“A Twelve-Year-Old Boy, Filled with Wisdom” (Luke 2:40-52)

Second Sunday after Christmas
January 4, 2015

“A Twelve-Year-Old Boy, Filled with Wisdom” (Luke 2:40-52)

When I was twelve years old, I hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Pretty impressive, eh? No, pretty stupid, actually. Because, at twelve years old, I hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon . . . without telling anyone. Let me explain. This was back in the days of train travel, and my mother, grandmother, sister, and I were taking the train from Chicago to Los Angeles for a family reunion. When we got to Arizona, there was an option to get off the train, get on a bus, and take a day trip to see the Grand Canyon. Which we did. When I saw it, I thought the Grand Canyon was amazing, fascinating! So I started exploring, as twelve-year-old boys are wont to do, and I came across this trail, hugging the side of the canyon and going down. I started walking down it. Fascinating, incredible, I thought! So I kept walking down the trail. And kept walking. Eventually, I ended up at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. And it was 110 degrees. And I was wearing flip-flops. And I had no water. Now I had to get back up, which looked a little more daunting than going down. And the bus was going to leave at a certain time to go back to the train. Again, I hadn’t told anyone what I was doing or where I was going.

Well, long story short, I did get back up, and we did make the bus and make it back to the train. But you should have seen my mom! She was frantic. She was about to call the park rangers. Needless to say, she was quite upset with me. And justifiably so. Her twelve-year-old boy–yours truly–had done something rather foolish.

In today’s Gospel reading, we encounter another twelve-year-old boy who gave his mom quite a panic. They too were on a family trip, and he didn’t tell anybody where he would be or what he would be doing, either. So was this boy doing something foolish? No, quite the contrary. In fact, today we meet “A Twelve-Year-Old Boy, Filled with Wisdom.”

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Published in: on January 3, 2015 at 11:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Depart in Peace” (Luke 2:22-40)

First Sunday after Christmas
December 28, 2014

“Depart in Peace” (Luke 2:22-40)

Are you ready to go? What I mean is, are you ready to leave? No, I don’t mean right at this very moment. It would be nice if you would stick around till the end of the service. But then, at the end of the service, will you be ready to leave? By that I mean, will you be ready to leave in peace, satisfied and content and ready for whatever comes next?

What makes you ready to leave, to leave any situation? For instance, this year is coming to a close. Are you ready to put 2014 behind you and move on to whatever 2015 may bring? What makes you ready to leave, even to leave this life? That day could happen any day, you know, any hour. Are you ready to go? If the Lord were to decide to call you home, even today, would you be ready? If not, why not? If so, what would make the difference?

Today in the Holy Gospel we meet a man who was ready to go. He was ready for whatever might happen next. And we find out in this text why he was ready, what made the difference. The man’s name is Simeon, and I think we can learn something from him today about what it means to “Depart in Peace.”

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Published in: on December 27, 2014 at 9:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Watershed Moments: Jesus’ Birth and Our Own” (John 1:1-18; Titus 3:4-7)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Day
Thursday, December 25, 2014

“Watershed Moments: Jesus’ Birth and Our Own” (John 1:1-18; Titus 3:4-7)

Today is Christmas Day. This is the day for celebrating the greatest birth in the history of the world, the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The birth of Christ marks the watershed moment in all of human history. By a “watershed moment,” I mean a moment so significant that it marks a division between what went before and what comes after. And so it is with the birth of Christ. We even divide up time according to it: “B.C.,” “Before Christ,” and “A.D.,” “Anno Domini,” “In the Year of the Lord” such-and-such, that is, it’s been so many years since our Lord’s birth.

But besides being a day to celebrate our Lord’s birth, today is also a day for celebrating another birth–your own. And by that I mean your rebirth, your second birth, as a child of God. That is the watershed moment in your life, in your own personal history, the day when you were born again, born from above, in the waters of Holy Baptism. And our readings today speak of both of these momentous occasions: “Watershed Moments: Jesus’ Birth and Our Own.”

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Published in: on December 25, 2014 at 4:34 am  Leave a Comment  
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“What Christmas Is All About: God Saving Us, in a Humble Way, to Be His People” (Luke 2:1-20; Titus 2:11-14; Isaiah 9:2-7)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Eve
Wednesday, December 24, 2014

“What Christmas Is All About: God Saving Us,
in a Humble Way, to Be His People”
(Luke 2:1-20; Titus 2:11-14; Isaiah 9:2-7)

What is Christmas all about? How do people view Christmas and celebrate it? Why do they look forward to it? Or do they? Some people get burned out on Christmas and want to avoid it. But most folks still like to maintain the custom of celebrating Christmas. Why? What is it about this holiday that makes it so special? I think there is something about this holiday that is special, but it may not be the same as what most people think.

For most people, for most Americans, at least, I think it’s sort of a nostalgic glow that is the big thing about Christmas. They associate it with happy memories from days gone past. Tinsel and lights on the Christmas tree. Packages nicely wrapped and piled up under the tree. Kids eagerly awaiting the visit from Santa. Christmas cards taped to the door. Christmas stockings hung on the mantle. Christmas songs played on the radio, and Christmas specials on TV: Rudolph, Bing Crosby, Perry Como, and Frosty the Snowman. Happy times with Grandma and Grandpa. That special Christmas dinner, with family traveling from all over to get together, and all sitting around the table. Whether it was ham or turkey–or, in the case of us Henricksons, lutfisk and Swedish meatballs and rice pudding–Christmas dinner with the family is one of the most treasured memories of this holiday.

Now is there anything wrong with those happy associations with Christmas? No, not at all. All good things, when kept in proper perspective, and all to be enjoyed. Good stuff. But are those what Christmas really is all about? Tonight I’d like to suggest, no, those nice things, as nice as they are, are not the essence of Christmas. I think they all come out of Christmas, as a byproduct thereof, but the original connection with the essence of Christmas has become more and more loosened as the years and the centuries have gone by.

So what is Christmas all about? I’ve thought about that question, and in looking over the lessons assigned for this night, I think we can boil it down to this: “What Christmas Is All About: God Saving Us, in a Humble Way, to Be His People.”

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Published in: on December 24, 2014 at 10:57 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Rachel Weeping, and a Son Called out of Egypt” (Matthew 2:13-23)

First Sunday after Christmas
December 29, 2013

“Rachel Weeping, and a Son Called out of Egypt” (Matthew 2:13-23)

“To us a child is born, to us a son is given.” And his name is Jesus, of course. This child born in Bethlehem at Christmas. This son–Son of God, son of Mary–this son given to us to be our Savior. But what happens when Jesus is born? What happens when God gives his Son to the world? A whole bunch of bad stuff, apparently. A king goes crazy. A family has to flee to Egypt. Babies are killed. Mothers are weeping. And this is a gift?? Some kind of Christmas! Yes, it is, actually. As we shall see this morning, under the theme, “Rachel Weeping, and a Son Called out of Egypt.”

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Published in: on December 28, 2013 at 5:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Miracles of Christmas” (John 1:1-18)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Day
Wednesday, December 25, 2013

“The Miracles of Christmas” (John 1:1-18)

On this Christmas morning, I want to tell you about the miracles of Christmas. That’s right, “miracles,” plural. There are two great Christmas miracles proclaimed in our text today from John chapter 1. One is that the Son of God became man, and the other is that, because he did, we become the children of God. These are “The Miracles of Christmas” I want to talk to you about today.

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Published in: on December 24, 2013 at 4:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Where Is God? Answer: Immanuel” (Matthew 1:18-25)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Eve
Tuesday, December 24, 2013

“Where Is God? Answer: Immanuel” (Matthew 1:18-25)

Where is God in the midst of all of this? You hear this question all the time these days. Whenever there is a tragedy in the news, you hear people asking this question. “Where is God,” and then fill in the blank. Where is God when a tornado levels Moore, Oklahoma, or a typhoon devastates the Philippines? Where is God when there is a terrible school shooting–in Connecticut, in Colorado–and innocent children die? Where are you, God? Why did you let this happen?

Or let’s bring it closer to home. Where is God when a dear friend, as active and vibrant as all get out, and the most dedicated of Christians–when she suffers a stroke? Does God not care for her? Where is God when our loved one finally gets the surgery he needs to relieve his chronic pain–and then he falls, and now he needs to have another surgery, this time perhaps even riskier? Why did God let this happen? Or let’s make the tragedy more relational than physical: Where is God when your spouse leaves you for no good reason? Has he forgotten me? Why did he let this happen? Where is God when he must know that our little congregation is struggling, hurting for members and attendance and offerings? We’re being faithful in our doctrine and practice. So why isn’t God blessing our church with growth?

These are tough questions. They deal with the tough reality we face in our world, in our church, and in our lives. Where is God in all of this? There are no easy answers to this question. Oh, there is an answer, and we’ll get to it this evening, but that doesn’t mean God instantly does away with all the pain and loss and grief we experience in life. But there is an answer to our question, and it is a good one. In fact, it is a great one, much better than anything we could come up with. And it has everything to do with Christmas.

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Published in: on December 23, 2013 at 9:31 pm  Comments (1)  
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“Simeon’s Song: What a Way to Go!” (Luke 2:22-40)

First Sunday after Christmas
December 30, 2012

“Simeon’s Song: What a Way to Go!” (Luke 2:22-40)

This month we have been spending the Advent and Christmas seasons in the Gospel of Luke. All of our sermons have come from there, particularly from Luke’s so-called “Infancy Narrative,” chapters 1 and 2, dealing with the events surrounding the birth of Christ. We’ve especially been looking at the canticles we find in Luke 1-2, those poetic, psalm-like pieces included there. We’ve looked at three so far: Mary’s song, the Magnificat; Zechariah’s song, the Benedictus; and the song of the Christmas angels, the Gloria in Excelsis. Now today we wrap up this series with a look at the fourth canticle, Simeon’s song, the Nunc Dimittis. It’s what the aged Simeon says when he finally sees the fulfillment of what he’s been hoping for, lo these many years, when he holds the Christ child in his arms. And what we will find now, as we look at the Nunc Dimittis, is that, both for Simeon and for us, Simeon’s song is saying, “What a Way to Go!”

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Published in: on December 29, 2012 at 9:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Ripple Effect of Christmas” (Luke 2:15-20)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Day
Tuesday, December 25, 2012

“The Ripple Effect of Christmas” (Luke 2:15-20)

Our text this morning is the second part of the Christmas Gospel we heard last night, that is, Luke 2, reading now verses 15 through 20: “When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.’ And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”

Christmas has a ripple effect. The good news radiates outward. That’s our theme this morning: “The Ripple Effect of Christmas.” Let me explain.

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Published in: on December 25, 2012 at 12:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Gift, the Announcement, and the Exclamation Mark” (Luke 2:1-14)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Eve
Monday, December 24, 2012

“The Gift, the Announcement, and the Exclamation Mark” (Luke 2:1-14)

Suppose I got a Christmas present for you, but I didn’t tell you about it. I didn’t tell you that I had something for you, and I didn’t tell you where you could find it. Well, it could be the greatest Christmas present in the world, but if you never find out what it is or where you can find it, it won’t do you much good. You need me to tell you about it.

Well, that’s the way it is with Christmas. God has given us the greatest Christmas present we could ever hope for, but if it had stayed hidden and we didn’t know about it or where to find it, it wouldn’t do us much good. But as it stands, God not only sends the gift, but he has an angel announce it, telling us what it is and where to find it. On top of that, a whole choir of angels caps it off with a glorious hymn of praise. Their song, the Gloria in Excelsis, puts an exclamation mark on the proceedings. So we’ve got three things going on here: “The Gift, the Announcement, and the Exclamation Mark.” We’ll take them in that order.

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Published in: on December 24, 2012 at 12:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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