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.


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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.

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New Year Prayer 2016 A.D.

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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.

Photographic Interlude

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There hasn’t been much snow around here this Winter, so in the absence of snowy pictures, I thought I’d post a picture from last Autumn.

The above picture is of the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains.  The water is Mills Lake, and the mountain between the trees is probably Pagoda Mountain (13,497 ft).  I was at an estimated elevation of about 10,000 feet above sea level when I took the picture.

A Song of Ascents:

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.

— Psalm 121:1-2, 7-8, ESV.

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The above picture is of the stream leading into Mills Lake.

May God bless you.

Seasons Come and Go

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Many in the mid United States are tired of the windy cold and snow.  Yes, it’s been cold.  The picture above is of a September day in Rocky Mountain National Park.  The sun shone off and on, and it was a fairly warm day.  Some of those trees are young, some are old, and some are lying on the ground.  Trees, people, and seasons all come and go.

It won’t be Winter forever.

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A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
and hastens to the place where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns…

What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun…

[Nonetheless, God] has made everything beautiful in its time.  Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

— Ecclesiastes 1:4-6, 9; 3:11, ESV.

Be it people or seasons or any other natural beauty, may God grant to all of us the ability to enjoy everything that is beautiful in its time, today.

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365 Days on Flickr

One of the activities photographers engage in on Flickr is creating a photo set with one picture from every day of the year.  This helps photographers to expand their skills by challenging their abilities to shoot in different kinds of light and under different conditions.

The two pictures above were both taken at Hartman Creek in Wisconsin, on the same warm October day.  Evergreens are always colorful and photogenic.

However, not every tree is an evergreen, so sharing a beautiful photo from every day of the year in Wisconsin would be a challenge, especially if one is not particularly into self-portraiture.  Even though every day does have its own kind of beauty, some months might consist of 29 pictures of gray.

Sometimes beauty is hidden.

One October Day in the Kettle Moraine Forest:

Maybe someday I will attempt a 365 day photo project, but in the meantime I have decided that I should better utilize Flickr by posting and sharing more photographs.  The pictures below are all from one day in the Kettle Moraine Forest near New Fane, Wisconsin.

Here, a single-track mountain bike trail winds its way through the golden Kettle Moraine Forest.  In Wisconsin, October is a colorful month, and some days are worth more than one photo.

Above, a fiery warm sunset illuminates golden trees in the Kettle Moraine Forest.  The sun is at our back.

Below are three pictures of trees from the other side, with the sun towards the front of the camera:

Autumn leaves, filled with golden sunlight, glow against a dark background.

Sometimes, I think the lives of Christians are like those leaves: just as the leaves are filled with and reflect the physical light of the sun, so also our lives are filled with and reflect the spiritual light of the Son of God.

If “anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  (Philippians 4:8, NIV 1984).

The sun sets at the Kettle Moraine Forrest near New Fane, Wisconsin.

Even if one does not take a beautiful picture every day; in Christ, every day is still a good day.

The Beauty of a Winter’s Night

The Winter Solstice is the shortest day with the longest night of the year, this marks the beginning of Winter.  There is an austere sparkling beauty to a cold Winter’s night.

snow & trees

Those white dots in the photo are flashbacks from tiny crystalline snowflakes, both on the ground and in the air.  Different types of snowflakes reflect light in different ways:  Sometimes, the flash makes the snowflakes appear as a sky full of colored halos.

Even though there are evergreens in the background, we know this is not the growing season, they are dormant.  But sometimes God does things out of season.  Just as God gave a son to Sarah who was ninety years old and fifty years past child bearing age, so also God gave a Son to Mary, a virgin.  Now that was out of season:  Life does not come from a virgin womb.

Likewise, mankind was dead in trespass and sin, but from our dead flesh, from Mary sprang forth new Life: her baby Jesus Christ.  This is the unseasonal symbolism of Christmastime: a celebration of light and life from the dead in the cold of winter and deep of night:

“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.”

“This Flower whose fragrance tender
With sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor
The darkness everywhere.
True Man, yet very God;
From sin and death He saves us
And lightens every load.”

“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.”  (The Lutheran Hymnal 645:1, 4-5).  See also Isaiah 11.