Happy New Year 2017 A.D.

IMG_0426

Happy New Year and Merry Eighth Day of Christmas.

Almighty and ever-living God, You make us both to will and to do those things that are good and acceptable in Your sight.  Let Your fatherly hand ever guide us and Your Holy Spirit ever be with us to direct us in the knowledge and obedience of Your Word that we may obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

— “For divine guidance” prayer, LSB, 310.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”  (James 1:17, ESV).

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.

IMG_0477c

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.

IMG_0486

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

snow & trees

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.

New Year Prayer 2016 A.D.

IMG_1511

Happy New Year and merry eighth day of Christmas!  The eighth day of Christmas is the day your true love gives to you eight maids a milking.  (See: “The Twelve Days of Christmas” song).

The New Year celebration is a part of the twelve days of Christmas because the calendar is based on the birth of Christ.  All human history revolves around the one eternal God made flesh, who became a human baby.

New Year prayer:

Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden, cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of Your Holy Spirit that we may perfectly love You and worthily magnify Your holy name; through Jesus Christ , our Lord.

Lutheran Service Book, p. 312, “For purity.”

Kyrie eleison.
Christe eleison.
Kyrie eleison.

Merry Christmas 2015

12 Dec 20 MSO basilica 006

Today is the first day of Christmas, the annual feast celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ is:

“God of God,
Light of Light,
very God of very God,
begotten, not made …
by whom all things were made;
who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven
and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary
and was made man …”

— Nicene Creed.

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

— Theodoret, “Catalog of Testimonies,”
Book of Concord, Readers’ 2nd Edition, 632.

12 Dec 20 MSO basilica 018

A great and mighty wonder,
A full and holy cure:
The virgin bears the infant
With virgin honor pure!

The Word becomes incarnate
And yet remains on high,
And cherubim sing anthems
To shepherds from the sky.

Proclaim the Savior’s birth:
“To God on high be glory
And peace to all the earth!”

— “A Great and Mighty Wonder,” LSB 383:1-2.

Merry Christmas!

Blessed Christmas Eve 2015

snow & trees

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

IMG_3503

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!

Merry Christmas 2014

IMG_3510

Merry Christmas!

On this day, it is my prayer that you were able to not only remember the incarnation of the Lord in word and song, but that you were also able to physically participate in His incarnation by eating His very Body and Blood.  (Luke 22:17-20).

But if you, like me, were not able to receive the Lord bodily, there can still be a real spiritual communion.  God gave Christ to Mary bodily, but to the shepherds by proclamation and sight.  God gives Christ to us in both Word and Sacrament.

Unto us is born a Savior!  He is Christ the Lord!  Merry Christmas to all!

Mild, he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth:
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King.

— “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing,” text by Charles Wesley.

Merry Christmas!

Blessed Christmas Eve 2014

snow & trees

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

He is a wonder too marvelous to comprehend.

The colors of Advent are purple and blue symbolizing repentance and expectation.  Many Christians keep a midnight vigil on Christmas Eve, as they await the coming of the Lord.

The above picture is cold and beautiful.  I believe those concepts are appropriate for Advent because while we await the return of the Lord, this world can be a cold place, but in the hope and promise of Christ His life here is also beautiful.

White Epiphany Winter

IMG_1444

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.

IMG_1383

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

IMG_1405

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

New trees will grow in their place.

IMG_1429

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.

IMG_1417

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

IMG_1416

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

IMG_1419

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

IMG_1415

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.

IMG_1432

Tracks from a Christmas Eve Field Mouse

IMG_1437

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}.

IMG_1443

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

IMG_1450

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

IMG_1387

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.