“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” (O Antiphons)

Fourth Sunday in Advent
December 23, 2018

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” (O Antiphons)

The Hymn of the Day today for this Fourth Sunday in Advent is hymn 357 in Lutheran Service Book, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Please turn there now and maybe even mark it with the ribbon, because we’ll be referring to it throughout the sermon.

You’ll notice on the page facing the hymn that there is a heading, “The Great ‘O’ Antiphons.” And there you will see seven such antiphons, listed by date, starting on December 17 and ending today, December 23. They’re called the “O” Antiphons, because each one starts with an “O,” which you use when you’re addressing someone, followed by a particular title addressing Christ: O Wisdom, O Adonai, O Root of Jesse, and so on. And they are antiphons, which are little framing verses used in the liturgy. In this case, they were used to frame the Magnificat, during Vespers over the last seven evenings before Christmas Eve.

Now if you compare these “O Antiphons” to the hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” you will see that these seven antiphons were the basis for the seven stanzas of the hymn. The only difference is that we sing the Emmanuel hymn stanza first, whereas the Emmanuel antiphon actually comes last–today, on December 23.

The O Antiphons are prayers to Christ, in anticipation of his coming at Christmas, each one using a different messianic title. These titles each have their own background in the Old Testament, and they are fulfilled in the New Testament in the coming of Christ. And so there is a message for us in these seven antiphons, because each one tells us something about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And who Jesus is, and who he is for us, makes all the difference in the world–indeed, in this world and the next. So let’s find out what that message is. And, in fact, there is even a hidden message here, which we’ll get to at the end.

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Published in: on December 21, 2018 at 10:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Meeting of the Moms” (Luke 1:39-45)

Midweek Advent Vespers
Wednesday, December 19, 2018

“The Meeting of the Moms” (Luke 1:39-45)

Over these three midweek Advent services, we’ve been looking at readings from Luke chapter one, which is the lead-up to the Christmas Gospel itself in chapter two. Back in our first midweek service, we heard the angel Gabriel announce to Zechariah that he and his wife Elizabeth would have a child named John, John the Baptist. Then last week we heard Gabriel announce to Mary that she would give birth to Jesus. Now today these two storylines intersect. Mary goes to visit her relative Elizabeth. It’s the account of “The Visitation,” that is, the visit of Mary to Elizabeth, while both women were expecting their very special children. I’m calling this story “The Meeting of the Moms.”

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Published in: on December 19, 2018 at 1:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Problem of Perplexity and the Promise of Hope” (Luke 7:18-28)

Third Sunday in Advent
December 16, 2018

“The Problem of Perplexity and the Promise of Hope” (Luke 7:18-28)

What happens when something you’ve been hoping for, something you’ve been waiting for eagerly and expectantly, what happens when it finally arrives, and your life still doesn’t get any better? In fact, it may even get worse. What then? Well, it can be rather perplexing. You may ask yourself: “Is there any hope for me to hold on to? Has God forgotten about me? Why is he letting this happen?” If you’ve ever felt like that, then our message today is just for you. And so our theme: “The Problem of Perplexity and the Promise of Hope.”

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Published in: on December 15, 2018 at 1:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“An Impossible Son, an Impossible Deliverance” (Judges 13:2-7; Luke 1:26-38)

Midweek Advent Vespers
Wednesday, December 12, 2018

“An Impossible Son, an Impossible Deliverance” (Judges 13:2-7; Luke 1:26-38)

It was an impossible situation. For forty years, Israel had been suffering under the oppression of the Philistines. The Philistines were looting their cities and ravaging their countryside. It was a period of great distress. Israel was in a dark and hopeless time. Often, though, in God’s way of doing things, dark and hopeless times give birth to new hope and renewed faith. So the Lord heard the Israelites’ cries of distress and did for them what was humanly impossible: He delivered them from the hand of the Philistines.

But God’s rescue plan did not involve gathering an army or amassing the weapons you would expect. God’s plan in this case centered on one man. An army of one, you might say. One man who singlehandedly would rescue Israel without touching a conventional weapon of war.

What’s more, God’s rescue plan began in circumstances that also seemed impossible: A barren woman would give birth. The angel of the Lord spoke to the wife of Manoah. “Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son,” the angel said. Earlier in Israel’s history, the Lord had done great things through the barren wombs of Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel. Sarah gave birth to the patriarch Isaac. Rebekah gave birth to the patriarch Jacob. Rachel, to Joseph and Benjamin. Later on, the Lord again would do great things through the womb of Hannah. She would give birth to the prophet Samuel. And much later, it would be the aged Elizabeth who gave birth to John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ. But now in the Book of Judges, the Lord will do the impossible through the barren wife of Manoah. She will give birth to Samson, a mighty deliverer who, in some ways, is a type of an even greater Deliverer to come. And so our theme tonight: “An Impossible Son, an Impossible Deliverance.”

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Published in: on December 12, 2018 at 1:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Way of Repentance” (Luke 3:1-14)

Second Sunday in Advent
December 9, 2018

“The Way of Repentance” (Luke 3:1-14)

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the Baptist in the wilderness. And every year, in the month of December, during the season of Advent, the word of God comes to us through John here in church. Yes, every year at this time, on the second Sunday in Advent, we always have a Gospel reading in which John the Baptist preaches God’s word to us.

And what is he preaching? Our text tells us: John went about “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” And this applies to us, as well. For God’s word tells us that we have been baptized into a life of repentance. We too have been baptized for the forgiveness of sins. John is preaching that message to us today. And so our theme this morning: “The Way of Repentance.”

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Published in: on December 8, 2018 at 10:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Child Who Is Zechariah’s Hope” (Luke 1:5-25)

Midweek Advent Vespers
Wednesday, December 5, 2018

“The Child Who Is Zechariah’s Hope” (Luke 1:5-25)

“What Child Is This?” That’s the theme of our midweek Advent series this year, picking up on the title of the hymn we sang. “What Child Is This?” Of course, the child we sing about in that hymn is the Christ child, Jesus, the Savior sent from heaven. But there is another child we consider first, one who prepares the way for Jesus, both later on in his ministry, but also even here in his birth. And that child is John, John the Baptist. And because our text today is about John the Baptist, it is therefore about Jesus. Because John’s whole purpose in life was to point people to Jesus. And God arranged for John to do that, even in his birth.

Our text is the story of the angel Gabriel announcing to Zechariah that he and his wife Elizabeth would have a son with that special purpose in life, to prepare the way of the Lord. Zechariah faltered at believing that message, and so the Lord struck him unable to speak for a time. But the Lord did not cast Zechariah aside or give up on him. For the child to be born after John, Jesus, would be the one who forgives Zechariah’s sins–and ours too–and restores us and gives us hope. So our message tonight is really about Jesus, “The Child Who Is Zechariah’s Hope.”

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Published in: on December 5, 2018 at 8:26 pm  Comments (1)  
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“Advent: Receiving the Coming King” (Luke 19:28-40)

First Sunday in Advent
December 2, 2018

“Advent: Receiving the Coming King” (Luke 19:28-40)

Well, it’s Advent. And you know what that means: We’re beginning the countdown to Christmas. Of course, the world has already been celebrating their Christmas for several weeks now, what with Hallmark Christmas movies, and Christmas TV specials and commercials, and radio stations playing songs about “Santa Baby” and “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” But that’s the world’s Christmas. In the church, though, we get to celebrate the real thing, the true Christmas. And Advent, which begins today, serves as the lead-up to it.

But that’s not all Advent does. Oh, we will be getting ready for Christmas. Our midweek services start this Wednesday, under the theme, “What Child Is This?” And after the service we’ll put up the tree here in church. The Ladies’ Guild is having their Christmas party on Thursday. And later this Advent we’ll be singing hymns like “Savior of the Nations, Come” and “Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel.”

So Advent is the lead-up to Christmas. But it’s a lot more than that, too. It’s about how we prepare ourselves for Christ’s coming. It’s about how we welcome him as he comes to us. As we just sang, “O Lord, how shall I meet you, how welcome you aright?” And it’s about the various ways and times our Lord does come to us, then and now and still to come.

The thread that connects all these themes is summed up in the word “Advent” itself. For “Advent” simply means “Coming.” This season is all about Christ coming to us and how we respond to that. Thus our message this morning: “Advent: Receiving the Coming King.”

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Published in: on December 1, 2018 at 10:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Gabriel’s Gracious Greeting” (Luke 1:26-38)

Fourth Sunday in Advent
December 24, 2017

“Gabriel’s Gracious Greeting” (Luke 1:26-38)

Every year on the Fourth Sunday in Advent, the Holy Gospel is a reading about Mary. Last year it was the message to Joseph that Mary would bear a son. Next year it will be Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth. This year it is the Annunciation to Mary that she will conceive in her womb and bear a son. So each year on this Sunday there’s something about Mary becoming the mother of our Lord, which is most fitting on the Sunday closest to Christmas.

As I say, our text today is the Annunciation, the announcement by the angel Gabriel to the virgin Mary. Gabriel comes to Mary and says to her, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But then Mary’s reaction is a bit puzzling. It says, “She was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.” Well, that’s our question, too. What sort of greeting is this? And what sort of meaning does it have for us? That’s what we’ll find out now, as we consider “Gabriel’s Gracious Greeting.”

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Published in: on December 23, 2017 at 10:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“He Will Surely Do It” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-24)

Midweek Advent Evening Prayer
Wednesday, December 20, 2017

“He Will Surely Do It” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-24)

This has been an Advent series about the Second Advent, the Second Coming of Christ. Each Wednesday we’ve looked at the Epistle reading from the previous Sunday, and the connecting theme that runs through all of them is the idea of “Waiting for the Day of the Lord.” We began two weeks ago by unpacking the biblical teaching about the day of the Lord, that it is “A Day of Judgment and Salvation.” Last week we saw that when the Day of the Lord finally comes, God will bring about “New Heavens and a New Earth.” Now today we close out this series on waiting for the day of the Lord by looking at how God will sanctify us as we wait and keep us blameless at Christ’s coming. Yes, God is faithful, and “He Will Surely Do It.”

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Published in: on December 20, 2017 at 9:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“When the Messiah Gives You a Makeover” (Isaiah 61:1-4, 10-11)

Third Sunday in Advent
December 17, 2017

“When the Messiah Gives You a Makeover” (Isaiah 61:1-4, 10-11)

Have you ever seen one of those makeover shows on TV? My daughter used to watch one. It was called “What Not to Wear.” The idea of the show was that they would select a woman whose wardrobe and appearance wasn’t that great. Then they would help her pick out some new clothes that would look better on her. They would give her a nice haircut and do up her makeup. So this woman, who at the start of the program was looking all drab and dowdy, by the end of the program was looking like a million bucks. And she would be absolutely delighted with the results. The makeover had made a big difference.

Well, today I want to tell you about an even better makeover. And the good news is, it’s for you. It’s for all of us. And it’s free of charge. This makeover will make the biggest difference in your life, and you will be absolutely delighted with the results. What I want to tell you about now is “When the Messiah Gives You a Makeover.”

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Published in: on December 16, 2017 at 3:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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