- January 5th, 16:35
Seeing that many folk who live out east were unable to attend the Divine Service this Sunday owing to cool temperatures, we are reprinting the entire set of Pastor Wilson's notes. The sermon is included.
January 5, 2014 — The Second Sunday of Christmas — Rite 2, p. 60
Hymn 165 Let the Earth Now Praise the Lord 1-5
Confession of Sin– option I
(in place of Introit) hymn 148 Praise God the Lord, Ye Sons of Men 1-4
Collect O Lord God, heavenly Father, You allowed Your dear Son, Jesus Christ, to become a stranger and a sojourner in Egypt for our sakes, and led Him safely home to His fatherland: Mercifully grant that we poor sinners, who are strangers and sojourners in this perilous world, may soon be called home to our true fatherland, the kingdom of heaven, where we shall live in eternal joy and glory; through the same, Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.
St. Isaiah 42.1–9 “Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry out, nor raise His voice, Nor cause His voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench; He will bring forth justice for truth. He will not fail nor be discouraged, Till He has established justice in the earth; And the coastlands shall wait for His law.” Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, Who gives breath to the people on it, And spirit to those who walk on it: “I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness, And will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the nations, To open blind eyes, To bring out prisoners from the prison, Those who sit in darkness from the prison house. I am the LORD, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another, Nor My praise to carved images. Behold, the former things have come to pass, And new things I declare; Before they spring forth I tell you of them.”
1 Peter 4.12–19 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now “ If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?” Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.
St. Matthew 2.13–23 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.” Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: “ A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted,Because they are no more.” Now when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee. And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”
Hymn 165 Let the Earth Now Praise the Lord 6-9
Grace to you and Peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus.
“Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.”
This is Your Word heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the Truth. Your Word is Truth. Amen.
Fellow redeemed: Our Lord promises through His prophet that the Christ He would send would “not fail nor be discouraged, till He has established justice in the earth.” Well many a man, when he achieves a position of authority and power has promised himself he would not fail nor be discouraged, no matter what. And he knows that he has resources entrusted to his position and under his authority to keep failure and discouragement at bay.
Herod the Great, king of Judea by imperial appointment of Cæsar Augustus, was not a man known to give in to discouragement, nor would he take failure sitting down. The Creed reminds us of another man who would not settle for failure, Rome’s governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate. And of course we heard just a couple of weeks ago about Pilate’s friend, and Herod the Great’s son, Herod, king of the Galilee. How did these men succeed? Well, when Herod of Galilee was criticized by the forerunner of the Christ, he had his men go seize him and throw John into the dungeon, and finally had them behead him. When Pontius Pilate was challenged by the High Priests, he had a man in whom he found no fault horribly scourged by his guard, and finally dispatched troops to crucify Him between two condemned thieves. And when old Herod the Great got a whiff of an infant who wise men named ‘King of the Jews’, what did he do to stave off discouragement? Why, he dispatched the might of the Judean army to go to the town of Bethlehem and slaughter every little boy two years old and younger whom they found.
The sad fact is that over and over again, from ancient emperors to modern tyrants, the pages of history are stained with the blood of those whom powerful men considered a challenge. Not that such men usually bloody their hands in doing it— see how nice and freshly washed are Pilate’s hands!— for they have men under their authority to do the low and dirty work for them. Herod didn’t have to survey the blooded cradles of Bethlehem. Pilate had no need to wield the scourge, hammer, or lance. And John the Baptist’s head was delivered to the king nice and neat on a charger.
Where do such dastardly fellows come from? Are they of some special breed? The sad truth is— these are your brothers and fathers. We are of a kind with these men history decries as evil monsters. And in your own petty way, in your thoughts and dark dreams, in your scheming, and when perchance you suppose you’ll get away with it, in your actions, you stand guilty of the same sin as they, for to stave off disaster or failure or discouragement you have also cheated, lied, robbed, and in a thousand tiny ways deprived your neighbor of peace, rest, contentment, and wellbeing. And if you could have it done for you? So much the better, eh?
We stand with the great sinners of old, and the tyrants and monsters of history. For we have done no better in our hearts. But this is only the way of things for fallen mankind. Sin has deprived us of the natural hope of life and contentment which God created us to dwell in. Change and decay and progressive loss are the assumed state of every man’s being. So we rob Peter to pay Paul, and if Paul doesn’t get it, and your wallet gets a little fatter, well, them’s the breaks. It’s not that it is only human. Humanity was created for better than that! No, this is only how it ever is for sinners. And it is into sin that our race has descended and in which we all have dwelt too long. Power and advantage are only gained at the cost of another. My joy may only come by your suffering. My life by your death. It is the way of sin. It is the way of a fallen and sad world.
But this is not how it is for a holy and gracious God. He comes humbly to us, born of a virgin, raised a carpenter’s son, who when threatened did not destroy Herod and his army. But sent His angel to appear to Joseph to warn him to flee. As another Joseph nearly two thousand years before had found refuge for his family in Egypt during a terrible time of drought and famine, so this Joseph would take Mary and the Child to that land to find shelter from the death that threatened in Judea. And in the fulness of time the Children of Israel came out of Egypt through the parted sea, so too, out of Egypt would come the Holy Family, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, to settle in the city of Nazareth of the Galilee.
As Jesus would not fail nor be discouraged even in His early years among us, neither would He be as the powerful among men. He lashed out at nobody. His safety and peace did not rely on the suffering and death of others; not even those who set themselves against Him as enemies.
And so Jesus would be called a Nazarene. St. Matthew records that this fulfills a prophecy. Not that the city even existed in the days of the Old Testament prophets, but they indeed had said that the Christ would be the shoot or branch from what to the world appeared to be the ruined, cut down, stump of the royal family of Israel, the line of David, the son of Jesse. And Nazareth literally means ‘branch-ville’ or ‘shoot-town’. Jesus indeed is the Son of David, of Jesse’s line, the enduring branch in that family tree Who would forevermore establish His kingship and dominion of salvation.
And Jesus’ kingship, authority, power, and might is not gained nor preserved by sending armies forth. As He told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight….” and as He told Peter “do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?” Jesus has infinite resources at His command. His angelic host number most certainly more than all the armies of man combined. He is after all, ‘Yahweh sabbaoth’ that is to say ‘Yahweh, commander of armies’ Even in His infancy Jesus is fully God, fully possessed of such authority, power, and might.
But to make war and destroy Herod, Pilate, or any other sinner — this is not the stuff of Jesus’ kingship. Though He undeniably has such power, Jesus’ kingship is established among us not by taking what is ours, or depriving men of power, but by giving of Himself to those who yet hate and despised Him. Jesus did not send heavenly troops against Herod’s army. He sent a messenger to Joseph to carry Him with Mary to safety. And when the time had finally come, after years of serving, teaching, healing, demonstrating His true claim as Christ, when that time was fulfilled, Jesus took His kingship not by war against those who are weaker (and we sinners all are weaker than God among us!), but in subjecting Himself utterly to humiliation and shame in our place and suffered the infinite pain of the condemnation and death of sinful mankind and was crucified— not to gain a thing for himself, for from eternity to eternity Jesus is, Creator, Unchanging God— but this kingship is to redeem you, to set you and all mankind free from the eternal penalty of sin, and to give mankind eternal life, peace, and joy again.
In this quest, King Jesus could not be discouraged, and He would not fail. For the very things that make for the discouragement and failure of the kings of this world are what Jesus took and used as His tools to wrest the power of sin and the chains of death from you, and undo and destroy them, and to set you free, and to make you new. And to declare you now His beloved, His brethren, and to share in His eternal inheritance of life with you. For you.
We began by discussing how mighty men get and stay mighty by exercising power against their fellow man. You recognized in yourself that same murderous sin, albeit more commonly in a thousand tiny ways, but no less sinful. And you see how God for you, your Jesus has not exercised His kingship by bringing sinners down but by lifting them up and redeeming and making them new again. And you may have wondered whether this is for you as well. The Law written on your heart accuses you for your sin. Learn this about Jesus: “A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench.” You feel your sin, you know you are weak. You believe, and yet you would cry ‘help my unbelief!’ It is for you, dear one, Jesus has exercised His Kingship of grace. It is your sin that is forgiven. It is you He loves. It is for you, and for all like you, He suffered and died. Jesus made Himself poor to make you rich. He died that you live. Here is the wonder. Jesus is for you. Your sin is forgiven.
The nations will rage, and kings and tyrants will lash out. The innocents of Bethlehem and many unknown villages suffer at the hands of such sinners. But Jesus is for you. And His recompense, His peace, is for the bruised, the weak, the repenting guilty. At the end, the sighs and tears of the countless victims of terror and sin will be met with the gladness and peace of God. Jesus is for you. And every tear will be wiped from their eyes. And sadness and hurt shall be remembered no more forever. Jesus is the everlasting King of Peace. He is for you.
The peace of God which passes all understanding guard over your heart and mind through Christ Jesus. Amen.
Prayer of the Church
The God and Father of our Lord Jesus has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing. Let us bring our prayers before Him, trusting that God will pour out abundant blessing on all for whom we pray.
For the Church throughout the world; for pastors, and all the people, that, chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, we may be holy and blameless before him. For our catechumens and those who instruct them, that they grow in understanding, discerning, and putting into practice the riches of God’s grace for us in Christ Jesus. Let us pray to the Lord, Lord, have mercy.
For those who govern, that they may lead with the wisdom and discernment that come from humility before God. Let us pray to the Lord, Lord, have mercy.
For all those whose lives are affected by war—our military personnel and their families, civilians, and our enemies—that the peace of God which surpasses understanding may overcome all hatred, heartache, violence, and despair. Let us pray to the Lord, Lord, have mercy.
For all who are stricken with illness, [especially __________], that they may be restored to health and wholeness. For the chronically or terminally ill, that they find comfort and hope in the promise of our eternal inheritance in Christ. Let us pray to the Lord, Lord, have mercy.
For parents, that treasuring in their hearts the riches of God’s grace in Christ, they raise their children to love and fear God. For children, that by the riches of God’s grace, they grow in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man. Let us pray to the Lord, Lord, have mercy.
In thanksgiving for the those who have died in Christ, that we may follow their example of rejoicing in our redemption through Christ’s blood, and join them in the praise of God’s glory into all eternity. Let us pray to the Lord, Lord, have mercy.
For this congregation, adopted into the family of God through Christ Jesus, that we may live to the praise of His glorious grace. Let us pray to the Lord, Lord, have mercy.
We have heard the word of truth. We believe in Christ. We are sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. To you, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus, we entrust all for whom we pray in the name of Christ. Amen.
Proper Preface …for in the mystery of the Word made flesh You have given us a new revelation of Your glory, that, seeing You in the person of Your Son, we may be drawn to the love of those things which are not seen…
Hymn 148 Praise God the Lord, Ye Sons of Men 5-8
Hymn 164 Now Are the Days Fulfilled