Dear friends in Christ,
We are giving Professor Krauss the month off for a well-deserved vacation. Taking our lead article is Dr. George Stoeckhardt, also of our St. Louis seminary from over a century ago.
A NEW YEAR’S DAY DEVOTION: ADDITIONAL DAYS OF GRACE FOR THE NEW YEAR --Dr. George Stoeckhardt
The close of the year exhorts us to thanksgiving. When we look back upon what God has done for us, we must cry out: Praise the Lord, o my soul, and forget not all His benefits!” [Psalm 103.2] Also for the cross a Christian must, even though not without sighing, still offer up thanks because God has helped him to bear it and time and again given him to understand that and why the affliction was necessary and wholesome. However, the close of the year also exhorts to repentance. When we look back upon everything we have done, we have to say: “Lord, have mercy upon me! Do not enter into judgment with your servant! [Psalm 143.2]”
The close of the year is a time for settling accounts. A smart businessman examines his books and checks to see how much profit he made in the old year, and he is happy when he is able to take a surplus with him into the New Year. So also a Christian at year’s end should seek a little quiet and open the book in which his works, both good and bad, are recorded, reach back into his memory and conscience and determine whether he has been as fortunate and successful in spiritual matters as he was in temporal; whether he in his Christianity has moved forward or gone backward. If we candidly examine our conduct in God’s light, then we shall no doubt slam the book closed and bemoan the fact that the heavenly treasure entrusted to us yielded so little gain, such meager fruit. Not just this or that moral lapse and failure but our laziness and negligence in fulfilling our heavenly calling, our inactivity and unfruitfulness will come home to our conscience.
The close of the year is a time set by God. The Lord God makes the days, periods, and years and allots us one year after another and every year He returns and observes how much fruit we have borne during the preceding year. During the changing times he exhorts the conscience. During the final hours of the year one senses and realizes to some degree how important a year is in a person’s life. Doesn’t daylight consist of 12 hours?—And we should work and do good while it is day. Think how much work a person is able to do in one day! And now 365 days have again gone by, and where is the fruit, the gain for these many days of work?
We must all today fall down before the King, who reckons with us, in order to pray for mercy, saying: Lord, have patience with me. I am in Your debt! However, we do not want to engage in such foolishness as did the unfaithful servant in the parable and add: “I will repay you!” [Mt. 18.26] We would from the very start spoil the New Year were we to take along with us the old year’s liabilities. No, we would rather today set everything right. But how is that possible? Well, we have a Friend and Companion who stands at our side as we enter the New Year, who travels through the years with us. It is Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and today and forever [Heb. 13.8]. He is our Surety and Mediator. He foots the bill for us. He has settled accounts for us. He cancels the guilt-record of the past year with His blood. He asks that God will have patience with us and give us additional days of grace.
Extension, not so that we are able to make good the harm done—He did that!—but extension so that we might continue to work in the power of the Lord and take away with us from earth at least some fruit. And so we go, although with great trepidation, in the hand of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ comforted and cheerful out of the old year into the new.
The song “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” was written by a man named Drennon. During the period 1558-1829, it was a crime to be a Roman Catholic in England. Catholics were prohibited from any practice of their faith by law—private or public. Anyone caught with things that associated him with Catholicism, such as religious writings, would be severely punished. Devotion to the Roman Catholic faith could get you imprisoned, hanged, or beheaded. Drennon wrote the “Twelve Days of Christmas” as one of the “catechism songs” to teach young Catholics the tenets of their faith in song, instead of in written form. Each of the gifts given in this song has a hidden meaning intended to help teach and preserve their faith. For instance, the “true love” mentioned in the song does not refer to an earthly lover—it refers to God Himself. The “me” who receives the gift refers to every baptized person.
1. The Partridge in a pear tree= Jesus Christ
2 Turtle Doves=The Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens=, Faith, hope and love
4 Calling Birds= the Four Gospels
5 Golden Rings=the first Five Books of the Old Testament
6 Geese A-laying=the six days of Creation
7 Swans A-swimming=the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit
8 Maids A-milking=the eight Beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing=the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping=the Ten Commandments
11 Pipers Piping=the eleven faithful disciples
12 Drummers Drumming= the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles’ Creed
LUTHER COMMENTS ON THE CHRISTMAS ACCOUNT FROM LUKE 2:
Scripture and God’s Word do not teach that faith is a natural work without grace. Rather, the right and gracious faith which God’s Word and work demands is that you firmly believe that Christ is born for you, and that this birth is yours and occurred for your benefit. The Gospel teaches that Christ was born because of us, and that He did and suffered everything because of us… [The angel] does not simply say, “Christ is born,” nut “Unto you, to you He is born.” Likewise, he does not say, “I bring joy,” but “To you, I bring good news of great joy.” Likewise, this joy does not remain in Christ but is for all the people. No condemned or wicked man, has, or can have, this faith. For that is the true basis of all salvation; it unites Christ and the believing heart, so that all they have on both sides is held in common. But what do they have?
Christ has a pure, innocent, and holy birth. Man has an impure, sinful, condemned birth…Nothing can help this except the pure birth of Christ. Thus Christ’s birth cannot be distributed in a bodily way nor would that help; therefore, it is distributed spiritually through the Word to everyone, as the angel says that it is given to all who firmly believe so that no harm will come to them because of their impure birth. That is the way and manner to become pure from our miserable birth from Adam. For this purpose Christ wanted to be born, that through Him we might be born in a different way… This takes place through faith… See in this way Christ takes our birth away from us and absorbs it into His birth, and gives us h His, that in it we might become pure and new, as if it were our own, so that every Christian may rejoice and glory in Christ’s birth as if he also, like Christ, had been born bodily of Mary.
[AE, vol. 75, pg. 215-216]
Hello All! Just a few days ago we celebrated the birth of our Lord and Savior. I pray we all had a blessed day. And remember Christmas lasts until 05 January!
• Thank you to all who participated in the cookie exchange. We had a nice variety certainly enjoyed by all.
• We have the Epiphany Dinner next week, 04 January.
• Ginny has volunteered to do Altar next month, thank you.
• Our next meeting will be 18 January 2015 after church. We have lots to do and plan, so be sure to be there!
I pray everyone has a safe and merry Christmas and a blessed New Year.
Jesus—The Sun of Righteousness
Malachi 4.2—But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.
Hail, the heavenly Prince of Peace! Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings, Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He leaves His throne on high, Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of hearth; Born to give them second birth.
Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!” [TLH #94 st. 4]
Learn the mystery why God is in the flesh. It is that He may slay death, which lies lurking in human nature. For as poisons lodged in the body are neutralized by introducing antidotes into it—and as the darkness which reigns in the house is dissipated at the entrance of light—so death, which tyrannized in human nature, vanished at the advent and entrance of Divinity.
The freezing which binds in rigidity the particles of water during night, is overcome by the beams of the sun when it has become warm. So death reigned till the appearance of Christ; but when the saving grace of God was revealed, and the Sun of righteousness arose, death was swallowed up in victory. It could not abide the presence of true light. O the depth of the goodness and love of God. [Basil of Caesarea (AD 330-79) quoted in The Lord Will Answer: A Daily Prayer Catechism, CPH 2004.]
CHURCH YEAR NOTES: Epiphany: Light as creation and incarnation
‘Twas much, that man was
Made like God before,
But, that God should be made
Like man, much more.
[Sonnet XXII—Holy Sonnets, John Donne, 1571-1631]
This sonnet by the English priest and poet John Donne captures two beautiful realities. First, man and woman were created in the image of God. And, more wondrously, God became man in Jesus of Nazareth.
The Epiphany season is a splendid time to shine the light of these beautiful realities into our culture and into all the world.
The wonderful truth that man and woman are the apex and culmination of God’s creative work means…in a word, that every human being is significant and of value. When Moses described the creation of human beings, he was surrounded by the affluent cultures of Egypt and Mesopotamia. These peoples worshipped the sun, the moon, the stars and other natural forces. In their epics, human beings were marginal and played no central role. We are witnessing a “re-mythologizing” of the world in our culture where prestigious voices assert that human beings are accidental products of aimless cosmic forces. Ultimately, they claim, we are all absorbed by death into the darkness of the universe. The sun, the moon, the forces of the universe, in this rendering, are the ultimate reality, i.e. god.
….[The Christian] engages literature, history, philosophy, science, ethics, music and the arts with the knowledge that creation as well as human creativity witness to the wonder and beauty of God’s creative work. It is no accident that the Christian culture of the early and medieval churches gave birth first to learned monasteries where classical literature was preserved alongside Sacred Scripture and then to the distinguished universities of Europe…
The second half of John Donne’s sonnet speaks of that which is truly “much more,” the incredible beauty of the Incarnation, God becoming man in Jesus of Nazareth. From the face of the Christ Child shines the light and life of God. What an Epiphany! In the Christ Child we behold the love of God reaching out to save and to rescue human beings from the darkness of self-absorption that leads to death. In the Christ Child, we are given life now and forever… In Christ, knowledge is rightly ordered for the worship of the Holy Trinity and for the care of our neighbor. As St. Paul states: He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. [Col. 1. 15-17 ESV]
What beauty shines forth from the Christ Child! The significance of human life, the sanctity of life, the sanctity of marriage—all derive from God’s benevolence as our Creator and His boundless love and mercy in sending His Son into human flesh to be our Savior.
One small candle shines brilliantly in a vast dark space….May our light shine faithfully and fully so that many more will come to see that “in Him all things hold together.”
--Rev. Dr. Dean Wenthe [President, Concordia University System, in Supplement to Reporter, January 2014].
On 11 January, the First Sunday After Epiphany, we remember Jesus’ baptism:
And behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. [Mt. 3.17] Luther comments: Thus the highest Preacher preaches from the highest and greatest pulpit, from heaven above; and the sermon is the greatest sermon. No greater has come into the world than this one when the almighty, eternal, merciful God says of His equally almighty beloved Son: This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. The greatest student and hearer of this sermon is the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of divine Majesty. Here is a grand Preacher, sermon and Hearer and none can be greater. Therefore the dear angels remain silent and are not heard but they themselves listen to what the Most High Preacher, God the Father Almighty, preaches about His beloved Son, with whom He is well pleased.
But here you may say: How does this help me? Christ is God’s Son and without sin. I am a poor sinner, conceived and born in sin. Because of my sin my baptism is not so glorious. No! You must not do this! Instead, you, by your baptism, come into Christ’s baptism so that Christ’s baptism is your baptism and your baptism is Christ’s baptism and is one baptism.
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