Monthly Archives: December 2017

First Sunday after Christmas – Luke 2:33-40

It is the sixth (seventh) day of Christmas and we’re still singing Christmas hymns. It’s OK to say “Happy New Year” as much as it is still proper to say “Merry Christmas” or even “Happy Holidays”. These are holy days from now until next weekend. Even when the tree is taken down and all the decorations are put away until next December, we are not able to stop learning the wonders of God’s grace for us in Jesus Christ.

Saint Peter catches this constant marveling at God’s work on our behalf in First Peter chapter one. He writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: The prophets, who prophesied about the grace that has come to you, searched and studied carefully concerning this salvation, trying to find out what person and what time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, when they wrote about these things. These are the things that have now been announced to you by those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even the angels long to look carefully into these things.

That’s why it’s proper to stand before the manger even today full of holy astonishment. What are we looking at when we look at the Christ Child in the manger almost a week after the fact? We’re looking at the great mystery of salvation. The first words of today’s Holy Gospel say that Joseph and Mary marveled at what was said about Him by Simeon. If that is not enough, Anna the prophetess also adds her witness to Simeon’s witness, speaking of Him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

The witness of Simeon and Anna remains in the Church even today. As Saint Paul tells Saint Timothy: Great is the mystery of godliness: He was revealed in flesh, was justified in spirit, was seen by messengers, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory. Here is the message of apostolic preaching. We stand before the manger of Jesus seeing with the eyes of faith that He is revealed in flesh. What is more, His preaching continues among the nations and is believed on in the world.

The fact that Gospel preaching remains in the Church is practically a miracle in itself. When family stories are told, it seems that the narrative changes a little bit from generation to generation. Facts about a particular incident change. Maybe they are forgotten. The experience itself might be the only thing that remains true as the stories are told. What wasn’t funny at the time makes us laugh in retrospect.

When the Gospel is proclaimed, no matter the language, the story remains the same. Jesus Christ, long promised by prophets, pitches His tabernacle of flesh and blood among His people. He does not spurn the virgin’s womb. His humiliation in becoming man brings about our salvation. His salvation is for all, both Jew and Gentile. He offers salvation to all, yet so many despise it. They think His work for us is too easy. Worse yet, it might be a tale that has been twisted and perverted through the generations, much like their own family stories. Yet those who cling to His story as it breaks into history are spared everlasting death and given everlasting life as a gift.

The Gospel, though, often hits our ears and heart to find us no longer able to marvel at God becoming man. So many other words cause us to marvel instead of the birth of the Savior in the flesh. We’re stunned to hear the death of a celebrity, or a friend, or even a friend of a friend. We remember what used to be in a building in downtown Kankakee fifty years ago. We recall all the good times we had patronizing the business in that building. We write about it on Facebook groups. When it comes to remembering the Bible stories we learned in Sunday School or when a family member read the Bible to us, our memory has a hard time recalling the story. What should be the most familiar thing to us instead becomes a faint memory.

It’s hard to be astonished at something when you are over-astonished at everything. Then again, maybe we have lost our own story while gaining everyone else’s story as our own. There’s no better time that Christmas time to regain a love for the story that includes you as the object of God’s mercy. Returning to the little cradle of Christ to see Baby Jesus resting with His earthly parents takes us back to those happy days when we first heard His birth story. Perhaps you first heard it in a church building, maybe from a pastor or from a Sunday School teacher. That word of Christ’s birth to bear your sin and be your Savior implanted itself in your life. The seed of faith was planted, watered in baptismal water, fed with the Lord’s Supper and with Gospel preaching.

As you grew in grace and in knowing Jesus as Lord, heartfelt joy came with believing Him as your only hope for eternal life. Faith and joy bring holy reverence, for God has come to His people to save them, especially you. Then came the heartfelt desire to pick up the Scriptures and read His story for yourself. Then came questions about the story. Maybe the pastor had the answer, but maybe he didn’t. Through it all, you wanted to know more about this thing that had happened to you in hearing His Word proclaimed to you.

There’s the start of marveling all over again at the Good News of Jesus Christ for you. If you’ve lost your holy astonishment, start again with the main thing. Jesus Christ is born for you. He becomes man for you. He could have stayed with His Father in heaven and found another way to save you from sin and death. This is the way His Father wanted it. He wanted it this way for you. He gives it to you for free. He even creates a way to have His way with you in order to make you His own.

This is the perfect time to join Mary and Joseph as they marvel at everything that is said about Baby Jesus. God’s favor is upon Him. God’s favor is upon you because of Him. Come again to the manger. See the little Stranger you know so well. He is the Prince of Peace, your peace, the world’s peace, and peace between God and man. Take to heart these words of today’s Chief Hymn: “He is the key and He the door To blessed paradise; The angel bars the way no more. To God our praises rise.” Paradise is yours, free and clear, because of Baby Jesus.

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Christmas Day – John 1:1-14

Take a look at the Wordle on the bulletin cover. A Wordle is a word cloud that shows what words are used most in a sentence, or even several paragraphs. The most used words in the first fourteen verses of John’s Gospel are God, Word, made, man, witness, world, Light, and truth. Let’s make it a complete sentence and think about that sentence for a while: The Word of God is made man to witness Light and truth to the world.

Notice what two words are missing in the Wordle: Jesus Christ. John calls Jesus the Word. The Word goes forth from God. God is Spirit. His only-begotten Son becomes flesh. He takes on our skin and bones. He is like us in every way but one. He is sinless. That is why Jesus has no earthly father. Mary is betrothed to Joseph, but Joseph did not help conceive this Child. The Holy Spirit implanted the Word of God in Mary’s womb. No other conception will do for the One Who is the sinless offering for mankind’s sin.

Christ’s witness is Light and truth. Notice there are two lights in John chapter one. One is a lowercase letter “l”. The other is a capital letter “L”. The capital letter “L” in Light tells us this Light comes from above. Jesus is the Light the darkness cannot overcome. He comes into the world according to the flesh to shine the light of truth upon the world. The truth He shines is a word of condemnation and of promise. We must see the way we are. That is why the Light from above exposes our sinful nature. However, that is not the only word the Father wants us to hear. If it was the only word He wants us to hear, we remain condemned. We remain outside His fellowship.

The light that exposes our sinful nature brings us to repent of our sin. Once that word has had its say, the proper word of God may be spoken. The proper word of God is the Light and truth that shines in the manger today. Jesus Christ takes on our sin. He becomes sin. We receive His righteousness in return. We are righteous, holy, and perfect before the face of God because of Jesus, the Word made flesh, the Light of the world from Whom grace and truth comes. As we sung a bit ago: “He makes us children of the light.”

What does it mean to be a child of the light? It means you are free to be who God wants you to be. Our Father in heaven gives you talents to serve Him wearing different hats. Some wear the hat of parent. Others wear the hat of child. Still more wear a hat that says employer or employee. All of His children wear a hat that says “God’s own child.” While being a parent, child, worker, student, family member, friend, or neighbor is a great hat to wear, that last hat is the best hat of all.

Jesus calls you to be His child by shining His light on you and giving you His truth. His truth is a truth that never hurts you. It’s always good to tell the truth, but that truth often comes after lies are told. That truth is sometimes told in a way that hurts our neighbor. When God tells His children the truth, the truth of His Law, it hurts. You deserve to die. Again, that’s not the only word God tells His children. The main word He tells is that Jesus died the death you deserve instead. When He sheds His blood, it covers your sin. Our heavenly Father no more sees your sins. He only sees His Son’s righteousness covering you. He sees you as you were before the fall into sin. He sees you as His own precious child, holy and worthy.

That’s the truth Jesus tells you today in His birth according to the flesh. You are holy and worthy in Him because His Light and truth is poured upon you in your Baptism. You are a part of Him. He is a part of you. Everything He does in His life, He does for you. When you hear or read the Scriptures, you hear or see Jesus doing what He does not merely for the eyewitnesses, but especially for you. That includes what you heard in John chapter one. The Word of God is made man to witness Light and truth to the world. This witness is faithful and true. Jesus is born to die, and yet He lives. In His death you have forgiveness. In His life you have life. This is Christ’s service, Christ’s Mass, for you.

Christmas Midnight – Luke 2:1-20

According to local custom, our “Midnight Mass” is at 6:00 P.M. on Christmas Eve.

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. We get sensitive this time of year about people being left on the outside looking in. Salvation Army kettles fill with everything from pennies to gold coins. Less fortunate families who can’t afford a Christmas are adopted and given presents by those who are more fortunate.

Then there are those who are cast from the inn of home and family because of who they are, how they live, or what they believe. We saw this phenomenon ramp up last Christmas after the Presidential election. No matter what side you fell on, people were upset and some were uninvited from Christmas. Bitter feelings may last even this year and for years to come. Christmas seems to bring out the best and the worst in people. We hear many stories about the best. We also hear a few about the worst.

What if we took the Holy Family’s situation into 2017? Here we have a man betrothed, engaged, to a young girl, almost a woman, who is pregnant with a Child whose Father is not her betrothed husband. The Child is miraculously conceived by the Holy Spirit; implanted in her womb by the Word spoken to her by the angel of the Lord. The young couple about to become parents must travel a long way from their home to the man’s family’s home town in another region south of their home. There’s a census being taken and the emperor finds this a convenient way to make an accurate head count.

When they make the journey to the greater Jerusalem area, the city of David of whose lineage the man was from, they can’t find a place to stay. You would think the man’s parents would have room for them. You would think another family member of both the man and the woman would have room for them. There is no room for them. Saint Luke never gives a clue why this is. We could only guess why. If you take a look at their situation, you might get a hint of a reason, but even then it’s only a guess.

There is no room for the Son of God to lay His little head when He is born a man. It is just as He said later: Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. The situation remains the same today by many, even by those who consider themselves followers of Jesus Christ. There’s room for everything in our lives except for the Christ Child. He’ll have to go somewhere else. There’s room for my way, but there’s no room for your way. There’s room for people who are just like me, but there’s no room for people who aren’t like me. Oh, and I know God is on my side because I know He isn’t on your side.

When you act, think, and speak like that, God isn’t on your side. God is on the side of the poor in spirit, the lowly, the meek, and the humble. Even if you have all you want, spiritual haughtiness is one place our heavenly Father doesn’t want to be. Rejecting His mercy for sinners in the person of Jesus Christ puts you out of the inn. There is no room for you when no room is made for Christ. He will let you have it the way you want it: your way. Your way is the way of death. His way is the way of life.

So let’s consider Mary and Joseph one more time in the year of our Lord 2017. Does it matter for whom they voted? Does it matter who their friends are? Does it even matter that they prefer to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”? Or does it matter that there is room for their unborn Child in your inn. The unborn Child Mary carries is the Son of God, Messiah, the Word made flesh Who came upon a midnight clear announced by angels heard from on high. His home is among sinners. His call to repentance and forgiveness is heard by all for whom He calls and gathers to Himself. His call to rejoice in His birth is for you, even if you’d rather hear another call.

Thanks be to God that there is room for you in His inn. He welcomes the worst of sinners, that’s you and me, into His fellowship. There He prepares a place for you to receive His Good News of forgiveness, of everlasting life, of joy, of peace, of hope for a future, and of a good conscience cleansed from guilt and shame in His blood and righteousness. You don’t deserve a place in His inn. You’ve done nothing to earn it. Every attempt you’ve made to get a place with Him has failed. Only He is able to give you a place in His inn. Only He makes you His precious child in baptismal water. Only He feeds you His Body and His Blood for the forgiveness of your sins. Even when you won’t find a place for Him, His Word works to bring repentance and reconciliation between Him as well as your neighbor.

There lies the Christ Child in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Shepherds marvel at His birth. Animals witness what kings, princes, nobles, and the common folk wished they could see. What Child is this? This is Jesus Christ, your Savior. He is born to die for you, and yet to live for you that you live with Him for eternity. Tonight He makes room for you. Tonight He welcomes you to His manger to see this thing that has happened for your salvation.

Fourth Sunday in Advent – John 1:19-28

It’s been eleven years since Christmas fell on Monday. It will happen again, God willing, in 2023, six years from now. Having the Fourth Sunday in Advent fall on Christmas Eve is fun. We get to hear John the Baptist confess he is not the Christ in the morning, then come back tonight to hear Saint Luke’s account of the birth of the Christ according to the flesh. There are always last minute preparations to make for Christmas along the way. While we make those external preparations for the big day, it’s the perfect time to make internal, spiritual preparations as well. It’s time to MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD.

Just as external preparations are necessary, so are internal, spiritual preparations. The Lord Christ will come to us wrapped in skin and bones through the blessed Christmas message proclaimed by angels. You don’t want anything to get in the way of that message. Consider all the work you’ve done so far for the big day Monday. Maybe you’ve not done as much work as in years past, but you’ve done your share. Even if someone else is doing all the work, you still have to make sure everything’s just so.

Is everything just so for you this season? For many, December is the longest month of all. The days grow shorter, and then slowly grow longer again. All the physical darkness gets to a person’s emotions. December reminds us of those we know who are no longer with us, whether they died this year or many years ago. We miss them. We miss being a child and receiving all those gifts from family. Many find their solace in the darkness by turning to the false comfort of alcohol or drugs. Still others take their lives rather than live through the pain of another long December hoping this year will be better than the last.

The biggest hindrance to preparing the way of the Lord, however, isn’t so much physical things as it is spiritual things. We think of the glamour sins of adultery, wrath, greed, and others. What about spiritual conceit? What about pharisaical pride? Preparing the way of the Lord doesn’t mean a celebration of pure doctrine and family values that make America great again. Consider the preaching of John the Baptist. Every hill is laid low and every valley is raised up. Consider what you heard Jesus say last week to John’s disciples about the poor having the Gospel preached to them. There’s no room for secure haughtiness in the waning hours of Advent. There’s no room for thinking you’ve been a big help to God in helping Him save your soul or your neighbor’s soul.

The Lord prepares the way for His arrival according to the flesh by showing you in His Word how much you need a Savior. The whole reason for the Nativity of Our Lord is your sin. Jesus becomes a native, so to speak, among us in order to live the life you are supposed to live but can’t live because of sin. His perfect life is put upon you through faith in Christ. You’re all wet in it, as it were, through your baptism. His nativity is intimately connected to His crucifixion and resurrection, not to mention His ascension. Everything Jesus does for you is of one piece. Everything is imputed to you through believing Jesus does all things necessary for your salvation. Now that’s something worth pushing everything that gets in the way out of the way in order that His way has a straight path to you.

As we sang three weeks ago in the hymn “Savior of the Nations, Come”: “Not by human flesh and blood, By the Spirit of our God, Was the Word of God made flesh, Human offspring pure and fresh.” The Lord prepares His way by not only showing you how you can’t save yourself, but how He saves you. He breaks into physical time and space at just the right time to save both Jew and Gentile from the wrath that is to come.

If Christmas was about how you can save yourself, then it is no wonder that we want to divorce the giving of gifts from the Giver of every good and perfect Gift. Before you wrap the last present of this season, consider how our heavenly Father wraps His love for you and for every human being not in paper, but in a human body born of a virgin mother. He implants the Living Word in her womb by the speaking of the Word of an angel. The message He brings is the fulfillment of a promise made and kept by the God Who always keep His promises. Immanuel, God with us, comes to dwell among us to take away sin and give life.

Once you hear the need for a Savior it is easy to think you are not worthy of such a gift as Jesus. Consider John’s words today about the One Who comes after him, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie. John’s confession that he is not the Christ is also a confession of his need for a Savior. John is a sinner just like you and me.

We could have a nice discussion about whether John doubted when he sent his disciples to Jesus in Matthew chapter eleven. Maybe he was and maybe he wasn’t. It doesn’t matter because Jesus is John’s Savior as much as He is your Savior and my Savior. How do we answer the question put to John, what do you say about yourself? John was the voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord.” Your voice that cries for mercy is heard by your heavenly Father and answered in the birth of the Savior. Your sin is taken away in the blood of Jesus Christ. Your death is swallowed up in victory in Christ’s resurrection. That’s what is wrapped up in the Gift our heavenly Father gives us at Christmas. You live. You are free from sin and death.

Here comes Christmas. You’re ready even if you aren’t really ready. John has had his say. He is not the Christ. He points to the Christ. His preaching of repentance shows you your sin, but also shows you your Savior. You aren’t worthy to untie the Savior’s sandal strap, yet He makes you worthy to receive eternal life by believing He has done everything to give you life. The Lord is at hand. Believe it for His sake.

 

Third Sunday in Advent – Matthew 11:2-11

A statement of Jesus Christ that surprisingly brings great offense is the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. There are those who seek to use the Savior to gain advantage over others. It is, as if, God is on their side and not yours. When they have enough, they no longer need the Savior. After all, didn’t Saint Paul tell the elders at Ephesus that Jesus said it is more blessed to give than it is to receive? So let’s use Jesus to throw shade on those we don’t like and make them see that they owe the Savior something.

Jesus comes to serve, not to be served. He wants to give, especially to the poor in spirit. They are the first ones mentioned in the Beatitudes. Jesus loves rich and poor in money and possessions alike. When Jesus says He comes to serve, He is speaking about giving to the poor what they are looking for: the riches of everlasting life. The poor have good news preached to them says our Lord to the disciples of John the Baptist. They are to return to him and tell them what they have heard. This news to John brings us comfort as well.

The good news that the poor hear preached to them is not a good news that wears clothes that look like good news but are actually commands and directives to do instead of the blessed news that everything is finished in Christ for your salvation. A so-called good news that is actually more work for you to do teaches what you should and should not do rather than what is done in Jesus. It condemns you because you have not done it and you have not kept it.

Law disguised as Gospel is not easily seen even by those who are trained to distinguish Law and Gospel. Take for example this phrase: “Jesus Christ paid it all. We owe Him everything.” The first sentence is pure Gospel. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin. It is our payment that delivers us from the wrath of the devil. Yet the following sentence cancels our joy and replaces it with something that we must do. The second sentence seems to think we will automatically take advantage of God’s grace in Jesus Christ and be a profligate. It seems to deny that the good news changes our hearts from stone into flesh. What seems to be a good and true statement becomes dangerous for our soul. Jesus’ hand goes from a hand of giving into a hand of receiving, perhaps even tapping His feet while He waits for you to pay up your gratitude in some way that you can never repay.

Jesus isn’t tapping His foot waiting for your repayment. He points John, you, and me, to what they hear and see. The blind see. The lame walk. Lepers are cleansed. The deaf hear. The dead are raised up. The poor have good news preached to them. There is no shame in any of these events. All these are evidence that Jesus comes to serve. He has done all things for our salvation. That’s good news! He gives this salvation to you for free by faith that He Himself works through this Gospel. That’s good news!

Although the Gospel is preached through the whole world, those who are rich are not able to comprehend it. Again, by the word rich Jesus is referring to people who are rich in all things except one: poverty of spirit. Spiritually rich people are not able to tear their hearts away from their good works. They seek good news that is clothed in what they must do to help out God. They focus on “We owe Him everything” rather than “Jesus Christ paid it all.” They are never sure Jesus Christ paid it all. So they hedge their bet and believe they must give God a hand in His work of salvation. The good news is far too easy to be true so I’ll make it a cooperative effort so as not to look like I’m taking advantage of God’s goodness.

Those rich in earthly things often cannot tear their hearts away from earthly possessions. This doesn’t mean Christ died only for those poor in earthly things. Christ died for all, regardless of want or plenty. Our Lord cares about the condition of your heart, not how much or how little you have or have not. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The poor in spirit find their heart not on temporal possessions. Let these all be gone. Nothing has been won when you have nothing except the good news of sins paid for in the blood of Jesus Christ. Nothing has been won when you are all wet, so to speak, in the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. Your garment of incorruption is wet in baptismal water, where Christ clothes you with His perfect holiness. There Christ takes on your sins and you receive a gracious God. As Mary confesses in the Magnificat in Luke chapter one: he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.

It’s a stumbling block for so many to believe that our Lord’s nail-scarred hands seek to give rather than to receive. There’s no agenda behind Christ’s love for sinners. He’s not looking for those who are first righteous enough and holy enough to deserve His good news. The good news is only for sinners; the worst of sinners, the chief of sinners, the better class of losers who have nothing in their hand but simply cling to the cross of Jesus Christ. In the cross of Christ they see the Savior stretching His arms and hands wide to welcome them just as they are, not as they ought to be. The Gospel is preached to the poor. Blessed are you who are poor in spirit. Yours is the kingdom of heaven. It is a gift given by the Giver of every good thing.

Second Sunday in Advent – Luke 21:25-36

When will these things that Jesus says to His disciples take place? These things are signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world.

When will the end happen? That’s what is on many of our minds when we consider the end times. A date would be nice. We could plan for it. We could get all our ducks in a row. Cancel the cable and internet. Visit all our family and friends one last time. We could even tell those who do not believe in Jesus as Lord that it’s time to repent and believe the Gospel.

That last one is one big reason why Jesus doesn’t give us an exact date of the end. As Christians we live as if Jesus will return at any moment. There are those who are ready and those who aren’t ready. That’s the way it is. When these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.

The events of the last year or so make us wonder if we are sitting straight with heads raised. There are so many unanswered questions concerning violence. It seems like our nation hasn’t been this divided on political issues since the Watergate affair or even since the days of the Vietnam conflict. Many of you remember those days. Perhaps you hoped you would never have to live through something like that again. Yet here we are, living through uneasy times once again.

Uneasy times never really left us. That’s why Jesus says watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. We get so caught up in cares of this life that we forget the big picture. Everything as we know it has a definite end. Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead. Our Lord’s kingdom has no end. This world has an end. It is pre-determined by our heavenly Father…and He isn’t telling.

Now that knowing the date of the big event is out of your control, you get to focus on what’s given you to do. Stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man. Remember that the original language of the New Testament has a couple of different words for “time”. One word is more familiar to us: chronos. You hear the fancy word for a watch in that word: chronograph. Chronos time is clock time. How long will the preacher preach? How many more days until Christmas?

The other word for “time” is kairos. Kairos time is not so much about boundaries as it is about the fullness of something or, to use our Lord’s example, something becoming ripe, like a fig tree. Jesus uses the fig tree, and all trees, to explain kairos time. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. The budding of trees is kairos time. When the weather turns warm and the ground thaws, everything builds toward a tree starting to bud. When the leaves appear, you know it’s time for warm weather. The tree has its kairos.

The heavens and the earth have its kairos. The time is coming, and is becoming full, when everything old becomes new in God. All the signs are there for your observation. The problem is when we don’t want to notice the signs. God fearfully and wonderfully makes everything, especially human beings. Yet we don’t want to see it because we’d rather focus on what we know rather than what we don’t know. We don’t know when Jesus is returning in the flesh. So let’s instead live as if there’s nothing after the end to everything. Someone is going to drop the big bomb or we’re going to find a way to destroy Earth sometime soon. After that, turn out the lights, the party’s over.

For those of us in Christ, however, the party has only started when the powers of the heavens will be shaken. The party will never end. The Son of Man comes in a cloud with power and great glory. For many there will be joy. For others, well, let’s say they will be sorry they didn’t pay attention when it mattered. That is why Jesus tells us to stay awake at all times. The time of which He speaks is kairos time. Pay attention! Look up and lift up your heads! Notice the signs! They have been around you all your life!

Jesus also says to pray that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man. Take the Collect for today for instance. We ask our heavenly Father to stir up our hearts “to make ready the way of Your only-begotten Son”. How are our hearts stirred up to make ready our Lord’s appearing? They are stirred up not only by the testimony of the heavens and the earth, but chiefly by the testimony of Holy Scripture. Malachi prophecies the day of the Lord is coming. He also prophecies the coming of Elijah, John the Baptist, who prepares the way of Messiah.

Your strength is in the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ. He prepares you for His coming in the proclamation of His promise to give you everlasting life. He prepares you for His coming by uniting your life with His in your Baptism. He prepares you for His coming by feeding you His true Body and Blood to forgive your sins and keep you steadfast in the true faith to life everlasting.

The Lord has His way with you in these gifts. He prepares you for His ultimate coming, when the dead in Christ shall rise and receive the crown of life that never fades away. Those of us who are alive then will be changed and also receive that crown of life. Thus we shall always be with the Lord, even when fire and smoke destroys this world. These things will take place. You will be safe in Christ when it all goes down. He is your salvation. Believe it for His sake.

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