“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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“New Heavens and a New Earth” (2 Peter 3:8-14)

Midweek Advent Evening Prayer
Wednesday, December 13, 2017

“New Heavens and a New Earth” (2 Peter 3:8-14)

This year’s theme for our Advent midweek services is “Waiting for the Day of the Lord.” We’re looking at the Epistle readings for the first three weeks of Advent, all of which are about looking forward to the second coming of Christ and, in view of that, how to live now while we’re waiting for that day.

Last week we began by looking at the biblical background of the term, “The Day of the Lord.” We saw it as a day of both judgment and salvation–judgment for the unbelieving world, but salvation for us as the redeemed people of God. We took comfort in God’s promise that he will sustain us to the end, “guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Today we continue to explore what it means to be waiting for the day of the Lord. Our text this week is from 2 Peter 3, where St. Peter alerts us to be ready for that day. Peter’s message to us tonight is threefold: First, while there may seem to be a delay in Christ’s return, don’t think that God has forgotten his promise to bring it to pass, and so don’t be caught unawares when it finally does come, for it will come like a thief in the night. Second, Peter tells us what will happen to this evil world on that day, and he points us to the new creation that God will then bring about: “New Heavens and a New Earth.” Third, Peter exhorts us to live as God’s holy people even now, since that is who we are in Christ, and those new heavens and new earth we’re waiting for will be a place “in which righteousness dwells.” Let’s take these three points now one at a time.

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Published in: on December 14, 2017 at 7:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“A Baptism of Repentance for the Forgiveness of Sins” (Mark 1:1-8)

Second Sunday in Advent
December 10, 2017

“A Baptism of Repentance for the Forgiveness of Sins” (Mark 1:1-8)

Well, here comes John the Baptist again. He always shows up around this time of year. Always with kind of a depressing message: “Repent! Get your life straightened out!” John the Baptist is like the Denny Downer of December. Everybody else is having a good time getting ready for Christmas–going shopping, listening to Christmas music, watching specials on TV, having Christmas parties–and here comes John, telling us to repent. John, is that any way to get ready for Christmas?

I mean, listen to this part of our text today from Mark 1: “John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.”

A baptism of repentance. People confessing their sins. Kind of dreary, isn’t it? Not too cheery. But oh, wait! This was John’s baptism, right? Yeah, John’s baptism doesn’t apply to us, does it? So I guess we can go on and skip over this repentance stuff.

Hold on, not so fast. Yeah, John’s baptism was not exactly the same as our baptism. His was preparatory, provisional, for a limited time only. But is it totally irrelevant to us? I mean the repentance stuff. I don’t think so. Let’s find out more now, as we consider “A Baptism of Repentance for the Forgiveness of Sins.”

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Published in: on December 10, 2017 at 12:09 am  Leave a Comment  
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