Blue skies wispy clouds
honking skein over corn fields
moving through crisp air.
Bare trees in a line
crunchy leaves under the foot
rich smells of the earth.
Sights scents sounds
That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire,
Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
— William Shakespeare,
Mary of Magdala was the first, but not the last, to report, “I have seen the Lord!” (John 20:18, ESV).
He is risen!
“Speak, Mary, declaring
What you saw when wayfaring.”
“The tomb of Christ, who is living,
the glory of Jesus’ resurrection;
Bright angels attesting,
The shroud and napkin resting.
My Lord, my hope, is arisen;
To Galilee He goes before you.”
Christ indeed from death is risen,
Our new life obtaining.
Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!
— “Christians, to the Paschal Victim,” LSB, 460:2-3.
He is risen, indeed!
For over a thousand years, followers of Islam have been waging genocide against anyone who disagrees with them. A little over a year ago, some of these followers murdered twenty-one Coptic Christians in Libya on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. We remember these particular victims because their murderers made a video.
They died with the name of Jesus on their lips. Because of the video, they were able to confess Christ to the world. Christ will remember them. (Luke 23:42-43). Christ will remember us all. (John 6:37-40).
Some give their lives to Christ in one bold act of confessing his name at the edge of a sword, while others give their lives through countless acts of service to others. All Christians must give their lives because Christ gave his. Christ gave his life, and we must follow him.
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?
— Luke 9:23-25, ESV.
President Harrison of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod made a short video commemorating the anniversary of the martyrdom of the twenty-one Coptic Christians:
For all the saints who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest.
Thou wast their rock, their fortress, and their might;
Thou, Lord, their captain in the well-fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true light.
But, lo, there breaks a yet more glorious day:
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of Glory passes on His way.
From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
Singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
— “For All the Saints,” LSB 677:1-2, 7-8.
I chose this muted picture of a purple wildflower because this year Valentine’s Day falls in Lent, and I thought the darker rich tone best fit the penitential nature of the season.
Who was Valentine?
A physician and priest living in Rome during the rule of Emperor Claudius, Valentine became one of the noted martyrs of the third century. The commemoration of his death, which occurred in AD 270, became part of the calendar of remembrance in the Early Church of the West. Tradition suggests that on the day of his execution for his Christian faith, Valentine left a note of encouragement for a child of his jailer written on an irregularly shaped piece of paper. This greeting became a pattern for millions of written expressions of love and caring that now are the highlight of Valentine’s Day in many nations.
— Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH, page 1209.
O God of mercy, God of might,
In love and pity infinite,
Teach us, as ever in Thy sight,
To live our lives in Thee.
And may Thy Holy Spirit move
All those who live to live in love
Till Thou shalt greet in heaven above
All those who live in Thee.
— “O God of Mercy, God of Might,” LSB 852:1, 6.
Happy St. Valentine’s Day.
“God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life …” (Genesis 2:7 KJV). However, man fell into sin, and God cursed him saying, “you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19 ESV). We all share the same fate as the first man. In Adam all die.
In Adam we have all been one,
One huge rebellious man;
We all have fled that evening voice
That sought us as we ran.
“God created man in his own image …” (Genesis 1:27 ESV). But after sin, Adam’s children were born, not in the image of God, but in the image of Adam. (Genesis 5:3). Adam’s son Cain murdered his brother Abel.
We fled Thee, and in losing Thee
We lost our brother too;
Each singly sought and claimed his own;
Each man his brother slew.
Jesus Christ came in our flesh. (Hebrews 2:14). He was our brother, but we crucified him. Like Cain, we killed our brother.
But Thy strong love, it sought us still
And sent Thine only Son
That we might hear His Shepherd’s voice
And, hearing Him, be one.
On Ash Wednesday, Christians receive ashes on their foreheads in the shape of a cross as a visual reminder of the consequences of sin. From the ground we were created, and to the ground we will return: “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” (Book of Common Prayer, burial).
O Thou who, when we loved Thee not,
Didst love and save us all,
Thou great Good Shepherd of mankind,
O hear us when we call.
“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22 KJV). The Christian Church is the Body of Christ. As he rose from the dead and conquered sin and death, in him so shall we.
Send us Thy Spirit, teach us truth;
Thou Son, O set us free
From fancied wisdom, self-sought ways,
To make us one in Thee.
— “In Adam We Have All Been One,” LSB, 569:1-5.
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water …”
— John 4:13-15, ESV.
The water that wells up to eternal life is baptism. Baptism is living water made alive by the word of God. And through this water Christ grants his eternal life and righteousness to all who believe.
One of the first celebrations of Epiphany is of the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River.
In order to fulfill all righteousness, he took our place. He submitted to John’s baptism in the Jordan river. John’s baptism was for repentance, and in this way Jesus took our sin, and identified completely with us sinners. He began his ministry by taking our place, and becoming our substitute. He became the Lamb of God. (Genesis 2:8).
When we were baptized, the water washed our sins away. When Jesus was baptized, he accepted our sins from the water as his own. John said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29, ESV).
To Jordan’s river came our Lord,
The Christ, whom heavenly hosts adored,
The God from God, The Light from Light,
The Lord of glory, power, and might.
The Savior came to be baptized
The Son of God in flesh disguised
To stand beneath the Father’s will
And all His righteousness fulfill.
Then from God’s throne with thunderous sound
Came God’s own voice with words profound:
“This is My Son,” was His decree,
“The one I love, who pleases Me.”
The Father’s word, the Spirit’s flight
Anointed Christ in glorious sight
As God’s own choice, from Adam’s fall
To save the world and free us all.
— “To Jordan’s River Came Our Lord,” LSB 405:1-2, 4-5.
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.
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.
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!