Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Day 2010 - "Sing for Joy! Christ is Born!"

Click HERE for the bulletin

Isaiah 52:7-10 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says, “Your God reigns.” The voice of your watchmen – they lift up their voice; together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the LORD to Zion. Break forth into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people; he has redeemed Jerusalem. The LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.


          1. Your God reigns!

          2. The LORD has come!

          3. The LORD has comforted and redeemed us!

          4. This Savior is for all nations!


Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus, who have come to see those things which the Lord has made known to us. Grace and peace to you.

Singing. Some people like it, some people feel uncomfortable doing it, and other people SHOULD feel uncomfortable doing it. Singing is usually something we associate with being joyful. That is why we sing when it is someone's birthday – it is a joyous occasion. As far as the Church is concerned, singing has always been a part of the Church's worship activities. And that fits perfectly with the idea of singing being associated with joy because above and beyond all others, the Church has much to be joyful about! And fewer times are more joyful for us than when we celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus. Some of our most beloved hymns were written to celebrate the birth of our Savior.

As we consider the reasons we sing for joy, we turn to our text from Isaiah 52. In both verses 8 and 9 he writes of singing. The immediate reason for signing for joy be the return of the Children of Israel from their 70 year captivity in Babylon. Listen to verse 7 once again, How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” It would be a beautiful thing to see a messenger arriving with the good news that the captives were free and were on their way home. Loved ones that had been gone from their childhood, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, cousins, brothers and sisters that may have never met would be reunited when the captives returned. This would be evidence that God was still reigning in favor of His people. Do you think the people would sing for joy on an occasion like this? Most certainly!

While the immediate fulfillment of Isaiah's prophesy would be when the captives returned to Jerusalem, there is a greater fulfillment of these words. We heard them last night from the mouths of our children. Verse seven of our text has so many striking parallels to the Luke 2 account. Consider how Isaiah writes of the feet of the messengers are beautiful because they bring “good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, 'Your God reigns.'” What was it that the angel announced to the shepherds? It not good tidings of great joy or as Isaiah says, “Good news of happiness.” The angel published salvation when he told the shepherds that a Savior had been born unto them. The multitude of the heavenly host also published peace when they sang their glory. The angels came to announce to the shepherds that their God reigns. Every promise God had made about the Messiah, He had kept. Christ the Lord was born in the city of David! What a reason to sing for joy!

What did the shepherds do once they saw the Christ-child? We heard last night, “When they saw it, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.” They took the place of the angels and themselves became the messengers with beautiful feet. They brought the good news of happiness that a Savior had been born in Bethlehem. They published the peace and salvation that the Christ-child would bring. They announced to all who heard it, “Your God reigns!” Certainly the shepherds had every reason to sing for joy as they returned glorifying and praising God for all the things which they had heard and seen as it was told unto them.

Our children last night had beautiful feet as well because of the message that they carried. Those heralds of the Gospel announced the very thing Isaiah writes of in our text. They brought to us the good news about the birth of our Savior from sin, Jesus. The published the peace and salvation that Jesus brings us through His life, death, and resurrection. We heard them sing for joy because our God reigns – Christ the Lord is born!

We have been reconciled unto God through Jesus. We are at peace with God through Jesus. His birth means our salvation. May our feet likewise be beautiful as we announce to the world the good news that our God reigns! Let us sing for joy!

The book of Psalms is basically the hymnal of the Old Testament. Though there are some significant differences between our hymnals and this one. The book of Psalms has no melodies preserved for us today – we can set them to any melody we want or simply speak them. But the biggest difference is that the words are not written by an earthly author, but God Himself is the author of these hymns. Let us then turn to one of these psalms, Psalm number 99, and read responsively how the LORD our God reigns!

Psalm 99:1-3,9

Go Tell It on the Mountain” - SS Choir


Last night we sang what is for many, their favorite Christmas song, “Joy to the World!” The hymn writer, Isaac Watts, captured some of the thoughts found in the first verse of our text. Consider the second verse, “Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!” This is a great joy to know that our Savior God reigns. How does He reign? Isaac Watts answers that in verse four of “Joy to the World,” “He rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love.”

But the beginning of verse one of Joy to the World seems to fit quite well with verse 8 of Isaiah 5. Verse one begins, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.” In verse 8 of our text we read, The voice of your watchmen – they lift up their voice; together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the LORD to Zion. God had forsaken, Zion, after the Children of Israel had forsaken Him. They had pursued false idols and turned their back on God. So God gave them over to the hands of the heathen Babylonians who utterly defeated the Children of Israel and destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. These events would take place about 150 years after Isaiah wrote these words.

But Isaiah says that the Lord will return to Zion. 70 years after Nebuchadnezzar took captives from Judah to Babylon, the people would return. The watchmen of Judah would be the first to see this return. The watchmen's job was to be constantly on the look out for any approaching threat on the city he was watching. He might be in a tower or in a field, but his only job was to be a look-out for the people of the city. Isaiah speaks of the watchmen lifting up their voice and together signing for joy, because they see the return of the LORD to Zion. “Eye to eye,” Isaiah says they see the return. They see the return of the LORD to Zion as He keeps His promise to free the people from captivity and return them to the Promised Land. The watchmen sing for joy because they see that the LORD has come.

The night Jesus was born, a group of shepherds thought was a night like every other in the country-side around Bethlehem. A night of watching over their flocks to protect them from thieves and predators, like wolves and bears. But God had selected them to be a very special watchmen – not just over sheep. To those shepherds God revealed that His Son, their Savior had been born in Bethlehem. When they heard what had happened, they came with haste – speedily to Bethlehem to see this thing that the Lord had made known to them. And they found it just as the angel had said. They saw the Son of God, their Savior from sin, the baby Jesus with their own eyes. “Eye to eye” they saw the return of the LORD to Zion!

How do you think the shepherds reacted to being able to look into the eyes of the “Ancient of Days,” “the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” their Savior, who is Christ the Lord? How do you think you would have reacted? Observe and then return to your sheep in the field, like we do after looking at Christmas lights? Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.” (Lk 2:20) They lifted their voices in singing, singing together for joy, for the LORD has come in the flesh to save them!

We have seen the return of the LORD, eye to eye, haven't we. Not with our physical eyes, but with our eyes of faith. Last night our children took our eyes of faith to see the birth of our Savior. With our eyes of faith we saw Him wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. With our eyes of faith we have seen our Savior Jesus be crucified for all of our sins and raised from the dead to give us life. And we know that the LORD will return yet again. He will come again in glory on the last day and we will see His return eye to eye. We have every reason to sing for joy, for our LORD has come!

Let us sing for joy by making use of Psalm 96 set to music in our Worship Supplements, page 26. The congregation is invited to join in singing the antiphon, which the organist will introduce and then is repeated 3 times throughout the psalm and the Gloria at the end of the psalm. You are encouraged to follow along as the verses of the psalm will be sung responsively between myself and the choir.

Hymn 96 - “Oh, Rejoice, Ye Christians Loudly”


Why is it that people who may otherwise not set foot in a church, suddenly appear in Christmas time? One is only left to speculate, but it seems people are willing to come to church on Christmas because it seems so un-threatening. It is a happy time. A baby is born. Angels are singing. Shepherds are abiding. Wise men are traveling from afar. Maybe they remember going as a kid and it makes them feel better to relive it in that way.

But how innocent and un-threatening is Christmas? True there is a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger, but why is that Child there? Why was that Child born? What was that Child's purpose in life? While we may not like to think about it, that Baby was born to die! From Jesus' earliest days, people were trying to kill Him. Herod sent his soldiers to Bethlehem in search of the Christ-child, seeking to kill Him. When Simeon rejoiced to hold the Christ-child in his arms, he told Mary, “A sword will pierce through your own soul also.” (Lk 2:35) 33 years later, Mary would see her baby Boy nailed to a cross, bleeding a dying. Certainly soul-piercing sight for any mother.

It may be a soul-piercing thought for us too, to think that this Baby, of whom our young children sang last night, was “Away in a manger,” will some day be bleeding and dying on a cross. But we need to remember that Good Friday is the reason Christmas is worth celebrating. If there is no whipping, no bruising, no bleeding, and no dying there is no reason to celebrate this season. We must view the cross if we are going to view the manger. This Baby would have to be come a curse for us, that we might be freed from the curse of the law. This Baby would have to suffer for us, that we would be freed from an eternity of suffering for our sins. This Baby has to die that we might live.

What were the good tidings of great joy that the angels had? Just that a baby had been born? That this Baby was Christ the Lord? While the birth of a baby is a reason to rejoice, and the fact that this Baby was Christ the Lord was all the more reason to rejoice, the truly good tidings of great joy was that Christ the Lord came to be our Savior!

Verse 9 of our text, “Break forth into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people; he has redeemed Jerusalem.” Jesus came to comfort us and redeem us. Actually this is one and the same thing, isn't it. We can't be comforted if we aren't redeemed. If we have not been bought back from our slave owners of sin, death, and the devil, then there is no comfort for us. But the LORD has comforted His people. He has redeemed us! That Baby in the manger would go on to give His Holy precious blood and His innocent sufferings and death to redeem us unto God. There is our comfort! We are God's own possession. We belong to Him. He purchased us by the death of His Son. Sing for joy! The LORD has comforted and redeemed us!

Let us join in confessing our faith in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, by using the words of Martin Luther's explanation to the 2nd Article of the Apostle's Creed. This can be found on page 5 of your bulletins. Please rise.

HYMN: 709 – God Loves Me Dearly


Imagine being left out of Christmas! Imagine that Christmas was for everybody else, but you. How would that feel? But how could you be left out of Christmas? Christmas is for everybody. And not like the “Christmas for Everyone” that I saw on TV last night – where a Jewish Rabbi and a Muslim Imam participated in a Christmas service at some church in New York City. That was a sham and almost blasphemous as those who reject Christ as their Savior were invited to give a Christmas message.

No one is to be left out of Christmas, because Christ was born to be the Savior of all. Remember what the angels told the shepherds? Who were the glad tidings of great joy to be for? "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.” (Lk 2:10) This was good news for ALL PEOPLE because Christ the Lord had been born for ALL PEOPLE. What joyous news this is!

This is exactly what Isaiah wrote of in verse 10 of our text, “The LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” The redemptive work of Christ was not hidden, it was revealed to all the nations as the Gospel was spread into all the World. God wants all the world to know why His Son was born. He wants the ends of the earth to hear of salvation of our God. This is why He has commissioned His followers to preach the Gospel throughout all the world.

Christmas is for everyone because Jesus came to save everyone. He wants everyone to hear that He came to be their Savior. He wants all the world to be comforted in the news that He has redeemed them unto God. He wants everyone to believe on Him and be saved. “God so loved THE WORLD that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (Jn 3:16-17) Therefore only those who reject Christ should be left out of Christmas. And they are left out because they do not want Jesus as their Savior. But for every sinner who desires to forgiven and comforted, Christmas is for you! For Christ came to save you! What greater reason to sing for joy!

Let us sing this new song to the LORD for the marvelous things which has done, by reading responsively selected verses of psalm 98 on page 6 of your bulletins.

HYMN 106: “The People that in Darkness Sat”

Christmas Eve 2010

"Hark! the Heralds!
Heralds of the Gospel"

Please click on links for the following:

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Isaiah 35 - "The Gospel According to Isaiah: III) What Christ Brings on Our Journey"


Isaiah 35:1-10 - The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, And the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose; 2 It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice, Even with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, The excellence of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, The excellency of our God. 3 Strengthen the weak hands, And make firm the feeble knees. 4 Say to those who are fearful-hearted, "Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, With the recompense of God; He will come and save you." 5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. 6 Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, And streams in the desert. 7 The parched ground shall become a pool, And the thirsty land springs of water; In the habitation of jackals, where each lay, There shall be grass with reeds and rushes. 8 A highway shall be there, and a road, And it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it, But it shall be for others. Whoever walks the road, although a fool, Shall not go astray. 9 No lion shall be there, Nor shall any ravenous beast go up on it; It shall not be found there. But the redeemed shall walk there, 10 And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, And come to Zion with singing, With everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, And sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Theme: What Christ Brings for Our Journey
- Water in this wilderness
- Healing for the disabled
- Protection from predators

Dear fellow travelers in Christ,
Many of you are familiar with the Alphabet Game. It is usually played on camping or road trips. There are various versions I’ve heard, but the one I’m thinking of starts out with one person saying, “I’m going on a trip and I’m going to bring...” and that first person tells of an item that starts with the letter “a” that he is going to bring. Then it to the second person. The second person has to repeat what the first person said and then say something they are going to bring that begins with the letter “b.” And so it goes around the campfire until you go through the alphabet. It gets very amusing somewhere around the letter “n” when people begin to forget what the previous people said. It can also be amusing what some items people say they are going to bring. Really it’s a silly game created just to occupy time.

Well as a believer in Christ you are on a journey. You are on a journey on “the Highway of Holiness,” as Isaiah calls it. It is a journey that began when the Holy Spirit worked faith in your heart. Many of you may not even remember beginning this trip, because it began when your parents had you baptized as a baby. But you know you are on this journey now because you are following Jesus. This Highway Jesus has us on is the path to heaven through faith in Him. So as we are on this journey, what is Jesus going to bring for us? Christ brings water in this wilderness. Christ brings healing for the disabled. And Christ brings protection from predators. This is what Christ brings for our journey to our heavenly home.

When you think of problems traveling in a desert or wilderness, what is the first problem you think of? Water! There is no water in a barren wasteland or a desert. Water is a priceless commodity upon which our lives are dependent. If we don’t have water we aren’t going to survive.

Our journey in Jesus on the Highway of Holiness takes us smack dab through a barren spiritual wasteland, a true desert of sin. The world seems like it has so much to offer - money, fame, power, sex, intoxication, and the like. But none of these things can quench our spiritual thirst. They only leave us thirsting for more and more. More money, more power, more fame, more sex, more drugs, and more alcohol.

Only Jesus can quench our spiritual thirst. When Jesus was sharing the good news with the unbelieving Samaritan woman at the well He said, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life." (John 4:13-14) This is what Jesus brings for our journey through this spiritual wasteland. Jesus comes with water.

So many people are thirsting for this spiritual water. How many times have you heard people ask, what the meaning of life is? Their spirit is thirsting for the truth. They’re not quite sure what they are searching for but they know that they have not found it. Until they find the Gospel they will continue to be parched. It is only Jesus who can quench that thirst. He came to the barren wilderness of this world with heavenly refreshment. He came with true love. Not the emotion of love, but the action of love. Jesus came to offer His life as a ransom for all. For all - not just one or two of His friends, but for all - friend and foe alike.

This is the water Jesus supplies us through His Gospel for our journey through this parched land. The water Jesus supplies produces life in the desert as it creates faith in our hearts. Faith which blooms in the desert of this world. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, And streams in the desert. The parched ground shall become a pool, And the thirsty land springs of water; In the habitation of jackals, where each lay, There shall be grass with reeds and rushes. In this world of sin that life saving water now flows through His Gospel. Christ brings us water for our journey through this desert.

In our Gospel reading for this morning, we heard the disciples of John the Baptist ask Jesus if He was the one - the promised Messiah. Jesus’ answer to them? “God back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.” (Matthew 11:4-5) The works of Jesus testified to who He is - true God and true Man. This is exactly what was prophesied of here in Isaiah, would happen when God came. But Jesus did not just bring this to those who were physically blind, lame, leprous, deaf, dead and poor. Christ brings this healing to the spiritually disabled also.

The Apostle Paul wrote of this to the Ephesians, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world.” (Eph 2:1-2a) We all were born dead in our trespasses and sins. All men born into this world were born with this fatal condition. According to our bodies we were alive, but according to our spirits we were dead sinners. It took an act of the God of all life to give us life. This is what Jesus brings. We who are by nature spiritually blind to the things of God, deaf to the things of God, spiritually lame - Christ brings healing.

God is the Creator of life. He gives life and makes alive. Spiritually God does this by His Holy Spirit. Through the Gospel the Holy Spirit enters the heart of man creating spiritual life. This God creates faith that believes in Jesus, the Son of God, as Savior. This faith looks to Jesus for forgiveness and salvation. This faith looks to Jesus for perfect righteousness. Christ came to bring life and healing. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing. We see God doing this in conversion. Take for instance what Jesus did through the Apostle Paul. He was once an enemy of Christ and the Gospel. But when Jesus came to Paul with healing, He opened Paul’s spiritual eyes to show him that he needed a Savior and that Jesus was that Savior. He unstopped Paul’s spiritually deaf ears to the Gospel. Paul went on to sing the praises of Jesus as he spread the Gospel on his many missionary journeys.

Jesus brings each one of us this healing when He brings us to faith. He does this to the infant by rebirth in baptism. He does this to the adult through the Gospel. We who by nature had only a dirge to sing as we made our way through this life on the path to hell because of our sins, now by the Gospel have a new song to sing! Forgiveness, life, and salvation in Jesus Christ.

Having given healing through His Gospel, Christ also gives us strength for our journey. Strengthen the weak hands, And make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are fearful-hearted, "Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, With the recompense of God; He will come and save you." This too God works through His Gospel in Word and Sacrament. Right now, the Holy Spirit is at work through His word is strengthening your faith for this journey to the Promised Land. Through His Word He reassures you that your sins are forgiven. He came and paid your debt to God Himself. And this same Christ will come again to take you from this wasteland to Himself in heaven. Christ brings healing on our journey.

When we take trips we probably don’t give safety as much thought as we should. But imagine taking the car you have now on a trip from downtown Baghdad to Jerusalem. This road will take you through Baghdad, Western Iraq, Jordan, and Israel. How safe would you feel in your pick-up or minivan? That is a dangerous part of the world. You’d want to be assured of safe travel if you were ever to take that trip.

We need protection on the Highway of Holiness don’t we. There are many threats we face - attacks from predators lurking in the tall grass. Peter writes of the great foe who means to harm us, “your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter5:8) This is a very real enemy who is very serious about overthrowing your faith in Jesus. He will use any means necessary to try and devour your faith. Now if we attempt to engage this enemy and defeat him by ourselves we will fail miserably. Eve in her perfection could not withstand the devil’s temptations. Peter who traveled with Jesus could not withstand the pressures of the world and denied Jesus. Paul writes, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” (1 Cor 10:12) We are no match for the devil, in our pride we will fall if we try to stand on our own two feet. But praise be to God that He who is for us is greater than he who is against us. On our journey Christ brings us protection.

Christ came to prepare the Way. He Himself is the Way to heaven. Jesus said of Himself, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) This road that Isaiah speaks of, is Jesus. A highway shall be there, and a road, And it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it, But it shall be for others. Whoever walks the road, although a fool, Shall not go astray. The unbeliever will not be on this road, because he has rejected Jesus. But this road is a safe road. Even a fool is safe on this road. The guardrails of the Gospel protect him from going off into the ditch.

On this road to Highway of Holiness, Christ protects us. The lion and ferocious beast cannot get up on the Highway of Holiness. Christ grants safe travel to all His believers. Jesus also spoke of this. Of His sheep Jesus says, "And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand.” (John 10:28-29) Jesus paid for our souls with His blood, His very life. He is not about to leave us unprotected. But the redeemed shall walk there. This is you! He who loved you enough that He would die for you has promised to be with you always and provide you with protection from predators. Through His Word and His Sacraments, Jesus protects us.

So you see, Jesus supplies us with everything we need on this journey. The water that quenches our spiritual thirst, the strength to keep going, and protection from all that seeks to harm us. And Jesus supplies us with all these blessings in His Means of Grace - the Gospel in Word and Sacrament.

Our text then closes with some very glorious words. Because of all that Christ has done for us and daily continues to do for us on our journey through this life, we have joy. Joy as we enter the gate to life eternal in heaven. Close your eyes and envision yourself after this long, hard journey entering the golden city, the New Jerusalem. Gates of pearl and jasper, city streets of pure gold. This is the promise land Jesus came to give you. By His perfect life and innocent death we are redeemed and given this gift of God’s grace, having been called to faith. And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, And come to Zion with singing, With everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, And sorrow and sighing shall flee away. Amen.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Isaiah 11:1-10 "The Gospel According to Isaiah: II) God's Kingdom is Worth Waining For"

CLICK for audio of the Sermon

Isaiah 11:1-10
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. 2 And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. 3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, 4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. 5 Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins. 6 The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. 7 The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den. 9 They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.10 In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.

II) God’s Kingdom is Worth Waiting For
- It’s humble beginnings
- Ruled in righteousness
- Brings peace and safety

Dear fellow redeemed who are eagerly awaiting the second Advent of our Savior Jesus,
It’s worth the wait. There are few things in life that we really feel like they are worth the wait. In this age of instant gratification, 24-7 shopping, and the interenet, it seems like we are so impatient with things that if we have to wait 5 minutes in line for a meal that we’ve waiting far too long. Though they said those chairs ordered on Cyber-Monday would take 5 to 10 days to get from Oakland to your house, still it seems like it should be able to get here faster than that.

Jesus knew we would have trouble waiting - especially waiting for His second Advent on Judgment Day. For this reason He reminds us constantly to stay spiritually awake and alert, “lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.” (Lk 21:34) Likewise, His Apostles, Paul and Peter, exhort us to stay spiritually awake and alert, watching for His second coming because the return of Jesus on the Last Day will be worth the wait! As we continue our series on the Gospel according to Isaiah, let us consider how waiting for the Kingdom of God is worth the wait. We begin by examining its humble beginnings.

Most of you are probably familiar with Christmas Tree that is known as “the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree.” It comes from the classic animated Christmas special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Charlie Brown, who is depressed that everyone seems to have forgotten about the true meaning of Christmas, has to buy a Christmas tree. The one he purchases is the last one in the tree lot - a scrawny evergreen tree only a couple of feet high, with about 4 branches. It is so pathetic that it can only hold one ornament on it. Thus, scrawny, sickly looking Christmas trees are now referred to as “Charlie Brown Christmas Trees.” When we are searching for Christmas trees we usually try to avoid Charlie Brown Christmas Trees for our house. We want a healthy looking tree with broad, healthy branches. Not a humble, scrawny tree.

As Isaiah begins to describe the Kingdom of the promised Messiah, Jesus, in our text the picture he paints is something similar to a Charlie Brown tree. “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” Isaiah is here speaking of the royal family tree of Jesse. Jesse was the father of King David. It was through Jesse’s son, David, that the promised Messiah, the King of kings, would eventually come. But in the 700 years from Isaiah to Jesus, that royal line would be chopped down. And by the days of the beginning of the New Testament era there was nothing but a stump left of Jesse’s royal family tree. No descendant of Jesse’s son David was sitting on the throne in Jerusalem.

Yet Isaiah prophecies that from that stump a little shoot would come forward. While it wouldn’t seem like much to the casual passer by, there was life coming from this stump. From the roots of Jesse, from his family tree, a royal branch would grow. That shoot, that branch is King David’s greater Son, Jesus Christ.

Like a shoot or a branch, Jesus’ beginnings were quite humble. He was born in relative obscurity. His first bed was a feeding trough for animals. His mother and step-father were insignificant no-bodies from Nazareth. His life was quite humble as well. His followers largely consisted of uneducated fishermen and outcasts of society. He had no place to lay His head and call His own. When He was placed on trial for crimes He never committed, there was no one to defend Him and speak up for His innocence. And His death was the death of a criminal, nailed to a cross.

Yet this shoot and branch from the stump of Jesse, with such humble beginnings, would be exalted to the King of kings and Lord of lords. Angels would worship Him and bow before Him. Almighty God the Father would seat Him at His right hand - a place of authority and prestige. And this Shoot and Branch from the stump of Jesse will one day return, raise the dead to life, and judge all people.

God’s Kingdom is worth the wait. His Kingdom will come in power on the last day, but right now His Kingdom is ruling the hearts of His believers. And right now it seems pretty humble. God uses humble means like His Word to set up His throne and rule in the hearts of men. He uses humble means like water and His word to convert sinners. He uses humble means like bread and wine to come and give the body and blood of His Son. Even the members of the Kingdom seems pretty humble. Paul writes that, “not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.” (1 Cor 1:26) The symbol of our salvation is a humble wooden cross on which our Savior died.

While the Church is not much to look at right now, oh how the glory of God’s coming Kingdom is worth the wait! Soon the Day is coming when “this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” (1 Cor 15:53) The Day is coming when we will all be like Jesus, for we shall see Him as He is. (1 Jn 3:2) The Day is coming when Jesus shall take us to the glorious kingdom in heaven where we shall join the angels in praising the Lamb that was slain to save us! Though the Kingdom has humble beginnings like our Savior King, it’s ultimate arrival will be well worth the wait!

Wouldn’t it be nice to have leaders that made the right decision every single time? Wouldn’t it be nice to know without a doubt that our representatives, senators, judges, and presidents were all above corruption? Not gunna happen. As long as we are ruled by sinful men there will be mistakes and corruption by our leaders. We see that was the case even when we examine the royal line that came from Jesse. Jesse’s great-grandson Rehoboam is but one example. When he took over the throne of his father, Solomon, the elders of Israel told Rehoboam to be lenient with the people and they would be loyal to him. But Rehoboam’s young friends told him to be rougher on the people than his father was so that they respect him. The result? Under Rehoboam’s rule the united kingdom of Israel split into two separate kingdoms.

Because of sin, we will never have a perfect ruler in the kingdoms of this world. However, things are much, much different in the Kingdom of God! King Jesus is the perfect king because He rules the Kingdom of God in perfect righteousness. The Holy Spirit rests on Him and gives Him the Spirit of wisdom and understanding - intellectually Jesus is superior to all others. Jesus has the Spirit of counsel and might - He forms the right conclusions and has the ability to carry them out. He has the Spirit of knowledge and fear of the LORD - everything Jesus does stems from His knowledge, love, and respect of the LORD and His will. Jesus is the perfect King.

Jesus’ doesn’t play favorites and doesn’t go by externals. He delights in those who love the LORD. His judgments are always right and fair. He is on the side of the poor in spirit and meek of the earth. We see this especially when King Jesus laid down His life to save those who could not save themselves. But on the other hand, He is against the wicked, unbelieving world. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mk 16:16)

While in this world we must live with the consequences of sinful decisions that were made, we know that right now Jesus is ruling His Church in righteousness and faithfulness. He is doing the perfect thing for His Church and will be faithful in keeping every promise God has made in His Word. He is doing the perfect thing for you - to humble you and to keep you faithful to Him. And when Jesus returns on the Last Day, it will be the end of all sinful decisions and consequences. King Jesus will rule us in righteousness forever in heaven. The Kingdom of God is worth the wait!

In the closing verses of our text, Isaiah uses some striking picture language. “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb...the cow and the bear shall graze...” These are things we would never see in this world. The wolf would normally find the lamb easy prey. The bear would love to feast on the cow, rather than grazing together with it. Yet Isaiah speaks of animals that would otherwise be enemies, dwelling together in peace and safety. What Isaiah is expressing here is the peace and safety that the Shoot of Jesse would restore. This is what it was like in Paradise, before the fall into sin. All of God’s creatures dwelt in peace and safety. There was nothing to fear because there was no sin and no death. A little child could safely do a cattle drive with wolves, leopards, and lions - without his parents fearing for his life.

While Paradise was lost because of sin, Jesus came to restore Paradise. He came to remove the curse of sin and the sting of death. Jesus came to bring peace and safety. But this could only come by defeating those enemies which threaten. He had to defeat sin by taking our load and debt of sin on Himself and putting it to death in His body. He had to defeat death by Himself dying and rising from it on the third day. He had to defeat the devil by being tempted as we are, but never falling into sin like we do.

Our King engaged in battle and emerged victorious on Easter Sunday. He brought peace and safety. Through Jesus we are now at peace with God, we have been reconciled to Him. In Jesus we are now safe - the gates of hell cannot prevail against us. “They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” In Jesus, Paradise has been restored. Through the knowledge of the LORD, through faith in the LORD, we have peace and safety. Our sin has been removed, Jesus has overcome death and promised us the victory in Him, and in Jesus the Devil cannot harm us.

But there still are threats, aren’t there. The chief threat is within each of us. Our sinful flesh which doesn’t not want to be full of the knowledge of the LORD. Our sinful nature despises preaching and the word. Our sinful nature that wants to obey the devil rather than our Savior God. Being rid of our sinful nature when Jesus returns will be one of the greatest joys of heaven. Then nothing will be able to hurt or destroy us. We will live in perfect peace and safety forever. But until that day we must daily put off our old man and all his sinful desires, and put on our new man of faith. Make use of the tools God has given you. Listen to, read, learn His Word. Make regular use of Lord’s Supper by which our King Jesus gives us His body and blood to strengthen our faith and reassure us that our sins have all been paid for. Stay spiritually alert and awake, for the Kingdom is coming soon and it is well worth the wait! May God ever help us to this end. Amen!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Matthew 1:18-25 "The Birth Announcement of Jesus of Nazareth: 1) Name: JESUS 2) Parents: THE VIRGIN BIRTH

Midweek Advent Series:
The Birth Announcement of Jesus of Nazareth
I. Name: JESUS (Click for Audio)
II. Parents: THE VIRGIN BIRTH (Click for Audio)

Text: Matthew 1:18-25

For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Is 9:6
In the name of that Child which has been born unto us, and that Son which has been given unto us, grace and peace be multiplied to each one of you in His name!
Everybody enjoys getting baby announcements, right? It is a time of such joy and excitement. Someone you know had been expecting a baby and now the announcement arrives to let you know that the bundle of joy has arrived! Was it a boy or a girl? What did they name him or her? How much did the baby weigh and how long was the baby? These are all things you typically find on a baby announcement. After we sent Abigail’s announcement out someone wrote back to us, excited, yet still wanting to know how much she weighed and how long she was.

In this season of Advent we are gearing up to celebrate a birth of a very special baby Boy. If you were to receive a birth announcement about this Child’s birth, what would it say? What was His name? Who are the parents? When was He born? What were His dimensions? Tonight we want to consider the first two parts of the birth announcement for Jesus of Nazareth and consider the name given to the Child and who His parents are. To guide us this evening we turn to the Gospel according to Matthew, chapter one, beginning with the eighteenth verse:

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.

So far the Word of God. May God send us His Holy Spirit and strengthen our faith through His Word!

Immediately after a couple learns they are going to be parents, they begin the name game. They try to think of good boy names and good girl names for their child. And think of how important this choice will be! This is the name that will be with this person for their whole life. Obviously parents want to be careful in their choice. Parents will try to avoid a name that has a negative connotation associated with it. Most parents will not want to name their child “Jezebel” or “Judas” because of the awful things we know about them. Other names parents will want to avoid are ones with bad meanings. For instance you wouldn’t want to name your child “Ichabod” because the name means “inglorious.” (What a way to start out your life!) Other names are just too important to pass along to our children - like there is too much to live up to. For instance, you don’t find many baby boys being named Israel or Moses, simply because of the greatness associated with those names.

So when we get those baby announcements in the mail we are interested to find out what name the parents chose for their child. Sometimes we wonder why that name was chosen. For instance, when Zacharias and Elizabeth had their baby boy, all their friends and relatives assumed the boy would take his father’s name or a name from the family. They were surprised to hear that both Elizabeth and Zacharias demanded their son be named John - the name which the angel Gabriel told Zacharias to give to his son. And the meaning of the name is quite fitting. The name means “Jehovah is gracious.” And how gracious the LORD was to Zacharias and Elizabeth giving them a son in their old age. But more than that, how gracious the LORD was in giving them a son was to be the forerunner to the Savior of the World!

But as we receive the birth announcement we see the name chosen for that Baby boy born on Christmas Eve is “Jesus.” It probably was not an unusual name for boys in Judea or Galilee. You see the name “Jesus” is the Greek version of the name “Joshua” - an Old Testament hero. There would have, no doubt, been countless Jewish parents who wanted their son to bear the name of “Joshua.” It’s meaning is wonderful - “Jehovah saves” - and the name has a great association with it, the man who led the Children of Israel from the Wilderness into the Promised Land of Canaan.

But when the angel appears to Joseph and tells him to name the Child “Jesus” it is even more fitting for this Baby Boy. “You shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” You see, from God’s perspective, Jesus of Nazareth wasn’t named after Joshua of the Old Testament, but Joshua of the Old Testament was named in anticipation of this child who would be born. Jesus really is “Jehovah saves.” Jesus would be Jehovah who would save His people from their sins. He would die on the cross as the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world. The Old Testament hero Joshua would also be a picture of Jesus who leads us from this Wilderness of Sin into the Promised Land of Heaven.

The name on this birth announcement really is the perfect name for this Baby Boy. “For there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) Only in the name of Jesus are our sins forgiven and are we reconciled unto God in heaven. Only in the name of Jesus are our prayers heard before the Father in heaven. He is the only Savior. The Apostle Paul writes of His name, “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth.” (Phil 2:9-10)


Another piece of important information on a birth announcement card is who the parents are. The parents are delighted to announce the birth of their child and they want you to share in their joy. But imagine getting a birth announcement where only the name of the mother was listed and no father. What would you be left to imagine? Wouldn’t you imagine that this child was conceived out of wedlock and that the father of the child is not involved in the baby’s life? That only the mother is left to care for this child? What other conclusions would you be left with?

The news about his fiancee led Joseph to the same basic conclusions. Mary was pregnant and he knew for a fact that he was not the father. The Old Testament custom with betrothals was that when a Jewish man and Jewish woman became engaged the were to be considered married, though they were not yet to live together as husband and wife - as was the case with Mary and Joseph. To break off the betrothal was considered the same as breaking a marriage.

So for Joseph to hear that Mary was pregnant and he was not the father left Joseph with only one conclusion, Mary had cheated on him. As a just man, he was considering the right thing to do. She had been unfaithful to him, she had broken their betrothal, yet in love he did not want to make a public spectacle of her and put her to shame. So he thought it would be best to quietly dissolve the betrothal and each would go their separate ways.

But as he was thinking about what to do, the truth about the Child in Mary’s womb was revealed to him. In a dream, an angel of the Lord told Joseph, “Do not be afraid to take to you Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.” (v20) Something unheard of had happened to Mary, she was pregnant but she was still a virgin. She had not been unfaithful to Joseph. While she was the mother of this Child, He had no earthly father. The Child was of the seed of the woman, but not of the seed of man. The Child had been conceived of the Holy Spirit. The Child that was growing within her was true God!

This is the Virgin Birth which God had prophesied 700 years earlier through the mouth of His servant Isaiah, “‘Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.’” (v23) This Child is Immanuel, He is God with us. He is true God and true Man. He is God with us - on our side to save us.

All this was a fulfillment of the promise God had made right after sin and death entered the world. Just after Eve ate of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden and brought sin and death into the world, God made this promise to Satan, “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” (Gen 3:15) The Serpent crusher was to come from the Seed of the woman. Joseph’s fiancee was that woman and Jesus was that Seed of the woman. That Child growing in Mary’s womb was the Serpent crusher that believers had been waiting 4,000 years for! Finally, the Savior was going to be born!

What a beautiful birth announcement for us to receive in God’s Word! No picture on the cover of our bulletin can properly capture the true beauty of this birth announcement. The name of the child shall be Jesus because He saves us from our sins. The Father of this Child is God and the Child’s mother is the Virgin Mary. He is Immanuel - God with us to save ! All praise be to our Savior God! Amen.