Forgive the infant as Christ forgives you…

This evening my wife and I brought our new, infant son to church for Divine Service. We sat through the worship service, hearing God’s Word and receiving His gifts. When it came time for the Lord’s Supper, I carried my son to the Table and knelt at the rail with my wife and older boy. The pastor came down the line, passing out the bread and blessing the children. At my older son he said, “May God keep you in your baptismal grace.” At my newborn he stopped, looked down and forgave my 11-day-old of his sins by saying, “I forgive you your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

Interestingly enough, he thought it appropriate and necessary to forgive a newborn of his sins. And he was right. In Romans the need for salvation is apparent.

“As it is written:
‘None is righteous, no , not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
-Romans 3:10-12

We cannot save ourselves. We are not righteous, not a single one of us. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” says Romans 3:23. How then can even the child who is new to life outside the womb be saved? Through Christ Himself! The next verse in Romans 3 tells the sweet Gospel: “And are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

The pastor granted to my child forgiveness by his Office, the Office instituted by Christ and given the power of forgiveness of sins. John 20:23, “If you forgive the sin of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

My wife and I made the decision to bring our child to the Table to be forgiven. He has not yet been received into Christ’s Church through baptism, so we know that the pastor, in his Office, can and did grant our son the forgiveness of Christ. And for that I am truly grateful. Thank you, Pastor.

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The Meaning of the Advent Wreath

We’ve all seen it, the wreath in the front of the church.  It’s brought out of the back or the downstairs storage closet every year right around Thanksgiving, dusted off, and put up by the pulpit.  The acolyte comes out and lights one or more candles throughout Advent, and it adds to the lighting and majesty of our preparations for the coming of Christmas.  But what do those four (or five) candles mean?  Why is a new one lit each week?  And what is up with the PINK ONE?!

From an lcms.org/faq document concerning questions about Worship/Congregational Life and the Church Year:

The traditional use of Advent candles (sometimes held in a wreath) originated in eastern Germany even prior to the Reformation. As this tradition came down to us by the beginning of this century, it involved three purple candles and one pink candle. The purple candles matched the purple paraments on the altar (purple for the royalty of the coming King). The pink candle was the third candle to be lit (not the fourth) on Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent. “Gaudete” means “Rejoice!” in Latin, which is taken from Philippians 4:4.  

(“Rejoice! . . . the Lord is near”). Hence a “pink” candle was used to signify “rejoicing.” Some also included a white “Christ candle” in the middle to be lit during the 12 days of Christmas (December 25-January 5).

We light a new candle each week to signify the coming of Christmas, and the excitement of Christ’s birth.  It’s a countdown of sorts, there to remind us that He, Christ Jesus,our Lord and King, came into the world.  He was a baby, born of woman, grew, learned, ate, breathed, walked, talked, worked, taught, suffered, died, rose again, and will return.  Until then, we can still partake in Him in the Holy Supper, receiving from Him the forgiveness of sins bought and paid for on the cross, when He took on the weight of the sins of all mankind.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.  Whoever believes in Him is not condemned,” John 3:16-18a.

Come, Lord Jesus!

I’m Pretty Sure the Mayans are Laughing at Us Now…

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Dear Christian Friends,

There’s certainly been a lot of talk as of late about the End of the World. When I will happen, what it will be like, and who’s going to get it first. The Mayans are getting more discussion as of late than during a seventh grade history lesson. The world is going to end on THIS day (December 21st), or THAT day (the 22nd), or at 11:11 (but which time zone?), or at 5:15 (AM or PM?). Every one is very worried that they’ll have to go to work on Friday morning, but that no one will get Christmas presents three days later. Or, my favorite, that the gravitational pull of the Earth will be reversed, in some cosmic, hilarious, twisting of every tested Law of Physics known to man about the attraction of objects, and all of the stuff not tied down will be blasted into space…I think I’ll just chuckle about that one and move on.

“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” -Mark 13:32

It seems silly to attempt to predict the end of the world. It is stated very plainly throughout Scripture that we won’t get to know when it’s coming. We can guess all we want, but it’s just a guess. The LORD will not reveal it to us. It makes us anxious because we, as sinful people, want to be in control. We try to know it all. We want to be in charge. We want to be like God. It’s First Commandment stuff here, people.

The words of Christ comfort us as we begin to fret about the end and our lack of control. In Luke 12:25-26 Christ says, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” The end is not for our concern. We do not live by our anxiousness. “The righteous shall live by faith.” -Romans 1:17

We live in the knowledge that Christ died for us. He suffered on the cross, bore our sins, and is our Savior. He gives us life and salvation through His Word, and the faith that comes by His Sacraments, which are the means of grace through the elements and His Word. Because, in the end, it always comes back to Jesus and His Word.

The verse in Mark above is important about the day and hour of the end, but the verse immediately preceding holds all the truth we need about the end of days.

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My Words will not pass away.”

Come, Lord Jesus. Amen!

Gospel of the Week – December 23

Luke 1:39-45 – Mary Goes to See Elizabeth, and John and Jesus Meet for the First Time

Here we are, in Luke 1. Zechariah has gone mute because he doubted the words of the angel of the Lord, Elizabeth has been hiding out at home because she got pregnant at what Zechariah delicately describes as “advanced in years,” and now Mary has her own angel give her the good news that she is going to, despite her rampant virginity, bear the Son of God, the Christ, the Savior of the World. Needless to say, it’s been busy. All these adults running around, finding out that “Nothing will be impossible with God” in Luke 1:37.

So Mary goes to see Elizabeth, a close relative, with all haste because, frankly, this needs to be discussed. Imagine an angel of the Lord appears to your 70 year-old grandmother and your 13 year-old niece and tells them both that they’re pregnant, one with the greatest prophet to ever walk the Earth, and the other the Son of God Himself. Oh, and both women, one barren and the other a virgin, are having their first child. You can bet these women want to get together and talk this whole situation out.

As Mary approaches the house of Elizabeth, she calls out a greeting. Immediately, John leaps in Elizabeth’s womb. Note here that John doesn’t shift, he doesn’t move slightly, Elizabeth doesn’t get a cramp that might be the baby; John leaps! And Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, gives it to Mary straight. “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God, has arrived in Elizabeth’s house!

Let’s note the importance of what is going on here. The Gospel lesson is not about two women getting together over tea to hash out the problems in their lives. They are not meeting up to knit a couple of pairs of socks for the babies-to-come. They only get out a word edge-wise, and the children, who are still unborn, are already part of the act. These unborn infants, which today we have come to call fetuses, are participating in the world, and have stories to tell. John proclaims the Gospel to his mother with his leaping. Elizabeth recognizes that the child growing in Mary is a person, and of the Most High Importance. These are not medical conditions that these women have. They bear blessings for all mankind. One is the preface and prophet to the Greatest Story Ever Told, and the other IS that Story. He, Christ Jesus, is All-Atoning Sacrifice for all humanity, come to bear our sins away on the cross. His mother, Mary, is proclaimed by the Holy Spirit through Elizabeth to be blessed, as she carries in her womb the Son of God. And we are the recipients of the blessing her womb bore.

John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Remember that despise our needs, wants, or desires, life begins when God places it there.  He is the Giver of all life, the Planter of the seed which grows and blooms, and He is the One who shows time and again that we must respect the life He grants.  Amen.

Viva La Revolution!

Dear Christian Friends,

Many evenings in our household consist of the same routine. Bed-time is announced, which is immediately followed by the first attempted coup d’etat. This is subsequently quashed by the state police (a.k.a. Dad), and then The Resistance is punished with Chinese Water Torture (or, more commonly, a shower). Towel drying then commences (Mom has banned the use of her hair-drier), teeth are brushed (The Second Revolution Rises!), and then the government (a.k.a. Mom) declares a national curfew with the phrase, “Bed-time will be earlier from now on!” Off to the prison cell of a bedroom where the child is locked away under covers and a stuffed bulldog from IKEA. Tales of other failed rebellions are read, (or Charlotte’s Web…whatever is handy), and a hymn is sung by Dad after prayers. Just like any other household, right?

You may have stopped at the hymn. A hymn? Really? But why, one may ask? Is it for the soothing melody? The peaceful music?

I would say that “Water, Blood, and Spirit Crying” or “Onward, Christian Soldiers” are hardly lullabies. But the intent is not to coax the child off to sleep. It’s to teach.

Yes, it’s true. Lessons are learned at all times of day. And what better way to teach the Word of God than through music? Luther said, “Next to theology, I accord to music the highest place and the greatest honor.” He understood the importance of teaching in any way possible. Luther wrote a number of hymns, both to uplift the mind and spirit, and to direct our hearts toward Jesus Christ, the “Valiant One” who fights for us, as “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” proclaims.

And these songs are not just written to sell well, or have a catchy tune that makes the Christian Top 40. They come directly from the Word of God. The liturgical hymn, “Create in Me” is Psalm 51:10-12.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Sharing the hymns of the church with my children is something that I do because I know that through them I can teach them about Christ Jesus. It’s a blessing to have another way that I can give them the Gospel of our Lord.

And if it helps them to fall asleep, then I guess it’s another indication of how the Lord blesses us in many ways!

The Egotistical Underpinnings of First Amendment Rights and the Societal Response, or It’s Just a Chicken Sandwich, People

There’s been a lot of rumbling around the media and the Internet as of late regarding the ability of a retail food outlet’s president to state, very plainly, his beliefs on the family and homosexual relationships. The backlash to his statements, and subsequent support for them, has been tremendous in both quantity and volume. After all this discussion, it makes me wonder about this debate, and who should be protected by the law for what they say versus who have the “correct” viewpoint and the reasoned approach.

Dan Cathy, the President of Chick-fil-a, which is for all purposes a chicken sandwich shop, decided to make public on a Baptist media program his opinion about homosexuals and their desire to be married under the laws of the U.S. Cathy spoke not out of turn, nor did he speak out to a media that would be less supportive of his comments in order to by antagonistic. Instead, he answered a question about his financial support for organizations that work to keep marriage between a man and a woman, and then explained the position he and his family-owned company hold on the subject.

As word of his comments spread, the community supporting gay marriage under the law stepped in and decried his comments as anger-mongering, evil (or, at least, the opposite of good), and discriminatory. Supporters of Cathy have claimed he was under his First Amendment rights, according to the U.S. Constitution, to make these statement. Detractors have decided to protest his stores and push to block their expansion into markets across the country.

At this blog, the biblical definition of marriage is the belief of record, whether the United States decides to allow the marriage of two men or two women to exist legally. And that belief is held knowing full well that two things can result from it: 1) People may choose not to read this blog because it preaches Jesus Christ and Him crucified; that is the choice of any reader of any blog; 2) People may choose to argue, attack, threaten, decry, hack, or abuse this blog, and it will continue to preach about Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.

Because, at the end of it all, we are all sinners (Romans 5:12). We have all done the evil we do not want to do (Romans 7:15). And yet, Christ comes for all, to die on the cross for the sins of the world. He died for all, that all might live (Romans 6:10). We need only to listen to His Word, and by doing so, receive the Holy Spirit and the faith the Spirit brings to us.

I’ve never actually eaten at a Chick-fil-a. Will Dan Cathy’s comments make me more likely to do so? Probably not if I’m not in the mood to eat chicken. Cathy can says whatever he likes. He will have to deal with the response society brings on him and his business. He will also have to deal with the judgement of the Lord when Cathy stands before him in his death. And then, his actions, his words, his thoughts will not save him. Only faith in Christ alone and His atoning death and suffering on the cross and resurrection on the third day will bring Dan Cathy, and all of us, to eternal life in Christ Jesus.

He is Risen! Hallelujah!