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A Passage and A Prayer 12/10/18

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying: “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”   John 8:12  (ESV)

Nearly everything reminds me of Jesus, even that silly song about Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer that I now can’t get out of my head.  Like Rudolph, Jesus was different – true God and true man, sinless.  Like Rudolph, Jesus was ridiculed and rejected.  “A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,” Isaiah put it.  Like Rudolph, Jesus was the only one who could lead the way out of foggy darkness.  Any similarities end there.

Jesus is the Light of the world.  In a mythical world a nose like a red bulb might throw a little light amid darkness.  In the real world, Jesus IS the light that obliterates darkness.  You know about that darkness.  It sends a shiver of fear through you when you come face to face with very real evil.  It clouds your thinking when your faith is challenged by smug intellects and heart-wrenching experiences.  It buries you in guilt when you think about how far short of what God expects your life has been.  And then you see Jesus, who defeated Satan on the field of darkness so that evil cannot destroy us, who cut through phony arguments with clear truth and assured us that in the worst of times our God is still in control, who took our dark secrets and shameful sins to the cross in order to wipe them out of our account with God. 

Jesus is the Light of the world.  In a mythical world, Rudolph’s red nose points the way for other reindeer to follow.  In the real world, Jesus IS the way to follow.  You need that way to follow.  Entertainment media and social media suggest there are many ways – different moral lifestyles, alternate understandings of reality, other ways to God if he exists.  Smart people confuse you with questions and stump you with arguments, as though there is no way, just a lot of running around in circles.  Proverbs 14:12 reminds us: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”  Jesus clears away the darkness of doubt and confusion with the certainty of salvation by grace, consistent purpose and values for living, and the hope of everlasting joy with him at the end of the way.  He lights the way and he is the way.

There are a lot of Christmas myths, and the red-nosed reindeer is sort of endearing.  But you don’t live in a mythical world.  Jesus is your real Savior.  He was born in the real world to achieve real forgiveness.  When your face is red with embarrassment over your many failures, only the real red blood of Jesus will do.  Merry Christmas!

PRAYER (of St. Paul in Ephesians 1): “That the Father of glory may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe.”  Amen.


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A Passage and A Prayer 12/7/18

“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11
 
During this first week of Advent, perhaps you have noticed that the paraments (the cloth material that hangs in the chancel) have changed colors. Since the end of May, with a few limited exceptions, the paraments have been green to mark what is known as “common time” or the time of the Church. With the beginning of Advent, the paraments change to blue (purple in some churches).
 
Why blue or purple? These are the colors of royalty and are meant to remind us that during Advent we are preparing to again welcome to our world our King Jesus. Even as Jesus ascended into the blue sky, so we anticipate His return in like manner. The blue is thus a reminder to us of the imminent return of our Lord.
 
With the beginning of the new Church year, Advent is a time to reflect on our lives past, present, and future. When we do, we see how desperate our need is for a Savior. And that’s why Jesus came the first time. The One whose birth we will again mark in a few weeks is the King born in a stable but later nailed to a cross; for us. The One who died and rose again has promised that He will come again, but not as a lowly king, but rather the victorious One. The blue of Advent reminds us each week of the King who redeemed us and is coming soon. Until He does, we prepare ourselves and pray, “Come Lord Jesus!”
 
Lord Jesus our King, thank You for coming to dwell among us and to free us from the burden of sin. By the power of Your Spirit, make our hearts ready for Your return. Come Lord Jesus come. Amen.


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A Passage and A Prayer 12/5/18

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39
 
While the Christmas season is typically associated with peace, joy, and good will as family and friends gather for special celebrations, it is also one of the most depressing times of the year for others. Perhaps you know someone who seems especially sad during what should be the most joyous of seasons. We often see this among those who have lost a loved one, especially a spouse or child.
 
People who are experiencing this type of sadness or isolation are often referred to as having the blues. That expression dates back at least to the early 1800’s and is still used today. Maybe you have experienced the blues yourself; or are even experiencing them now.
 
It is not unusual for anyone to suffer from the blues at various times. It can be especially hard though during this time of the year when everyone around us seems so happy, so loved. It’s easy to feel alone and even unloved.
 
Paul’s words to the church in Rome gives us encouragement that can bring us comfort even when the blues try to take over. Consider what Paul is saying, that there is nothing in all of creation that can possibly separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. Nothing. Nothing.
 
You are the most loved child of the Most High God. The One who did not spare His own Son but sent Him to give His life for you will never, ever, leave you. Even though we may at times be separated from family or friends, nothing can separate us from God’s love. This is our great joy during Advent and throughout life.
 
Heavenly Father, even though I may feel alone at times, I know that there is nothing that can separate me from Your love. Thank You for the gift of life and salvation that I have through faith in Jesus. It’s in His name I pray. Amen.


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A Passage and A Prayer 12/3/18

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

Remember 1957? Many in our congregation were not even born yet, but others remember it well. Most of that year, like so much of history, has become a faded memory (except of course for the ’57 Chevy). There is a song though that has endured and was made famous by none other than Elvis Presley. The song, of course, is “Blue Christmas.” 

While the song had been previously recorded, it was Elvis who really made it famous. Since then, more than a dozen artists, including The Beach Boys, Glen Campbell, and Kelly Clarkson have gone on to record their own versions. 

Why has this song been so popular over the years? The lyrics seem to resonate with people who recognize that it just isn’t Christmas when a loved one is far away. People feel sad, or blue, when that special someone is not with them during this special time of the year.

But yet so many people don’t seem to give it a second thought when the One who loves them the most is not truly part of their Christmas. As the focus of Christmas turns toward decorating, parties, and presents, it seems that the real reason for the celebration, Jesus Christ, is pushed to the side. That is what should really make us blue.

The apostle John, in the opening words of his Gospel, tells us beautifully how the Living Word, Jesus Christ, became one of us so that we could experience His fullness. That is no less true today than it was when Christ first appeared among us. With Christ being present, there is no blue Christmas, but instead a Christmas of joy because our most beloved is with us and brings salvation to all who have faith in Him.

Precious Jesus, You left behind the glory of heaven to dwell among us. During this season of Advent, we pray that Your presence would be fill our hearts with joy and love. Thank You for the gift of salvation. Help us to share Your love with others that they too may come to know and love You. Amen.


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A Passage and A Prayer

15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:15-23 ESV).

Scripture tells us that after Jesus paid the price for our sin on the cross, He rose from the grave three days later.  Forty days after His resurrection Jesus ascended into heaven to sit at the “right hand of God the Father.”  So what does this mean?

Many paintings depict Jesus sitting on the right side of a gray bearded heavenly Father.  The “right hand” is not a location, but a condition. 

The term “right hand” actually refers to Jesus being all-powerful and always present.  Being at the “right hand” of the Father reminds us that Jesus can fulfill His promise of using all things together for good and His promise to be with us always.

This is the confidence we get from the ascension of Jesus into His rightful place in heaven.  It is easy to believe that Jesus is far removed from us since He is in heaven and we are on earth.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  Jesus is with us.  When we read His Word, He is with us.  When we partake in Holy Communion, with simple elements of bread and wine, He gives us His true Body and His true Blood to strengthen our faith and forgive our sin. 

The good news is that we are never alone.  Jesus is with us to protect us, to forgive us, to encourage us in our faith walk.

The better news is that Jesus prepares a place for us in heaven so that one day, when our earthly journey is completed, He will take us to be with Him forever in the perfections of His kingdom where there will be no more sickness or sorrow; no more trials or troubles; no more disease or death.  We will enjoy the life He intended us to live before the fall into sin.  It will be a life of eternal joy and peace.

When life is troublesome and challenging, remember that Jesus is with You to use everything to draw you closer to Him and one day you will be with Him in heaven.

O, yes!  The best is yet to come!

Lord Jesus, give me peace in times of trouble by reminding me that You are with me always; that You use all things for good in my life; and that You will take me to heaven to live with You in eternal joy and peace.  In the meantime, strengthen my faith that I may live as Your witness.  I pray this in Your holy name.  Amen.


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