The Scripture lessons for December 18 were Isaiah 7:10-17; Romans 1:1-7 and Matthew 1:18-25. The theme for the day was “What Child Is This?” Pastor Rub focused his message on the Gospel lesson and he began by having us reflect upon our current circumstances as we prepare for Christmas.
For some of us our current circumstances are good and we look forward to Christmas and the holiday with anticipation and excitement. We might be traveling to see relatives we rarely see and to celebrate with friends. Or family might be coming to visit us. It is a festive time with Christmas Carols, with Advent and Christmas programs at Church, at schools, on TV, and elsewhere. For many it is a time to count our blessings the chief of which is God’s gift to the world – Jesus!!!
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Sadly, for others Christmas is not so joyful.
- Last Thursday Katie Kloess, a young Lutheran school teacher, died in a car accident while traveling to coach a basketball game. Katie’s dad is or has been a DCE, a Lutheran school principal, and a Lutheran school teacher, her mom and two older sisters are also Lutheran school teachers. For them this Christmas is going to be bitter sweet. While they know and celebrate that Katie is now with Jesus face-to-face, they also mourn her passing and their loss of no longer having Katie here to celebrate Christmas with them.
- Florence Miller a dear saint and member of Mt. Olive for years passed away this past Saturday evening.
- Others of us might be struggling with unemployment, health issues, divorce, homelessness and the like.
Some among are not looking forward to seeing relatives with whom there have been hard feelings for years. Some lament not being able to make it home for Christmas and are experiencing great loneliness.
For some Christmas is a time of great joy, for others Christmas is simply something to survive.
We live in troubled times, but since the Fall, beginning with Adam and Eve, there have always been troubling times. Jesus came into a troubled world, to a troubled people. That is why we celebrate Christmas.
Jesus was born a man because we live in a troubled world in need of a Savior.
John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Pastor Rub talked about Mary and Joseph and their troubling circumstances. Mary was known and chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus, the Christ. Joseph was known and chosen by God to be Jesus’ step-father. Yet Mary and Joseph must have had concerns regarding the circumstances of Mary’s pregnancy and Jesus’ birth. Today’s Gospel lesson gives us a hint of how troubling and unsettling circumstances must have been for Mary and Joseph.
Matthew 1:18-19 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
Joseph understandably was troubled by Mary’s pregnancy, but as the Gospel lesson continues we also learn how responsive he was to God.
Matthew 1:20-25 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.” When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. (underlining added)
In Luke 1:38 we read of Mary’s humble, faith-filled response to her troubling, unsettling circumstance.
Luke 1:38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.
Jesus was sent in love, by God, out of His love for a troubled, sinful, needy world.
Galatians 4:4-5 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.
Romans 5:6-8 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
1 John 4:9-10 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Fittingly, Jesus was given the name Jesus which means “He Saves.” Also fittingly Jesus was given the title Immanuel which means “God with us.”
Jesus came to save us, but not only to save us. He came also to “be with us” through His Spirit in order that we might be empowered to live a new life. St Paul writes:
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
Romans 6:10-13 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. … Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.
Philippians 2:13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
Pastor Rub concluded his message assuring us of God’s faithfulness.
Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
2 Corinthians 1:20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.
Amen! So be it!
- What does it mean for you to call Jesus “Jesus”? What does it mean for you to call Jesus “Immanuel”?
- How are you going to celebrate God’s Christmas gift to the world this Christmas?
- What can and will you do to share God’s Christmas gift with another person, particularly with someone for whom this Christmas might not be a particularly joyous time?
(All passages are taken from the NIV unless otherwise noted – emphasis added)
Chime in with your thoughts and questions in the comment section!