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“The Hospitality of Abraham”: this portrayal shows Abraham and Sarah waiting on the Lord at the Oaks of Mamre Enter a caption

Prayer of the Day

Lord and Father of all, You looked with favor upon Sarai in her advanced years, Putting on her a new name, Sarah, and with it the promise of multitudinous blessings from her aged womb. Give us a youthful hope in the joy of our own new name, being baptized into the promised Messiah, that we, too, might be fruitful in Your kingdom, abounding in the works of Your Spirit; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

Intro:  Sarah was the wife (and half sister) of the Hebrew patriarch Abraham (Genesis 11:29;20:12). In obedience to divine command (Genesis 12:1), she made the long and arduous journey west, along with her husband and his relatives, from Ur of the Chaldees to Haran and then finally to the land of Canaan. She remained childless until old age. Then, in keeping with God’s longstanding promise, she gave birth to a son and heir of the covenant (Genesis 21:1-3). She is remembered and honored as the wife of Abraham and the mother of Isaac, the second of the three patriarchs. She is also favorably noted for her hospitality to strangers (Genesis 18:1-8). Following her death at the age of 127, she was laid to rest in the Cave of Machpelah(Genesis23:19), where her husband was later buried.  (Source: The Treasury of Daily Prayer)

Reflection:  The icon above is entitled The Hospitality of Abraham.  It is the illustration of the visit by the 3 angels to Abraham and Sarah at the Oaks of Mamre, as recorded in Genesis 18.  The 3 angels turn out to be none other than the Lord Himself! (see the beginning of verse 1).  Abraham treats them royally to food.  Now to be fair, this icon should probably be called the Hospitality of Abraham and Sarah! After all, she also help prepared the food (vs. 6).  The Lord came to give a birth announcement to this aged couple,

“The LORD said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.”

And you may remember the problem:  they were both pushing a 100!  When the Lord says the above, this follows:

And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. 11Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” 13The LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” 15But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.”

The Lord does not strike Sarah dead! The Lord did say,  you did laugh.  Was the Lord laughing?  We do not know.  When she did give birth,

Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. 6And Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.”

The name Isaac means “laughter”!  When Abraham was told that he would have a son at the century mark, he”… fell down laughing…” in the Presence of the Lord (see Genesis 17: 17).  A number of years ago, PBS had a documentary on comedy, “Dear God: Next Time Choose Someone Else: the Legend of Jewish Comedians”.  One comedian said all Jewish humor is from the texts cited!  Laughter is in the Bible.  There are two types of humor:  derision and joy. The Lord will have the last laugh: “He who sits in the heavens laughs;the Lord holds them in derision” (Ps. 2), that is the nations and the wicked. This is the Lord’s derisive laughter of judgment.   And there is the laughter of sheer joy, of birth in the midst of death:  the birth of Isaac, Abraham and Sarah’s son, their son, their only son (see Genesis 22: 2).  The Father gave His only begotten Son for us and for He was born to be our Savior! Sin, death and the devil are laughed to derision  by the sheer joy of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection.  God has made laughter for us!

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Collect of the Day

Almighty God, heavenly Father, through the patriarch Isaac You preserved the seed of the Messiah and brought forth the new creation.  Continue to preserve the Church as the Israel of God as she manifests the glory of Your holy Name by continuing to worship Your Son, the child of Mary;  through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

About Isaac:  Isaac, the long promised and awaited son of Abraham and Sarah, was born when his father was 100 and his mother 91. The announcement of his birth brought both joy and laughter to his aged parents (so the name “Isaac,” which means “laughter”). As a young man, Isaac accompanied his father to Mount Moriah, where Abraham, in obedience to God’s command, prepared to sacrifice him as a burnt offering. But God intervened, sparing Isaac’s life and providing a ram as a substitute offering (Gen. 22:1–14), and thus pointing to the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ for the sins of the world. Isaac was given in marriage to Rebekah (24:15), and they had twin sons, Esau and Jacob (25:19–26). In his old age Isaac, blind and feeble, wanted to give his blessing and chief inheritance to his favorite—and eldest—son, Esau. But through deception Rebekah had Jacob receive them instead, resulting in years of family enmity. Isaac died at the age of 180 and was buried by his sons, who by then had become reconciled, in the family burial cave of Machpelah (35:28–29). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:  The enduring legacy of the Lord’s Word to the prophets is that His Word is given through marriage(s) and families, culminating in a Holy Family in Bethlehem.  These families do have their moments!  As when Rebekah schemes to have her favorite son Jacob receive Isaac’s blessing.  Funny how the Lord works things out but after all it was the Lord who named the son of the promise to Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, Laughter (Genesis 17:19)  Just think: Father and Mother calling to their son, “Dinner time, Laughter”.

One of the single longest chapters in Genesis is chapter 24 and it is all about the way the Lord arranged the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah.  It is a moving love story. The main character is Abraham’s unnamed servant who acts as the Lord’s matchmaker.  We are told he prayed as the chapter proceeds. This is significant because this is the first time in Genesis when someone else, besides Abraham, prays to the Lord of Abraham!     It is  easy to gloss over, but important. The servant’s prayer is for a wife for Isaac as the Lord wills for His creation.  This long chapter is about marriage between man and woman and through marriage and family, His will of creation continues and so does redemption:  the Son of Mary, the step-son of Joseph.Truly, Abraham is the father of faith. And faith comes by the promises of God fulfilled finally and fully in Jesus Christ, the promise fulfiled. The Lord fulfilled His promise to Abraham and Sarah in their son Isaac, and then in Isaac and Rebekah’s son, Jacob and unto us the Son is born, unto us the Child is given (cf. Isaiah 9: 6).  Jesus Christ is the laughter of God overcoming sin and death as He is risen.  

Today marriage is under assault as no other time but this is just the outworn post-enlightenment understanding of the so-called “new morality” of the ’60s, which is really the old immorality dressed up to look hot.  It’s hot…hotter than hell.  As C. S. Lewis wrote, you can no more make a new value than you can a new primary color.  Luther said it well, “All heretics have denigrated matrimony and have sought for and begun some newfangled and bizarre way of life.”  (Luther’s Sermon on John 2: 1—11, 1533, Luther’s House Postils, vol. 1)  The commemoration of Isaac is another good day to remember that before the Fall, the Lord gave us marriage and family, it is part of His creation and in Christ, creation itself is renewed waiting for the new heavens and the new earth and the marriage feast of the Lamb (seeRevelation 19:9) .

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The Circumcision of Jesus

His infant body now
Begins the cross to feel:
Those precious drops of blood that flow
For death the Victim seal. 

(Hymn #898, stanza 3, Lutheran Service Book)

Readings:  Numbers 6: 22-27;  Psalm 8;  Galatians 3: 23-29;  St. Luke 2: 21 (also read, Philippians 2: 1-11)

Reflection:  Eight days after a male Israelite’s birth, he is circumcised according to the Lord’s covenant with Abraham and Abraham’s descendants.  January 1st is 8 days after the birth of Jesus, December 25th.  This feast day stands in sharp contrast with the secular holiday of New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day. This feast day seems so stark, even a little bit on the squeemish side, as you look at the photo above:  an old man coming at an infant with a knife to cut off his foreskin! “What God proposes does not please the world, and what the world undertakes does not please God!” (Luther, sermon on Luke 2: 21)  But what is actually the odd holiday?  Remembering that our word “holiday”, is actually “holy day”.  No one intends to be holy on New Year’s Eve, just the direct opposite: drunkenness and hooking-up are the entrees on the New Year’s Eve menu, not covenant and Christ, yet this was the reason He was born, 

In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (Galatians 4: 3-5)

Jesus, under the Law, Who needed no Law, yet loved the Word of the Law, went under the knife to begin shedding His blood, and one day His whole body would be under the  knife, upon the Cross…He is risen.  Circumcision is a bloody business, so is sin, so is our salvation and our Savior, who in His blood, has given us the “gift of eternal life”. 

As He was given the Name above all names (Philippians 2:9), so that we are no longer children, but His Sons and Daughters through “adoption”, that is, Baptism, born from above, in the Name of the Lord (Matthew 28:19John 3:5).

He was circumcised on the 8th day.  “The eighth day follows the Sabbath and a new week begins.  So also a new and different circumcision began when the infant Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day” (Luther’s Sermon on Luke 2: 21), that is:

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2: 10-12)

The new year is basically not new but the wearied cycle of sin causing resolution.  Only Christ Jesus makes, not a new year, but a new people, through Him,

“…who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2: 14)

It is about repentance, not resolution.The new people can have daily and joyful repentance, looking to Him daily in Word and Sacrament, prayer, praise and thanksgiving,

“… looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12: 2)

Lord God, You made Your beloved Son, our Savior, subject to the Law and caused Him to shed His blood on our behalf.  Grant us the true circumcision of the Spirit that our hearts maybe be made pure from all sins, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

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 About Abraham:  Abraham (known early in his life as Abram) was called by God to become the father of a great nation (Genesis 12). At age seventy-five and in obedience to God’s command, he, his wife, Sarah, and his nephew Lot moved southwest from the town of Haran to the land of Canaan. There God established a covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15:18), promising the land of Canaan to his descendants. When Abraham was one hundred and Sarah was ninety, they were blessed with Isaac, the son long promised to them by God. Abraham demonstrated supreme obedience when God commanded him to offer Isaac as a burnt offering. God spared the young man’s life only at the last moment and provided a ram as a substitute offering (Genesis 22:1-19). Abraham died at age 175 and was buried in the Cave of Machpelah, which he had purchased earlier as a burial site for Sarah. He is especially honored as the first of the three great Old Testament patriarchs—and for his righteousness before God through faith (Romans 4:1-12). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, cph.org)

Reflection:  Mountains are places of revelation in  the Bible, from Sinai to Golgotha.  In Genesis, in the narrative of Abraham, there is likewise a mountain of revelation, an unnamed mountain in the land of Moriah (Gen. 22: 2).  There the Lord commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac to the Lord. Genesis 22:2

We must remember that the whole narrative up until chapter 22 has been God’s promise to Abraham that he would be the father of a great people and so be a blessing to many in spite of the fact that Abraham and his wife Sarah were of great age.  Abraham thought it so absurd, flying in the face of reality, that when the Lord reissued the promise, Abraham fell down laughing. Genesis 17:17   In Genesis 18, at the Oaks of Mamre, when the Lord tells Abraham that soon Sarah would be pregnant, she laughed.    They named him Isaac, which means laughter!  And now the Lord tells him to offer up his son, his only son.

We must also remember that the Lord promised other blessings to Abraham, such as He would be Abraham’s “shield”.  Genesis 15:1  He saved Abraham’s kin from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  He guided Abraham in his battle against the five kings.  He blessed Abraham and Sarah will great flocks.  The Lord was faithful to His promise.  In fact, it is the Lord’s promise alone that made Abraham righteous as Abraham believed and had faith in the Lord’s promises, not Abraham’s works of holiness and spirituality. His faith received the holiness of God’s righteousness.

“But when God commands that Abraham’s son should be taken away, He leaves no hope but simply confronts Abraham with a contradiction.  And God, who formerly seemed to be his best friend, now appears to have become an enemy and a tyrant.” (Luther’s Commentary on Genesis, chapter 22). Now the Lord appeared to be unholy. When everything in sight runs contrary to our expectations for and of God in sickness, poverty, war and famine, He appears to be a tyrant and we are tempted with despair. Most of the time, it does not take much to be tempted to look away from His promises.  A pastor looks at himself and his congregation, falling asleep, sneezing, contentious, small, and the like.  He then thinks of a Bible verse,  such as, “…but you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light”,  (1 Peter 2: 9), I think, ‘This is a holy nation, a royal priesthood?! Doesn’t look that way to me!’  But men look on appearances but God upon the heart.  Abraham also looked on the appearance of things, such as his aged body, but he clung in faith and love to God’s promises and His commands and maybe that’s why, against all appearances, Abraham did what he did when the Lord commanded him to take his son, his only son and offer him up on a mountain in Moriah. He trusted the Lord at His Word that he knew by faith, against all appearances, He would be true to His promise, that Isaac would live. And though His only-begotten Son, He did not spare, but was killed for our atonement, like that ram in substitution for Isaac, His Son rose again from the dead. As the Apostle Paul wrote centuries later about the faithfulness of the Lord:

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering,bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 11 The saying is trustworthy, for:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—

for he cannot deny himself.

 (2 Timothy 2: 8-13)

Lord God, heavenly Father, You promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, You led him to the land of Canaan, and You sealed Your covenant with him by the shedding of blood. May we see in Jesus, the Seed of Abraham, the promise of the new covenant of Your Holy Church, sealed with Jesus’ blood on the cross and given to us now in the cup of the new testament; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

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“The Hospitality of Abraham”: this portrayal shows Abraham and Sarah waiting on the Lord at the Oaks of Mamre

Prayer of the Day

Lord and Father of all, You looked with favor upon Sarai in her advanced years, putting on her a new name, Sarah, and with it the promise of multitudinous blessings from her aged womb. Give us a youthful hope in the joy of our own new name, being baptized into the promised Messiah, that we, too, might be fruitful in Your kingdom, abounding in the works of Your Spirit; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

Intro:  Sarah was the wife (and half sister) of the Hebrew patriarch Abraham (Genesis 11:29;20:12). In obedience to divine command (Genesis 12:1), she made the long and arduous journey west, along with her husband and his relatives, from Ur of the Chaldees to Haran and then finally to the land of Canaan. She remained childless until old age. Then, in keeping with God’s longstanding promise, she gave birth to a son and heir of the covenant (Genesis 21:1-3). She is remembered and honored as the wife of Abraham and the mother of Isaac, the second of the three patriarchs. She is also favorably noted for her hospitality to strangers (Genesis 18:1-8). Following her death at the age of 127, she was laid to rest in the Cave of Machpelah(Genesis23:19), where her husband was later buried.  (Source: The Treasury of Daily Prayer)

Reflection:  The icon above is entitled The Hospitality of Abraham.  It is the illustration of the visit by the 3 angels to Abraham and Sarah at the Oaks of Mamre, as recorded in Genesis 18.  The 3 angels turn out to be none other than the Lord Himself! (see the beginning of verse 1).  Abraham treats them royally to food.  Now to be fair, this icon should probably be called the Hospitality of Abraham and Sarah! After all, she also help prepared the food (vs. 6).  The Lord came to give a birth announcement to this aged couple,

“The LORD said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.”

And you may remember the problem:  they are both pushing a 100!  When the Lord says the above, this follows:

And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. 11Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” 13The LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” 15But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.”

The Lord does not strike Sarah dead! The Lord did say,  you did laugh.  Was the Lord laughing?  We do not know.  When she did give birth,

Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. 6And Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.”

The name Isaac means “laughter”!  When Abraham was told that he would have a son at the century mark, he fell down laughing in the Presence of the Lord (see Genesis 17: 17).  A number of years ago, PBS had a documentary on comedy, “Dear God: Next Time Choose Someone Else: the Legend of Jewish Comedians”, on Jewish comedians.  One comedian said all Jewish humor is from the texts cited!  Laughter is in the Bible.  There are two types of humor:  derision and joy. The Lord will have the last laugh: “He who sits in the heavens laughs;the Lord holds them in derision” (Ps. 2), that is the nations and the wicked.  And here is the laughter of sheer joy, of birth in the midst of death:  the birth of Isaac. Maybe the actual last laugh of the Lord is His resurrection. The Child given us to us who was born to be our Savior! Sin, death and the devil are laughed to derision  by the sheer joy of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection. God has made laughter for us!

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A Cartoon

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“And He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then He said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”Genesis 15:5-7
“For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:3

 About Abraham:  Abraham (known early in his life as Abram) was called by God to become the father of a great nation (Genesis 12). At age seventy-five and in obedience to God’s command, he, his wife, Sarah, and his nephew Lot moved southwest from the town of Haran to the land of Canaan. There God established a covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15:18), promising the land of Canaan to his descendants. When Abraham was one hundred and Sarah was ninety, they were blessed with Isaac, the son long promised to them by God. Abraham demonstrated supreme obedience when God commanded him to offer Isaac as a burnt offering. God spared the young man’s life only at the last moment and provided a ram as a substitute offering (Genesis 22:1-19). Abraham died at age 175 and was buried in the Cave of Machpelah, which he had purchased earlier as a burial site for Sarah. He is especially honored as the first of the three great Old Testament patriarchs—and for his righteousness before God through faith (Romans 4:1-12). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, cph.org)

Reflection: Abraham’s genealogy is stated in Genesis 11:  24—31 and the narrative proper of Abraham commence in Genesis 12: 1.  Up until this point in Genesis, in chapters 3-11,  everything is fairly well screwed-up after the Fall when Adam and Eve bit into the serpent’s lie, “you will be like God” (Genesis 3:  ff):    

  • murder (Genesis 4:7-9)  
  • vengeance (Genesis 4:23-25)      
  •   first murderer builds first city  (Genesis 4:17)                                                                                                                                                                                                                      
  • violence (Genesis 6:11)   
  • God’s judgment: The Flood  
  • drunkenness (Genesis 9:21)      
  •  skyscrapers for security and “making a name for ourselves”  (Genesis 11:4)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

We can read Genesis chapters 3—11 every day, not only from the Holy Scriptures, but also in the so-called daily ‘news’, but it is really the ‘olds’: murder, vengeance, violence, drug abuse.  It’s as “old as Adam”.

With the Lord’s Call to Abraham, what was violent, vengeful and idolatrous, is replaced by what is human and humane in Abraham. And it is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes! Not our doing!  The Lord does something new beginning in chapter 12, verse 1:   He calls Abram.   Why is the Lord’s Call the beginning of humanity and humaneness?  Here was a man, Abraham, who did not want to be like God.  He had faith.  He knew he was created and not the Creator:   Abraham was truly a man by faith alone. How does faith come?  It comes by preaching and teaching of the Word and the Word is Christ.  The Lord was with Abram and he heard and he believed.  Abraham never saw the fulfillment of his offspring as the stars in the sky: only one son, Isaac.  One son is enough.  Still Abraham did not see for he walked by faith and not by sight, as we all do. He did not found a new religion but Abraham is called the father of Faith. In fact, he was not a Jew, but a believer in the God Who called him. In fact, one of his descendants, Joseph, would also be a man of faith, not having faith in himself.  After Joseph is reconciled with his 11 brothers, after 20 some years of bitter family envy, lies and estrangement, he declared to them:  Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?” (Genesis 50:  19)  I think Abraham could have asked that question as well.

I will go out on  limb here.  A couple of weeks ago a rough and tumble older guy said to me in the locker room at the “Y”, knowing I am a pastor:  “I don’t think we were made to behave.”  His statement took me aback but I wanted to agree.  I did not say anything in response at that time.  I think he was right.  Behaving has to do with Law, after sin entered the world.  The key verb in the guy’s statement was “made”, “created”, the Lord’s purpose for men and women, made in His image.  We weren’t made to behave but we were made to believe.  What the serpent sold Adam and Eve with was unbelief: “to be like God, knowing good and evil”, no longer trusting, hoping and loving their Lord, but only seeing themselves, and so separation from God and each other began, that is, sin which is death.  Thus they were ashamed of their nakedness.  Abraham believed.   Abraham certainly did not behave too well!  In order to insure a descendant, when Sarah could not conceive, she  gave Abraham her slave Hagar with less than satisfactory results until the Lord intervened. As He has for us all, in the descendant of Abraham according to the flesh:  Jesus.  As the Lord crossed the chasm to Abraham, now in Jesus Christ He has crossed the chasm of sin and death by His death and resurrection by His promise or Gospel alone.

 Lord God, heavenly Father, You promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, You led him to the land of Canaan, and You sealed Your covenant with him by the shedding of blood. May we see in Jesus, the Seed of Abraham, the promise of the new covenant of Your holy Church, sealed with Jesus’ blood on the cross and given to us now in the cup of the new testament; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

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