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Posts Tagged "John 1:1-14"

Peace?

December 25, 2019
By Rev. David French

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Last night these words of Scripture were heard throughout our community, our nation, and our world. I’d like to think that people heard this Gospel truth because they were in church, where it is being rightly proclaimed and celebrated, but a recent Pew Research poll reports that only 51% of all adults will do anything religious for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, which means that roughly 49% of American adults may not hear this Good News. But, fear not! There’s always the Charlie Brown Christmas special watched by millions, where these same words are spoken at the very end of the show. 

But, that does bring up a familiar question about this angelic Gospel message of peace on earth, that is, what does this mean? How is it that the birth of Jesus over two thousand years ago equates to joy and peace for anyone today? You’ve heard the news, and there’s not a whole lot of peace out there right now. And understand, I’m not simply referring to riots or terrorism or even the “trial.” That’s what we usually think about when we speak of peace – chaos in the world. I’m talking about being a Christian in 21st century America, where there is, for the most part, peace in our land, but less in our homes. 

Dysfunctional families and divorce are now considered to be normal in our communities. There’s certainly nothing peaceful about those things. Infidelity, promiscuity, mistrust, betrayal, deceit … these aren’t just words that describe the scripted plots of soap operas. These are words that describe the chaotic and sinful world we live in and are a part of. 

What about you? Are you at peace? Most of us will say, “yes.” It’s just that, sometimes, life gets in the way of peace with the never-ending stresses of work and family life.

For some, there can be no peace because a spouse or child is so far away from home or a loved one is sick and lying in the hospital. Some people, and you may be one of them, especially at this time of year, feel the loss of a loved one: a spouse, a parent, a child.

Peace? Good cheer? Joy? In our busy lives we’re just don’t have time for any of those words to have any real meaning, so we paint on a smile, grab a cup of coffee, and get through another day. Sound familiar?  Well, ‘tis the season!  Question: Why did Jesus come into world?  Answer: He came to live in our place and die for our sins. That alone is the reason for the celebration of this or any season. 

The truth that we live with is Jesus did not come into our world to make you independently wealthy or healthy or free of trouble in your life. Jesus came for one reason that is to fulfill the law for you and pay the debt you owe for each and every one of your sins.

You see, in Christ, God himself was physically doing something to bring sinners like you and me the peace which He promises. On Christmas day, God was born into this corrupt and broken world to free us from our slavery to sin and the death it brings, using His own Son as payment for our souls.

Close your eyes and look in the manger set in a tiny stable in the far away town of Bethlehem. Now, what do you see? Isn’t it a beautiful little baby, a newborn staring up at you? What else do you see? Do you see, in that manger, God’s unconditional gift of love? Do you see, in that five or six pound bundle of joy, God’s plan to save you? You do, don’t you. That’s because of the faith God created in you when you were baptized and has been feeding and nurturing each time you gather around His Word and Supper. But seeing that the child in that cradle is the Son of God is only part of His gift to you.

The history of Jesus, or God’s plan to save you, doesn’t end with the birth of that child, it begins. God’s gift of love in a manger. He has a very specific purpose and mission. God’s word made flesh indeed begins His life at Bethlehem, but, by design, it will end on a cross at Calvary. 

On that day, God’s gift of love was no longer a beautiful little baby, but a grown man, or more accurately, a beaten and bloodied mass of lifeless flesh hanging on a cross. 

My friends, to be sure, our salvation begins in the manger, but it is on the cross that our sin was paid for, and we, by God’s grace, were saved. Remember the words “It is finished” are spoken from the cross, not from the manger. 

And, Christ on the cross is, for sinners, the very definition of peace. But, not just any peace. This is the peace that surpasses all human understanding, which brings us to back to the question: Can we, who daily struggle with sin and its sorrows that, by nature, are a part of all of our lives, really ... on this side of heaven ... truly know the peace which God promises, the peace of Christ in our daily lives? 

Dear children of the one true God, the reason we celebrate this morning isn’t just the birth of this child. The reason we gather is because it doesn’t matter what the world, the devil, or your own sinful nature brings your way. You have the peace Christ promised, because in Him you have been forgiven all your sin. 

None of the sinful realities any of us live with change what God has done for you and me and is still doing for us through His Holy Word and Sacraments. That’s what makes our celebration so different. We don’t celebrate God’s peace as having no trials or tribulations. We celebrate in the midst of our trials and tribulations. We celebrate the truth that we belong to Christ and that nothing in heaven or on earth can separate us from His love for us. 

We aren’t just celebrating the birth of a child. What we celebrate this morning is the big picture, the truth that God Himself came down from heaven and took on human flesh so that we and all of humanity might be redeemed and, by grace, be restored to a right and holy relationship with our Creator. 

To be sure, God’s unsearchable and eternal plan of salvation included a virgin’s womb and the flesh and blood of the child she bore, but as He taught throughout His ministry, He came to offer that flesh and blood to His heavenly Father as the payment for the debt of sin that we owe. And, on the cross, that is what He did.

And so, it’s only through the lens of the cross that we can truly see and begin to understand the great joy and true peace of Christmas angels. For truly, the blessings of Christmas have everything to do with God’s unconditional gift to us, the giving of His only begotten son, Jesus, as the full and final payment of the sins of people who have nothing to offer in return, nothing but our humble thanks and praise. 

To Him be the glory forever and ever, Amen.

Tags: John 1:1-14

Let's Keep It Simple

December 04, 2019
By Rev. Peter Heckert

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

When it comes to theology –the study of words about God – you can keep it as simple as you’d like, or you can go as deep as you’d like. It really is as simple as “Jesus loves me; this I know for the Bible tells me so,” but you can plunge into the deep waters of doctrinae like the communication of attributes, or forensic justification. We haven’t the time to do the latter here tonight – if you’re interested in either, feel free to hit me up after tonight’s service! For tonight, let’s keep it simple, and that last reading that we heard, from John’s Gospel account, keeps it nice and simple.

In the beginning, God created everything, and saw that it was very good. However, humanity screwed it up. Adam and Eve broke the single rule God gave them, and now, as a result, we can’t have nice things. People get hurt, they hurt each other, they die. This is the result of Adam and Eve’s sin, and we inherit their guilt. Humans really are the reason there’s so much suffering in the world, why we go to war, why we have the social ills that we do. It all stems from our First Parents, and what followed their sin was nothing short of the shattering of the universe that God had called “good.”

I wouldn’t have blamed Him for leaving us to our own devices; we made our bed, and we should be made to sleep in it. We sowed sin, and we reap as we sow. But God doesn’t think like you and me. He didn’t want that for His creation. He didn't make the cosmos just because He could; He made it … out of love. And it was love that dictated His response.

Before the beginning, knowing how we would so royally screw everything up, God had a plan, to rescue His broken creation … to rescue us. But we couldn’t be involved; we’re the ones that broke it, and we ourselves are broken. No, if we were to be rescued, God Himself would have to do it.

Thus the words we heard a few moments ago: The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, Who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. Christmas is not merely a time to gather with loved ones, enjoy awesome food, watch countless (often cheesy) holiday specials, and partake in ugly sweater contests. Christmas … is about Jesus Christ. Christmas is all about how the eternal Logos, the eternal Word John talks about, loved His creatures, you and me, so much that He became one of us … and died for us.

That is the reason why Jesus was born in the first place: to die. By itself, that’s nothing special; people die every day. What made His death special … was that He died … for you, bearing your sin, my sin, and the sin of all the world in His body … because He loves you. The special word is “atonement,” reconciliation between God and man, but as long as man was still in sin, reconciliation couldn’t happen.

That’s what Jesus made possible. By His being punished in our place, you, and I, and every other human being that has ever lived or will ever live, are forgiven. Because He took on human flesh at Christmas, because He died on the cross on Good Friday, your sins are forgiven! There is reconciliation, peace, between God and man, now that Jesus has atoned for all sin! That’s the joy of Christmas, my friends! Not simply that Jesus has come, but that He has come ... for you. The God who created all things, who spoke all things into existence, who formed you in your mother’s womb … died for you, so that those who believe His promises would have the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. In Christ Jesus, and only in Christ Jesus, are your sins forgiven, and are you made right with God!

Do you believe this?

+ In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.

Tags: John 1:1-14

From the Beginning

December 25, 2018
By Rev. Peter Heckert

 

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation this glorious Christmas morn is our Gospel lesson, especially, where John wrote, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Here ends our text; dear Christian friends…

We’re going back to the beginning. It may seem odd to do so on this blessed Christmas morn, but John does, so we shall do likewise. Nothing existed aside from YHWH, the One Whose very Name means “I Am that I Am.” He Who revealed Himself in the fullness of time to be Three in One and One in Three. There, in the beginning, was the Eternal Logos, the Eternal Word. He was with God, and He was (and is) God, and John tells us that, “All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made.” There is nothing in all creation, visible or invisible, that was not created by this Word, the Eternal Logos. He spoke, and it was, and it is. No living thing that has the breath of life in it received that life from another source. Only He gave it.

That’s right, my friends; though we may not think about it all that often, the pre-incarnate Christ was present in the creation of all things. The Eternal Logos, the Second Person of the Trinity, was there, admiring and loving the wondrous creation so new and perfect. But as we all know, that perfection was short-lived. In a way mysterious but no less devastating, our first parents, created perfect and the pinnacles of all creation, rebelled. They transgressed. They sinned, and as a result, all of the good creation, which came into existence by the Eternal Logos, was effectively destroyed. Where there had only been life, there was now death. Where there was once trust and obedience, there was now skepticism and sedition. Where there was once love and humble service, there was now hate and pride. And the Eternal Logos was there, when Man failed and caused the great cataclysm known as the Fall. As His good creation fell into ruin and despair, He was there.

He was there as His creation crashed, but even as He spoke the curse over the serpent who brought about all this misery and death and destruction, He also gave the promise: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” This promise, that the Seed of Woman would come in the fullness of time to do battle and defeat the ancient foe, was the hope of the People of the Word for centuries, millennia. It was the hope of Adam and Eve, of Enoch, Noah, and Melchizadek. It was the hope of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all his sons. It was the hope of David, Solomon, Jotham, Hezekiah, and Josiah. It was the hope of the prophets, from Moses to Malachi. The promise of the Eternal Logos to defeat the enemy, to right all wrongs, and to restore His now broken creation was what sustained His people through the eons of suffering and pain, sin and death. They longed for the Meshiach, the Messiah … and what we celebrate this morning is the culmination of that promise. The Logos … became the Meshiach, as He took on human flesh.

That’s what John is talking about on this blessed morn, as we remember when “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” We know this – we celebrate this wonder in the making every year, but I think the enormity of its occurring is often lost on us. The Babe of Bethlehem, born in the city of David, was born for the purpose of ending the reign of sin, death, and the devil. As the Child wiggled and squirmed as children do in His makeshift cradle, as Mary and Joseph looked on in a sense of awe and wonder you and I can only imagine, He had already begun the process of redeeming the world.

But this redemption would not come painlessly. It would not come with accolades and cheers, as a king returning victorious from battle. No, the Babe of Bethlehem would grow into the Son of Man, coming from Nazareth, where nothing good really comes from, and He would only have glory and victory through gory and bloody death. The Eternal and now Incarnate Logos, Who was present from the beginning, would save the world He created by allowing Himself to be destroyed by His creations. The flesh He assumed would be beaten and broken, scourged and pierced. By the snarling, sneering, jeering people He had come to redeem.

More miraculous than even the incarnation itself is that the Eternal Logos, from eternity, knew this was what would occur, that this was what had to happen. In His infinite wisdom, He knew, before it was even made, that this would be the only way to save His creation … and He did it anyway. Gladly. Joyfully. Because of you. Yes, you, the lousy, rotten, no-good, stinkin’ sinner. The Eternal Logos, begotten of the Father from eternity, took on flesh, knowing full well that it would be broken … and He did it anyway, without giving it a second thought. Because, from eternity, the Eternal Logos knew you, and He loved you, and wanted that you be His own, to live with Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.

The Law may have been given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ, the incarnate Eternal Logos, the One Who was, and is, and is to come, crucified and resurrected, ascended and returning! He Who came from eternity to give us life, light, and truth will return that we may be His own forever! A very merry Christmas, and a blessed New Year to you all!

+ In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.

Tags: John 1:1-14

What Now?

December 25, 2017
By Rev. David French

You know that feeling you get after all the build-up, all the planning, and all the work for a big event is done? Do you remember what it feels like when the party is over and all the guests have gone home and all your left with is memories and clean-up? That’s how I sometimes feel on Christmas Day. Last night we pulled out all the stops, and now here we sit. It’s somewhat anticlimactic compared to last night. All the anticipation; all the excitement, it’s gone, done for another year. Today kind of feels more like a day after the party.

Now I know there are many Christians who struggle with going out to church on Christmas Day to worship after they just attended Christmas Eve worship. Pastors struggle with this too, especially when it comes to sermon preparation. It’s the same story we just preached on it ten hours ago. Nothing has changed since then.

That’s actually why so many churches are closed today. The rationale goes like this: All the people show up on Christmas Eve. That’s when you get the most opportunity for “return on your effort”. Look around, this is not unusual, Christmas Day as most of you knew before you got here is typically a bit roomier then Christmas Eve.

No doubt many think: Why bother getting out of the PJs and making the kids leave their toys? We’ve already heard the story of Jesus birth. But maybe just maybe we feel this way because we don’t really understand the miracle of God in the flesh for all mankind as well as we think we do.

This morning I’d like you to consider with me the shepherds we read about in our Gospel lesson. We heard a little bit about them last night. They were the very first ones God told about the birth of Jesus. That’s pretty impressive when you consider, despite the way we romanticize them, these guys were considered to among the dregs of society. Truth is shepherds didn’t count.

Not only were they not counted for the census, they weren’t even counted for taxes, and that’s saying something. But that’s how insignificant they were to the rest of their society … the Roman government didn’t even bother with them for taxes. And yet…God tells them about Jesus first. He makes this Good News known to them by filling the night sky with bright angelic choirs, all singing: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rest. So God pulls out all the stops to tell some insignificant, know nothing shepherds that He loved them and counted them as worthy of being saved; worthy enough to send His Son to live and die for them.

And what do they do well … they do exactly what faith does: They hear this Good News and say: “Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened.” Luke tells us that they immediately went without haste. So how does that compare with our own reality? How many Christians around the world heard the Good News last night proclaiming the birth of Jesus? I get that Hollywood’s best would fall far short of the angelic display God put on for the shepherds but still …. how many people heard the exact same words last night? How many do you suppose after hearing that Good News, set out without delay this morning to find Him? If only we ran to church the way children run down the stairs to see if Santa has come.

But here’s the point I’d like you to consider this blessed Christmas Day. Notice what the shepherds do after hearing the Good News and after they go to worship Christ. They go back out into the world; the same world that shunned them. They return to their vocations, and they glorify and praise God for all they have heard and seen, making known to everyone what had been told to them and what they themselves had witnessed and beheld and were a part of. My friends: This is where the “what now?” question just gets absolutely destroyed. What now? Go and tell what God has done for you! Go! Return to your vocations. Return to the callings and offices God has placed you into in order to serve Him and make Him known. Go serve God by serving your neighbor.

Unfortunately, that’s something that a lot of 21st century American Christians with big hearts and good intentions often struggle with. We’ve been duped into believing that we need to find the “secret, higher purpose” that God has for us. We’ve willingly taken the bait—hook, line, and sinker—believing the lie that our everyday vocations at work and home are not enough and if we really want to serve God we need to step up our game. Were led to believe that ordinary life just doesn’t cut it, it’s to ordinary.

But that’s not how God sees it. These lowly shepherds went back to their lowly vocations. They return to nomadic shepherding, only now they’re evangelizing, telling everyone they saw about Jesus. But they didn’t take their sheep into the cities they stayed in the fields where God had first found them. “What now?”

Well like them we share what we know where we are. We share that the Word of God who became flesh and lived among us to die and rise again for us. We share the good news that Jesus the Lamb of God, has taken away the sin of the world. That this same almighty God, still lives with us to feed and forgive us, to nourish and protect us, to deliver us from all evil. We share that God is holding out to all His real and tangible gifts of grace, mercy, and peace. That is after all what the angelic hosts sang about! Here is God’s peace on earth, with you and for you, right now!

It’s that simple, and it’s a profound, yet this joy was never intended to be restricted to one night or one day out of the year. It’s a profound, yet very simple Christ centered joy that is ours each and every day that we live in Christ. That’s what today is about. Today is another opportunity our Lord gives to us to be in His presence, to receive from His own hand, and to celebrate all that He has done for us out of His great love, grace, and mercy for us.

May this gift of Christ to you; the gift of your salvation; the gift of knowing and trusting that God is reconciled to you and at peace with you because of the all-atoning life, suffering, death and resurrection of the Word made flesh. May this gift of God be your joy, your peace, and the reason behind all that you say, think, and do in your daily God-pleasing, family loving, neighbor-serving vocations, until the day we are all together with Him who was born of Mary for us all.

In His Name, Amen.

Tags: John 1:1-14
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