Lutheran Worship and Resources

Friday, December 31, 2021

New Year's Eve 2021

 Bethany Lutheran Church, 7PM



The Hymn # 110     Across the Sky the Shades of Night
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16

Introit

O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth: who hast set Thy glory above the heavens. What is man that Thou art mindful of him: and the Son of Man that Thou visitest Him? Psalm. Thou, O Lord, art our Father and our Redeemer: Thy name is from everlasting.

The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19

Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, from whom cometh down every good and perfect gift, we give Thee thanks for all Thy benefits, temporal and spiritual, bestowed upon us in the year past, and we beseech Thee of Thy goodness, grant us a favorable and joyful year, defend us from all dangers and adversities, and send upon us the fullness of Thy blessing; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who liveth, etc.

The Epistle and Gradual 

Gradual

All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God: make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth.

V. The Lord hath made known His salvation: His righteousness hath He openly showed in the sight of the heathen. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

V. God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in times past unto the fathers by the prophets: hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son. Hallelujah!

The Gospel 
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 123    Our God, Our Help

Blessings Are Eternal, Not Transient

The Hymn # 126     Arise and Shine in Splendor
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn #  552   Abide with Me




Prayers and Announcements

  • Thankful for many blessings, kindnesses, and understanding.
  • Pastor and Mrs. Jim Shrader, Pastor K and Doc Lito Cruz - dealing with diabetes.
  • Those looking for work and a better income.
  • Pray for those fighting anti-Constitutional mandates.


KJV Galatians 3:23-29 King James Version (KJV)

23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.

24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

29 And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

KJV Luke 2:21 King James Version (KJV)
21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.





KJV Galatians 3:23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.  

Paul's analogy is very good, because we all think of ourselves as under the Law as children. And parents think that of children as well. Every request for us Jackson kids to do something was met by a whiny, "Do we have to?" The response was usually forceful and loud.

Paul uses the situation of a a child who would be heir of the estate. Even though he is the future overlord, the tutor is still the one who administers the law to him. The child can remain a minor - many rich children do. The tutor goes away or the child keeps him as a shield, a go-between, someone who cleans up messes and erases evidence.

God did not keep the Gospel Promises from Israel. They are all through the Books of Moses, the Prophets, and the Writings. However, many refuse to see this, or they emphasize the prophets condemning sin while ignoring the Promise of the Messiah and His blessings. Jeremiah is so forceful in his denunciations that a "jeremiad" is the name for a lengthy tirade against something. However, one of the most beautiful Gospel passages is in Jeremiah.

KJV Jeremiah 31 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:

32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord:

33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

3:24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 

Some people are so contrary that they read this as the Law becoming obsolete (Antinomians, anti-Law). One pastor who preached this also denied the Creation - and soon he was an avowed atheist as well. 

But the truth is the opposite of what the false teachers say. The Law is eternal, revealed clearly in Creation, where everything happens by command, order, cooperation, according to the will of God and the command of the Logos. 

Besides, the Law commands what is good for us. However, Paul wrote to the Galatians, who were mixing the Law and the Gospel, as urged by the Law salesmen. His apostolic letter was so forceful that the issue did not come up again.

The Law teaches us about right and wrong, so we can realize what it means to be forgiven and to live in peace because of faith in Christ Jesus.

25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. 26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

This is so easy to picture. We are children when under a tutor, babysitter, teacher in school. But through the Gospel we are children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

This means moved by the Gospel rather than ordered by the Law. I often hear, "You don't have to do this." and I say, "True. I want to do this. Almost everything I do is because I want to - except paying taxes. The government helps me with that."

27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

The distinctions made by man do not apply to God's family, where we are one. Although many rules and restrictions make us under the law, the Gospel means we can emphasize what is eternal rather than what is transient.

An M.D. wrote a book about a time when the American Bible Society created a secretive revised KJV, with thousands of changes - and this was decades before the official KJV revision of 1881. No one asked them to create it. They had no directions in their Protestant-Roman Catholic organization to do that. But they did. A few leaders got together and opposed it, so it was dropped and almost forgotten. 

That might be a footnote in history, but it is an important one, standing up for the truth of the Word of God.

We can remember the hurts, reverses, sorrows, tragedies of life. More importantly, the Gospel generates forgiveness, blessings, the fruits of the Spirit, which begin with 
  1. Love,
  2. Joy,
  3. Peace.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

St. Stephen's Day

 

 It is thought that the New Testament uses crown as a reference to the first martyr Stephan, because Stephanos means crown in Greek. This graphic is used in many churches to teach "No cross, no crown."

Bethany Lutheran Church

Holy Communion Service, 10 AM Sunday

Springdale, Arkansas

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson


The Hymn #463                 For All the Saints          
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16

Introit
Princes also did sit and speak against me:
the wicked have waited for me, to destroy me.
Help Thou me, Lord, my God: 
for I have kept Thy testimonies.
Psalm. Blessed are the undefiled in the way:
who walk in the Law of the Lord.

The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19

Collect
Grant, O Lord, that in all our sufferings here upon earth for the testimony of Thy truth we may steadfastly look up to heaven and by faith behold the glory that shall be revealed; and, being filled with the Holy Ghost, may learn to love and bless our persecutors by the example of the first martyr, St. Stephan, who prayed for his murderers to Thee, O blessed Jesus, who standest at the right hand of God to help all those who suffer for Thee, our only Mediator and Advocate; who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.

The Epistle and Gradual   

Gradual

Halleluia! Halleluia! I see the heavens opened; and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Halleluia!

The Gospel              
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #103   To Shepherds   As They Watched


Faith Must Be Primary


The Hymn #94            Hark the Herald Angels           
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn #79            Rejoice, Rejoice


Announcements and Prayers

  • Equipment is being set up to improve the Vimeos, including the sound.
  • Thank you for the kindness expressed during Christmas and year-around. I hear from people I have never met and they appreciate our services, books, etc.
  • Medical treatment - Pastor Jim Shrader and his wife Christ, Kermit Way, Pastor K, Dr. Lito Cruz, and anonymous. 
  • Yes, my cataract surgery is scheduled for January 10 and 17.


The Epistle
KJV Acts 6:8-14, and Acts 7:54-60. 8 And Stephen, full of grace and power, wrought great wonders and signs among the people. 9 But there arose certain of them that were of the synagogue called the synagogue of the Libertines, and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and Asia, disputing with Stephen. 10 And they were not able to withstand the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke. 11 Then they suborned men, who said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God. 12 And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and seized him, and brought him into the council,13 and set up false witnesses, who said, This man ceaseth not to speak words against this holy place, and the law: 14 for we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered unto us. 7:54 Now when they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. 55 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 56 and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. 57 But they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and rushed upon him with one accord; 58 and they cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon the Lord, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. 60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.

The Gospel
KJV Matthew 23:34-39. Therefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: some of them shall ye kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city: that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of Abel the righteous unto the blood of Zachariah son of Barachiah, whom ye slew between the sanctuary and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killeth the prophets, and stoneth them that are sent unto her! how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, ye ,hall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.



KJV 1 Corinthians 9:25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.

KJV James 1:12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

Faith Must Be Primary



KJV Acts 6:8 And Stephen, full of grace and power, wrought great wonders and signs among the people.

I normally avoid saints' days, because so many quasi-Lutheran pastors strive to be more Roman than the Catholics. If one little item of papal tradition is overlooked, they pick up rocks to throw at their victim, but it is more like being stoned to death by popcorn.

The issue in this passage is faith. Stephen (Greek for crown) is the example of witnessing (Greek - martyr) to his faith, no matter what the threat. All believers are saints, holy, because the Word of God makes us holy by planting and supporting faith in Jesus Christ. Inevitably, the person named a saint by Catholic tradition is turned into a salesman for that tradition. Faith is forgotten or subordinated by works.

Revealing the life and death of Stephen is not an accident. He was a layman, filled with the Holy Spirit, meaning he was filled with the Holy Scriptures. Those who separate the Word from the Spirit are dreamers who make up things to suit the moment. However, those who begin and end with the Word will always bear fruit. We know the apostles did that, but their lives are overshadowed by the Gospel of Christ, even though most of them died for the Faith. 

The institutional church wants to make the top dog the infallible hero who leads the pack, even today. They will sigh and marvel about a man or woman, but get uneasy when someone takes a Biblical passage literally. The first  is idolatry; the second is rationalism, often coupled with out of control institutionalism. I have seen it in writing -
" CFW Walther answers every doctrinal question." (Ironically, LutherQuest sic). No, the Word answers all questions because the Scriptures are clear, efficacious, and infallibly linked together.

Stephen's greatness came from trusting completing in the Word of God. He lived and died in the Apostolic era, so he had reason to be afraid and silent. Instead he applied the Word to the opponents, who were so enraged that he was murdered by stoning, Paul consenting at the time, because he rejected Christ and saw the Faith as danger.

9 But there arose certain of them that were of the synagogue called the synagogue of the Libertines, and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and Asia, disputing with Stephen. 10 And they were not able to withstand the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.

The Word of God, by its nature, revealing our hearts and intentions, stirs up wrath in those who do not believe and especially in those who believe in a corrupted or sick dogma, which is dominant today. Sound doctrine is literally healthy teaching, and the word "sound" is "hygiene" in Greek. But false doctrine is like gangrene or cancer, growing and killing if not treated. 

KJV 2 Timothy 15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16 But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. 17 And their word will eat as doth a canker [cancer, gangrene]: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; 18 Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some. 19 Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.

The key is that faith is "access to grace" (Romans 5:2), a verse which demolishes all the efforts to teach justification without faith (Objective Justification) - the ruling dogma of the mainline denominations today, including 99% of the Lutherans.

When we are troubled by various problems, whether outside of our control or within us, faith in Jesus Christ moves us to pray for help, to spell out our needs, and to have patience in how God works. Faith also moves us to pray for others - illness, conflicts, economic turmoil, and so forth. The very act of praying for someone else makes us far more aware of that individual, even one far away we have not met.

Wonders, miracles, do arise from people trusting God, and He shows that He does more than we can even imagine. 

Faith shows us the layers of truth revealed in the Scriptures, and this is chiefly the wisdom, patience, and kindness of God. The hymns of Gehrhardt are so touching because he began as a tutor of children and that taught him how to relate the Word to them. To summarize his best - he shows the essence of Jesus Christ - and - if that is so, how dearly He must love you. A professor's lecture for adults can leave children stunned or asleep. But Gerhardt's hymns reach children and adults. 

11 Then they suborned men, who said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God. 12 And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and seized him, and brought him into the council,

Suborning perjury is a legal term used today. It means using one's persuasion to get another person to lie. In this case they had their witnesses set up to agree to the falsehoods so they could claim - two or more witnesses. But while they witnessed to lies, Stephen witnessed to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

13 and set up false witnesses, who said, This man ceaseth not to speak words against this holy place, and the law: 14 for we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered unto us.



Stephen saw the heavens opened up and Jesus enthroned in glory.

KJV Acts 7:54 Now when they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. 55 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 56 and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. 

Faith in Jesus Christ made Stephen stronger and gave him the strength to tell the angry crowd the truth, even with them bearing down on him. They picked up stones to kill him with great cruelty.

57 But they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and rushed upon him with one accord; 58 and they cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon the Lord, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. 60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.

When I read this passage, I remembered Greek class from 1966-67. Both professors were from the seminary on Zion Hill, Augustana. One taught in faith, the other in grammar. There was no question that the older pastor took this as the Word of God. When Christina was in the hospital, the older pastor showed up to visit, though he was not our pastor. He came to our wedding later, a long drive. 

Even today people are dying for the Faith, across the world. We are more polite here in America, but there are laity, pastors, and teachers who are treated with great cruelty and suppressed or exiled with threats of no pay, no benefits, no friendship except for the sacraments of the stink-eye and shunning. 

Deacons like Stephen are known more for their pay stubs and golfing than faith in Jesus Christ. They love the institution, not the Word, and the institution loves that.



Friday, December 24, 2021

Christmas Eve Candlelight Service, 7 PM

Christmas Eve Candlelight Service

 The viewer for the live and the saved Vimeo - with a graphic -  will appear below this message. Press F5 to refresh the page if it does not show.




Bethany Lutheran Church

Christmas Eve Service, 7 PM Central Time, 2021

Springdale, Arkansas

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson


Hymn #81        O Jesus Christ, Thy Manger Is

The Place of Jesus’ Birth 

KJV Micah 5:2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

 

Hymn # 102                   O Come All Ye Faithful

 

KJV Isaiah 9:2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

 

Virgin Birth

KJV Isaiah 7:10 Moreover the LORD spake again unto Ahaz, saying, 11 Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above. 12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD. 13 And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. 15 Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. 16 For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.

 

Incarnation

KJV Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

 

Hymn #109              While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks

KJV Luke 2 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. 2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. 8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

God Honors What the World Despises

KJV Luke 2 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. 2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

The Roman Empire was very good at taxing people, and forcing those taxes. This may have been the first such census for taxation. America does the same thing, and the count makes a difference about how many Congressmen we have in each state. The Scriptures had many predictions about this happening, and it is important to point out that the birth of our Savior at this time and place meant He would be under man's law. That birth could have been earlier, the travel not necessary. This was the first sign that Jesus would be an ordinary man in the sight of man, since all went to be taxed and that put a great burden on Joseph and Mary.

Thus began a turning point in human history, and the world was groaning over their sins and cruelty, wondering about salvation and the forgiveness of sin. The divine solution would begin with the Holy Child turned away from proper lodging before His birth, and the couple forced to endure this in the place where the animals were kept. 

Luther:

1. It is written in Haggai 2:6-7, that God says: “I will shake the heavens; and the precious things of all nations shall come.” This is fulfilled today, for the heavens were shaken, that is, the angels in the heavens sang praises to God. And the earth was shaken, that is, the people on the earth were agitated; one journeying to this city, another to that throughout the whole land, as the Gospel tells us. It was not a violent, bloody uprising, but rather a peaceable one awakened by God who is the God of peace.

Strangely, Rome seemed to be at the peak of its power, with Caesar Augustus as the Emperor, the baby to be born not even a rumor in the capital or in Jerusalem. Everything would be turned upside down by God's will, in spite of man's will.

Nobody thought a second about this poor family, which is entirely proper, as Luther wrote. The world loves what matters the least and goes away quickly. Not even His relatives thought to take in the family and help out. That is one reason why this holy day means so much to many but so little to most people. The Christian Faith does not give them honors, riches, and esteem from their fellow un-believers. If anything, it is a drag on their reputations so there are a series of quasi-Christian denominations that only teach the Law and have no use for the message of the Bible.

One indication is the use of Winter Break. I am instructed to tell online students about the dates of the Winter Break. Each years I write, "These are the days of the Christmas break, a term I use because no one says Merry Winter, neither do they shop for Winter presents."

The words we use make a big difference, because they represent ideas, plans, attitudes, and conclusions. So that means we should be especially alert about each phrase of the Bible, that it is properly translated and presented so that it is God's Word and not man's opinion. We do well to meditate on the meaning of this Night, because they changed the history of the earth and meaning of human life. 

Moreover, the way in which the Savior was introduced is especially important, since the word Christian means following Christ. And Luther said, he was a Faithian, more precisely - a Faith-Alonist, salvation by faith alone in Jesus Christ. I cannot get the learned clergy to use that term, the Chief Article of Christianity (not simply an article of one denomination).

The tax and census forced the Family to go to Bethlehem, which had already been predicted. Caesar and his counselors did not know that, but the evidence piled up when the Jewish scholars were quizzed about the Wise Men.

What kind of complexity can we imagine that puts all the predictions about Christ into human history, even the strangest ones (the bronze serpent, the atoning death of Jesus)? That is why many looked to Jesus after His resurrection, because the Jewish Scriptures, the Old Testament, had it completely right from many centuries before, even down to the First Gospel in Genesis 3:15.

4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 

Caesar caused this to happen and never knew its final result. Jesus died during the reign of Tiberius. The pagan census brought the Family to Jerusalem because the Romans were invited earlier to keep the peace among the fighting Jewish factions. They had a moment of hope with Judas Maccabeus, but fell into turmoil again.

I tell students in Old Testament what I have learned - the most unpleasant, onerous, evil things happen, and God can still turn them into something good, as He did with the cross - a distinctly Roman form of punishment (predicted in the Psalms).

Why let go of something precious and eternal when troubles arise, when all the doors seem slammed shut against the individual, and people gloat about our difficulties? 

The Christmas cards are beautiful, but they convey the beauty and holiness we acknowledge now - not the stench of a stable and the cold rejecting of the Family. The baby Jesus was born in poverty, rejection, and solitude.

Luther:

See how God shows that he utterly disregards what the world is, has or desires; and furthermore, that the world shows how little it knows or notices what God is, has and does.

9. See, this is the first picture with which Christ puts the world to shame and exposes all it does and knows. It shows that the world’s greatest wisdom is foolishness, her best actions are wrong and her greatest treasures are misfortunes. What had Bethlehem when it did not have Christ? What have they now who at that time had enough? What do Joseph and Mary lack now, although at that time they had no room to sleep comfortably?

6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

As Luther wrote, this is such a beautiful moment in history, that the Word was born of a Virgin and received her care. That is a test I use when clergy are talking about the Faith. "Do you believe Jesus was actually born of a Virgin?" One future Disciples of Christ minister said, "That is not an important doctrine." She also rejected the actual resurrection of Christ. I have to use actual with these people because they want to be all symbolic as a way to avoid the issue. And it makes them angry, furious. 

God is not inhibited by man's reason, so it is often true that only children can understand the Scriptures, and Jesus confirmed that. "You must believe the way a child does, or you cannot enter the Kingdom of God." That means everything revealed in the Scriptures.

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

God chose working men, the shepherds, to experience the great revealing of the Son of God. The angels were there to express their joy at an event so earth-shaking that virtually everyone was ignoring it. 

If God's holy angels gather to celebrate an event in such a way, it must be very grand - and it was scary. The glory and power of God are so great that Peter said, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man." The shepherds were terrified - so great is the revelation of God's light, which existed before the sun and stars were created.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

The angelic proclamation tells us what this means. It is poetic, like a creed or hymn, and easily recited by young children. The divine sign of the Savior is a baby in a food trough for animals, wrapped up in available clothes.

Luther:

12. Just imagine what kind of swaddling clothes they were in which she wrapped the child. Possibly her veil or some article of her clothing she could spare. But that she should have wrapped him in Joseph’s trousers, which are exhibited at Aix-la-Chapelle, appears entirely too false and frivolous. It is a fable, the like of which there are more in the world. Is it not strange that the birth of Christ occurs in cold winter, in a strange land, and in such a poor and despicable manner?

13. Some argue as to how this birth took place, as if Jesus was born while Mary was praying and rejoicing, without any pain, and before she was conscious of it. While I do not altogether discard that pious supposition, it was evidently invented for the sake of simple minded people. But we must abide by the Gospel, that he was born of the virgin Mary. There is no deception here, for the Word clearly states that it was an actual birth.

14. It is well known what is meant by giving birth. Mary’s experience was not different from that of other women, so that the birth of Christ was a real natural birth, Mary being his natural mother and he being her natural son. Therefore her body performed its functions of giving birth, which naturally belonged to it, except that she brought forth without sin, without shame, without pain and without injury, just as she had conceived without sin. 

God's judgment against the rationalists and marketeers is to deny them the truth of the Word. I sigh as I go through the verses and see all the ways the "scholars" and growthers have misused and abused the Word of God. They do not see it and hate to hear the truths. 

But we can rejoice over these treasures and contemplate them day at night. As it was said when the Bible was about to be translated into English - They should be recited by the farmer at his plow and weaver at the loom. 

Hymn # 646                                     Silent Night 



The Prayers and Benediction


Hymn #87                 Joy to the World