Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Sermon Dec. 22-23, 2018 Fourth Sunday in Advent

Title: In Christ, the blessings of the Lord are yours!
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!

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 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)

In Christ, the blessings of the Lord are yours!

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.

Many find the Christmas Season extra hard to deal with. Suicides are a major concern this time of year. My nephew’s friend committed suicide the beginning of this month at the young age of 25 and Jessica Starr, the weather newscaster on Fox, did the same at the age of 35 just this past week shocking her Fox family and friends. If you had some joy looking forward to Christmas this year it can fall away quickly after this kind of news.

Now, add to all of this the fact that this child, this babe from Bethlehem, this Jesus, would become an offence to many.

He is an offense in our world for sure so much so that Merry Christmas has become just another happy holiday – handed down as corporate policy from the board rooms of many companies so that the true blessed meaning of Christmas has been neutered into just another sale or Hallmark or Lifetime movie – or lost altogether. Sound familiar?

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.


An old post was shared on Facebook this past week and I saw it from my former college professor Dr. Pat O’Connor. His post said, “I’m not sorry I missed this.”


The reality is … it was a prank a few years ago and the spelling change was quickly fixed by the school and locked with a padlock on the sign.

School pranks are nothing new. Many years ago when I attended ARNO Elementary school in Allen Park we students who were in 3rd or 4th grade would think about climbing on the school roof where it had the letters A-R-N-O for Arno and wondering what it would take to take off the A and the R so that the building said NO SCHOOL.

We actually thought we wouldn’t have to go!

What about the future? In this PC and full inclusiveness cultural world that we live in, could we see Satan worshipers calling for equal time with Santa and Jesus at Christmas? It is not out of the realm of possibilities. What would they serve at their breakfast … Hot dogs, Tabasco sauce, maybe Deviled eggs?

It is not beyond the pale.

Don’t let the season be defined by the ways of the world.

Because, in Christ, the blessings of the Lord are yours!

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.

In Christ, the blessings of the Lord are yours!

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


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