“Increasing in Wisdom” (Luke 2:40-52)

Second Sunday after Christmas
January 5, 2020

“Increasing in Wisdom” (Luke 2:40-52)

When Jesus was an infant, he was presented in the temple at 40 days old. From that point on, we know nothing of the life of Jesus, until he began his public ministry at the age of 30–except for two incidents: One is the visit of the wise men and the flight to Egypt, when Jesus was less than two. The only other incident we have from Jesus’ childhood is when he was twelve. It’s the Gospel reading you just heard, the story usually called “The Boy Jesus in the Temple.”

It’s the story of when Joseph and Mary took twelve-year-old Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem, and then they couldn’t find him, because he stayed behind after they left. When they come back and do find him, his mother says, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And Jesus answers, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And, it says, “they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them.” Others since then have not understood his response, either. They think he’s talking back to his parents. They would call this story “Jesus the Sassy Tween” or “Jesus the Little Wiseacre,” talking back to his parents like that.

But Jesus was not being a wiseacre! Far from it! Indeed, he was being truly wise, displaying divine wisdom both in his time at the temple and in his reply to his parents. Jesus did nothing wrong by staying behind in what he rightly called “my Father’s house.” That was where he belonged at that time. And Jesus did nothing wrong, either, in his reply to Mary and Joseph. In God’s wisdom, Jesus was where he had to be at that particular time, as part of his mission.

And that was what Mary and Joseph needed to learn: that their son had a higher calling, a divine, heaven-sent mission. Jesus was “theirs” only on loan. He first of all had to be about his heavenly Father’s business, a business that would eventually take him away from them. That Jesus had to be about his Father’s business ultimately would be for their eternal good. For by doing so he would be with them in a much greater way–forever, just as he is with us. Twelve-year-old Jesus was not being a wiseacre. No, he was displaying true wisdom. And as Mary and Joseph learned more about him, they increased in their understanding, as will we. And so our theme this morning: “Increasing in Wisdom.”

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Published in: on January 4, 2020 at 7:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The One That Got Away” (Matthew 2:13-23)

First Sunday after Christmas
December 29, 2019

“The One That Got Away” (Matthew 2:13-23)

Christmas is a joyous, happy holiday. At this time of year, we celebrate the “good news of great joy,” that to us is born a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. With the angels who give glory to God in the highest, with the shepherds who return glorifying and praising God, with the wise men who rejoice exceedingly with great joy, we too join in the joy of Christmas.

Yes, Christmas is a joyous, happy holiday. That is true within the church. But perhaps even more so, it’s true in the culture around us. In our society, Christmas is expected to be a time of happiness and laughter, a time for merriment and good cheer, a time for blocking out–at least temporarily–all the unpleasant and painful aspects of life.

And so, to the extent that we have been influenced by the culture, today’s Gospel reading can come as a bit of a shock. It seems to run counter to the mood of the season. For it’s the account of what’s called “The Slaughter of the Holy Innocents.” Now if there is any event in the Bible that could be further removed from an upbeat, cheerful holiday mood, I don’t know what it is. Herod’s slaughter of the innocent children of Bethlehem is a singularly horrifying and tragic story. Yet it comes hard on the heels of Christmas, this story of the brutal murder of innocent children. What saves the story for us, though, is “The One That Got Away.”

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Published in: on December 28, 2019 at 5:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Word Became Flesh and Dwelt among Us” (John 1:1-18)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Day
Wednesday, December 25, 2019

“The Word Became Flesh and Dwelt among Us” (John 1:1-18)

In the Holy Gospel for today, the apostle John tells us the unfathomable mystery and the joyous wonder of the baby born on Christmas Day. John writes: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

No greater words were ever written. John 1:14 is one of the most profound verses in the whole Bible, in one of the most profound passages, the prologue of John’s gospel. We could spend hours exploring the depths of this majestic prologue, there’s so much here. But even for a few minutes now, let’s ponder and treasure this great mystery known as the incarnation.

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Published in: on December 25, 2019 at 10:47 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Christmas Carols Come Alive!” (Luke 2:1-20)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Eve
Tuesday, December 24, 2019

“Christmas Carols Come Alive!” (Luke 2:1-20)

Christmas carols are, obviously, very popular at this time of year. You hear them all over the radio these days–although that will probably stop after tomorrow. These secular radio stations start playing Christmas music back around November 1, and they stop right when the church begins the twelve days of the real Christmas season. But these stations wouldn’t be playing Christmas music unless lots of people liked to tune in and listen. The joy and warmth of the holiday season comes through when Christmas carols are played. What’s even greater, though, is when Christmas carols come alive. That’s our theme tonight, on this joyous Christmas Eve: “Christmas Carols Come Alive!”

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Published in: on December 24, 2019 at 6:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Truth of Christmas: The Word Became Flesh” (John 1:1-18)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Day
Tuesday, December 25, 2018

“The Truth of Christmas: The Word Became Flesh” (John 1:1-18)

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” This is the most wonderful good news we could ever receive! It is this central truth that makes Christmas Christmas. It’s not about toys or Santa Claus or mistletoe or even getting the family together. Those are all good things, but they’re not essential to Christmas being Christmas. Christ is–he, the Word made flesh. And that’s why we’re here this morning.

People like to think of Christmas as something soft and fluffy, full of warm and fuzzy feelings. Curled up on the couch, watching a Hallmark movie. Christmas as hot chocolate for the soul. But to reduce Christmas to that–well, that falls way short. Christmas is not cute and cuddly. Christmas is raw and real. Christ came into our world to deal with the root problem of humanity, which is sin. Christ came in the flesh, because that’s the only way it could happen. Christmas is earthy, not fluffy. It is flesh-and-blood reality that brings God to us, up close and personal. And that is what makes the real Christmas ultimately so offensive to the world.

But to us who know the truth of Christmas, its “fleshiness” is absolutely crucial and vital. Our very salvation depends on it! And so the church must always be vigilant about confessing “The Truth of Christmas: The Word Became Flesh.”

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Published in: on December 24, 2018 at 3:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“What Child Is This?” (Luke 2:1-20)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Eve
Monday, December 24, 2018

“What Child Is This?” (Luke 2:1-20)

When a child is born, there are questions that people typically ask. Parents wonder, “Is he healthy?” “How much does he weigh?” Grandparents ask, “What did you name her?” “Who does she look like?” Nurses and doctors closely examine the child and want to know, “Is he alert?” “Are her lungs clear?” We expect those kinds of questions.

But there are other questions we never expect to hear at the birth of a child. No one would ever think to ask, “Who will handle his funeral arrangements someday?” Or, “What cemetery do you think he’ll be buried in?” Or, “What will cause his death?” The Scriptures say, “For everything there is a season.” And the season for asking about a person’s death is usually not at his or her birth.

The hymn we just sang asks a very unusual question about a child born in Bethlehem: “What Child Is This?” However, it is a fitting question, because this child is born in a most unusual way. His mother is a virgin. His birth is announced by a heavenly host of angels praising God. So, what child is this? The wonderful answer is proclaimed by the angel: “I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

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Published in: on December 22, 2018 at 9:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“And the Word Became Flesh” (John 1:1-18)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Day
Monday, December 25, 2017

“And the Word Became Flesh” (John 1:1-18)

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Christmas marks a dividing line between truth and error. The reality of what happened at Christmas–namely, that the Word became flesh–that reality is so shocking, so utterly unreasonable and offensive, that it drives people crazy. It causes them to deny the truth and to promote error in its place. Most all the classic heresies that have been around for 2,000 years now, in various forms, have this in common: They cannot handle the truth of Christmas. They cannot stand the idea that the Word, the eternal Son of God, had to become flesh, with all the implications that flow out of that.

Now we like to think of Christmas as kinda soft and fluffy and inoffensive. Cute and cuddly. But to reduce Christmas to that–well, nothing could be further from the truth. Christmas is not “cute.” Rather, it is raw reality that deals with the root problem of humanity. It is earthy, not fluffy. It is flesh-and-blood stuff that brings God to us up-close and personal. And that is why ultimately it is so shocking and controversial. But to us who know the truth of Christmas, its “fleshiness” is absolutely crucial. Your very salvation depends on it! And so the church must always be vigilant about confessing this truth: “And the Word Became Flesh.”

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Published in: on December 25, 2017 at 12:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“From Heaven Above to Earth I Come” (Luke 2:1-20)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Eve
Sunday, December 24, 2017

“From Heaven Above to Earth I Come” (Luke 2:1-20)

For our Christmas Eve homily tonight, I thought I’d let Luther lead the way. This is the 500th anniversary year of the Reformation, after all, and Martin Luther wrote and preached much on the wonder and the mystery of Christ’s birth. It was a favorite theme of his. So tonight we’ll use Luther’s great Christmas hymn, “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come,” as the basis for our meditation. You’ll find it as Hymn 358 in your Lutheran Service Book.

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Published in: on December 24, 2017 at 6:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“On the Eighth Day of Christmas: The Circumcision and Name of Jesus” (Luke 2:21)

Circumcision and Name of Jesus
Sunday, January 1, 2017

“On the Eighth Day of Christmas: The Circumcision and Name of Jesus” (Luke 2:21)

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me . . . the circumcision and name of Jesus? Huh? What? Yeah, well, that’s what happened on this day. On the eighth day of Christmas, God’s true love gave to me–and to you, to us–the circumcision and name of Jesus.

That’s what our text says, the Holy Gospel for this day, Luke 2:21, which reads again as follows, “And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” Just one verse, the shortest reading for any Sunday or festival in the church year. Just one verse, but this text speaks volumes about God’s true and profound love for us in Christ. And so our theme for this New Year’s Day, “On the Eighth Day of Christmas: The Circumcision and Name of Jesus.”

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Published in: on December 30, 2016 at 4:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“And the Government Shall Be upon His Shoulder” (Isaiah 9:2-7)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Day
Sunday, December 25, 2016

“And the Government Shall Be upon His Shoulder” (Isaiah 9:2-7)

About 26 days from now, we’re going to have a change in our government. A new president will take the oath of office, and a new administration will take over. For some people this will be a welcome change; for others, it will mean weeping and gnashing of teeth. But in any case, there will be a new president, and the weight of the White House will rest upon his shoulders.

Well, I’m here to tell you today, the most important change in administrations has already taken place, and it happened about 2,016 years ago. That’s when a new king was born, a king whose reign surpasses all others. And the good news is, you belong to his kingdom. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.” “And the Government Shall Be upon His Shoulder.”

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Published in: on December 23, 2016 at 8:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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