Merry Christmas 2017 A.D.

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Christ always received worship and adoration from the angels, for He always was God.  Now they are adoring Him also as man.

— Blessed Theodoret,
Book of Concord, Catalog of Testimonies (632).

That the nature received from us is a participant in the same honor of Him who received it and that no difference in worship appears, but the divinity which is not seen is worshiped through the nature which is seen—this surpasses every miracle.

— Blessed Theodoret,
Book of Concord, Catalog of Testimonies (629).

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A Thrivent Christmas Comparison

The Lutheran Satire produced the above video.

The Lutheran Satire is a good YouTube channel.

Unfortunately, the above video is not satire.  Herod tried to kill the child while Joseph protected him.  “Because they got caught supporting Herod … Thrivent no longer supports Joseph.  Please pray for everyone at Thrivent.”  (“A Thrivent Christmas Comparison,” The Lutheran Satire).

an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”  And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt …

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.  Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

“A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

— Matthew 2:13-18, ESV.

Kyrie eleison.

A popular satirical video for the season of Christmas from The Lutheran Satire is: “Horus Ruins Christmas.”

Blessed Christmas 2013

Happy birthday, Lord Jesus.

The picture above is of the Christmas Eve candlelight service at St. John in the Town of Center, Wisconsin.

May the Lord of Truth bless you and your loved ones today and always.

Merry Christmas!

A New Year, 2012

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The sun blazes orange on the trees of an ice blue lake.

“I sit beside the fire and think
of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring
that I shall ever see.”

The sun broke free under a cloudy sky, to say farewell and bye to eye.  It was a cloudy day that relented, but only for the sunset.

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My shadow waves goodbye to the old year, 2011.

“For still there are so many things
that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring
there is a different green.”

The world is full of many beautiful greens and blues, each in their time.  Sometimes, I enjoy going out just to see what unique perspective or light might appear for even a few fleeting minutes.

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Long journeyed sunbeams skim across the frozen blue lake.

“I sit beside the fire and think
of people long ago,
and people who will see a world
that I shall never know.”

The three verses above were spoken by Bilbo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings as written by J.R.R. Tolkien.  Because they were leaving from Rivendell on their quest in Winter, Bilbo also said to The Fellowship of the Ring:

“When winter first begins to bite
and stones crack in the frosty night,
when pools are black and trees are bare,
’tis evil in the Wild to fare.”

In Winter is the coldest and darkest hour.  It is a difficult time to be in the wild.  Nonetheless, in the winter of this wild and sinful world, Christ was born.  Therefore, at this uncharacteristic time we celebrate the dawning of new life and a new year.  Since our calendars are based on the birth of Christ, New Year celebrations are a fitting aspect of Christmas.

“Behold, a Branch is growing
Of loveliest form and grace,
As prophets sung, foreknowing;
It springs from Jesse’s race
And bears one little Flow’r
In midst of coldest winter,
At deepest midnight hour.”

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“This Flow’r, whose fragrance tender,
With sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor
The darkness everywhere …

“O Savior, Child of Mary,
Who felt our human woe;
O Savior, King of Glory,
Who dost our weakness know,
Bring us at length, we pray,
To the bright courts of heaven
And to the endless day.”

— “Behold, a Branch Is Growing,”
Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary, 121: 1, 4, 5.

Happy New Year!

O Magnum Mysterium

O Great Mystery!
O Magnum Mysterium!

I especially appreciate the picture that starts at 3:45.  This song and these pictures are not emotionally bouncy or catchy, but they convey truth.  Deep truth.

O magnum mysterium,
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum,
jacentem in praesepio!
Beata Virgo, cujus viscera
meruerunt portare
Dominum Christum.
Alleluia.

Blessed fourth day of Christmas.

HT: Pastoral Meanderings.

Christmas and Communion

At the first Christmas, God physically gave us His Son in the flesh.

At this Christmastime, may your pastor do the same.

The body and blood given to us in Holy Communion is the same Jesus born of Mary.

Merry Christ+mass.

Merry Christmas!

Luther’s Sermon Guide for Christmas Eve 1521

“In the first place, notice how ordinarily and simply things take place on earth, and yet they are held in such high respect in heaven!  This is what takes place on earth: there is a poor, young woman, Mary, in Nazareth.  Nobody pays any attention to her, and she is considered to be one of the least significant inhabitants of the town.  Nobody realizes the great wonder she is carrying…

Then when they came to Bethlehem, they were the most insignificant, the most despised people, as the evangelist indicates.  They were obliged to make room for everybody, until they were shown into a stable and had to be satisfied to share with the animals a common hostel, a common table, a common room and bed!  At the same time many a rogue occupied the seat of honor in the inn and was treated as a gentleman.  Nobody notices or understands what God performs in the stable.  He permits the big houses and the expensive rooms to remain empty; he permits them to eat, to drink, and to be of good cheer, but this solace and this treasure is hidden from them.  Oh, what a dark night must have been over Bethlehem at that time that they did not see such a light!  Thus God indicates that he pays no attention at all to what the world is or has or can do, and on the other hand the world proves that it knows nothing at all of, and pays no attention to, what God is or has or does.  Behold, this is the first symbol wherewith Christ puts to shame the world and indicates that all of its doing, knowledge, and being are contemptible to us, that its greatest wisdom is in reality foolishness, that its best performance is wrongdoing, and that its greatest good is evil.  What did Bethlehem really have, when it had not Christ?  What do those have now, who at that time were well off?  And what do Mary and Joseph lack now, even though at that time they had no place to sleep comfortably during the night? …

But the birth itself was even more pitiful: nobody took pity on this young woman who was about to give birth for the first time; nobody took to heart the heaviness of her body; and nobody cared that she was in strange surroundings and did not have any of the things which a woman in childbirth needs.  Rather, she was there without anything ready, without light, without fire, in the middle of the night, alone in the darkness.  Nobody offered her any of the services which one naturally renders to pregnant women.  Everyone was drunk and roistering in the inn, a throng of guests from everywhere, and nobody bothered about this woman.  I suspect she did not expect to give birth so soon; otherwise she might have remained in Nazareth.…

Then there are some who express opinions concerning how this birth took place, claiming Mary was delivered of her child while she was praying, in great joy, before she became aware of it, without any pains.  I do not condemn these devotional considerations—perhaps they were devised for the benefit of simple-minded folk—but we must stay with the Gospel text which says she gave birth to him, and with the article of the creed which says “born of the Virgin Mary.”  There is no deception here, but, as the words indicate, it was a real birth.  Now we know, do we not, what the meaning of “to bear” is and how it happens.  The birth happened to her exactly as to other women, consciously with her mind functioning normally and with the parts of her body helping along, as is proper at the time of birth, in order that she should be his normal natural mother and he her natural normal son.  For this reason her body did not abandon its natural functions which belong to childbirth, except that she gave birth without sin, without shame, without pain, and without injury, just as she had conceived without sin.  The curse of Eve, which reads: “In pain you shall bear your children” {[Gen. 3:16], “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing”}, did not apply to her.  In other respects things happened to her exactly as they happen to any woman giving birth.  For grace does not destroy or impede nature and nature’s works; indeed, grace improves and promotes them…

I am talking about this so that we may have a foundation for our faith and that we let Christ be a natural human being, in every respect exactly as we are.  Nor must we put him in a separate category as far as nature is concerned except where sin and grace are involved…

Therefore whatever is not contrary to grace should in no way be subtracted from his and his mother’s nature.  The text clearly states and declares that she bore him, and that “he is born” is also proclaimed by the angels.

How could God have demonstrated his goodness more powerfully than by stepping down so deep into flesh and blood, that he does not despise that which is kept secret by nature, but honors nature to the highest degree exactly where it was brought into shame to the highest degree in Adam and Eve?

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But what is taking place in heaven because of this birth?  Even as it is disregarded on earth, it is highly honored in heaven, and indeed a thousand times more.  Suppose an angel from heaven praised you and your works, would you not consider it greater than the praise and honor of all the world?  You would feel you could not bear enough humbleness and contempt for it.  Now, what sort of honor is it that all the angels in heaven cannot contain themselves for joy, that they burst forth giving poor shepherds in the field a chance to hear them, that they preach, praise, sing, and pour out their joy beyond measure?  Can the joy and honor of all the people of Bethlehem, indeed that of all kings and lords on the earth, be compared to this joy and honor?…  Behold, how richly God honors those who are despised and apt to be despised of men!

Here you see where his eyes are turned: into the depths and low places, as it is written: “He sits above the Cherubim and looks into the depth or the abyss.”  Then, too, the angels could not find any princes or potentates, but only unlearned lay people and the lowliest of all the folk on earth.  Could they not have addressed the high priests and the learned men of Jerusalem?  After all, they talk a lot about God and the angels.  No, poor shepherds, who were nothing on earth, had to be worthy to receive such great grace and honor in heaven.  How completely does God spurn that which is high!  And we only strive madly and frantically after vain heights … again and again we step out of God’s horizon, so that he might not see us in the depths, the only place where he looks…

As we see, it is the nature of the divine words to teach us to understand God and his works; their aim is to show us that this life is nothing.  Since he does not live in accordance with this life and does not own goods, honor, and power of this temporal life, he has no regard for them and he does not speak of them, but teaches only the reverse, and acts “foolishly”: he looks at that from which the world turns away, teaches those things from which the world flees, picks up what the world casts aside.  And although we do not like going along with such actions of God and do not wish to give up goods, honor, and life in this manner, yet that is how it must be.  For it cannot be changed; God teaches and acts in no other manner.  We must take our direction from him; he will not take his direction from us.

Also, whoever disregards his word, his deed—the nativity—and his consolation, certainly has no good sign of salvation in him.  How could God have demonstrated more pleasantly that he is gracious to all those who are lowly and despised on earth than by this lowly birth, from which the angels derive joy and which he reveals to none but the poor shepherds?

Now let us see what sort of mysteries, hidden things, are presented to us in this story.  Generally speaking, there are two matters which are expressed in all mysteries—the gospel and the faith, i.e., what one is to preach, and what one is to believe, and who are to be the preachers and who are to be the hearers.  Let us have a look at these two matters.

The First Matter

The first matter is the faith which is truly to be perceived in all the words of God.  This faith does not merely consist in believing that this story is true, as it is written.  For that does not avail anything, because everyone, even the damned, believe that.  Concerning faith, Scripture and God’s word do not teach that it is a natural work, without grace.  Rather the faith that is the right one, rich in grace, demanded by God’s word and deed, is that you firmly believe Christ is born for you and that his birth is yours, and come to pass for your benefit.  For the Gospel teaches that Christ was born for our sake and that he did everything and suffered all things for our sake, just as the angel says here:  “I announce to you a great joy which will come to all people; for to you is born this day a Savior who is Christ the Lord” [Luke 2:10–11].  From these words you see clearly that he was born for us.

He does not simply say: “Christ is born,” but: “for you is he born.”  Again, he does not say: “I announce a joy,” but: “to you do I announce a great joy.”  Again, this joy will not remain in Christ, but is for all people.  A damned or a wicked man does not have this faith, nor can he have it.  For the right foundation of all salvation which unites Christ and the believing heart in this manner is that everything they have individually becomes something they hold in common.  What is it that they have?

Christ has a pure, innocent, holy birth.  Man has an impure, sinful, damned birth, as David says in Psalm 51[:5]: “Behold, in sin am I fashioned in the womb, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”  There is no remedy for this except through the pure birth of Christ.  Now the birth of Christ cannot be distributed physically, even as that would not be of any help either.  For this reason it is distributed spiritually, by means of the word, to everyone, as the angel says, so that all who firmly believe that it is given to them in this manner shall not be harmed by their impure birth; this is the manner and means to become cleansed from the stain of the birth we have from miserable Adam.  Christ willed to be born so that we might be born in different manner, as he says in John 3[:3–6].  This happens through that faith, as James 1[:18] says: “He has born us of his own will through his word of truth, so that we begin to be his new creation.”

In this manner Christ takes to himself our birth and absorbs it in his birth; he presents us with his birth so that we become pure and new in it, as if it were our own, so that every Christian might rejoice in this birth of Christ and glory in it no less than if he, too, like Christ, had been born bodily of Mary.  Whoever does not believe this or has doubts about it, is not a Christian.

This is the great joy, of which the angel speaks, this is the consolation and the superabundant goodness of God, that man (if he has this faith) may boast of such treasure as that Mary is his real mother, Christ his brother, and God his father.  For these things are, all of them, true …  ****

[The Second Matter]

The second mystery or hidden teaching is that in the church nothing other than the gospel shall be preached.  Now the gospel teaches only the two previous things, Christ and his example, two kinds of good works: one kind belonging to Christ, by means of which we in faith, attain salvation, the other kind belonging to us, by means of which our neighbor is helped.  Whoever teaches differently from the gospel, he misleads, and whoever does not teach the gospel in accordance with these two parts, he misleads even more and is worse than he who teaches without the gospel, because he desecrates and corrupts the word of God, as St. Paul complains about some [II Cor. 2:17; 4:2].  Now nature by itself could not have discovered such teaching, nor can the intelligence, reason, and wisdom of all men devise it…

This is brought out in the first place in this, that it was not one human being who announced to another this birth of Christ, but it was an angel who came from heaven and announced to the shepherds this birth of Christ.  No human being knew a thing about it.  In the second place, midnight, at which time Christ was born, has a meaning, namely, that all the world is in darkness at his advent and that reason is unable to recognize Christ.  There must be a revelation from heaven.  In the third place, the light which shone around the shepherds is meant to teach that there is needed here a light entirely different from any natural reason.  St. Luke speaks here of gloria dei, the glory of God shone about them.  He calls this light a gloria or honor of God.  Why does he do this?  In order to touch on the mystery and to indicate the nature of the gospel.

Since the gospel is a heavenly light, teaching nothing but Christ in whom God’s grace is given us and our doing is summarily rejected, it raises up only the honor of God so that henceforth nobody can boast of a single capability, but is obliged to give honor to God and to leave the glory to him, so that it is purely through his love and goodness that we are saved through Christ.”

*

Glory to God in the highest, for “these things are, all of them, true.”

— Luther, Martin: Luther’s Works, Vol. 52: Sermons II, Church Postil. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999, c1974, S. 52: iii-19.

The First Christmas, on Facebook

Some might find the medium funny, but I found the message to still be touching.  The method of communication may change, but the message of Truth will never change.

The video is by Igniter Media.

Ponder Now

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”  — Luke 2:19.

Please take some time to ponder the reality of the Incarnation, the reality of the almighty eternal God as an infant in a manger, in the arms of a young maiden, in this world for us.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . .  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  [John 1:1, 14].

Every year, these words amaze.  Hold up your hand, and look at it.  Now you see something that you and Almighty God have in common: human flesh.  You see the same human flesh that angels now worship.  (Although his hands have unique scars, scars that our hands could not bear).

During the festival twelve days of Christmas, we celebrate many physical things: gifts, food, family.  But the most important physical presence is Christ.  Long ago, the Word was physically present in the manger.  Today, he is physically present for us in Holy Communion.  That is why many Christians celebrate the Lord’s Supper during this feast and why the festival is called “Christmas.”  Christ is physically with us and in us.  His physical presence is the best present.

Merry Christmas!