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Archive for December, 2014

The Great Names…..In the Eve of New Year

Wonderful Counselor

Wonderful Counselor! What a miracle Child: born of a virgin, both God and man in one person, entirely without sin! How eminently suited to be our Adviser and Guide: our temptations and problems were His, His divine counsel and wisdom were ours.

Mighty God! Another tribute to the Child’s deity: a frail, helpless, human infant, and yet the mighty God Himself. He has full responsibility for the world’s government, all things are placed under His feet. He is indeed able to be the Author of our redemption.

Everlasting Father! He that hath seen the Son hath seen the Father. The Son and the Father are one. They were always one, also before the Incarnation (“before Abraham was, I am”). The Son is also “one who continually acts as a father to his people”.

Prince of Peace! A royal Prince indeed, of the very dynasty of heaven. A heavenly Prince to restore the heavenly peace, which man had terminated. Under Him swords will be beaten into plowshares, spears into pruning hooks, war will be past (Is. 2: 4) .

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Isaiah 9 and Our Great Need.

Isaiah 9

I have been looking at outlines from old time Professors on Advent and Christmas Texts.  I was delighted with Professor Hoyers work on Christmas texts and this is a paraphrase of another Von.Rohr Sauer.

 

We need to be made aware of the darkness, sorrow, bondage, and strife which characterize our human lot, so that we may lay hold on the light, joy, freedom, and peace which Christ brings us and may, in turn, become effective instruments in helping to preserve and expand His kingdom of justice and righteousness.

Darkness is the symbol of ignorance. The worst ignorance is failure to recognize sin for what it is. Bondage points to those habitual sins, those deeply entrenched vices, which quickly become our masters when they are not curbed. Boots and uniforms suggest the bold attitude of those who challenge God’s world leadership and defy Him to bring on His judgment.

The Son is a gift, undeserved by man. God so loved that He gave. The phrase unto us is meaningful. The Son was certainly given, not just for the Jews, not just for the believers, but for all men. All are entitled to His grace and salvation.

Only those, however, who kiss the Son in the allegiance of faith (Ps. 2: 11, 12) can testify and say, “He is given unto us”

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Getting Ready for the New Year – Wonderful Counselor

Isaiah 9

Isaiah 9

The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined.

You have multiplied the nation
And increased its joy;[a]
They rejoice before You
According to the joy of harvest,
As men rejoice when they divide the spoil.
For You have broken the yoke of his burden
And the staff of his shoulder,
The rod of his oppressor,
As in the day of Midian.
For every warrior’s sandal from the noisy battle,
And garments rolled in blood,
Will be used for burning and fuel of fire.

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.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

This Child was born because the world was in darkness (v.2). Natural man gropes about in spiritual darkness. The shadow of death surrounds him constantly. Therefore the Child brought light and life, not a light like the flash of a weapon  which deals Out death but a light that radiates and glows with life.  Multiple sorrow was the aftermath of the fall (v. 3). God had said, “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow.” But the Child was born so that joy might be multiplied, a joy like that of the harvest festival or of victorious soldiers. Spiritual bondage was the lot of all men (v.4). Man’s slavery under sin was like bearing a heavy yoke or burden, like being struck on the back with staves and rods. Therefore the Child came to break this burdensome yoke and to shatter those rods and staves in a victory as miraculous as Gideon’s over the Midianites Judg. 7: 19-23).

War was being aggressively waged by man’s enemies (v. 5) . They had effective equipment for bringing men to their knees: marching boots that enabled them to trample roughshod over their opponents, uniforms that were scarlet-colored from the blood which they absorbed. But the Child turned the tide in this war, stripping the foe of boots and uniforms and burning all of his equipment.

Those were the reasons for the gift of the Son. But how could the Son effect such a deliverance from darkness, sorrow, bondage, and war? The four names that were given Him give us a clue to His power and ability (v. 6) .

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Everlasting Love

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Christmas at the Life Skills Training and Transition Center is always a special time.  Never mind that Joseph had a Minnesota Viking emblem sticking out of his robe, there is an exuberance at this time of the year that has nothing to do with glitter and wrapping paper.  It boils down to the recognition of love.

Jeremiah 31:3  The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love;  I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” 

1 John 4 –  “God is Love,”   God not only has love, as human beings, but He is Love altogether, a great, big fire of love, reaching from heaven to earth and back again, from eternity to eternity, Jer. 31, 3. This great and marvelous love to us God did not keep hidden and covered up, but He has manifested it, v. 9. God has manifested His great love to us already in the creation and preservation of all things, especially by creating us so wonderfully, by giving  us so many good things in life for our sustenance and enjoyment, Acts 14, 17; Luke 16, 25a; Ps. 104, 24. But proof supreme of God’s great and adorable love we have in the work of redemption, vv. 9. 10. The love of God manifested and revealed to us here is great indeed.  Because of the tremendous sacrifice it made. All true loveis manifested by sacrifice. What greater sacrifice could God have made?

He sent His only-begotten Son into the world, v. 9, had Him. become man, a very lowly man, put Him under the Law, had Him. suffer and die and endure all the curse of the Law for us.

CTM Commentary on the Eisenach Epistles

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Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

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I have never thought of this as a Christmas Hymn and yet I believe I heard it in many Christmas concerts this year and over the years.  The only thing “Christmassy” about if is the mention of a strange name.  According to Wikipedia –  The lyrics, which dwell on the theme of divine grace, are based on 1 Samuel 7:12, in which the prophet Samuel raises a stone as a monument, saying, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us” The English transliteration of the name Samuel gives to the stone is Ebenezer, meaning Stone of Help. The unusual word Ebenezer commonly appears in hymnal presentations of the lyrics.

So Ebenezer is a stone of help.  The great Christmas Classic “A Christmas Carol” takes that name and combines it with old verb “scrouge”, to press or squeeze.  So the protagonist in the story with a stony heart becomes a helper and rejoicer.  His stony heart, out of which could barely be squeezed a nickel, becomes a stone of help to the poor and needy.  I don’t think that is a stretch at all.

God opens his heart at Christmas and we see it is not a stony demanding heart but a giving merciful heart.  Through the gift of His Son he takes our hearts of stone and makes them hearts that beat for him and others.  As we prepare for the new year we can truly say “hitherto the Lord has helped us”.

 

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Snow Covered Sheep……………..

snow covered sheep

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Aunt Vivian RIP. Another Christmas Passing.

1 John heart

 

1 John4: 9 says, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. ”  I was focusing on those words on Christmas Eve and trying to get across that in Christ we have life and have it abundantly.  We have all the riches of God and choose to live poor.  We have life and choose to live like the walking dead. 

At the same time I have always had difficulty keeping my calender and understanding that time frame between Christmas and New Years.  It should be easy but for some reason it is not that simple.  The Sunday after Christmas brings us into a harsh reality of a nasty and brutish world were Christ becomes a refugee with a mad tyrant trying to kill him.  The murder of the innocents is held before our eyes and we look in the Bible to see the same monstrosities there that we see on the headlines and the news every day.

Time flies, and it reminds us of the fact that the end of our earthly life is ever drawing nearer and with it the
day when our bodies must be laid in the grave. However, the ever green tree under which we gathered for worship, this symbol of life and immortality, brings comfort to our hearts as we think of death and the end of our earthly days, it speaks to us of the one who came into the flesh to die for us and give us life and immortality.

After Christmas Eve Services I received word that my Aunt Vivian Seter had died.  Vivian was one of those people that was always there for the family.  If there was wedding, an illness, and new baby, or any of those events that mark the milestones of life, Vivian was usually there with her camera.  She was a Post Mistress for many years and ran post offices in Carbury and  Knox ND.  She was one of those steady influences in life that were a constant.  It is hard to imagine family gatherings without her.

Christmas comes and goes each year with a quicker pace than the year before.  The children that I baptized when I first came to Grafton are having children of their own and their grandma’s and grandpa’s and aunt’s and uncle’s are passing on.  The generations come and go and the milestones of life mark off our passing through this world.  The one constant, even more constant than Vivian, is the love of God in Christ.  The Christmas gift of the heavenly Father gives us life in this world and life in the world to come.

Luther commenting on the passage from 1 John says that ……..

He does not say that God hath given us some gift, but love itself and the fountain of all honors, the heart itself, and that not for our works or efforts, but of His grace..

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Long Time Waiting.

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Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.  Hebrews 1

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What Manner of Love?….. part 3

Hebrews 1

God brings His first born Son into the world.  He introduces Him, ushers Him in, unveils Him, and what have we here?  The exact replica of God the Father.

Hebrews 1:1-6

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.

Joy to the world! Luke 2, 10. God ushered in His Son for the joy of the world. But is the joy universal? How dark and cheerless so many hearts at Christmas! How foolish of proud man to be offended at the poverty and humility of the Son of God and to deprive himself through unbelief of the joy of greeting and worshiping the incarnate God! Yet we ourselves would flee in fear and guilt from the brightness of His glory and from the express image of His Person or despise in pride the Virgin Mary’s Son if this bringing in would be a judgment of the righteous God upon man. Faith sings: Christ, the Savior, is born. (G.H. Smukal)

 

 

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Love the Father Lavished Upon Us – part 2

christmas

The great gift given at Christmas is that because of Christ we are the children of God.  Old Seminary Prof Theodore Hoyer wrote about 1 John 3 – here is a paraphrase……

We are the sons of God; and if children, then heirs, but “it does not yet appear what we shall be,” 1 John 3, 2. Christians bear no visible marks of this inheritance. Hence the world regards their claim of sonship as arrogance and treats Christians accordingly.  Our own heart feels disappointed, and our reason, comparing actual experience in life with this claim, protests and doubts.  And the devil encourages such doubts and prompts return to the old ways of slavery under his dominion.

Our inheritance is a hope, v. 3. We shall be like Him; we shall see Him as He is. That is a concise description of heaven: All sin abolished, and with it all the results of sin; the divine image restored, and with it all the faculties impaired or totally lost through sin; and an eternity of life in the presence of God and our Savior, a full understanding and appreciation of His ways, and full enjoyment of communion with Him. – Only a hope, but a sure hope; “we know,” v. 2. And it is the Child born in Bethlehem who has purchased for us this sure hope.  What manner of love! To us such glory! Who would give more than a passing thought to the vicissitudes of life with such a hope in view ~

What manner of love! Regard it penitently, gratefully, adoringly.

 

 

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