Tag Archives: Mary mother of Jesus

Gaudette, Rejoice Sunday Zechariah 3 December 13, 2015 First St Johns

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who rejoice in the hope and promise of Jesus Christ said … AMEN!

As Christians we cannot say enough, we cannot overemphasize, the hope that we have, the only true hope, the hope that comes in Jesus and I cannot imagine for the life of me, although we’ve seen it, we know people who are like why any Christian would not rejoice in the hope that we have in Jesus. We are reminded every year of that hope specifically, right now, right this time, every Christmas is the true and  eternal promise that we have in a baby, God came to us as a child. The scenario is complete, there is a young, innocent girl betrothed, about to be married to a man who, for his time, is doing well. Mary would have a godly, hardworking faithful husband. They would both care, support and love each other. And then we have the angel Gabriel, the angel who stood in the very presence of God ready to announce God’s Word to wherever the Father would direct him to go. We have the humblest of the respectable. People below the shepherds were not respectable, the tax collectors, the prostitutes, but the shepherds were invited by the multitude of the heavenly host, lesser angels than Gabriel, but still magnificent, who would also attend the birth of Jesus. There are the magi, wealthy and important in their lands. The magi were gentiles, they weren’t Jewish. Jesus was born a Jew, but He came as “true Israel”, the true Israel Isaiah had prophesied about 600 years earlier, where all the nations would come to Israel to Jesus, to salvation. That Jesus is the hope of all the world. All creation; supernatural, Jew, Gentile. Among the greatest and among the most humble are led to the salvation of the world, our Lord Jesus the Christ, Messiah, the One anointed by God the Father to save mankind.

God inspired Zephaniah to write 600 years, before Jesus’s birth. “ESV Zephaniah 3:14 Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! ESV Zephaniah 3:15 The LORD has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil.”

The people of Zephaniah’s time were about to be overrun, killed or at least exiled from their homeland.

The people at that time knew that their time as a nation was about to end. It did not seem like a time to sing aloud or to rejoice or to exalt. It wouldn’t have seemed as if there was much to be joyful or to rejoice about. Yet for us, we who are baptized in the Name of Jesus, reborn into that new life as children of God the Father, we who have the promise of salvation and eternal life in the new world in Christ, how can you not be joyous about that?

Yeah, Christmas is that time with the pretty lights and the decorations and joyful singing, feasting, exchanging gifts, to be with family and friends. Yes we should be joyous, we should celebrate regularly, we have every reason to celebrate, we should. God tells Jeremiah, and ironically we refer to Jeremiah as the weeping prophet, Yahweh tells Jeremiah: “Thus says the Lord, behold, I will restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob and have compassion on his dwellings. The city shall be rebuilt on its mound and the palace shall stand where it used to be. Out of them shall come songs of thanksgiving, and the voices of those who celebrate. I will multiply them, and they shall not be few; I will make them honored, and they shall not be small.” (Jer 30: 18-19)

Who was God talking about to Jeremiah? To us! We Christians. We should sing thanksgiving, we should celebrate. The Father said He will honor them and they will not be small. God does honor us and Christians are certainly not small. Despite some of the popular perceptions these days, Christians are the largest religious group in the world by far. God has multiplied His people, Christians.

Even in those times of trial and certainly Christians are being tried in America right now, times of trial will probably increase going forward. Certainly Israel was being tried in the time of Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Isaiah. Even in that we are called to rejoice, to celebrate. We know the world tells us it’s crazy to celebrate when things look bad, when we’re being oppressed, when we’re being tried. What does the world tell us? Be angry, lash out, be bitter. The misery loves company thing. In comparison to the people in Zephaniah’s time, Christians in the United States have so much to celebrate, to be thankful for, to rejoice in. We too often we let those inevitable trials steal our joy, keep us from celebrating.

We restrict our celebrating to the time between Black Friday and Christmas Day, the season does go straight to Epiphany twelve days later. The day after Christmas though, we’re back to the races, fighting tooth and nail through the stores. Grousing because “well Christmas really didn’t turn out the way I thought it should”. What does St Paul say in today’s reading in response to    : “Rejoice in the Lord, always, again I will say rejoice …And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:4, 7) Yea even in a foot of snow in February, even in the hectic times of life, the trials, the heat and humidity of summer, the lowering darkness of Autumn, so much that the world can drag us down about and God, even in the darkest time, is telling His people to rejoice, exalt with all your heart. You shall never fear evil, rejoice always, I say rejoice.

The short name for this Sunday is “Gaudette”, it is Latin, it means rejoice. We need to be told to rejoice, we need to be reminded, nothing wrong with that. Make it a point to rejoice today! Rejoice knowing that the birth of God the Son, Jesus our Savior, our Creator, our Redeemer, our loving, compassionate, giving, Lord and God is going to be remembered in less than two weeks. At least take this time to rejoice, to stop in the middle of the season and rejoice.

You’ve all heard the Christmas carol “I heard the Bells on Christmas Day”. Our dear friend Terry Downes posted the origin of this carol. Too often we hear these Christmas carols and they seem kind of gratuitous, platitudes, nice things to say, things we’re supposed to say for days like Christmas and to raise up to God.

More often than note the stories behind the lyrics and the music are the result of genuine trials, pain and grief that’s been endured by others. Pain and grief that should not be minimized. That we should appreciate as real world testimonies of what God has done for us, does for us, even in the most difficult circumstances.

Terry passed on this article by Justin Taylor. The story is about Henry Longfellow, a good Massachusetts boy, and his son Charles Appleton Longfellow, a grandson of one of America’s greatest poets, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Charles left his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, traveled to Washington, D.C. in order to enlist in the Union Army in the Civil War in 1861 right at the beginning of the war.

He enlisted as a private, but he impressed his fellow soldiers and officers so much that he was promoted to Second Lieutenant in 1863. He fell ill with typhoid fever, which was a very common problem at the time because the Army did not have very good hygienic practices. Charles was sent home for three months to recover. Shortly after his return to duty he was shot and nearly paralyzed in battle. Charles’ father Henry traveled to Washington to be with his son. Henry had recently lost his wife, her dress caught fire and she died the next day from the injuries that she received. This man had lost his wife, his son had been wounded and still might be paralyzed as a result of the wound, who was living through all the tragedy and violence of the Civil War. While he was with Charles he was listening to the Christmas bells of the local churches. This is how he was inspired to write the lyrics that we know today.

“I heard the bells on Christmas day, their old familiar carols played, of peace on earth good will to men. Then from each black accursed mouth, the cannon thundered from the south, and with the sound the carols drowned. And in despair I bowed my head, there is no peace on earth I said, for hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men. Then peeled the bells more loud and deep, God is not dead nor doth He sleep, the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth goodwill to men.”

Through the bells God gave Henry the renewed hope and promise of Jesus. Even after the loss of his wife, the serious injury to his son that might leave him paralyzed, he knew the hope and peace in the Lord Jesus that God gives us, the promise knowing that even in the midst of loss and the national tragedy that was going on around him, that God will always prevail. We will be saved, we will be raised up in new life, and to life eternal in Jesus. The same hope on Christmas Day that Henry was revived in 150 years ago he passes on today in the carol that he wrote. The Father gives to us every day in our baptism, in our new birth in Jesus that hope. We can let the world drag us down into bitterness and anger or we can hear the bells on Christmas Day, every day and remember the peace hope and promise that Jesus gives us every day.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

A Decree Went Out From the Father, His Son our Lord Jesus Luke 2 First St Johns December 24, 2014

A BABY CHANGES EVERYTHING

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who “have seen a great light”, our Savior Jesus, said … AMEN

Almost 700 years before He was born, some of the greatest words of Jesus were said by the prophet Isaiah: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;…” Who are the people who have walked in darkness? … Yes, we are. Sure the sun in the sky may be out and shining, but so often we feel that we are in darkness. We all know what darkness is like, especially this time of year. When I worked in Boston, I would have to take the train and it would come pretty much around dawn this time of year, I would get into the city and the trip would mostly be in the dark and when I left at or later than 5pm, it would always be dark and get darker on my way home. The cold of walking to the train station through city streets, often walking through snow and wind, that would just take your breath away and cut you down. My only hope was to make it to the dim light and less cold of the train station to get on a train, that would at least, get me out of the weather and give me enough light to read a newspaper.

Even in the brightest summer day we really walk in darkness, especially if we don’t know Jesus as Lord. We all live in the same world, the world is dark and evil. I really hate winter weather, even when the weather is relatively mild, I never refer to it as “warm” just “less cold”. In the same way, yes we have light, but it’s really only “less dark”, the real light is in Jesus and that’s what He brought into the world in the dark night in Bethlehem. No one who was there would say that it was any “lighter”, whether it was at the beginning of winter or early spring, there really is never any light in a dark and evil world. A baby changes everything, in this case the Baby Jesus. The dark and the evil of the world is why Jesus came into it, He brings His eternal and more than sufficient light into the world, He brought it with Him to Bethlehem. But for all those people out there, right at this very moment, maybe even scurrying around for that one last Christmas item, present, decoration, card, food for the feast, they scurry in the dark.

No matter how hard they try to “understand” God, unless they are guided by the Holy Spirit, they cannot understand; God’s wisdom, His Will, His light, His Word and frankly they just don’t want to. It has to be about God and His way or it’s not at all. Only those who are in Jesus will understand God’s will for the world. For each one who has been baptized, hears the preached Word and takes the Body and Blood of our Lord. I hesitate to say “understand”, because I doubt that any of us would say we “understand” God even as His born again children, even though we do accept what He does and understand when He does it. Only to His children in Jesus, will God’s will, word, His Light, and Warmth be accepted. John 1:9 describes it as the “true light, which enlightens everyone”. But John 3:9 acknowledges that people really don’t love the light; “…the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.”

Faith Hill’s song “A Baby changes everything”, she’s talking about Mary and how her life goes from being, probably, a teenage girl, getting ready to be married, a huge step for anyone, how anyone of us has a boatload of expectations for marriage and then Mary is told that she will be the mother of Messiah. Her life has now been changed extraordinarily, she knows that this is of God and that she has been honored above all women, but her life is taking a course that she could never have expected. This baby has certainly changed everything for her, a life beyond her expectations, she has only an inkling of how this Baby has changed everything for man. Before this Baby our sin separated us from a completely just, completely holy God we were in a state of hostility with God. Now this Baby has changed everything and we are at peace with God. Before we were brought to eternal death, now we are saved eternally because we are at peace with God, we are His children. When we are “born again” through our baptism in Jesus and our nature is changed from the world and flesh to a nature that is in Jesus, a divine nature. We are still sinful beings, but in Christ, in that “Baby” who has changed everything, we are saved as eternal beings, we will be resurrected in the flesh. But no longer will that flesh be corrupted, it will be perfect in a perfect, physical world, that we were always intended by God to live in.

Ceasar Augustus issued a decree and all the people of the Roman Empire picked up and moved in order to be counted by the Roman government. That was for a time, and those people who were counted soon died. God the Father, the Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, the Godhead, issued a decree, that there would be a great light that would come into a world of darkness. That decree was originally issued through Isaiah who promised that great light would shine on all men and it would result in great rejoicing.

A Baby changes everything, Caesar Augustus issued a decree for a time. God the Father, through His Son, born a Baby issued a decree for eternity and His Son was the messenger. St Augustine writes: “Christ was called the Angel [Greek for messenger] of Great Counsel because he brought the message of the kingdom of heaven and the will of the Father.”1 That because of His incarnation, His birth as a baby that everything would be changed between us and the Father, we would have peace with the Father and be saved because that Baby would grow to be a man who would be the sacrifice, the payment for our sins.

I like to use a story that Paul Harvey would tell on Christmas to illustrate how the Father came down to us so that we would understand who He is and His will for us:

The man to whom I’m going to introduce you was not a scrooge, he was a kind decent, mostly good man. Generous to his family, upright in his dealings with other men. But he just didn’t believe all that incarnation stuff which the churches proclaim at Christmas Time. It just didn’t make sense, and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He just couldn’t swallow the Jesus Story, about God coming to Earth as a man.

I’m truly sorry to distress you,” he told his wife, “but I’m not going with you to church this Christmas Eve.” He said he’d feel like a hypocrite. That he’d just stay at home, but that he would wait up for them. And so he stayed and they went to the midnight service.

Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier and then went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper. Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound…Then another, and then another. At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window. But when he went to the front door to investigate he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They’d been caught in the storm and, in a desperate search for shelter, had tried to fly through his large landscape window. Well, he couldn’t let the poor creatures lie there and freeze, so he remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter, if he could direct the birds to it.

He put on a coat, galoshes, tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on a light, but the birds did not come in. He figured food would entice them in. So he hurried back to the house, fetched bread crumbs, sprinkled them on the snow, making a trail to the yellow-lighted wide open doorway of the stable. But to his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs, and continued to flap around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them…He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms…Instead, they scattered in every direction, except into the warm, lighted barn.

And then, he realized that they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me…That I am not trying to hurt them, but to help them. But how? Because any move he made tended to frighten them, confuse them. They just would not follow. They would not be led or shooed because they feared him.

If only I could be a bird,” he thought to himself, “and mingle with them and speak their language. Then I could tell them not to be afraid. Then I could show them the way to safety, warm…to the safe warm barn. But I would have to be one of them so they could see, and hear and understand.” At that moment the church bells began to ring. The sound reached his ears above the sounds of the wind. And he stood there listening to the bells – Adeste Fidelis – listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. And he sank to his knees in the snow.”2

Foil Satan and hell, sin and death—foil them with the joy only Christ Jesus gives. Let Him comfort and defend you. Let Him feed and strengthen you. For He who once was born of Mary, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and placed in a manger, is here for you in His Holy Word and soon will be wrapped in bread and wine and placed on a plate and in a cup for Your salvation!

Yes, we’re surrounded by troubles and heartbreaks, and Satan, sin and selfishness relentlessly attack, but don’t just sit there—sing for joy! Your Savior is born! There is peace on earth for you, come for all, to set us free.”3 A Baby does change everything.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.

1Augustine quoted by Steven McKinion Ancient Christian Commentary Old Testament X p 69

2[1]Keiki Hendrix, Everyday Christian, Christmas Classics: The Man And The Birds By Paul Harvey (December23,2012, http://www.everydaychristian.com/blogs/post/christmas_classics_the_man_and_the_birds_by_paul_harvey).

3God’s Love at Christmas CPH sermon

Where the Christ child is said to have laid His first night on earth

The featured image is where, according to legend, the Baby Jesus was laid after He was born, His first day as a human, as one of us. . 11_12

The featured image is where Mary is said to have laid when she gave birth to Jesus.

Needless to say, what is now an incredible church (if maybe a little over the top) is vastly different then what it was on the first night. A stable, actually almost a cave, with animals, no doubt dirtier than we would even keep  a stable today. A very humble place, where Jesus was born. He who gave up the glory of heaven to live life as a human.

Best wishes for a Blessed Christmas, remembering that it really is about God being with us in our lives on earth. That is certainly something to celebrate, and we should, but while we have so much and we celebrate amid all the lights and warmth of modern life, the Baby was born in the dark and the cold. “…the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out in God…” (John 3: 19-21 ESV). We have all done evil, but Jesus came into the world, that new Baby so that we may come into the Light and it started here in Bethlehem, so that we could come into the Light and know peace with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Angels came to shepherds? Why?

I took the “featured image” of the place that according to tradition is where the shepherds were when they saw the angels who directed them to the new born baby Jesus.

Ya, I know, not much to look at. When I took the picture I wasn’t sure what I was trying to do, or get. But now I realize that is the point. Everything in Israel having to do with important sites particularly dealing with Christianity are all kind of over the top. They are kind of a little too much. Not disrespectful too much, but more in the sense of “all and anything we can do” in order to properly commemorate a site of meaning and importance to a Christian. Yea, ok, but….

The crucifixion site is probably the most “over the top”, just all kinds of stuff. Sure, it’s important, it’s as important as it gets and surely it’s tough to decide how much or how little you really want to mark a site.

Here and Capernaum are still essentially the same, and no question the Sea of Galilee was my favorite site in Israel. Both very much as Jesus would have seen them, or the shepherds. Bethlehem was important in that time, but only in terms of King David being born there and Micah’s prophecy that the Messiah would be born there, Micah 5:2. In Jesus’ time, 1,000 years after David, Bethlehem was a backwater, at best a notable cross roads. Why would the King of all Creation, the Lord of all, Savior of all, Messiah, why would the Son of God, King of Kings be born in this otherwise unremarkable place? And what happened to those shepherds in that unremarkable place?

They’re probably lying on the rocky soil in Israel, just trying to get some sleep. Shepherds were the lowest caste in Israel, just one small rung up from those who were criminals. They were ceremonially unclean so they couldn’t go to temple and worship. They were also not allowed to testify in courts, participate in any civic activity. They spent all their time in the fields with sheep, so you know they didn’t get a lot of invitations to visit for dinner.

But there these unremarkable people are, in this unremarkable place and the very remarkable happens! The sky lights up like nothing they could imagine. Legions of angels are standing over them. the “host of heaven”, that is the army of heaven. Angels aren’t the fluffy nice lady figures we imagine, angels in the Bible were very much portrayed as military, host means “army”. These shepherds must have been scared out of their minds by this. But the angel leader says “fear not”, we’re not here to overwhelm you. We’re here to tell you this amazing news, to you who aren’t amazing! This child is born, the Messiah, the promised One and you are invited to be His first visitors.

These bedraggled men, get up from their sleep from this unremarkable place, schlep through the darkness (there weren’t many roads and no street lights in Bethlehem in 1 AD), they find their way to this barn. They might have heard a baby cry from the barn. A baby in a barn, this time of night? And there they found the Savior of mankind, His mother Mary, no doubt still recovering. And the man God chose to give earthly guardianship to, Joseph, watching over the mother and child.

It really does stagger the imagination that God chose for His Son to be born in a remarkable way and yet to unremarkable people in an unremarkable place. He does not regard man, you could be king of the world, but God, having created that world, would not be impressed. With all that, yet His Son is born in such an ordinary place and the first people outside of His family to see Him are shepherds.

Jesus was born to save all people, He was born so that all could know Him as Savior. Not some all- powerful being, but the very close and knowable Son of God.