- Bible Trivia
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- O Come All Ye Faithful (Adeste Fideles)
- I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day
- Infant Holy Infant Lowly
- Joy To The World
- Let’s begin with prayer:Lord Jesus, we are still in the shadow of celebrating your birth. Give to us ears to hear now as we open the Word. Give us minds to think and hearts to understand. Give us courage to act upon what we learn here today, and love to share with all around us. We pray in your name, AMEN.Our reading today comes from Luke 2:22-40.And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.This is a reading from God’s Holy Word.Thanks be to God.Let’s begin with prayer:Lord Jesus, we are still in the shadow of celebrating your birth. Give to us ears to hear now as we open the Word. Give us minds to think and hearts to understand. Give us courage to act upon what we learn here today, and love to share with all around us. We pray in your name, AMEN.How was your Christmas?On Christmas day I was busy cooking the dinner feast that we would celebrate. We invited a missionary friend whose been in quarantine for weeks now trying to get back to his wife who has been locked down in Russia since early March.We had a two alarm dinner, meaning that the smoke detector went off twice - interestingly for the same dish. The Candied Yams spilled over in the oven, and produced a small waft of smoke.Then later my friend looks at the oven, and says, “Is something on fire?” I opened the oven to have flames fly up, then the smoke detector went off, Dudley ran in to alert me, as I scrambled to figure out how to put this thing out. I’ve got to love my mom’s trust in my fire fighting skills as she just burst into laughter.Once removed from the heat the flames died out and the charred remains we’re all familiar with from roasting marshmallows sat atop one of my favorite dishes. For those of you who are pitying me now, I was able to scrape the charred marshmallows off and put on a fresh layer. It was delicious.Despite this very entertaining and memorable meal, Christmas was different this year. We did not have the big gathering of family, my sisters were not there, my sister’s children nor grandchildren were not there.Mom and I, and my friend Mike dined on our small feast alone. There was no great fanfare, no cacophony of people scattering in and out, and for most of us, I’m sure your’s was much the same. Smaller, quieter, different.Over and over again I heard on television or from the radio, or saw posted on social media that Christmas was about family. That’s sort of true, but it’s not the full picture is it?Thursday night, Christmas Eve we had an incredible worship service, and I once again must thank our worship team: Cami, Kari, Katie, and Lisa for their leadership in that. The singing was beautiful.From the lessons of the carols we reflected on the entire season of advent of hoping, waiting, watching and witnessing. And it all culminates with the birth of Jesus.Now, he’s born. And we must ask ourselves, What difference does it make.What difference does it make?As Christians, we know it makes all the difference in the world. But does it make a difference in our lives?Does it change the way we live today?On Christmas morning, I read the original lyrics to the hymn, “What Child is This” by William Chatterton Dix in 1865. I’d like to share with you those words because they’re not quite what we’ve become familiar with:What child is this, who, laid to rest, On Mary’s lap is sleeping? Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, While shepherds watch are keeping? This, this is Christ the King, Whom shepherds guard and angels sing; Haste, haste to bring him laud, The Babe the Son of Mary.Why lies he in such mean estate, Where ox and ass are feeding? Good Christian, fear, for sinners here The silent Word is pleading. Nails, spear, shall pierce him through, The cross be borne for me, for you: Hail, hail, the Word made flesh, The Babe, the Son of Mary!So bring him incense, gold and myrrh, Come, peasant, king, to own Him; The King of kings salvation brings, Let loving hearts enthroneHim. Raise, raise the song on high, The virgin sings her lullaby: Joy, joy, for Christ is born, The Babe, the Son of Mary!The second stanza stands out to me, especially the part we might call the chorus:Nails, spear, shall pierce him through,The cross be borne for me, for you:Hail, hail, the Word made flesh,The Babe, the Son of Mary!We cannot celebrate the birth of Jesus without recognizing the purpose of his birth. Simeon recognized it readily:“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”Simeon understood that all that they had been waiting for had come. He, instructed by the Holy Spirit knew exactly who Jesus was and for what purpose He had come.And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”The story of our Lord’s birth is a story of love, but that’s not all. It’s also a story of consequence. “Behold this child is appointed for the FALL and rising of many in Israel.”Too many, even in our churches today, have watered down the story of Christ coming into the world to be nothing but sweet and sugary.Jesus is a light - YESJesus is our Savior - YESJesus is the love of God in the flesh - YESAnd that light reveals the darkness of our sin.That Savior has come to us because we need saving.The love of God has come to show us the way and still we have a choice.Don’t let it become what Bonhoeffer referred to as “cheap grace “
Cheap grace means grace as doctrine, as principle, as system. It means forgiveness of sins as a general truth; it means God’s love as merely a Christian idea of God.
Cheap grace means justification of sin but not of the sinner.
Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without repentance; it is baptism without the discipline of community; it is the Lord’s Supper without confession of sin; it is absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without the living, incarnate Jesus Christ.The gift - and that is what it was and is - of Jesus we celebrate on Christmas day, cannot be left alone. It must be taken up, it must be taken with us.It is costly.
Costly grace is the hidden treasure in the field, for the sake of which people go and sell with joy everything they have. It is the costly pearl, for whose price the merchant sells all that he has; it is Christ’s sovereignty, for the sake of which you tear out an eye if it causes you to stumble. It is the call of Jesus Christ which causes a disciple to leave his nets and follow himAnd finally:
It is costly, because it calls to discipleship; it is grace, because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly, because it costs people their lives; it is grace, because it thereby makes them live. It is costly, because it condemns sin; it is grace, because it justifies the sinner.Bonhoeffer had a way of putting things, but the Word of God does even better.I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.And in the Gospel of John we read:But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,We can not be passive recipients of God’s love.We can not passively receive God’s gift of His Son as if it makes no difference.We can not celebrate Jesus’ birth and not remember the purpose for which he came.What difference does it make?It makes every difference.When you and I receive the gift that God has given to each one of us - we choose to receive Him, and believe in His name.What does it mean to believe in His Name? It means we believe He is God with us. It means we believe He is the Son of God. It means we believe that Jesus came to show the way. It means that we seek to be peacemakers. It means we choose to follow Jesus and follow His commands.You can’t do those things passively. Jesus calls us to follow Him, that is not passive, that is an action.As we follow, as we act we will experience Jesus in new ways and I guarantee you, love will fill your heart.That is the difference it makes.This is the Word of God,Thanks be to God.Amen.Please pray with me:Lord God, awaken in us the life that is faith in Jesus. Awaken in us a life that is filled with your Spirit, that reaches out our hands in love, that is willing to go where you send us, and to speak as you give us the words. Lord, as the light has come, I ask that we may shine the light that you’ve put in each one of us. I pray that others may know the Joy that it is to follow Jesus.In His Name we pray,AMEN.
- Go Tell It On The Mountain
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