“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14, ESV)
The lectionary reading of our Christmas morning liturgy from the opening verses of John’s gospel take us back before the book of Genesis. Before God created anything, He existed. The Word that John writes of is Jesus. He has come to speak the truth and to bring the light of God into the sin-darkened world. He is the Messiah who was promised to the Jews, yet He existed always; He created all things; He holds all things together by His power. And yet He is God incarnate, in the flesh. If we want to know what God is like, we must look at Jesus who is the fullness of God’s revelation to man. He is full of mercy, truth and peace. The Law of Moses too was truth but it revealed that we needed God for the Law was an onerous burden which was impossible to keep. The good news is that though we cannot keep the Law Jesus came to do this by becoming the Lamb of God, the sacrifice which would atone for the sins of all mankind.
Jesus is who He says He is, but many people in our modern world would disagree, sometimes violently. Jesus was born 2000 years ago to make all human beings right with God, to bring peace and love to all. But His way to peace and love is rejected by humanity and the result is the chaos, turmoil and brutality that assaults us all. People want an end to violence. They want an end to hatred and bigotry. Yet they refuse to do things God’s way.
This was true of the rulers of the Jews, who held religious authority in the time Jesus was born. Though they claimed to walk in the light they were dwelling in spiritual darkness. While it was true that they looked for the Messiah, Jesus was not who they expected. They looked for a warrior King who would throw off the yoke of Roman oppression, not a baby born in a manger, not a suffering servant who would be executed like a criminal. Those who were oppressed by sin and Satan, these would accept Jesus. They would no longer dwell in darkness, but in the light of God’s truth revealed in the Word. Today they share that light with all humanity so that all may enter into the peace of God’s Kingdom.
Trinity Lutheran Hicksville
“But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” (Daniel 12:1b-2)
The prophet Daniel was with the Jews in exile in the land of Babylon far from the Promised Land. The people were in bondage and needed to know that the Lord had not forgotten them. These words from Daniel prophesy that He will one day deliver them and punish His enemies for these word clearly depict the coming final day of judgement. That will be a day of reckoning and punishment for the wicked, those who rejected the Lord and abused and persecuted His chosen ones. But that same day will bring the reward of eternal life to those who have placed their faith in Him.
Salvation by faith is the message we see proclaimed in the New Testament but it is faith in Jesus as the only acceptable sacrifice for not on,y our sins, butt for the sins of the whole world. This is the essence of the gospel. It is the message we who are God’s chosen people are now to bring to the people in our world. We must let them know that God will judge each of them for their sin and unbelief unless they repent and believe that the sacrifice of Jesus is theirs as well.
Therefore we can rejoice in the certain hope of deliverance. Yet many Christians, rather than spread this news would rather spend their time speculating on when and how these prophetic events will take place while gleefully outlining the punishment of the wicked. But the Lord does not delight in the punishment of the wicked. After all, Jesus sacrificed Himself for the sins of all human beings. We His disciples are called to work toward the goal of leading all sinners to find the faith that Jesus is offering.
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Deacon Cavaliere, Trinity Lutheran Church, 22 West Nicholai Street, Hicksville. NY 11803
“And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.” (1 John 3:22).
The major religions of the world claim to teach about love, yet do not believe in a loving God who dispenses mercy and unconditional grace to undeserving people. Almost every religion other than Christianity centers on the performance of good works or the attainment of inner purity or self-awareness by means of good deeds or meditation. Thus most religions teach that the good works of men, the righteous acts mankind performs will make them righteous and holy and one with God, or as in case of some such as Buddhists, make us one with the universe or universal spirit. Christianity teaches that such a thing is impossible for all men are sinners and incapable of pleasing God on their own. No human is inherently righteous or holy. No human can perfectly perform good acts and deeds with consistently pure motives. At best even the most altruistic of human deeds is performed with mixed motives.
God gives righteousness and holiness to those men and women who have faith in Him. And whom does God choose to grant His favor to? To those who are noble and do good things or appear righteous, religious, rich or famous? No, He grants His favor to sinners, to the weak, the despised and the humble for only they realize their need for God. And why does He grant His favor to anyone at all? Because He loves us.
Jesus calls us to follow in His footsteps. He calls us to love Him by loving our brethren in thought, word and deeds. In Jesus, God has shown His love for all mankind. He gave Himself up for us. We ought to do the same for Him, not out of obligation, or guilt or the desire to be liked or to do enough good to make it to heaven, but out of thankfulness for all He has one for us.
“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’ And he said to them, ‘Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.’ And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.” (Mark 1:35-39)
As Jesus began His earthly ministry He launched an assault on Satan and his forces. He did this not in some arena in great city with millions watching Him in person or by live video feed, but in an obscure backwater of the mighty Roman Empire known as Galilee. He attacked by preaching the truth: the Kingdom of God had arrived in Him, bringing freedom and liberation from sin. He demonstrated this loving the people He came to save with acts of healing and deliverance. He came to deliver not the high and mighty, nor the self-righteous and self-reliant, but the miserable and humble people whom they oppressed. These wretched people flocked to Him for help with their troubles, illness and demonic oppression.
The miracles Jesus performed, the signs and wonders He wrought were powerful demonstrations of His authority and power that showed that He came from God. The most powerful of His works was His preaching. He gave people hope as He spoke of God’s coming permanent deliverance from sin, sickness, death and the devil for it was Jesus who had come to reconcile the world to God. This would happen on the cross as Jesus took offered Himself as the sacrifice for the sins of all.
The world needs to know that Gospel of reconciliation. The Words and authority of God have been entrusted to us to bring that message to the billions in our world oppressed and enslaved by Satan. And we do this not with displays of signs and wonders but with acts of love, mercy, and compassion as servants of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Trinity Lutheran Hicksville
“‘For nothing will be impossible with God.’ And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her.” (Luke 1:37-38)
The angel of the Lord who appeared to Mary to tell her that she was to give birth was the same who had appeared to her kinsman, Zacharias a priest. But Mary was a simple and humble country girl who in some way knew the scriptures. She knew the Lord and had faith in Him. She knew He was capable of mighty deeds, yet the message the angel Gabriel gave her made no sense since the supernatural conception of a child by the Holy Spirit was something never heard of before. Mary understood that the Lord was finally fulfilling His age old promise of Messiah and was glad of it. She was willing to do what the Lord commanded even if she did not fully comprehend how it was to happen. In addition, she did think about the affect this would have on here life or the consequences to her reputation and social status. All she thought was the Lord commanded and she had to obey without hesitation.
Mary is a good example for us to emulate. She had faith in the Lord. She knew that God always fulfills His promises. She knew that the Lord exalted the lowly. He called the least likely people to accomplish His work, not the rich, famous and mighty. The Lord God delights to extend mercy. His ways and His will confound humans because He does things contrary to what the world thinks best. He favors and blesses the lowly, the humble, the insignificant, and uses them to accomplish His greatest works. He still does this through us His Church.
Merry Christmas to all!