Who do you Thank?
Genesis 1 and Luke 12: 22-31
November 27th, 2009
Sometimes when preparing for a message I find it helpful to read or listen to something that is diametrically opposed to what I believe ( it gets my juices flowing). This week it was a speech given by and atheist Richard Dawkins who wrote a book called the “God delusion”. In his speech I heard him speak of unknowns, awes, and wonderment concerning the nature of the universe which looked a lot like worship, or glorifying something “bigger” than ourselves. For him this principal which brought forth such things as “Awe and reverence” was not a personal, active, and living God but rather, a system or a principle which he called “Darwinian Natural Selection”. You could say he was in a worship mode, but question was to whom is that reverence and awe directed toward? For Richard Dawkins it is not toward a personal loving god, but rather a “as he describes” it a simple system, a principle. However we are not so concerned today with worship, pointed out toward something, whether he admits or not, Mr. Dawkins does that, but rather toward someone who is real and true. A personal God, who both creates the universe, and watches over the Lilly of the field and the birds of air. If he has done, and is doing all this, how much more does he care for you and me.
Whether we recognize it or not, we are on the receiving end of great gifts from our personal God. Our God, the true God, speaks and things come to be. Not only that, but he says that everything he has made is good. As we say together in the creed God creates out of nothing, and he looks over creation and “places his stamp of approval on it” by saying it is good. The reality and truth of God’s loving care is found in his everyday gifts of life, family, food and clothing. All these things he gives, and we don’t have to ask. The Christian faith is a very “creation” orientated faith, in that we rejoice in the everyday things of life, and by the grace of God and his Spirit recognize that these are all gifts of God. Luther writes “He gives me clothing, and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land , animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. However, we to often live thinking about what we don’t have rather than what we do have. Think of the following don’ts. I “don’t” have enough money. I don’t have the ability to really make a difference in someone else’s life, like maybe someone else I know. I don’t have enough time, especially when so much is expected of me over the holidays. I don’t have youth on my side anymore. I don’t have experience. I’m not confident enough. I don’t have enough clothes, athletic ability, food and drink…. And the list goes on and on and on. Notice what we do with all of this, we reference our lives not in relationship to God, but in relation to how we see others are. We live our lives in the “I don’t…….”, rather then in the truth of “I’ve got”… Now mind you this can sound a bit arrogant, and if we are comparing ourselves to others, this is exactly what we have. However, our reference point is not to ourselves, but our Got’s come from the God who is our Maker, and in Jesus Christ is our redeemer.
The reason we live in the “I don’t” is because of this
thing called sin. At its core sin is the
failure to recognize God’s merciful and real care in our lives. Go ahead look at God’s power and his creating
work, but ultimately you and I can stand
here confidently before God and others because we have a Savior who covers all
our real needs. “Seek ye first the
Yet, God is not finished, he sends his Holy Spirit, to enliven our lives with his words of promise given in his Word, meal, and baptismal shower. Brothers and sisters in Christ, thank God almighty that he has seen fit to give, give and give, some more. You and I count the blessings every minute for every hour of every day for the rest of your lives and you wouldn’t come close to the final tally. This Jesus, who has your beginning all laid out, and your end guaranteed, and everything in the middle taken care of, is certainly worthy to receive our lives of praise. Amen.
Luke1:13-15a, 18, 24-25, 57
December 9th, 2009
Every year after Christmas my wife or I write in this book (show book) our Christmas memories”. In 1996 we ended our book with this
statement. “There you have it for 1996.
It sounds like our 1997 Christmas will have a little one around. We wonder what that will be like?” A sense of “expectation” filled much of our
1996, as we anticipated the birth of our first child. What would it be like to be parents? Can we really survive on such little
sleep? Will the baby room be ready? Few things can match the joyful expectation
of a child along the way. If this true,
then how doubly difficult it is for those who desire children, but for whatever
reason are not able to have children. According to one source from 10%-12% of women
and men of child bearing age deal with infertility. Today, at least for some, there are solutions
to the problem. However, in biblical
times there was little the medical establishment could do to help.
Then there came that promise. A promise that indeed Elizabeth and Zechariah would not only have a child, but that “He would be a joy and a delight to them, and many would rejoice at his birth. He would be great in the sight of the Lord” (Luke 1: 14-15). Every parent expects or hopes that their child will “stand out” in the world. They hope that their child would be great, and that their child will really make a difference. Elizabeth’s child, John, would really be this. However, His greatness would be an “other greatness”. A greatness that took expectation to another level. John may have been heard saying….You think I’m great, let me tell you about the one coming after me, “his shoes I am not even worthy to sit down and untie”. Of him alone could John say “Look the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
After five months in
We to go through life with a variety of expectations, and indeed this time of year is “filled with expectations”. If we are younger, we may set our hopes on various gifts. We adults get a bit cynical about expectations, maybe we’ve been burned too often. We get burned by others when they disappoint us with their actision. , or at least feel that way . It is especially disappointing when we see friends or relatives, people we know and love, who make choices in their lives that are simply not helpful. Yet, we get even more cynical about ourselves, and it seems to me the older we get the more this is the case. We have tried to be different, we have tried to get more healthy, we have tried to be more patient, we have tried to be more faithful and regular in our prayer and worship life. Yet, who are we kidding. The disappointment of unfulfilled expectations doesn’t just go toward others, it also flows toward ourselves.
Yet, God goes beyond human expectations, he goes beyond human cynicism, and beyond human disappointments. In this evenings Epistle reading Abraham writes “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations”. God’s promise of a son, and of a future Savior, would sustain and keep Abraham. The writer to Hebrews speaks of this “beyond expectations” with these words “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”. How can we be sure and certain? Sarah, Hannah, Elizabeth, and yes Mary were not given empty expectations, but flesh and blood real hope in the birth of their Sons. Isaac, would carry on the family line, Samuel would be a great prophet helping to maintain the kingly line, and Elizabeth would have the one crying in the wilderness proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, and Mary’s son would be the one of whom the song says “the hopes and dreams of all the years are met in the tonight”.
God exceeds our expectations in many ways. You can probably sit back tonight and think
of many situations where God went above and beyond what you desired or
expected. Sometimes it seems the opposite, and disappointment seems the order of the
day. We don’t know for sure if
Christmas Eve Service
December 24th, 2009
It is a predictable/traditional time
of the year. Traditions, for the most
part stay the same. For example when to
open gifts, what to have for dinner, whose house to visit, and the list goes
on. We gather in this place, and the
songs are similar, and of course we end with a candlelight service. However, that first Christmas was anything
but predictable. Shepherds of all
people the first receivers of the good news, who would have thought? Even to have no room at the
Yes, in this Christmas account, the presence of the angels and the glory of the Lord first brings fear. Oh, I know the angels says “fear not” shortly thereafter, but the first reaction to the presence of God among them was one of great fear, and great distress. Recently I was thinking that this flu bug going around, probably wasn’t going to get me. I exercised, ate right, and pride fully thought even though everyone around me is sick, not me. Ah yes, pride goeth before the fall. Sparing you the details, the fall was reality, and for a good portion of a day earlier this week floor was my closest friend. Now what does this have to do with the Shepherds fear? Well, the basis of their fear was helplessness before the angels and the glory of God. It is a good thing to be reminded of our helplessness before god. They had no place to go, in other words they couldn’t’ run away. Even if for a brief moment, they must have thought “you know, I really haven’t attended synagogue as I should”, this excuse in the presence fo this angels wasn’t going to cut it. They may have thought, I really haven’t lived the kind of life one should live, but even this would ring hollow. They were helpless and they were fearful. This is where tonight’s Christmas account begins. It begins where we are all at. Sure, we gather at different stages in our life, we gather with a variety of experiences. Yet, before God, we first stand like those Shepherds, helpless, fearful. If not, we should. God knows us better then we know ourselves, he knows about our half hearted commitment to Christ and his Word. He knows our failures; he knows we are not as strong as we sometimes like people to think we are. He knows that we encounter events and things on a daily basis we cannot control, and that we don’t have a clue how to get through. So what do the shepherds do? How do they stop themselves from being terrified? How do they deal with this helplessness, great fear, great helplessness before their maker?
They do nothing? But God, the almighty one, who from eternity
created and keeps watch over the world, does more than something. The angel says “fear not, I bring you even
greater news of a greater joy. “For
unto you is born this day, in the city of
The Shepherds Response
December 25th, 2009
Last night we heard that the message given to the shepherds
first caused legitimate fear, they were in fact helpless before the Lord. They needed a Savior, just as you and I need
a Savior. Jesus comes, and through the
angels we hear that this Savior is not only for the whole world, but also for
us. Today we are going to look at the
response of the Shepherds. It was a response
of obedience, a response of spreading his word, and it was a response of
What were the shepherds to do after they heard the angel’s message? They were to find Jesus, not because he was lost, but because without him they are lost. “You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger”. They were simply to look at the Savior and be in the presence of the Savior. To be obedient is first of all to go to where the Savior born for you is located. To go where he promises to be? If they were to go and see the Savior, though, their daily ‘shepherding activities” would have to take second fiddle for a while. Our old nature tells us there are so many better things to do with our time then to spend it listening, singing, and hearing and receiving His Word. Places where Christ chooses to dwell for us. Our old nature says what difference does it make if I have the Lord’s Supper? What difference does it make if we hear this account again and again? After all I learned this as a child, and most of it is just review anyway. When it comes to worship, reading the bible, spending time in prayer we say or at least think things like “what is the least I need to “do” to stay in the Christian faith.” Can you imagine the shepherds saying something like this to the angels? It might go something like this. “You know that sounds great, but we have all these sheep to watch. I tell you what, our next crew gets in at 7am, and we’ve got a few errands to run in town. If we get a chance we’ll swing by the old manger scene after we pick up a few things in
What else did they do after opening the passage? They not only went, but it also says they spread the word, and told what was said about this child. The shepherds in effect became preachers of the gospel. Our faith while certainly personal, is not a private affair. In our families, at work, without being overbearing we too can say things like “I don’t know where I’d be without my Savior”. While the message of the gospel is for you personally, it isn’t only for you. It is to spread like a rock in the pond. Whether we are shepherds, farmers, students, accountants, prison workers, retiree’s, homemaker, instructors, factory worker or office managers it is our great privilege to speak what has been said about the child. That’s another reason why we gather together, so that we may state and/or confess together what the Lord has done. We are to speak it within our families, proclaim it to our grandchildren. May we like Paul say I’m not ashamed of the “gospel”, the good news of great joy, which is for all people. The shepherds, I have a hunch, were not the most gregarious, outgoing of sorts, but through the gift of the spirit they spread the message.
They went back to their life, “glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen which were just as they had been told.” Our life to is to be a life of praise, of thanksgiving to God, for all he has said and done. Granted our lives, do not always reflect his love, but all the more reason to give him praise. For our Savior is a Savior who continually picks us up, cleanses us, and sends us back out into this world. Their place in life didn’t change, for they were meant to be shepherds, but they sure were changed.
The Shepherds show us a life of obedient trust, by going where Christ has chosen to be for us. They also show us that this life of obedient trust moves as a life of outreach toward others. Finally, they live a life praising and glorifying God for all he has said and done. Help us Lord, live like the shepherds. Amen.