“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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“Christ’s Birthday Is Our Birthday, Too” (John 1:1-14)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Day
Sunday, December 25, 2011

“Christ’s Birthday Is Our Birthday, Too” (John 1:1-14)

Whose birthday is it today? Well, that’s a good question. Of course, we’re celebrating the birth of Christ. It’s Christmas, after all. But at the same time, it is through Christmas, through the birth of Christ in the flesh, that other children are born, too–namely, the children of God. That’s us. And so today we’re celebrating the birth of Christ, first and foremost, but also with it, our own birth as God’s children. I can put our message today into one sentence: The Son of God became man, so that the sons of men could become the children of God. Let me repeat that: The Son of God became man, so that the sons of men could become the children of God. Or to put it more simply: “Christ’s Birthday Is Our Birthday, Too.”

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Published in: on December 24, 2011 at 4:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Home for the Holidays” (Luke 2:1-20)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Eve
Saturday, December 24, 2011

“Home for the Holidays” (Luke 2:1-20)

“Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays.” So goes the familiar Christmas song. And it is good to be home, with family, at Christmas time. Renewed relations, good food, smiles on all the faces. There’s a fire in the fireplace, and you’re sitting in the living room, opening presents by the Christmas tree. Perry Como is singing in the background. Como, cocoa, cookies, and kids–a Christmas right out of Norman Rockwell. Very nice.

But tonight I want to tell you about something even better than that. What it really means to be home for the holidays. Really home. Your true home. For the holidays, the holy days, and beyond. It’s all wrapped up in the Christmas Gospel you just heard. Where your home is. And the answer is, where Christ is. To be where Christ is, that is really what it means to be “Home for the Holidays.”

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Published in: on December 23, 2011 at 9:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Adopted as Sons” (Ephesians 1:3-14)

Second Sunday after Christmas
January 2, 2011

“Adopted as Sons” (Ephesians 1:3-14)

It is a terrible thing to be rootless, family-less, fatherless, not having a father. I can tell you from personal experience. My father died when I was one year old, and I can tell you that growing up without a father was no fun. All the other kids had dads; why didn’t I? There was this big gap in my life. This state of fatherlessness always weighed on my mind, and I’m pretty sure it held me back in life.

On the other hand, one of the greatest joys I’ve had in life is being a father. I love having a child to love and take care of. And I hope I’m building a solid foundation for my daughter in her life, by being her father.

The relationship of a father with his children is one of the most wonderful things in human experience. And when it’s not there, there is a terrible void.

Now multiply both sides of that equation by a thousandfold, and you begin to get the import and the blessing of having God as our Father–or the lack thereof. The good news for us today is that you and I are not fatherless. For we have been “Adopted as Sons.”

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Published in: on January 1, 2011 at 9:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Having a Bad Christmas?” (Matthew 2:13-23)

First Sunday after Christmas
December 26, 2010

“Having a Bad Christmas?” (Matthew 2:13-23)

Having a bad Christmas? Hey, this is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year! The hap-happiest season of all! C’mon, get with the program! What’s the matter with you?

Well, maybe nothing. For I tell you, some of the Christmas cheer in our society is as superficial and phony as an artificial tree covering up a bad spot in the living room. It’s just a temporary fix, a forced cheerfulness without any substance to it. It’s “Happy holidays” without the holy days. It’s “Christmas” without either the Christ or the Mass. It’s “Jingle Bells” and “Santa Baby,” but no baby in a manger, certainly not one who came to be our Savior from sin. An artificial Christmas for superficial souls. Thankfully, that Christmas, the world’s Christmas, is just about over. Tomorrow the Christmas radio stations will resume their regular programming, and people will continue to not think about Jesus.

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Published in: on December 25, 2010 at 8:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“John’s Profound Prologue: The Mystery of Christmas” (John 1:1-18)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Day
Saturday, December 25, 2010

“John’s Profound Prologue: The Mystery of Christmas” (John 1:1-18)

The Holy Gospel for Christmas Day, John 1:1-18, which you just heard–this is usually called the “Prologue” of John’s Gospel, since this opening passage introduces many of the major themes to be developed throughout the rest of the book.

Now if there were a contest for the most profound passage in the Bible, I think John’s Prologue might win the prize. Nowhere are the most profound mysteries of the Christian faith expressed more deeply, and yet more simply, than here in this passage. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity; the doctrine of the person of Christ, his dual nature; the work of Christ, by which we are saved–all of these are caught and captured in the simplest of language, brief and succinct, and yet never to be fully plumbed in their depth. It’s like an ocean: so deep and wide you can never finish exploring it, yet you can get in the water and splash around joyfully like a little child. John has a knack for putting the deepest truths in the simplest of language, and that gift is fully on display here in our text. Only eighteen verses, and any preacher could easily get eighteen sermons out of it, there’s so much here.

And so this passage is perfect for Christmas. For here we find the astonishing, amazing, wonderful truth of what really happened on this day: The eternal God, who created all things, came in the flesh to be our Savior. There is nothing more profound and mysterious than this. Just try to wrap your mind around it. And yet it is so plainly stated. It’s kind of like the greatest Christmas present in the world, wrapped in a plain brown wrapper. A great treasure, hidden in plain sight. That’s what we have this morning as we explore “John’s Profound Prologue: The Mystery of Christmas.”

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Published in: on December 24, 2010 at 4:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Era of Big Government Is Just Beginning” (Isaiah 9:2-7)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Eve
Friday, December 24, 2010

“The Era of Big Government Is Just Beginning” (Isaiah 9:2-7)

“The era of big government is over.” So declared President Bill Clinton in his State of the Union address in January of 1996. Of course, in the fifteen years since then, our big government has gotten even bigger. The size and scope of the federal government, its power, its spending, its intrusion into our lives–way beyond the limits set for it by the Constitution–big government is bigger than ever. “The era of big government is over”? Really? I must have missed it.

As you may have guessed, and as anybody who knows me could tell you, I am an adamant opponent of big government. So it may come to you as a bit of a surprise when I tell you that tonight’s message–and this is something I’m actually happy about–the message for us on this Christmas Eve is this: “The Era of Big Government Is Just Beginning.”

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Published in: on December 24, 2010 at 12:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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