Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sunday, December 28, 2008 Christmas I Luke 2;22-40

And when, were fulfilled, the days of their purification, according to the Law of Moses, they brought Him into Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord; just as it is written in the Law of the Lord that ALL MALES WHICH OPEN A WOMB "HOLY TO THE LORD" THEY ARE TO BE CALLED, and to the giving of a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, A PAIR OF TURTLEDOVES OR TWO YOUNG PIGEONS. . And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, His mother, "Look This One is appointed for a falling and a rising of many in Israel and as a sign spoken against. And also, of your own soul, a sword will pierce through, so that the reasonings from many hearts will be revealed." And Anna, a prophetess was there, a daughter of Phanuel, out of Asher's tribe; this one had gone forth for many days, having lived with a husband seven years from her virginity, and herself a widow up to 84 years, who did not withdraw from the Temple, with fasting and petitions worshiping night and day. And she, in that hour, came up thanking God and speaking concerning Him to all those expectantly awaiting Israel's redemption.

The event of today's Gospel seems rather irrelevant as Jesus is presented to the Temple. Every first-born male child since Moses' day had to have this done for him, so that his parents could buy him back from the Lord. Since Passover, each 1st-born boy belonged to God, and had to be redeemed at the price of pure lamb. Yet, because God knew that a poor young couple starting out, like Mary and Joseph, couldn't afford such a sacrifice, two doves or pigeons could substitute for the usual lamb.

What appears as a rather ordinary event of the day, actually has great significance. The presentation of Jesus was considered so important in the early church that it was celebrated as a Festival on February second. Although it now plays second-fiddle to a ground-hog, it is still a holiday honored among Christians to this day. This day is significant for Jesus as a human, born under the Law to keep it in our stead. It was also important for Jesus as God, since it points to His divine work as our Redeemer.

The redemption of Christ Jesus was quite unique indeed. For Jesus was God by Whom all things were created. The redemption payment was to God, yet in this case, the payment was for God. Yet God is veiled here, hiding behind the countenance of the 40 day old infant Jesus. It is according to His human nature that he must be bought back from God so Mary and Joseph can raise Him as their own. Yet there is absolutely no mention of the lamb as redemption payment.

The presentation of Jesus is an event which shows Jesus redemption at the price of two small birds. But it is also an event which foreshadowed your redemption at the price of the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world. No lamb bought Jesus His freedom. But a spotless Lamb would be the price paid at the cross of Calvary by which you are redeemed. You are bought back to God, freed from the shackles of sin, death and the devil which had held you fast, by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

So what do you think of the presentation of Jesus for you? Do you value your own redemption at such a great price of His sacrificed body and shed blood on the cross? Or does that day seem so very far away, since it was almost 2000 years ago? Can you treasure your gift of liberty and life purchased so long ago, in the distant past? Are you tempted to dismiss your redemption at the price of the life of the Lamb of God, either taking it for granted, or considering it a past act to be long forgotten.

Your Redeemer remains active in your life now, that the freedom from sin, death & Satan He wrought at the cross be delivered to you this day! Your Redeemer washed your sins away in Baptism, and makes it a daily bath for you in His gifts of contrition and repentance. Your Redeemer speaks to you through the mouthpiece of your pastor, who reads, preaches, and proclaims your sins forgiven with Jesus' Own words. Your Redeemer feeds you a new Passover meal, from His body and blood of forgiveness.

Ironic, that the Redeemer needed to be redeemed Himself. He was bought back at a relatively cheap price to live under God's Law and keep it perfectly in your stead. You, however, were not redeemed at such a small price, not even by silver and gold, but by your Redeemer's holy precious blood and innocent suffering and death. Jesus not only has brought you back to God, He has bought you back to God at the greatest price! For He Who was Himself redeemed, has redeemed you forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Thursday, December 25, 2008 Christmas Day John 1:1-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and God was the Word. This One was in the beginning with God. All things through Him came to be, and without Him came to be not one thing which came to be; In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men; and the Light in the darkness shines and the darkness did not overtake it.
There came to be a man, sent on a mission by God, whose name--John. This one came for a witness, in order that he might witness concerning the Light, that all might believe through him. That one was not the Light, but in order that He might witness concerning the Light. The Light, the true one, which enlightens all men was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world through Him, came to be, yet the world did not know Him. To His own He came, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as did receive Him, He gave to them the right to become God's children, to those who believe in His Name. Who, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of a man, but of God were born! And the Word came to be flesh and tabernacled in us, and we saw his glory, glory as the only-begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

About once a year, one of my confirmands will pose the question, "When did God make Jesus?" Usually, they are a bit startled to find out that God didn't make Jesus, but that Jesus is the God Who made everything. Back in the beginning, when God the Father spoke the Word: "Let there be light", the Son was the very Word which brought all things into existence. The second Person has always been there, within the Triune God, eternally begotten of His Father, and from Whom the Spirit has always proceeded.

But then things changed. People failed miserably to be God's Own. Adam and Eve rebelled by eating the forbidden fruit, and the Israelites couldn't even keep the first of the commandments, worshiping a golden calf. God's Son had worked to create them, but they quickly disowned Him as their God. Their feelings and thoughts, their words and actions betrayed their unfaithfulness to their Creator. God was faithful toward them, but they were not in return. They now dwelt in the darkness of their own sins, unable to see.

So that is when God decided to let the second Person of the Trinity be more than just *begotten* of His Father. Now He would also be born of His mother in the incarnation. Like we are called carnivores, who like to eat the flesh of animals as meat, Jesus took upon Himself human flesh. He came into the darkness of this world, born not only as God, but also as a human being like you and me. He came to be seen by people as a Light in the darkness of their sinful state, to enlighten all mankind.

It is astounding how God chose to manifest Himself down on earth. He had come before in the scary summit of Sinai, causing the people to dread His presence. But here, He comes in a hidden fashion, God clothed in the never-scary body of a baby boy named Jesus. The shepherds who cowered in fear at the appearance of just one angel, had no fear at all before a God who is born in a manger. God came down in the guise of sinful flesh, so that He could live like us, and eventually die for us as well.

Jesus came down so that you could be what He was, born as a Son of God. He makes you children of your heavenly Father as well, when you are born again of water and the Spirit. In Holy Baptism, your dark sins are cleansed from you, so that you can be made children of the Light. For you have been born anew, born from above, not like when your parents wanted you to be their child, for now you are born a Son of God like Jesus. You too are born of God, and are His children forevermore!

Jesus also came down incarnate in human flesh so that He could be in you in a special way. He came down to earth to *tabernacle* in you. Just as God's glorious presence was in the holy of holies in the Tabernacle of Israel, so too is Jesus' glorious presence given to be present in you today. For He takes His body of flesh and gives it to you to eat in the bread of holy communion. In the Lord's Supper, the incarnate Christ tabernacles in you, bringing you His forgiving & saving presence.

The ever-living God takes upon Himself human life as well on this day. He does it so that He might be our life which we forfeited by sinning. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God in Christ Jesus is eternal life. In blessed exchange, He takes your sins upon His flesh at the cross of Calvary, and suffers death there in your place. So that what He earned by His glorious sin-free life might be yours–life eternal. For Jesus, the eternal God, has eternal life in Him, and shines that light of life upon you this day. You behold this glorious life, full of grace and truth, by the eyes of faith, trusting in Jesus–your incarnate Savior.

December 24, 2008 Christmas Eve Luke 2:1-14

And it happened in their being there the days were fulfilled for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her son, the Firstborn, and wrapped Him in swathing cloths and set him down in a manger, because there was not a place for them in the guest room. And shepherds were in the same region staying outside and watching guard in the night over their flock. And an angel of the Lord approached them and the glory of the Lord shown around them and they were afraid, with great fear. And the angel said to them, "Stop fearing, for look, I am proclaiming a good message to you--great joy which will be for all the people: that born to you today--a Savior which is Christ the Lord, in David's town. And this, to you, the sign: you will find a baby swaddled and lying in a manger." And unexpectedly there happened to be with the angel a numerous army of heaven, praising God and saying, "Glory in highest places to God, and upon earth peace on men--good will." And it happened as the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to each other, "Let's go through, then, immediately to Bethlehem and let's see this word which has occurred, which the Lord has made known to us!" And they went, hurrying, and discovered Mary and Joseph and the Baby lying in the manger; And having seen, they made known concerning the word spoken to them concerning this child. And all those having heard were amazed concerning the things spoken by the shepherds to them. Yet Mary kept guarding all these words; she kept pondering in her heart. And the shepherds returned glorifying and praising God upon all they heard and saw, just as it was spoken to them.

We have spent this Advent season contemplating the canticles which Luke recorded in his gospel. Zechariah's song at the birth of John the Baptist, Mary's song after she conceived the Savior, and Simeon's song as Jesus was presented to the Temple. And so we have journeyed through the 1st, the 2nd and the 4th canticle of Luke's gospel. But what of the 3rd? Well, that one cannot be called an Advent canticle, because it is the Christmas song from the words of the angel army to the shepherds.

Of all these canticles, the Gloria in Excelsis seems the oddest. It comes from an army of angels, so fearsome that just one of them making an appearance is enough to scare these poor shepherds out of their wits. This army was necessary, for no doubt Satan and all his demons were poised to pounce against the Savior as soon as He would be born. This angel army had a battle on its hands, to be sure, but for this brief moment, they proclaim not warfare, but peace to these simple shepherds.

An army sent to proclaim peace? This seems completely backwards! But it is not the kind of peace that most people would expect. God is not promising here that all nations would beat their swords into plowshares and all wars between peoples on earth would cease. Far from it. Such a horizontal peace between peoples will never occur until the last day. The peace these angels declared was a vertical peace, come down on earth from heaven above. It was God's peace with mankind. Why was such a peace so significant for us people? Because God has every reason to be anything but peaceful with such rebellious sinners like us. You know your own heart, which desires what you want, and could often care less about what others need, or what God's will is. The rebellion of our human nature has put a big rift between us and our holy, righteous God. God's wrath was upon us, and the guilt, the blame, and the punishment for our sins was an impending doom we would await.

But God didn't want to continue having hostility toward lawbreakers like us. So He did the unthinkable; the Father sent His eternally begotten Son from His right hand in heaven, down to earth to be humiliated! He conceived Him in Mary's womb, and caused Him to be born in the likeness of sinful flesh. But He inherited no sin from His daddy like we do, for His Father was the perfect God above! So He could do what you & I couldn't; He kept our half of the covenant, obeying God's Law.

But that's only part of what it meant for Jesus to be your Savior. He not only stood in your stead as Law-keeper for you, but then He also willingly took your place at the cross, suffering the punishment of your death in His Own person on the tree. There, God died so that mankind might live! All the Father's wrath: His anger and hatred against sin was poured out in full upon Jesus that day.

This is peace on earth. It is God's good-will. For in Christ Jesus, the whole world is reconciled to God the Father. The Savior born this day is God's good-will toward you. Jesus is your Peace on earth.

Monday, December 22, 2008

December 21, 2008 Advent IV John 1:19-28

And this is the witness of John, when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites on a mission to him, in order that they ask him,"Who are you?" And he confessed and did not deny, yet confessed that "I myself AM not the Christ." And they asked him, "What, then, Are you Elijah?" And He said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" And he answered, "No." Then they said to him, "Who are you? In order that we give an answer to those who sent us; what do you say concerning yourself?" He said, "I myself--a voice crying in the wilderness, `Straighten the way of the Lord,' just as Isaiah the prophet said." And some of the Pharisees were sent on a mission, and they asked him and said to him, "Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah nor the Prophet?" John answered them saying,"I baptize in water; In your midst stands One Whom you do not know, One Who comes after me, of whom I am not worthy, in order that I loosen the strap of His sandal.

Today's Gospel shows us a great opportunity for confession. Not the confession of sins, which is also important, but the confession of faith in Christ. John boldly makes his confession, which includes two things: what isn't true, and also what is true. All true confessions do the same thing. When we confess Jesus as the Christ, along with John, we admit what we ourselves are not, and also what Jesus is in our place. That way our confession contains the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Such confessions of faith are not very popular today. Nowadays, folks are all about saying what they think is true, but rarely do they condemn the false beliefs which are untrue. In this so-called post-modern age, tolerance is all the rage. "I believe my truth, and you have your truth, and neither one of us will condemn the other's differing beliefs." This is more than simply respecting differences of opinion. This is embracing the notion that the truth we confess is not any better than the falsehood our neighbor believes.

Praise God that John didn't fail us in his confession. Many wanted him to be the promised Messiah. He could have said, "y'all can believe I'm the Christ if you want to" in the spirit of tolerance...but He didn't. He emphatically denied having any Messiah complex about himself. In fact, John had such humility that he didn't view himself worthy of doing even the lowest slave task for Jesus. So humble was John that he didn't even recognize the prophesy of Elijah's return to prepare Christ's way, as applying to himself.

So how is your own confession of Christ Jesus? Do your everyday words give Him the glory that is due? God gives you opportunities for confession quite often. Does your demeanor betray you as a Christian, so that others will ask you for the reason for the hope you have? Or are your words and actions each day seem to have little difference from those unbelievers all around you? Perhaps you are too uncomfortable to make a bold and confident confession of Christ Jesus to your friends, neighbors, relatives and co-workers.

One reason you may lack confidence is that you don't know enough about your faith to give a good answer to those with questions. So, come to bible class! Review your faith with the pastor the next time an adult instruction class is offered. Make time from your busy schedules to attend the special worship services here at holiday time to be fed more from God's Word. Dust off your Catechism and review it once more. Get a Book of Concord and read (or re-read) about your Lutheran confession of faith.

For the Word of God is a great blessing to you. It forgives your sins whenever the Pastor proclaims Jesus' Gospel love to you from lectern, pulpit and in the sacrament of holy absolution. It is the same Gospel word which John and later Jesus connected with water to forgive you & bestow God's name upon you as His Own. It is the same Gospel word which Christ attaches to simple bread and wine, placing therein His Own body and blood, given and shed for you for your forgiveness at the Cross of Calvary.

Strengthened by this Word of God in so many ways, God Himself makes you confident in your personal confession to say the same things as God does in Holy Scripture. You may then confess the negatives along with John, that you also are not the Christ, for your ways are not the same as God's ways. Where you stray from the path God has set for you, your confession is a humble one concerning yourself. There you confess your sinfulness before your holy and righteous God and Father in heaven..

You then may confess also the positives about your Savior, Christ Jesus: that He, unlike you was perfect, keeping the Law in your place, earning eternal life in heaven for you...that He willingly took your place at the Cross, dying your death so you could live His life in glory above...that He has rescued you from sin, death & the devil as the great I AM, the LORD God Who has triumphed at the Cross. Amen.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

December 14, 2008 Advent III Matthew 11:2-10

And John, having heard in the prison the works of the Christ, having sent through his disciples, he said to Him, "Are You Yourself the One coming, or will we wait for another?" And He answered: Jesus said to them, "Having gone, announce to John what you are hearing and seeing; blind receive sight and lame walk, lepers are cleansed and deaf are hearing, and dead are being raised up, and the beggarly are being evangelized; and blessed is whoever does not fall into a death trap on account of me. And as these were going, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John, "Why did you go out into the desert? To see a reed by the wind shaken? But what did you go out to see? A man clothed soft & fancy? Look, those wearing what is soft & fancy are in the houses of kings! But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes I say to you, and much more than a prophet! This it is, concerning whom has been written, "Look, I Myself send on a mission my angel before your face, who will prepare Your way before You. Amen, I say to you: there has not arisen among those born of women greater than John the Baptizer; but the one lesser in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is.

What is going on with John the Baptizer?!. He was the one who boldly confessed Jesus, as the Lamb of God Who came to take away the sins of the world! John knew Who Jesus was, compared to him. He boldly confessed that he was not worthy to even untie the strap of Jesus' sandals! He willingly became lesser & lesser, knowing Jesus would become greater and greater. Now, he seems to question just who Jesus really is. Has being in prison begun to get the best of him?

From our view, we might assume that John must be having a crisis of faith, or that doubt is beginning to creep in. But we ought not jump too quickly to such a conclusion. For John is a master teacher, one who knows how to use questions wisely. Your teachers in school didn't ask you questions because they didn't know the answers, did they? They posed questions to you for your benefit, so that you could learn something, and that's just what John was doing for his disciples.

John asks a question through these disciples for a reason. Is Jesus the coming one whose advent believers await? Of course he is. Then why have these disciples of John not realized yet that the Baptizer has now grown lesser and lesser, and that they ought to be following the one Who is growing greater & greater? So John cleverly sends them to Jesus to see for themselves, and their Savior does not disappoint them. They actually witness the miracles Jesus describes.

In John becoming lesser and lesser, therein Jesus points out the Baptizer's greatness. No greater man has been born than John was. But his greatness was in humbly stepping out of the way so that Jesus could walk in the way the Baptizer prepared. John knew that it wasn't all about him. It was all about God, Who had taken upon human flesh to tabernacle among men. Jesus was the One Who was to come, and John has successfully pointed his clingy disciples toward Him.

Jesus speaks another thing which causes us to ask, "What's up with John the Baptizer?" The Lord declares that the lesser ones in God's kingdom are greater than John! Does this mean we won't see John one day in heaven? Of course not. Jesus is simply pointing out John's greatness found in his humility. For John was a lowly slave to God's people. His humble service was preaching God's gift of repentance and administering God's baptism to bring others into God's kingdom! Boy can we learn a lot from John the Baptizer.

First, it is not about
all of the things we do for the church that's most important, rather what God provides us which we receive that matters most. Your greatness is not all about holding a church office, or pitching in to help out in cleaning, decorating and maintaining your church. Those are but opportunities for humble service, anonymous if possible, so that even your left hand does not know what your right hand has done in the end .

Greatness in the God's kingdom of heaven down here, known as the church, is all about what God does. First & foremost it is in the healing, in the restoration, and in the resurrection Jesus brings to sick, forsaken, dead-in-our-sins folk like you and me. Jesus' word proclaims your illness of sin cured from lectern and pulpit. Your adoption into God's family through Baptism restores your relationship with your heavenly Father. And the body and blood of Jesus, which died & rose on high for you forgives your sins, and bestows to you eternal life and everlasting salvation.

So what's up with John the Baptizer? Simply, once again, directing us to our Savior, Christ Jesus.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

December 7, 2008 Advent II Luke 21:25-36

And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations, in perplexity of the roaring of seas and waves; men expiring from fear and anticipation of things coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And these things beginning to occur, straighten up and lift up your heads, because coming near is your redemption. And He spoke a parable to them: Look, the fig tree and all the trees; whenever they shoot forth, already you see; from yourselves you know already near is the summer. So also you, whenever you see these things occurring, you know that near is the kingdom of God. Amen, I say to you that, no, this generation will not pass away until all things are to take place. The heavens and the earth will pass away, but My words, no, they will not pass away. Watch yourselves so your hearts are not weighted down in dissipation and drunkenness and worries of life, and that day spring upon you suddenly, like a trap; for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth.

Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates! With these words the hymn writer reminds us of how the generation which looks for the Redeemer ought to act. But do we act like those who are waiting the return of Jesus with eager anticipation? Or instead, do we go about our daily grind, acting as though we don't expect Jesus to come back at all in our lifetime. Sadly, our heads are turned downward, toward this world and its affairs almost all of the time, with only a rare gaze of hope upward to Jesus.

Some fail to lift up their heads to seek Jesus' return because they are so distracted. The fears of economic & political turmoil in the world, and the worries of daily life preoccupy all their time. Don't let yourself fall into this trap either. You can easily get caught up in these small things, and miss out on the big picture. Then, you would find yourself unprepared for Christ's return, having focused your attention on temporary matters, and not eternal ones. Instead, you lift your heads and look for Jesus!

For your Redeemer brings the kingdom of God near to you. He did that when you were baptized, bringing you into the kingdom of heaven by water and the word. But you were not made simple subjects in that kingdom, oh no. Your heavenly king adopted you into His Own family that day, making you yourselves into a kingdom of royal priests! Your life is no longer a temporal one, but an everlasting life. You lift your heads now as everlasting doors, for Father, Son and Spirit to enter in through baptism.

Others fail to lift their heads toward Jesus because they feel somewhat unworthy to do so. Perhaps they know of the Son of Man's great power & glory, but then compare that to their own weakness & dishonor. You yourselves may fall into this trap, not wanting to think about Jesus' return, almost dreading it because He is so holy, and you know that you are not. But don't hang your head low and mope around like Eeyore the donkey and cry, *Woe is me...*. Lift your heads high and look to Jesus!

For your Redeemer has left you with a blessed gift which will never pass away–His word. The word of the scriptures was written for your instruction, that it would lift you up, encourage you, and enable you to persevere through all difficult times, as those who have hope. Jesus' Own Word of the Holy Gospel delivers that hope to you, promising you forgiveness, life and salvation from Christ, your Redemption, Who died for you on the cross, in your place, taking away your death to give you life eternal.

Still others fail to lift up their heads in expectation of Christ's imminent return, simply because they don't think He's coming back anytime soon. They figure that He's waited 2000 years so far, and probably won't return for another 2000, so they eat, drink and be merry. Don't fall into this trap, yourselves. You can boycott bible classes, and ignore special worship services as though there is nothing happening for which God wishes to prepare you. Or you can lift your heads and seek Jesus!

For your Redeemer is accustomed to coming down to you regularly. The Son of Man comes down to teach you in bible study. The Son of Man comes down to serve you in the Divine Service as well, as the ever-living body of Jesus comes down from the right hand of God in heaven above to feed you with Himself in the Lord's Supper. His life-giving blood which flows through His veins nourishes you in the cup of salvation. Isn't this a reminder that He Who keeps coming down will one day soon return?

You are the generation of believers who have not yet passed away. You are those blessed by Jesus' Words, proclaimed and put into action in the sacraments, as He prepares you for His imminent return.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Canticles of Advent--Magnificat

And Mary said, "My soul makes great the Lord, and my spirit has been jubilant over God, my Savior, for He looked upon the humbleness of His slave-maiden. For look, from now all generations will bless me, because the Mighty One has worked greatness to me, and holy–His Name, and His mercy into generations & generations, to those fearing Him. He works strength in His arm, He scattered haughty ones in the understanding of their hearts; He brought down rulers from thrones and He exalted humble ones, He filled hungry ones of good things and rich ones He sent away empty. He took hold of Israel, His servant, to remember mercy, just as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed into the ages."

Tonight we take a look at the first poem of Luke's gospel, the Magnificat--our first canticle of Advent. Although Mary first spoke these words, they have become a canticle sung by the Christian churches since soon after it was recorded by Luke. This Song of Mary, as some
have come to call it, has been sung in congregations like ours in the evening hours, most often during the prayer office at Vespers. Yet, it is not so much *Mary's Song* as it is the Church's song which we are blessed to sing tonight.

Oddly enough, as much as some would err by elevating Mary too highly in their worship, Mary herself seems to do the very opposite. She is overjoyed at being chosen as the Mother of God, but also perplexed about it; for she knows she is nobody special. She is not from Herod's palace, or even the daughter of the chief priest Annas. She's an obscure young
girl from Nazareth, far from Jerusalem's Temple. She considers herself but a humble slave-girl of God, not at all worthy of such a blessing.

Not only is Mary modest in her earthly, temporal circumstances; but she is also humbled where her spiritual, eternal welfare is concerned. She knows she is not sinless like some would want to believe, but a sinner. She sees herself as someone who needs saving from sin, its empter–the devil, and its wages–death. That's why she calls God her *Savior*. She knows she is not perfect, yet in her womb is now growing her very Savior Who will forgive her sins and rescue her from the hell she deserves.

You do well to learn something from Mary here. The Law words of the magnificat caution us against being to arrogant & haughty in our attitudes. God will bring down such proud people, since pride indeed goes before a fall. So if you think that you are already a good person on your own, and that you deserve lots of good blessings from God, you will be in for a big surprise. Such folks will be brought down by God, and sent away empty, without His blessings they assumed they deserved.

You do better to also learn from Mary's words of Gospel in this canticle. As she fears God by faith, so too do you believe in Jesus as our Savior. As she relies upon His mercy to save her, you also trust in His grace for your own salvation. Your confidence is in how God remembers His mercy toward you. Just as He worked a great work in Mary as she bore Jesus our Savior, God has worked great works of Jesus for you. Jesus came down from heaven to give you His Holy Name as His Own in baptism. As you hunger, He fills you with good things--His very body & blood given to you in Holy Communion.

You are blessed no less than Mary, believe it or not; because you are of those generations who call her *blessed*. God has generated faith in you by the power of His Holy Spirit, through the Gospel message you have believed about God, your Savior–Christ Jesus. You are part of the
generations & generations to whom God's mercy has been worked. You are those of Abraham's Seed, the One Who was born several generations after that patriarch, from the womb of the virgin Mary–your Savior.

So, perhaps this canticle is a bit mis-named, when we call it Mary's Song. It isn't just hers alone, but recorded for us in Luke's gospel, it is now your song to sing as well. It is the Church's song, sung in paraphrase, or sometimes in hymn form, or just as Luke wrote it as a
Canticle at Vespers. It is your song too, just as each one of us may say, *This is my song about my Savior as well!*

Yet an even better name for this canticle would be your Savior's Song, since it is really all about Jesus anyway! He humbles you by His words of Law, and then raises you up, exalting you on high by His Gospel love. Your Savior Who gave up His life on the cross for you, takes hold of you in His word & sacraments, to be His people Israel forevermore. And so, as Mary's soul magnifies the Lord Jesus in our view this night, may His song evermore be known among us as the Magnificat. Amen.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Sunday, November 30, 2008 Advent 1 Matthew 21:1-11

And when they came near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus commissioned two disciples, saying to them, "Go into the village across from you, and immediately you will find, tied, a donkey and a colt with her; having loosened, you bring to me. And if ever anyone to you says anything, you will say that the Lord has need of them; and immediately he will commission them. And this happened in order that the word through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, "Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Look, your king comes to you, gentle and mounted upon a donkey, even upon a colt, a son of a beast of burden.'" And the disciples went, and did just as Jesus had instructed them; they brought the donkey and the colt and placed on them the garments, and He sat upon them. And much of the crowd spread their garments on the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading in the road. And the crowds, the ones going before Him, and the ones following after were saying, "Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed–the One coming in the Name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!"

Blessed new year! Advent begins today, and a new church year is now upon us. It is fitting that the 1st Gospel of the year portrays our Lord's triumphal entry into Jerusalem, for the Advent season is all about Jesus coming to be with His people to bless them. We know that He comes to us today in His words proclaimed & in the visible words of the sacraments. And we also know that Jesus will come again, at the last day, to take us from this valley of tears & sorrows to be with Him forever in heaven.

But exactly what kind of man is this who comes in the Name of the Lord? The crowds seemed overjoyed to welcome him to Jerusalem that Palm Sunday. But just 5 days later, the crowds would shout *crucify Him, crucify Him*. What gives? They knew that Jesus was the Son of David, a human being descended from his royal line through His mother, but they seemed to forget just Who Jesus' Father was. Jesus was God come down in the flesh, sharing His Father's divine glory.

Now they should have known better. After all, they chose to quote the well known Passover Psalm which predicted Jesus' work. *Hosanna!* they shouted. But what does that mean for us English speakers? It was a prayer, calling upon God to grant salvation. Yet they shouted it at Jesus! They should have known that God alone could be their Savior, and if they expected Jesus to save them, they ought to have understood that the promised Messiah would have to be God incarnate.

If this were not enough, they continued by shouting, "Blessed is the One Who Comes in the Name of the Lord". Now, this meant more that Jesus being simply God's emissary. This prophecy meant that the One coming was from God's Own family, One Who shared God's divine Name! They should have realized, as they helped fulfill the prophecy of Psalm 118, that the Person riding on before them was not just someone sent from God, but it was God come down to them in human form to save them.

Now, I know that you probably would guess that you are much better than this dopey crowd in Jerusalem. But guess again. Do you speak & act like Jesus is your God & Savior all the time? Or do you speak from faith at one moment, and then soon after speak sinfully? Do you sometimes find yourself a willing servant of God, and toward others for a time, yet all too quickly to shift gears into self-serving desires. You know well what God wants of you, yet you are as hypocritical as the crowds.

Truly, the bad news is that human nature hasn't changed much in the 2000 or so years since these supportive crowds so quickly turned against Jesus. But the good news is that God hasn't changed either. Jesus loved those hypocrites from the crowds so much that He was willing to give them everything they wanted. They wanted Him to save (hosanna) them--that's just what He did. They wanted Him crucified--He willingly went to the cross to die in their place to save their sin-sick souls.

Jesus is the same, yesterday, today & forever for you as well. He saved you no less than those crowds of hypocrites, by taking your place in death on the cross. He washed your sins from you in baptism and became them at Calvary. He gave up His body to death, and shed His blood for you there, that you may eat & drink His forgiveness given to you in the Sacrament of the Altar. He continues to declare His eternal love to you in His gospel proclaimed from lectern & pulpit

He who once came to Jerusalem, and now comes to you in word & sacrament, will come again from on High in glory to judge the living & the dead. That day, you greet him with Hosannas in the highest!