mercy! the crowds try to get him to be quiet and shuffle Jesus on - to disregard him. But Jesus won’t have that (Mark 10:46-52)

Then there was the sick man at the pool of Bethseda who had been there for thirty-eight years, because no one would help him into the healing waters. Jesus goes there to help him (John 5:1-9)

Or how about the crowds that listened to Jesus’ teaching days on end and when they’re hungry, the disciples tell Jesus to send them away - disregard them. And Jesus says: You give them something to eat (Matthew 14:13-21). Jesus looks on them with compassion, for they are like sheep without a shepherd.

But God’s regarding started long before those people came along. He regarded Adam and Eve hiding in the Garden from Him and from each other after they sinned (Genesis 3). He could have turned His back on them as they had done to Him. But no. That’s not who He is. 

He regarded Abraham while he was still an idolater in the land of Ur of the Chaldeans and called him to faith (Joshua 24:2-4)

He regarded, as we heard in the Old Testament reading tonight, the people of Israel. And not because they were more numerous than other peoples, or stronger, or better, or anything in them. The Lord regards because of who He is - a faithful, loving God who wants only to serve and bless and save all people on earth.

And now He regards Mary. Because of who she is? No. Because of who He is. Because it is now time to keep His promise of a Saviour. So He looks all the way down to Mary. He looks past all those women of means, of wealth, of position, of power, and whatever else is praiseworthy on this earth, and regards Mary. She is the one who will be the mother of the Saviour, the mother of God. And all generations will call her blessed. For blessed are those God looks upon and regards.

And so blessed are you as well. 

Though sometimes we might wish God didn’t regard us. You know, those times we sin, when our thoughts, words, deed, or desires are particularly egregious. We might wish the all-seeing God didn’t see those things, and so think a little better of us; that we’re not quite as bad as all that.

But it is good that God regards us even at those times. For what if there were sins you could keep secret and hidden from God? Things that He didn’t see and know? How could you be sure that those sins are forgiven? You couldn’t. But if God sees them all and knows them all - every single dirty, disgusting, humiliating last one - then you know this: they’ve all been put on Mary’s son on the cross. That there, Jesus paid for them all. Your dirt became His dirt. Your disgusting behavior His. Your humiliation His. All of it. And He took it all to the grave and came out without it.

And so when God now regards you, when He looks down upon you, all the way down to you, He doesn’t see a sinner - He sees His child. Baptized, washed, forgiven, raised to new life. And He and His angels rejoice over you (Luke 15:10). The world may never. The world may disregard you and consider you unimportant. But not God. Not your Father in heaven. Not your Saviour, Jesus. As the psalm says, you are the apple of His eye (Psalm 17:8).

Such love and compassion caused Mary to magnify the Lord and rejoice in Him. She was overwhelmed, though this pregnancy was not going to be easy and her life after that even tougher. But regarded by the Lord, the Lord would see her through. The Lord would not leave her, but keep and sustain her through it all. 

And so you too. The Lord who regards you will not leave you. Life may get tough, but even then He is blessing you. Maybe in ways you know and realize, and maybe in ways you don’t. But His promises are greater than what we may know or realize, and He has promsied to bless you. So He will. So He is.

And so Mary looked upon the God who looked upon her as she held Him in her arms. She later looked upon the God who looked upon her teaching the teachers as a twelve year old boy (Luke 2:41-51). She looked upon the God who looked upon her at a wedding in Cana, when He changed water into wine (John 2:1-11). And she looked upon the God who looked upon her as He hung dying on a cross (John 19:25). And she was blessed. 

And one day we will see Him too. Now we see Him by faith in water and bread and wine. Now we hear Him by faith in His Word and Absolution. And we magnify the Lord and rejoice in Him who has looked upon us and blessed us. 

And we learn this too: to regard others. That because our Lord has regarded us, maybe we start noticing those around us, and stop avoiding them, and maybe even get involved with them, and reconsider who is worth our attention, time, and effort. For the Lord who regards us has sent His Holy Spirit into our hearts (Galatians 4:6), to give us new hearts, and new eyes, and new lives. That the blessing we have received flow out to others as well. And they too magnify the Lord. With us now, and with us forever.

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

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Advent 1 Sermon

Jesu Juva

“Leading the Way”
Text: Romans 13:8-14; Matthew 21:1-11; Isaiah 2:1-5

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Blue paraments. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (LSB #357). The wreath. It’s Advent. The start of a new church year. The church doesn’t wait for the calendar to turn from one year to the next. She takes the lead, she doesn’t follow. To lead the world in a new direction, to a new place. To lead us in a new direction, to a new place. Because the truth is, far too often this year we have followed, not lead. We followed the world’s thinking, the world’s desire, the world’s agenda, the world’s words. 

The world said: You should want this! And we said: Yes, we want that. 
The world said: You should do this! And we said: Yes, we will do that. 
The world said: You should be this! And we said: Yes, we will be that. 

We want to be at peace with the world. But that peace comes at a high price. It will cost you your life. Your life with Christ. 

For a sinful and sin-filled world and a holy church should not be at peace. The church is here to call the world, to call people, to call you and me, to something more. To follow Christ. To desire His peace. And that’s what the season of Advent is all about.

For the purpose of this season is to make you discontent with your life as it is now. To call you to repent of being satisfied with the status quo, of how things have been this past year, and the direction you’ve been going, and stir up in you a hunger and thirst for something more, for change - a change inside of you. For by the Holy Spirit’s power there is so much more and better - to dream for, hope for, reach for.

And so we heard from St. Paul: 
Now is the time to wake up from our spiritual slumber
Now is the time to cast off the works of darkness
Now is the time to put on the Lord Jesus Christ
Because our salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed

Or in other words, it is time to stop your spiritual sleepwalking through life. The dullness, the grogginess, the haze, that makes our life of faith so much less than it could be. Than it should be. 

And those works of darkness? You know what they are. Those things in your life - those thoughts, desires, words, and deeds you want no one else to know; that you never want exposed to the light of day. 

And put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Don’t look like the world and the way it is - put on His love, His forgiveness, His mercy, His life. Don’t follow the world into sin and death, but follow Christ to holiness and life. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul says, and make no provision for the flesh, - for the world - to gratify its desires. Its desire that we be like it and follow them.

The prophet Isaiah said something similar and put it this way: O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord. Beat your swords into plowshares and your spears into pruning hooks.

His words there sound like being at peace with the world, but no - it is rather to fight a different fight with a different weapon. To fight not with the weapons of war, with swords and spears, but with the weapon of the Word of God. To plow up the weeds of sin that have grown in our hearts and prune the wild growth that has spread its branches in our lives. That new growth come. New life. New possibilities. Better. That we not be content, but discontent. That we look to Christ for more.

Which is what the people of Jerusalem were doing when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. They were not content. They were looking for more. They hailed Him as the king that had come to set them free. For they thought that freedom from Roman rule would be nice. But Jesus was thinking that freedom from their sins would be even better. 

For that was Jesus’ discontent. If you are discontent with your life, Jesus is even more. He is not content with the reign of sin in us. He is not content with the death that robs us of life. He is not content with the hurt and pain we cause one another. He is not content with our selfish devouring one another. He is not content when we put the things of this world before Him and follow them rather than Him. And He will not make peace with those things.

So He rode into Jerusalem to do something about it. He didn’t just sit in heaven and demand we change. He came to do it.

And so the crowds that day were quite right. He was the blessed one who had come in the name of the Lord. He was the Son of David. And He had come to Hosanna them - to save them now. And so by the end of that very week, the one they welcomed with palm branches would be as dead as the palm branches they had cut from the trees. But not in defeat, but victory. For by His death came the blessing of the blessed one. His death paid the ransom that set all people free. That set you and I free. And from a tyrant far bigger and stronger than Rome - from the tyranny of satan and the bonds of sin and death. And to set us free from just trying to make the best of this life to looking forward to a life that has no end.

And so the blessed one wore a crown not of gold but a better one - of thorns. The Son of David took His place not on a throne of gold and jewels, but a better one - on the throne of the cross. And His royal decree was not that we might have the things of this world, but better - Father, forgive them (Luke 23:34). And He has. And so the shouts of the crowd and our prayer today is fulfilled. Jesus has Hosanned us.

And He still is. His work in us goes on. In this world and life we are always arriving but never arrived. For how often still do we find ourselves discontent with Him and following after the world instead of discontent with our life and following after Him? So repent, He says. Turn around. Come back to the font, come back to the altar, come back to the Word. That the Holy Spirit work in you that holiness the once-dead-but-now-resurrected Christ has for you. That there be more and better for you. That there be forgiveness and life in you. That you hunger and thirst for the life Jesus has come to give to you. That you be satisfied and content. In Him.

So today the call goes out not just to move full steam toward Christmas, as the world is doing right now, as an end-of-year, blow out, celebration, but to celebrate Christmas as a beginning-of-year celebration. Not as the end of 2016, but as the beginning of more, of better. To look through Christmas, and to how the God who came as the babe of Bethlehem comes to us now, here. That the same Body and Blood that was laid in a manger and held in Mary’s arms, is now on this altar and laid into your mouths. That your life be changed; your hunger and thirst for more fulfilled. 

And then this too - that the God who came as the babe of Bethlehem is coming back again. For you. This time not in humility, but in glory. Not in bread and wine, but on clouds. Not on a donkey, but with His angels. And as both Bridegroom and Judge. 

To think in that way is to lead and not follow. It is to lead in a new direction, to a new place. Not to bemoan how the world celebrates Christmas, for if anything, we should celebrate even more! But to show the world there’s more, there’s better. That’s Jesus’ birth means a new birth for us. That’s Jesus’ life means a new life for us. And that Jesus’ death and resurrection means a resurrection for us after we too die. And so Christmas really is not just an end, but a beginning.

And then maybe, just maybe, we can tell the world: 

You can have this. And the world say: Yes, we want to have that.
You can do this. And the world say: Yes, we want to do that.
You can be this. And the world say: Yes, we want to be that.

And if we are asked, like Jerusalem asked that day, Who is this? We can tell them: This is the Saviour, Jesus. Who has come, is coming, and will come again. For you.

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

[Thanks to Rev. William Weedon for the direction and some of the thoughts in this sermon.]