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The quote below is an entire article by Peter J. Leithart on First Things (the original article can be found here).

Four times in Revelation, John is directly told not to do something.

When he falls at the feet of Jesus, Jesus touches him with his right hand and says, “Do not fear” (1:17; Gr. me phobou).

When no one in heaven, earth, or under earth can be found to open the book, John begins to lament. One of the elders tells him, “Do not weep” (5:5; Gr. me klaie).

When he sees the harlot riding on a beast, he marvels. His guiding angel wonders at his wonder: “Why marvel?” (17:7; Gr. dia ti ethaumasas), he asks, with more than a hint of rebuke (cf. 13:3).

Twice at the end of the book, he falls at the feet of an angel and is told not to worship (19:10; Gr. ora me).

It’s a neat manual of discipleship: Do not fear. Do not lament. Do not marvel at the whore. Do not worship angels, but God.

And it’s a neat little summary of what is missing in the new Jerusalem, in the city where God dispels all fears, wipes all tears, where He alone is the Marvel who is worshiped.

One comment on Revelation 17: 7 and John marveling at Babylon the whore.  We tend to marvel, as did our brother John, the powers of this world and their magnificence.  Marveling at such power is hair’s breadth from worshiping the same.  The Lord, the Holy Spirit is clear:  do not marvel at evil.  For all its pomp and show the insides are putrefying death and hell.  Second comment: this verse verifies the reality of the Lord’s vision in the sense that John demonstrates in his marveling that he too is a sinner redeemed  in Christ.  This is no white-washed narrative but truthful as it is God’s Word.

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St. Luke 2: 49:  And  he said to them,  “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

In the Old Testament reading, Solomon’s focus was not on himself and his prerogatives as king:  long life, riches and winning over his enemies.  His focus was on his people.  He prayed to the Lord for a wise and discerning will to govern this great people.  He knew that he could not rule knowing himself. His initial wisdom was the wisdom to say he needed help. His focus finally was on the Lord.

In the Epistle Reading, the Apostle Paul begins his epistle to the Ephesians in these magnificent verses, focusing his brothers and sisters in Christ, not upon themselves but on Christ, in the “heavenly places”.  The Lord does the choosing, the predestining, forgiving, redeeming and the lavishing of His grace for them, for us. 

And at the age of 12, before He grew into a man at 13, Jesus knew where He had to be.  Three times in the first 4 verses the place is mentioned:  Jerusalem, the place of God’s Word, His Name.

Now the situation here is NOT like Joseph was driving the car and said, “Son, how did your like Passover this year…son?! Son?!…Mary, I thought you were you going to get him at the rest stop..”  “I thought you did, Joseph!”  The Passover group from the towns were more like caravans, maybe 50 or so family and friends making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, with thousands of Israelites going up to Zion, the Lord’s city and Temple.  In a group of that size, walking, strung out along the road, talking and laughing, it would have been quite possible to lose track of a 12 year old.    

Jesus purposely stays behind in Jerusalem. As we think on this Gospel that is the real problem we have with it.  Jesus on purpose stays behind as if He is breaking the 4th commandment, Honor your father and your mother, yes!  But the fourth commandment is the Lord’s intention to be the fourth one, as the first is, You shall have no other gods before Me. He had to be in His Father’s House.  and so He becomes lost to His parents.  

Mary and Joseph are traumatized and understandably so.  One thing about their Child:  He really could not get lost. In fact, He is the one who does the finding.  In Luke 15, the entire chapter is unique in his Gospel:  three parables of lost and found, the shepherd in search of His one lost sheep, the woman householder in search of her one lost silver coin, and a father in search of his one lost son.  Jesus, even at 12, is found where He is must be found:  His Father’s House, the first place we should all look. Jesus can be lost…by us.  “Just think what it would mean if we lost the child Jesus from our hearts!” “Christ is lost in actuality and reality by departing from pure doctrine, by unbelief and severe sins against conscience.” (Gerhard).   The problem is not doubt but doubt resulting in unbelief, no longer taking the Lord at His Word that He made you, He redeemed you, He sanctified you. Why do so many professors and teachers want to take us away from the Lord and faith?  The greatest scientists were Christians and many of the current crop are not. These professors want to be your guiding light and will admit no other light which is curious for people who prize open inquiry.  Then people run to and fro for all sorts of sub-Christian and anti-Christian doctrines and teachings looking for guidance.  Then men and women have supposed sanctions by  looking for salvation even in sin to whet our lusts for more in greed and sex.  We were looking for a god in all the wrong places, places that are agreeable to us and not where and when the Lord said He will be…as in the manger, in the  Temple and finally upon the cross. There were no other gods before Him, in the Temple on the day of His visitation.  The Lord’s first words in Luke are in the Temple, in Jerusalem and His last Words would be in the Temple and then outside the city of Jerusalem on Golgotha. Luke tells us that Jesus MUST be in the Temple, His Father’s House and the Lord will use that word again as in The son of Man must be betrayed, suffer, be crucified and rise again on the 3rd day.

There are other so-called ‘gospels’ from the 2nd and 3rd centuries called the “Gnostic Gospels” in which as a lad, Jesus causes a boy to fall off his donkey and die, then Jesus raises him.  Or another in which Jesus is playing in the mud, making mud birds and then causing them to come to life.  Jesus’ Church did not accept them because, The  Holy Spirit did not inspire them because they are factually false as seen by the fact that He did those ‘miracles’ all for Himself.  Jesus as a boy in the Temple, and keeping the 1st and 4th commandments, in that order, is what 12 year old Jesus did as His focus was not Himself but His Father and His Word.  He did not make His Father’s House into a playhouse for His amusement or an inflatable fun house, filled with sinners’ hot air.  The Lord’s House is filled with His breath and wind, that is, the Holy Spirit as His Word is there and finally, fully and for all:  the Word made flesh.  The Temple was the House of God’s Word and as He told Solomon: for My Name. So when Jesus entered the Temple He was coming home.  Jesus knew where He had to be, the locus of His entire life:  His Father’s will, as Solomon and Paul point us also in Christ to the Lord.  Without Jesus we are lost.  Without the Lord, Israel would still be found as slave people in Egypt.  Joseph and Mary had just come from the most important of all Old Testament holy days, the Passover.   Passover, pascha, the Greek and Hebrew word, is all about the Lord finding and saving His people.  The Lord’s finding His lost people is freedom.

The Christian’s focus is always the different locus.  When we make our selves the direct object of inquiry, the result is either one of two things:  despair, I am no good or overweening pride. His Word is ever our guide between despair and pride to show aright our right and to give us anew the grace of His forgiveness.  The locus is the Lord’s commandments and the promises fulfilled in Jesus.  Solomon went every to Gibeon to offer a 1000 burnt offerings and what Solomon finally needed was God’s Word, Law and Promise—showing us the way to go and now in Solomon’s Lord, the Way Himself in the lad who became a man, the man for all men. We are told that Solomon’s conversation with the Lord was a “dream”, but it was no nightmare!  We have nightmares aplenty in our day from selling fetal body parts to greed and lust.  The Christians’ focus is a different locus, place in life, home and work:  the home altar of His Word, the Catechism and it’s six chief parts.  We need orientation, noting that the word “orient” is the word for “east”, from whence has come our Savior, orienting us throughout our days ahead according to His Word.  “Christ especially wanted to assume the aging promise to show all mankind, not matter what their age, would have in Him a Savior” (Johann Gerhard). 

The Lord told Solomon that the Temple would the place for His Name, a different locus and on that day in the Temple Jesus, literally, “God saves”, His Name entered into the Temple to begin salvation.  Jesus’ focus was not Himself but His Father.

On The Circumcision and Name of Jesus, for the sermon, I remembered the probably only funny song by Johnny Cash, “A Boy Named Sue”.  It is a story song about “Sue’s” father giving him the name Sue.  And the way how he hated it all his life because it got him into fights…and hating his father who also left him and his mother when he was three.  One day he caught up with his Dad in a bar, they got into  fight and his dad told him the reason he Sue that name:

 And he said, “Son, this world is rough And if a man’s gonna make it, he’s gotta be tough And I knew I wouldn’t be there to help ya along So I give ya that name and I said goodbye I knew you’d have to get tough or die And it’s the name that helped to make you strong”

“And it’s the Name that helped to make you strong”.  The Name of Jesus will make us strong, tough, steadfast in the faith because He was and is strong.  He was born an infant and from day 1 bearing the sin of the world.  He fasted for 40 days and nights and was tempted by Satan three times and that would not be the last time. He walked to and fro all of Palestine, preaching, teaching,doing good and at every turn someone was out to get Him and finally they would.  He would be cast out of the Temple and crucified on Golgotha…a different locus is the focus of our salvation. He was tough, yet He was and is tender toward sinners who receive with child like faith, a faith He knew as a child.  He is tender, as a mother hen who gathers her brood, so we are saved and can be tender toward each other bearing each other’s burdens. His Name will make you strong as He has saved you to be His, strong in faith and in love serving, in His Name, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen!

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 Text:  St. Matthew 2:13-23

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 endured from the beginning of His earthly life.  Although Jesus’ life was providentially spared at this time, many years later, another ruler, Pontius Pilate, would sentence the innocent Jesus to death. (From:  The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

The Martyrdom of the Holy Innocents: Some accounts number them at more than ten thousand, but more conservative estimates put their number around a dozen. 10,000 children or 1 child murdered is one child too many.  The picture above  is a painting by Giotto di Bondone (1266/7 – 1337).   It is eerily prescient of  the many pictures of the bodies of Jews in piles in the concentration camps. Their only crime was they were of the same religion as the One born this holy season.  It makes no sense.  Neither does any abuse of children sexually, physically and/or emotionally from Newtown to our town.

Herod the Great was probably a functional atheist; he thought he ruled by his own right and authority.  He was his own god as all dictators and tyrants vainly and terribly imagine themselves.  We read a lot about the atheism of a Christopher Hitchens, but he pales to the tyrants who think they are gods. With no fear of God in the multitude of  Herods, with the lack of the fear of the Lord, we are in the most functionally atheistic of all time.  We do what we please.   We are own gods and children.  The result?

“Question: Who is the most obnoxious, Protestants, Catholics, or Jews?

Answer: It depends on where you are and who you are talking to—though it is hard to conceive any one of the three consistently outdoing the other two in obnoxiousness. Yet, as obnoxious as are all three, none is as murderous as the autonomous self who, believing in nothing, can fall prey to ideology and kill millions of people—unwanted people, old people, sick people, useless people, unborn people, enemies of the state—and do so reasonably, without passion. Adolf Eichmann was a good family man, a devoted husband and father.”-Lost in the Cosmos:  the Last Self-Help Book by Walker Percy (novelist)

The gripping movie, Judgment at Nuremberg  is about the trials after World War II of the lower level Nazis, in particular, the judges who sent the ‘mental defectives’, and other “undesirables” to their deaths after a “legal trial”.  A key character is the  fictional judge, Ernst Janning (played by Burt Lancaster).  He was known in the Weimar as one of the greatest legal minds in Germany.  He participated in the crimes against humanity for the Nazis yet he knew it was wrong.  In one of the last scenes of the movie, Herr Janning asks the main American judge, Hayward (played by Spencer Tracy) to come and visit him in his prison cell.   Janning wanted a kind of absolution:

Janning: Those people, those millions of people. I never knew it would come to that. You must believe that, you must believe that.

Judge Hayward:  Herr Janning, it came to that the first time you sentenced a man to death you knew to be innocent.

The death of one man or one child makes it easy for the autonomous, ‘kingly’, ‘great’ self to kill more and more. Mother Theresa said, 

“… if we accept that the mother can kill her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? Any country that accepts abortion, is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what it wants.”  

It took one Child to reverse the sin of Adam.  The holy innocents unwilling death and the grief of Rachel, their mothers,  weeping for them who are “no more”, fulfilled the Scripture that the Child of Mary would die as One for them all.  

This is only a  speculation:  Jesus’ Mother and Step Father may have eventually told Him what had happened on the day of terror in Bethlehem.  The Lord Jesus Christ taught as a man:

1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

 5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

The Lord became a child to make us His children and so we are;  as it is written in Galatians 4:4-7: our adoption as the Lord’s sons and daughters.  The Child gives the childless hope, the loveless love, the faithless faith, in the great exchange:   His health for our sickness, His love for  us His enemies, His wisdom for the foolish to make us His own, His death  for our life, His resurrection for our eternal life, so we are born again, His baptized to receive children, from day 1 to the 100th year, in His Name, baptizing them, as we have been by His grace alone, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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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.

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 garlandof 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

 Acts 6: And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen… This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.

The freedmen, or literally, the liberated ones, were possibly descendants of manumitted slaves.  So maybe for them to hear that they will be freed freely in Jesus Christ would have been galling and going against the ‘freedom’ they had sought in their own synagogue and earned for themselves, but in Christ they were truly manumitted, eternally. In front of them and the high priest, in his speech, more like a sermon,  (Acts 7) Deacon Stephen went through Israel’s history.  He  pointed out the way the Lord led them in freedom for Israel only to reject the Lord’s Word and finally that happened to the Messiah Jesus and they resisted the Holy Spirit and the prophets who spoke by the Holy Spirit, and did not keep the Law.  The people did not want to hear any more and they stoned him to death.   Here was a man full of the Holy Spirit who was in love with the One born yesterday Who alone can free, what no law could free.  We could sing today, On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…Himself:  Jesus Christ.  “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” and “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:59-60).And the Lord said before He died, “Father, in Thy hands I commend my spirit” and “Forgive them, for they know not what they do”. 

It is recorded that Stephen’s face shined like an angel’s (6: 15).  “Angel” means “messenger”.  Stephen was a messenger of the message of glad tidings of Jesus Christ. People will misunderstand both the message and the messenger and think by killing the messenger, they will kill the message, but they can’t.  Pope Francis does not want his church to evangelize the Jews, funny, since that is what Stephen did.  Even if Church and State try to stop the message, it has not worked yet, for the Lord, even through the blood of His saints, wants all men to come to the knowledge of Christ and His Name to free all men and women.

Hymnody

Jesus! Name of priceless worth

To the fallen of the earth

For the promise that it gave,

“Jesus shall His people save.”

—Jesus! Name of Wondrous Love (LSB 900:3)

Prayer of the Day

Heavenly Father, in the midst 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.

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Jesus asked the crowd, What did you go out to see?  A reed shaken by the wind? Luther called pastors preaching to, “…temper the truth to the sensitive fastidiousness of fashionable hearers” “reed preachers”.  John was no reed-preacher. His sermons on marriage landed him in Herod Antipas’ prison and John’s head was handed to Herodias.

In the classic movie, Casablanca, set during World War II, in Casablanca, Morocco, the Nazis have not quite taken over the town. It was a French colony and the Renault is the Captain of the French police force.  Captain Renault stated succinctly his political philosophy and position:  “I blow with the wind and the prevailing wind is from Vichy”. Vichy was the French government collaborating with the Nazis.  Too many times, churches and her Christians collaborate with their Vichys, have “blown with the wind”, that is cooperating with the world. In Ephesians 4, the Apostle Paul wrote that the Lord gave us “apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers” to teach and preach the Word, administer the Sacraments;   that is the “work of ministry”.  In that work of ministry that we have received, so we are grounded in Christ as we are founded by the Holy Spirit, in Him to the glory of God the Father.  “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”   Paul wrote to Timothy that in the last days, and these are the last day, when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.  Captain Renault collaborated with the Nazis for his passions: women, drunkenness, gambling, and his own power. Those who are faithful to the Lord in oppressive times might lose their heads and those in good times who are faithful to the world and its passions, have handed their heads over to the devil.  

 John the Baptist sounded so harsh, You brood of vipers!  In movies, he is portrayed as screaming and hollering as he preached.  Maybe he was simply forceful for the Word of God comes like a hammer.  Maybe it is true that every age gets the saint it needs, for the saint acts like an antidote to the Vichy fashions of politics, religion and the like.  Every video clip I have seen of President Harry S. Truman, he seemed to be a real nice guy, except he was called “Give ‘em hell Harry”.  He was asked about the reason for that name, “I told the truth and they thought it was hell”.  For the proud and the boastful, for the self-secure and omni-competent, yes, Jesus and John’s message will seem like hell. Neither were reed preachers. But to the blind, the mute, the deaf, the dead and the poor they brought the good news of the God’s reign. 

“…in Christ’s kingdom things are different. He does not operate with strong, holy people but with weak, poor sinners of whom Christ said: “The blind receive their sight, the dead are raised up.” Now to raise the dead is a great miracle; but a far greater, wonderful miracle, one which does not receive the recognition, is that God has ordained a king to preach the gospel to sinners.”(Luther)

Then there are those preachers who teach that yes, Jesus will sure help you, it is by grace, but  do the good deeds to get into heaven, if you just do good works, are purpose driven, witness to 10 people this week, give God the glory everyday then you will really be a Christian.  I will call them “deed preachers” that by our deeds we can save ourselves by earning merit badges to heaven, when Christ Jesus in His Incarnation has done it all. They imagine that God owes them eternal life for their merits and holy life (Johann Gerhard).

And there are those who preach Jesus Christ for weary sinners, those who mourn, who are poor in spirit, who make for peace, all whom Jesus blessed in the Beatitudes.  The Church catholic and confessional which preaches Jesus Christ, the fullness of God, the fullness of man, who came down to heaven, who’s Advent we celebrate as He drew near in the Womb of the Virgin Mary. This is all summed up in the three Creeds of the Church.  The Church with those preachers are Creed preachers. 

Reed, deed or Creed preachers?  Reed, deed or Creed churches?  Reed, deed or Creed Christians?

John was no reed preacher, with his polling numbers in hand to tailor the message, to make millions and live in soft clothing in a mansion built by ministry dollars. Like Creflow Dollar who wanted his televangelist audience to donate for a new jet for the minister.   The mega-congregation minister in North Carolina who has million dollar plus mansion.

In Christ, reed, deed, creed, is reversed, creed, deed then reed.

Creed preaching is preaching God’s Word.  John preached the Creed that the Messiah is coming, the Coming One and out of the Creed, faith,  comes forth deeds, maybe not as great as John’s, but as the Christ the fruit of love, joy and peace endures in families, churches, societies and cultures.  John was steadfast in the Word.  He did not blow with the prevailing wind, yet he could be shaken. Living the creed in our daily vocations, but even if they are outstanding deeds, they do not save the soul, only one deed has and will,  the deed of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.  But out of the creed, faith in His Word will come forth deeds, the good works that God has prepared beforehand to be our way of life.  Justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ is not an excuse “…to pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ (Jude 4)  His grace, His love is the cause of faith, then love but only His love justified, made us right to do the right and the good.  As John the Baptist preached, bear fruits befitting repentance.   “In the case of our justification, which is the full and perfect acceptance of the believer unto eternal life, certain effects in our life, such as the new obedience, follow rather slowly because of the weakness of our flesh.” (Martin Chemnitz). 

Creed then deed which is taking care of the reeds. In Matthew 12, the Evangelist, inspired by the Holy Spirit, quotes Isaiah at the exact moment after Jesus cured the man with the withered hand and the Pharisees were plotting to destroy Him:

“Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
    my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased…
20 a bruised reed he will not break

A bruised reed He will not break…not strong powerful Christians but bruised ones, as Jesus told John’s disciples, the blind, the leprous, deaf, the dead, and poor have good news preached to them, a  King who preaches to the poor the Gospel. We can add to the list the Beatitude list, poor in spirit, those who mourn, the persecuted and reviled on account of our King’s Name. Reeds, frail flesh, easily swayed, easily broken. Pastor Paul Kretzman from his 1918 commentary on the Isaiah passage in Matthew:

(Christ’s) spirit would be neither that of contention nor of blatant self-advertising after the manner of preachers that bring their names to the front, but forget the Gospel they were sent to preach. So gentle, sympathetic, and kind would His spiritual ministry be that those that are weak, whose faith was at the point of extinction, could depend upon His help. The bruised reed is carefully bound up until the contusion is healed; the weak Christian receives strength from above. The lamp of faith which is at the point of expiring will receive fresh oil from the Gospel. 

After the Roman soldiers, plaited the King’s crown of thornes, thrusting it on His head, they then gave Him a reed as His scepter and mocked Him kneeling before Him saying, Hail!  King of the Jews!  That reed is us to rule in mercy and the strength of the One who died for sinners and rose again.

A bruised reed he will not break, then it is written and quoted, a smoldering wick He will not quench, Christian’s faith who is not always strong, a smoldering wick.  He will bring to light by the light of His Word.

Today’s opening collect is a one sentence prayer:

 Lord Jesus Christ, we implore You to hear our prayers  and enlighten the darkness of our hearts by Your gracious visitation

This prayer is so needed these days by us all.

It is as if the Lord says:  My people please believe what I have done for you!  Show me your wounds and I show you My Hands, scarred for all time by the Cross and I give you life. 

Lord Jesus Christ, we implore You to hear our prayers  and enlighten the darkness of our hearts by Your gracious visitation

For those who mourn, Lord Jesus Christ, we implore You to hear our prayers  and enlighten the darkness of our hearts by Your gracious visitation.  

For those who do not know where to turn:  Lord Jesus Christ, we implore You to hear our prayers  and enlighten the darkness of our hearts by Your gracious visitation.

For the Church that she may preach His unvarnished truth the light of His Word:  Lord Jesus Christ, we implore You to hear our prayers  and enlighten the darkness of our hearts by Your gracious visitation

 Let us pray: 

Preserve your Word, O Savior,
To us this latter day,
And let your kingdom flourish;
Enlarge your Church, we pray.
Oh, keep our faith from failing;
Keep hope’s bright star aglow.
Let nothing from truth turn us
While living here below

 

 

 

.

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This mosaic of Ambrose might actually be a rendering of his likeness.

The Son of God, being about to bring together His Church, first works through his young servant: and so it is well said: the word of the Lord came unto John, etc., so that the Church has its beginning not from man, but from the Word. (emphasis added; Ambrose on Matthew 3: 1-11, the Season of Advent)

“In Milan I found Your devoted servant the bishop Ambrose, who was known throughout the world as a man whom there was few to equal in goodness.  At that time his gifted tongue never tired of dispensing the richness of Your corn, the joy of Your oil, and the sober intoxication of Your wine.  Unknown to me, it was You who led me to him,so that I might knowingly be led by him to You.”  ( From the Confessions of St. Augustine)

Born in Trier in A.D. 340, Ambrose was one of the four great Latin Doctors of the Church (with Augustine, Jerome, and Gregory the Great). He was a prolific author of hymns, the most common of which is Veni, Redemptor gentium (“Savior of the Nations, Come”). His name is also associated with Ambrosian Chant, the style of chanting the ancient liturgy that took hold in the province of Milan. While serving as a civil governor, Ambrose sought to bring peace among Christians in Milan who were divided into quarreling factions. When a new bishop was to be elected in 374, Ambrose addressed the crowd, and someone cried out, “Ambrose, bishop!” The entire gathering gave their support. This acclaim of Ambrose, a 34-year-old catechumen, led to his baptism on December 7, after which he was consecrated bishop of Milan. A strong defender of the faith, Ambrose convinced the Roman emperor Gratian in 379 to forbid the Arian heresy in the West. At Ambrose’s urging, Gratian’s successor, Theodosius, also publicly opposed Arianism. Ambrose died on Good Friday, April 4, 397. As a courageous doctor and musician he upheld the truth of God’s Word.

Ambrose by his preaching and teaching of Christ brought Christ to many including Augustine.  Ambrose is quoted six times in The Book of Concord:  The Lutheran Confessions. In the longest Ambrose quote in the Lutheran Confessions, in the Apology, Article IV, Justification, the Bishop wrote:

Moreover, the world was subject to Him by the Law for the reason that, according to the command of the Law, all are indicted, and yet, by the works of the Law, no one is justified, i.e., because, by the Law, sin is perceived, but guilt is not discharged. The Law, which made all sinners, seemed to have done injury, but when the Lord Jesus Christ came, He forgave to all sin which no one could avoid, and, by the shedding of His own blood, blotted out the handwriting which was against us. This is what he says in Rom. 5:20: “The Law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Because after the whole world became subject, He took away the sin of the whole world, as he [John] testified, saying John 1:29: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” And on this account let no one boast of works, because no one is justified by his deeds. But he who is righteous has it given him because he was justified after the laver [of Baptism]. Faith, therefore, is that which frees through the blood of Christ, because he is blessed “whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered,” Ps. 32:1,104].

Ambrose set the true New Testament doctrine of Justification to a hymn, the well renowned hymn for  Advent:  Savior of the Nations Come

Savior of the nations, come,
Virgin’s Son, make here Thy home!
Marvel now, O heaven and earth,
That the Lord chose such a birth.

Not by human flesh and blood,
By the Spirit of our God,
Was the Word of God made flesh–
Woman’s Offspring, pure and fresh.

It is not that we come to Christ,but Christ has come to us. He chose such a birth! Our worth is not in our works but in the Word, the Word made flesh. This is the reason Ambrose is cited in the Confessions and the reason Augustine, an adulterer and pagan philosopher, could hear His Savior. He did not bring people to Christ, but Christ to people.  In Matthew, He is called: Emmanuel, God with us.  He chose us, not because we were so good for ‘his team’, but we needed choosing to be cleansed in the laver of Baptism. This is the Gospel in a nutshell and it as the word “Gospel”, good news. 

(Read more on St. Ambrose here)

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2 Timothy 2:

You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.

 

Three seemingly disparate events are associated together on this date:  

1.  On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month the armistice was signed ending World War I and this date became Veteran’s Day.  We remember all military, soldiers and sailors, who have defended our nation in war.  We thank them for their service and the best way to do that is, as is rightly encouraged in the media: THANK A VETERAN TODAY! 2. On this date, Martin of Tours, Pastor and Bishop was buried in the city of Tours, France:

Martin was born about the year 316 in the town of Sabaria in the Roman province of Pannonia, present day Hungary, of a pagan family, his father a Roman legionary. He spent his boyhood in Pavia in Lombardy where he came under Christian influence, and at the age of ten he decided on his own to become a catechumen (a catechumen is a person preparing for Holy Baptism. When he was fifteen, being the son of a soldier, he was drafted to serve in the army. He was apparently a good soldier and popular with his comrades. One winter night when he was stationed in Amiens, Martin saw a poor old beggar at the city gate shivering in the cold, and, having nothing else to give him, he drew his sword, cut his own cavalryman’s cloak in two, and gave half to the man to wrap himself in. The next night Martin dreamed of Christ in heaven wearing his half-cloak and saying, “Martin, still a catechumen, has covered me with his cloak.” The young soldier, however, found it increasingly difficult to combine his own ideal of a Christian life with the duties of the military. Eventually he decided to be baptized and asked to leave the army, since he was no longer willing to kill. Like his modern counterparts, this fourth century “conscientious objector” had difficulty proving he was not a coward, but finally he was released, now about twenty years old. (from Festivals and Commemorations by Philip Pfatteicher)  But sensing a call to a church vocation, Martin left the military and became a monk, affirming that he was “Christ’s soldier.” Eventually, Martin was named bishop of Tours in western Gaul (France). He is remembered for his simple lifestyle and his determination to share the Gospel throughout rural Gaul (present day France) (Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

3.  On November 10th, 1483  a miner and his wife gave birth to a son.  Baptisms were done quickly due to infant mortality. The next day Hans and Margarette brought their son for Baptism, St. Martin’s Day.  So they named him Martin, as was the custom, after the saint’s day he was baptized.  The son baptized today was Martin Luther.

What do these 3 commemorations have in common? They are all about being a soldier.  We give thanks for those veterans who served in our armed forces.  I have heard many a veteran say that I did my duty and I came home.  Listening to vets, and yes, watching war movies, war is hard, to say the least.  Many veterans do not want to say what happened over there.  They bore arms to defend our freedoms inscribed in the Constitution, the words of the charter of our political freedom.

Martin of Tours left one army and joining the militia Christi, the army of Christ for the salvation of souls.  Christ enlisted him. As bishop he did battle against the heresies of his day and served his people the green and eternal pasture of the Word of God.  He fought against the powers and principalities:  sin, death and the power of the devil. The man named after him, Martin Luther, likewise did the same. Martin and Martin bore the weapons of the Spirit to defend the charter of our eternal salvation, one Lord, one faith, one birth.  Martin and Martin did their duty, lived their callings.  

As the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy that he was enlisted by the Lord!  Soldiers have a clear discipline and as Christians, disciples have a discipline to not get entangled in civilian pursuits, that is in the world, but for the world to fight the good fight of faith, so that souls are saved.  Paul focuses Timothy and us on the Lord.  When a superior officer comes into the room, all the soldiers come to attention as we do when we stand to hear the Gospel in the Divine Service.  And all soldiers suffer, as did Paul, Timothy, Peter and all the army of Christ, and as our armed forces do in combat, and even in peace.  We fight for freedom’s sake Christ has set us free and in Christ to not submit again to a yoke of slavery, see Galatians 5:1. This day is united in thanksgiving for our freedom, political and spiritual.  The armies of darkness are on the move again in our nation and amongst the nations.We are freed from  the tyranny of political and spiritual despots and so freed to serve our neighbor, our nation and church, as free citizens of both that  tyranny is defeated, finally by the Lord’s weapons:  the weapons of the Spirit, cf. Ephesians 6: 10-20.

ALMIGHTY God, our heavenly Father, in whose hands are the living and the dead; We give thee thanks for all those thy servants who have laid down their lives in the service of our country. Grant to them thy mercy and the light of thy presence, that the good work which thou hast begun in them may be perfected; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord. Amen.

 Lord God of hosts, Your servant Martin the soldier embodied the spirit of sacrifice. He became a bishop in Your Church to defend the catholic faith. Give us grace to follow in his steps so that when our Lord returns we may be clothed with the baptismal garment of righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns With You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

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