Merry Christmas 2016 A.D.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.  And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

— Luke 2:6-7, KJV.

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And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

—Luke 2:10-11, KJV.

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And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.  But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

— Luke 2:18-19, KJV.

The pictures are from St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Merry Christmas!

The Lord’s Regard

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May you have a blessed Christmas Eve.

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.

For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.

— Luke 1:46-49, ESV.


*

The Magnificat, by Martin Luther

Mary confesses that the foremost work God did for her was that He regarded her, which is indeed the greatest of His works, on which all the rest depend and from which they all derive.  For where it comes to pass that God turns His face toward one to regard him, there is nothing but grace and salvation, and all gifts and works must follow.  Thus we read in Genesis 4:4, 5 that He had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering He had no regard.  Here is the origin of the many prayers in the Psalter—that God would lift up His countenance upon us, that He would not hide His countenance from us, that He would make His face shine upon us, and the like.  And that Mary herself regards this as the chief thing, she indicates by saying: “Behold, since He has regarded me, all generations will call me blessed.”

Note that she does not say men will speak all manner of good of her, praise her virtues, exalt her virginity or her humility, or sing of what she has done.  But for this one thing alone, that God regarded her, men will call her blessed.  That is to give all the glory to God as completely as it can be done.  Therefore she points to God’s regard and says: “For, behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.  That is, beginning with the time when God regarded my low estate, I shall be called blessed.”  Not she is praised thereby, but God’s grace toward her.  In fact, she is despised, and she despises herself in that she says her low estate was regarded by God.  Therefore she also mentions her blessedness before enumerating the works that God did to her, and ascribes it all to the fact that God regarded her low estate…

But for this one thing alone, that God regarded her, men will call her blessed.

Whoever, therefore, would show her the proper honor must not regard her alone and by herself, but set her in the presence of God and far beneath Him, must there strip her of all honor, and regard her low estate, as she says; he should then marvel at the exceedingly abundant grace of God, who regards, embraces, and blesses so poor and despised a mortal.  Thus regarding her, you will be moved to love and praise God for His grace, and drawn to look for all good things to Him, who does not reject but graciously regards poor and despised and lowly mortals.  Thus your heart will be strengthened in faith and love and hope.  What do you suppose would please her more than to have you come through her to God this way, and learn from her to put your hope and trust in Him, notwithstanding your despised and lowly estate, in life as well as in death?  She does not want you to come to her, but through her to God.

… who does not reject, but graciously regards poor and despised and lowly mortals.

Again, nothing would please her better than to have you turn in fear from all lofty things on which men set their hearts, seeing that even in His mother God neither found nor desired anything of high degree.  But the masters who so depict and portray the blessed Virgin that there is found in her nothing to be despised, but only great and lofty things—what are they doing but contrasting us with her instead of her with God?  Thus they make us timid and afraid and hide the Virgin’s comfortable picture, as the images are covered over in Lent.  For they deprive us of her example, from which we might take comfort; they make an exception of her and set her above all examples.  But she should be, and herself gladly would be, the foremost example of the grace of God, to incite all the world to trust in this grace and to love and praise it, so that through her the hearts of all men should be filled with such knowledge of God that they might confidently say: “O Blessed Virgin, Mother of God, what great comfort God has shown us in you, by so graciously regarding your unworthiness and low estate.  This encourages us to believe that henceforth He will not despise us poor and lowly ones, but graciously regard us also, according to your example.”

Luther’s Works, Vol. 21: “The Sermon on the Mount and the Magnificat.”
Concordia Publishing House, 1999, 1956, 321-322.
Emphasis in original.

Blessed Christmas Eve 2015

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Christmas Eve is the last day of Advent.  Tomorrow, we celebrate the coming of Jesus as a baby.  Jesus is fully God and fully man.  He is “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made …” but who also “was made man.”  (Nicene Creed).

The complete divinity and complete humanity of Jesus Christ cannot be overemphasized especially in this world of ignorance where so many think that Christians and Mohammedans worship the same God, and that all religions are “basically the same.”  No one is like Christ, and no god can compare.

What happened at the Incarnation (March 25) and at Christmas (December 25) testifies to the true nature of God, the Trinity.  The Incarnation is beautiful and mysterious, and evinces a glory deeper than the greatest show of glory.  It is a hidden glory of weakness and love.  Almighty God became a real human baby.

Creator of the stars of night,
Thy people’s everlasting Light:
O Christ, Redeemer, save us all
And hear Thy servants when they call.

To God the Father and the Son
And Holy Spirit, Three in One,
Praise, honor, might, and glory be
From age to age eternally.

— “Creator of the Stars of Night,” LSB 351:1, 6.

Blessed Advent and Merry Christmas!

Candlelight Service 2014

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This is just a picture of the late candlelight service on Christmas Eve 2014 at St. John Lutheran Church in the Town of Center, Wisconsin.

Merry Sixth Day of Christmas!

White Epiphany Winter

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All the pictures in this post were taken in a field on Christmas Eve 2013 A.D.  So the original title of this post was supposed to have been “White Christmas Winter,” but Flickr changed some of its code, and I had difficulty posting pictures here to WordPress.  So now it is an Epiphany post.  It was a white Christmas, and so far God has blessed us with a snowy and cold Winter.

Whether God sends us warmth or cold or wind, we rejoice in all things.

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In the picture above, one can see that the trunk of a very large tree was snapped in half by a tornado last August.

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A lot of trees were bent over by that tornado.  Many were also broken.

New trees will grow in their place.

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The light still shines.

Epiphany is a season in which we celebrate the revelation of the shining light of Jesus Christ.  The baby born in Bethlehem is the Son of God and the promised Messiah.

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The Christmas Eve snowstorm delivered about eight to ten inches of a very flaky fluffy snow.

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The picture above shows the flat reflective flakes this snow can form.

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Only a very cold day will preserve such delicate flakes in a bright Winter sun.

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If one cross-country skis at night with a headlamp through this type of snow, the snowflakes will reflect the light back from the lamp in a million little points of light.  As one schusses through the snow, those lights can sparkle.

It is beautiful on a cold winter night with twinkling stars above and sparkling snow below.

Above is a short video to give an idea of what that sparkling can be like.

Unfortunately, internet compression has caused this video to lose much of its rich blue color and sharp detail.

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Tracks from a Christmas Eve Field Mouse

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These tracks would often suddenly end.  This snow is so fluffy, it must be easy for an adventurous mouse to tunnel underneath.  I suppose they have to watch out for hawks.  How does such a little mammal stay warm when it is so cold outside?  God watches over all His creatures.

I saw a number of animal tracks in the snow.  I’m not an expert, but I thought I also saw tracks from wild turkeys and possibly a pair of foxes.  Maybe the Lord’s creatures were out preparing for Christmas.  We know that all “creation waits with eager longing for the” second coming of Christ.

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  {Romans 8:19-21, ESV}.

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Winter photography seems to be best only when it is very cold, or maybe that is just my fingers’ imagination.

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Usually, this is as close as I get to a selfie.

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May the true love and selfless beauty of Christ be revealed to you.  May God bless you and your family in this season of Epiphany.

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!

Candlelight at St. John

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The pictures in this post are from the late Christmas Eve service at St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Christmas is a time to ponder and pray.  Ponder the fact that God has noticed us.  Why would He even notice?  We are but tiny specks on the earth which itself is a tiny particle floating in the vast universe of empty space.  Yet He did more than notice, He came here to live with us, and to be one of us, forever.

Late on Christmas Eve after church, I usually watch Christmas specials on television.  The last show I usually watch is midnight mass at the Vatican which I appreciate for its quiet reverence and beauty.  After mass, I enjoy the lights while pondering the divine mystery of salvation.  Late on Christmas Eve, it is quiet.  There is a quiet stillness that descends on the world, and it lasts through the morning of the First Day of Christmas.  It is the beautiful stillness of a shared holiday.

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St. John is a small church, but the lens on my G12 still isn’t wide enough to take in the entire view.  That’s okay.  Life isn’t lived through a camera.  A camera can help only to remember the reality: the heat from the candle, the collective glow from many small lights, the wax I later found on my pants, and the fellowship of other Christians.

The real reason we gather together as the Body of Christ, is not for the pretty lights, but rather to be with each other and to receive from our Lord.  He is one of us.  He is with us.  He unites us together in truth.  The lights merely symbolize the spiritual reality.  “In him was life, and that life was the light of men.”  (John 1:4).

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Light reveals truth.  Love brings unity.  Truth with unity is life.  On the night He was betrayed, Jesus prayed for all Christians:

“May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

— John 17:20-24, NIV1984.

May you have a blessed Fourth Day of Christmas.

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!