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Archive for December, 2018

“A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps. Proverbs 16:9 “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.” Proverbs 19:21  “O Lord, I know, that the way of a man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” Jeremiah 10:23 

“For the resolutions of the just depend rather on the grace of God than on their own wisdom; and in Him they always put their trust, whatever they take in hand. For man proposes, but God disposes; neither is the way of man in his own hands”—The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis

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The death of one man or one child makes it easy for the autonomous, ‘kingly’, ‘great’ self to kill more and more. It took one Child to reverse the sin of Adam.

Concordia and Koinonia

 

Collect of the Day

Almighty God, the martyred innocents of Bethlehem showed forth Your praise not by speaking but by dying.  Put to death in us all that is in conflict with Your will that our lives may bear witness to the faith we profess with our lips;  through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Intro:  Matthew’s Gospel tells of King Herod’s vicious plot against the infant Jesus after being “tricked” by the Wise Men.  Threatened by the one “born King of the Jews,”  Herod murdered all the children in  and around Bethlehem who were two years old or younger (Matthew 2: 16-18).  these “innocents,” commemorated just three days after the celebration of Jesus’ birth, remind us not only  of the terrible brutality of which human beings are capable but more significantly of the persecution Jesus…

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In a recent article in the weekend edition of The Wall Street Journal (12/20/18), entitled, “How the Movies Invented Christmas”, by Terry Teachout (a similar article by Mr. Teachout, more explicitly Christian one in his critical view can be found here). The author has an interesting premise. The publishing mega-hit of the 19th Century, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, is the model of Christmas movies. I did not realize that not once is “Church”, “Jesus” or Christmas worship services mentioned in the novelette nor the many movies the book spawned. After Scrooge’s epiphany, he does not go to church. He certainly is not shown being saved by the Christ, but he’s scared out of his wits by the ghosts. He does not pray to the Lord. He saves himself by doing good.

The author makes the case that in a very similar vein, some about the same, some more, have that theme: the movies, and TV shows, are about us not Christ. For instance: We could have watched Christmas Story for some 24 hours on TBS. It is a delightful story but not once does this 1950’s family (!) even mention going to a Christmas service, as far as I remember. Of more recent vintage, the sitcoms, will have plot lines about Christmas but nary a mention of going to church, of even the yearly church attendance on Christmas. The bulk of these movies and TV shows do just fine without Jesus, thank-you but there is no thanksgiving, only the lusting after the “Christmas spirit”. As Danish Lutheran Pastor Kaj Munk (murdered by the Nazis) preached in the ’30s:

Don’t be like a spoiled child and think of God as a great Santa Claus who has in His bag some sort of electromagnet with which to give your brain cells such a shot that everything becomes gloriously clear to you, and that you can be happy, in harmony with yourself and the world. My friend, perhaps your doctor can do that for you with a stimulant that will send the blood to the brain and clarify your mind so you see things in bright perspective. This has nothing to do with real joy. True Christmas joy, no matter how much or how little of it you may comprehend, means that you have Christ, and that you go where He wants you to go.”

I am writing this article on 26 December, The Feast of St. Stephen, the first Martyr, is quite sobering to what I want to feel about Christmas and the actual meaning of Christ Mass is, “…that you go where He wants you to go.” Church after church is, “…in harmony”, with ourselves, “…and the world”. After all, even a drink or two, or a drug or two helps the Christmas spirits.

I think it gets down to this: it is nor primarily a cabal and a conspiracy of secularists, atheists and progressivists, who are taking Christ out of Christmas. It has been well-intentioned movie story tellers who have done so and it’s been going on for some 70 years. We have been taught and catechized by these media presentations and so we are primed not to notice Christ has already been taken out of Christmas in so many movies and TV shows. Quite frankly, I like these movies and TV shows: they make me laugh or cry, feel good, but not search for our Savior who searches for us.

This stuff is easy and it’s not the Cross. The Old Adam loves it. So when the secularists, atheists and progressivists came along, they just want to seal the deal of a godless Christmas in their puritanical, even religious, zeal. Many Christians then cry out, This is the last straw, and rightly so, but let’s now know that the first straws have been laid out in the Christless manger in years past without a pious concern raised in protest. It just feels so good. After all, movie producers and TV shows have a big market in the millions of Old Adams.

The Old Adam loves to be in control and we see where this has led us as we follow our heart. What we Christians need is to not the titillating of seasonal emotions but edification in the Scriptures, in His Church and turn off the TV more and more. We don’t need Christmas dramas but Christian doctrines.

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 Collect of the Day:

Heavenly Father, in the mist of our sufferings for the sake of Christ grant us grace to follow the example of the first martyr, Stephen, that we also may look to the One who suffered and was crucified on our behalf and pray for those who do us wrong; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Lessons:

2 Chronicles 24: 17-22

Psalm 119: 137-144

Acts 6: 8–7: 2a, 51-60

St. Matthew 23: 34-39

Introduction: St. Stephen, “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5), was one of the Church’s first seven deacons. He was appointed by the leaders of the Church to distribute food and other necessities to the poor in the growing Christian community in Jerusalem, thereby giving the apostles more time for their public ministry of proclamation (Acts 6:2-5). He and the other deacons apparently were expected not only to wait on tables but also to teach and preach. When some of his colleagues became jealous of him, they brought Stephen to the Sanhedrin and falsely charged him with blaspheming against Moses (Acts 6:9-14). Stephen’s confession of faith, along with his rebuke of the members of the Sanhedrin for rejecting their Messiah and being responsible for His death, so infuriated them that they dragged him out of the city and stoned him to death. Stephen is honored as the Church’s first martyr and for his words of commendation and forgiveness as he lay dying: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” and “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:59-60).

Reverent hearts, it is an old, laudable custom to commemorate St. Stephen on the second day of Christmas. For just as the innocent children were the first martyrs after Christ’s birth, so also St. Stephen was the first after Christ’s ascension to praise our glorious King Jesus with his blood. Our predecessors used to say, Heri natus est Christus in mundo, ut hodie Stephanus nasceretur in coelo. “Yesterday Christ was born in the world, so that today Stephen would be born in heaven.” This is speaking rightly and truly of the fruit of Jesus Christ’s birth. If the Christ Child had not been born, the entire world would be lost. Thus Stephen’s sleep in death and entrance through the open heaven to the glory of God in eternal life will show us well what great usefulness and goodness we have from the incarnation and birth of the Child Jesus. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Stephen means a “garland” or a “crown.” Think here of our beautiful Christmas consolation. Whoever believes in the name of Jesus is righteous before God and can expect a glorious crown. Devout Christians are “virgins” before God (Matthew 25:1; Revelation 14:4) and have four different virgin garlands.

The first is the garland of righteousness gifted.

Second is the garland of righteousness begun.

The third is the garland of all kinds of cross and thorns.

The fourth is the glorious garland of perfect righteousness.

The ancient teachers of the Church say that the Lord Jesus loved Stephen in life, in death, and after death. First, in life, for He filled him with His Spirit, with heavenly wisdom, and faith unfeigned. Second, in death, for He offered him heaven opened and waited for his soul. Third, after death, for He gave him the garland of glory and set up for him a famous commemoration until the Last Day. These are the beautiful flowers of Christmas. Those who truly love our glorious King Jesus Christ shall be certain of God’s grace in life, in death, and after death. They shall not die, but live, and proclaim the work of the Lord.—Valerius Herberger, quoted in  The Treasury of Daily  Prayer

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Image result for Liturgical 12 days of christmas

Christmas is not only a day, but a season. There are 12 days in the Christmas season, beginning with Christmas (or Christ Mass) and ending on January 5th, the Eve of The Feast of the Epiphany.

These are the Sundays, Feast Days and Commemorations (LCMS) during the 12 Days of Christmas:

  • The Feast of St. Stephen, Martyr: December 26
  • The Feast of St. John Evangelist,
    Apostle and Evangelist: December 27
  • The Feast of The Holy Innocents, Martyrs: December 28
  • The Commemoration of David, King: December 29
  • First Sunday after Christmas: December 30
  • The Eve of the Name and Circumcision of Jesus and New Year’s Eve: December 31
  • The Feast of the Name and Circumcision of Jesus: January 1, 2019
  • The Commemoration of J. K. Wilhelm Loehe, Pastor: January 2
  • The Eve of the Feast of the Epiphany, January 5

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The NATIVITY of OUR LORD:
Christmas Eve , Midnight Divine Service, beginning at 11:00 pm, at Ben Salem Presbyterian Church,(34 Ben Salem Lane, Buena Vista, VA)

  • December 29-30:  The First Sunday after Christmas, Divine Service, 29 December, Saturday at 5:00 pm (No Bible Class this Sunday, 30 December)
  • January 1, Tuesday, The Feast of the Circumcision and Name of Jesus, Divine Service at 11:00 am


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