Monday, December 21, 2015

Sermon Dec. 19-20, 2015

Title:  God’s blessings are brought to you in Christ!
Text: Luke 1:39-45

41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!

God’s blessings are brought to you in Christ!

A few years ago in adult Bible Study we learned that Bethlehem Ephrathah means “the house of bread.” It will play a special role in God’s plan as the prophet Micah records in our Old Testament reading for today:

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. (Micah 5:2)

This “house of bread”, Bethlehem, would become the place where the true bread from heaven, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior would come down to save His people from the power of sin, death and the Devil’s working in their lives. From this tiny town the salvation of the world would emerge.

Mary, who just a little bit earlier in Luke’s gospel reading, would have a visitation from the Angel Gabriel, announcing that she would have a very special role as well to play in God’s plan for restoring the gulf that was fixed by sin between God and man and we also have heard these past two weeks how John the Baptist would be used by God to prepare the way.

Today our Gospel reading moves back a bit in the story, some 30 plus years, to Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, another women used by God for a very important role. She would bear the prophet, John, who would be the greatest of all prophets as Jesus said in our Gospel reading from last week,

28 I tell you … among those born of women none is greater than John.

But this visit of Mary to Elizabeth was a bit different.

Mary with joyful energy and as the text says, “Arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah,” and came to the house of Zachariah, where she greeted Elisabeth, just as you or I might great a relative or dear friend. But then God performed a miracle. By the working of the Holy Spirit this unborn son of Elisabeth, at hearing Mary’s voice, was filled with the Holy Spirit. And so too Elisabeth, by this same Spirit acting in a miraculous way, also filled her as she spoke:

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord (by special gifting of the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth was given the knowledge and trusting faith to know who this child Mary was carrying truly was) should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” (Luke 1:42b-44)

God’s blessings are brought to you in Christ!

So what does the knowledge given you by the Holy Spirit about Jesus bring you? Is it an unstoppable kind of joy that might even cause you to leap?  If you’re like me, I joy in Christ … that he has given me freedom from sin … but the Christmas season can be a drag at times too. Having worked in retail sales for most of my adult life I have found it hard to get joyful working extra hard and being consumed with all that needs to be done – during the holidays. But, this year I get to add just a bit more work as … orderly … at home. Monica calls me nurse … but I remember the old Jerry Lewis movie from the early 60’s: The Disorderly, Orderly, and that’s me.

Now, add to all of this the fact that this child, this babe from Bethlehem, would become, one who is an offence to many. He is an offense in our world for sure so much so that Merry Christmas has become Happy Holidays – handed down as corporate policy from the board rooms of many companies and the true blessed meaning of Christmas has been neutered into just another sale. Sound familiar? But I did have a joyful reprieve just the other day. I stopped into CVS for a small purchase after Confirmation class on my way home and after paying the cashier said, Merry Christmas with a big smile … it made my day.

As did the visit I made to Loreda in hospice care. She was able to smile and recite the Lord’s Prayer and receive the Lord’s Supper. It was of great comfort to me to see the faith of this Christian Woman and her hope hope that is in Christ Jesus her Lord. As I continued on to church, I stopped at Burger King for a burger. I was in the drive through and there was quite a few cars in line. As I got to the window to pay the young man handed me my burger and said, “The man in front of you paid for your meal and said to have a Merry Christmas.” Wow … another smile to my face. He then asked, “Would you like to pay it forward?  “Absolutely, I said … and tell them Merry Christmas too!”

The message of who Jesus is, who this child is that we wait for this Advent season … the one who caused the child in the womb of Elizabeth to jump for joy, this child Jesus Christ, came to conquer the power of evil and brokenness in this world, for you and for me.

Merry Christmas, Brought a real smile to my face this past Monday! Don’t let the season be defined by the ways of the world.

At an elementary school in Florida Baby Jesus has been put back in a closet:

The principal of the school told a television station that after a visit from the Department of Education:

“In an attempt to be fair to everyone, the principal said, “We decided that we would just not put the Nativity scene out on campus.”

“There are people in the community that are threatening to sue the school board and it costs a tremendous amount of money to defend something you know you will lose,”

It is after all the law. But, is it really just a church and state issue?

In a funny twist to the story, a business across the street put the schools Nativity on their property so those in the community could still enjoy it. Needless to say the happy Atheist who threatened the school was not too happy … “They’re acting like they’re beating the system by doing it … but they’re not. They’re perfectly within their rights to do this and no one will tell them to remove it.”

Via: Atheist Lutheran

… At least … not yet. Is this really just a church and state issue? No, if you look into these situations, it’s always about those who are offended, usually an unbeliever or one from a different faith tradition not wanting this,
unbelievably offensive, and unbelievable Christ child, in their face.

And while they seem to be okay with the nativity across the street from the school, they’re really not, because they believe that the school thinks that they’re beating the system and if they could make it illegal to have a nativity everywhere … they would.

God’s blessings are brought to you in Christ!

For John in the womb and Elizabeth, the joy that is the Christ child came in a miraculous and unexpected way through Mary’s visit. We too receive the joy that is Jesus Christ our Lord when He calls us to gather together in His name; where we receive his word and his sacraments giving us both faith and joy in this Christ child who came to free sinners, like you and me, from the enemy of our sin, from the death that it has brought to all who are conceived in sin and brought forth in iniquity, (Psalm 51.5) and finally to join us to Him who is God in the flesh for all eternity!

Our Joy is in the Christ child and that is for whom we await. He came for you and by the power of the Holy Spirit he gives you faith to leap for joy from the womb of death that you are born into, and by that same Spirit He lifts you into his loving arms never to let sin, death or the Devil pull you from the eternal life he gives.

God’s blessings are brought to you in Christ!

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit

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