FacebookTwitterStumbleuponLinkedinRSS FeedPinterest

The Baptism of Our Lord – First Sunday after the Epiphany - Series C

Text: Isaiah 43:1-7

Title: “Our True Worth in God”

Date: Sunday, January 13, 2019

Pastor Steve Bocklage

Even though the Christmas and New Year holidays are over, do you have guilty feelings for not getting a Christmas gift for that certain someone? Do you feel bad for not sending Christmas cards or emails to people you wanted to? How about a New Year’s resolution you made but have already broken? Are you still trying to go on that healthy diet or still thinking about exercising? Perhaps you want to stop smoking or stop drinking or stop some other addiction. When you combine these things with other pressures, anxieties, and struggles of life…is it any wonder that you may be feeling a bit down-in-the-dumps or even a little depressed. Sometimes we can feel so burdened and troubled by the trials of life that we wonder whether anyone, including God, really cares about us.
         Well, guess what? You are in good company! That is exactly how the people of God felt during the prophet Isaiah’s time. When God’s people were living in exile…courtesy of the Babylonians…they were feeling that God didn’t give a hoot about them. They even felt the LORD God had abandoned them. The Israelites were living in a foreign land as a defeated people. They were down-in-the-dumps. They were depressed. Their hopes and dreams of the future had all but dried up and disappeared.

But then a wonderful, upbeat message of Good News comes to them from God. The prophet Isaiah delivers a message to them that is momentous. It’s a message of God’s love and hope…a message of restoration and deliverance…a message of affirmation and acceptance. Listen again carefully from our Old Testament reading to what God promises to do for those who are disobedient, oppressed, and down-in-the-dumps…for those living in exile. The LORD declares through His prophet Isaiah: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…. Fear not, for I am with you….” (vv 1-3a, 5a)

         What a fantastic message! Upbeat and full of hope, this message clarifies who God is…who Israel is…and, most importantly, who Israel belongs to. The Israelites belong to the LORD. Feeling down, depressed, and vulnerable…the LORD comes to the Israelites and picks them up again, reminding them of their true identity and worth. Because they are very special to Him, they are not forgotten. God loves them and He promises that they will be restored and delivered from His punishment and judgment. 

There’s a story about a man who bought an old dilapidated and banged up organ that had been magnificent in its day. It hardly plays any more. So he calls in experts from all over the world, hoping they can restore it but they all fail. Then one day a small, withered, half-blind old man knocks on the door. When the owner opens the door, he chuckles and says: “What makes you think you can fix it? Experts from all over the world have been here and could not fix it.” But the owner decides that it can’t hurt for him to try. So this elderly stranger begins working on it. After a few days, he has that old organ operating like new. When asked how he was able to restore that old organ and give it new life, the old man simply says: “I made it.”

         Likewise, God is able to restore you and give you new life because He formed you and made you. He created you for His glory. (cf. v. 7) The LORD proudly says: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine…you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you…. Fear not, for I am with you.” (vv 1b, 4a, 5a) When you and I read and hear these words from God given to His people thousands of years later, we find comfort in them because you and I are created, chosen, and loved by the LORD. This is the true God who knows the number of hairs on your head and He is the only One who can truly fix you, restore you, and give new life to you. St. Paul makes this point in our Epistle reading saying: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Rom 6:3-5)

         Christ’s baptism and your baptism are connected and linked together. This baptismal covenant is what gives you the assurance of God’s true identity and your true identity. (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17) Years ago, in the wide-open spaces of the West, a little girl was baptized. The next day at school, her friends asked her why. She said: “When I was baptized, the Jesus mark was put on me. And now, everyone knows that I belong to Jesus.” At your baptism, God called you by name. At your baptism, He claimed you and marked you as His own. Belonging to the LORD, you are so very precious to Him that He created and implanted faith within you. That’s why those who confess God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as the One true God and confess Jesus Christ as their Savior and the Savior of the world “…are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, so that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9 NIV)

         Having been baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, you share in the awesomeness of Jesus’ baptism. Luke points out in our Gospel reading when Jesus “had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit descended on [Jesus] in bodily form, like a dove” (Lk 3:21b-22a) as a public witness to the fact that Jesus is the Messiah…the Christ…the Anointed One. (cf. Isa 42:1; Acts 20:38) Then God the Father puts His seal of approval on Jesus by declaring: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Lk 3:22b) Christ now takes humanity’s place to receive the wrath of God against sin.

In the play titled “The Deputy,” a young priest discovers the truth about the World War II Jewish extermination camps of Hitler’s Third Reich. This young priest makes it his mission to stop the orders that put in motion the slow extermination of a race of people. The priest appeals to everyone in authority, including the pope. But all turn a deaf ear to him or plead excuses that remove them from any responsibility. When all avenues of protest have been exhausted, our young priest…the hero of the play…sews the identifying six-pointed star on his sleeve. He then presents himself at an extermination camp and goes to the ovens with the condemned people.

         Like this young priest, who willingly identifies with those who are going to be exterminated….our Savior Jesus, by being baptized by John the Baptizer, willingly identifies Himself with sinners. He is the One who is your true source of hope and deliverance from God’s wrath and the effects of sin. Being sinless, Jesus was baptized as the One to bear your sins and my sins. (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21) He came as the God-man to fulfill every righteous demand by God (cf. Matt. 3:15) and joined His baptism with the baptism of all sinners in order to take their place on the cross.

Yes indeed, you belong to God. He claimed you and made you to be His own through water and the Holy Spirit. When you were baptized, the LORD declared to you: "This is My beloved son, whom I love" or "This is My beloved daughter, whom I love." At that point, the heavens were opened for you and God the Father called you to be His own dear child. And since you are His, you are to confess Him…serve Him…and work at connecting other people to Him. “Fear not,” declares the LORD, “for I am with you” and “you are mine.” Amen.


The Epiphany of Our Lord - Series A

Text: Matthew 2:1-12 & Isaiah 60:1-6

Title: “The Light Shining in the Darkness”

Date: January 6, 2019

Pastor Steve Bocklage

While I was attending Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, seven seminarians and I went to Alaska for two weeks in May 2001 on a cross-cultural visit to observe and learn about the culture of Christian Athabaskan Indians. While in central Alaska, the average temperature for that time of the year was in the low 40’s and it never got completely dark at night. But in the middle of winter, it’s a different story. In the farthest northern tip of the state of Alaska…above the Arctic Circle…is the town of Barrow…where the sun sets in the afternoon on November 18 and it doesn’t rise again until January 24. That is 65 days of continuous darkness. The sun doesn’t shine for 65 straight days. And the temperature can get down to 50 degrees below zero. Up there, the earth is tilted in such away that the sun never shows itself for over two months out of the year. But when the sun does rise for a moment on January 24, the whole town of Barrow comes out to celebrate because, finally, there is light again!
         Today, not only are we celebrating the service of church officers who serve the Lord by serving us and the first worship service of the New Year…we are also celebrating The Epiphany of Our Lord, which is the official beginning of the Epiphany season and has been celebrated in the Church since 361AD. But what exactly does the word epiphany mean? Epiphany is the English form of a Greek word meaning “appearance” or “manifestation.” An “epiphany” is when something reveals itself, or shows itself. In Barrow, Alaska…after 65 days of darkness…the sun finally reveals its glory for everyone to see. This is an epiphany.

Likewise, throughout the next several weeks during the Epiphany season, the Son of God will reveal His glory for everyone to see. The Scripture readings, the hymns, the sermons…everything that you see and hear…everything you sing and pray in our worship service…will serve one purpose. That purpose is to reveal to you…to show you…the glory of your Savior Jesus Christ. That is what the season of Epiphany is all about…the proclamation that this Jesus…this newborn King…this God-in-the-flesh…is for you!

         This God-in-the-flesh is also for the Magi in our Gospel reading. There, we observe the arrival of the Magi, or Wise Men, in order to honor and worship baby Jesus. For 2,000 years, the story of the Magi has intrigued us. Who were these travelers from the East that came to worship this very young King of kings? Where exactly in the East were these men from? How many Wise Men from the East were there? Remember that three gifts do not necessarily mean three people.

Not only do we have questions about the Magi, but there are also questions about that light in the sky…the star that St. Matthew mentions. Was it an alignment of the planets that God arranged to point to Jesus? Was it a super nova or a celestial miracle? Was there one light or were there two lights…one to get the Magi in the general vicinity and another to point out Jesus specifically? Much to our frustration, the Bible answers none of these questions.

         However…we do know that the Magi were guided by the promises of Holy Scripture to find and worship the Christ Child. But King Herod only saw the Christ Child as a threat to his throne. And still to this day, there are only two kinds of people in the world in God’s eyes. Those who believe in the one, true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…and believe this Babe of Bethlehem is the Savior born for them. And then there are those who don’t believe in the triune God but do believe they can save themselves through their own good works. They believe they can be good enough and become great enough. All they need to do is put their minds to it and work at it.

This is the darkness that the prophet Isaiah speaks about in the Old Testament reading you heard earlier. The thick darkness…the darkness of sin that you and I are born into and live in. Our eyes adjust to the darkness and we become use to it, so that it can seem good to us. You and I work and live in the darkness of sin and have gotten accustomed to. Many people comment that the world seems to be getting worse, not better. Why are we surprised? This is the darkness…the thick darkness of sin.

         In a thrilling incident of the battle of the Java Sea on February 27, 1942, a destroyer had been torpedoed and 116 men were struggling for their lives in the oil-burdened waters, swimming about and clinging to rafts. Their cries for help were answered by return cries from three cruisers, "but only some unknown, friendly hand aboard the Houston had the quickness of mind to throw them the illuminated life preserver. It was the light attached to it that guided a British destroyer to their rescue." "Regulation American Navy life belts, with a floating light attached, tossed overboard from the cruiser Houston," were the means that saved the lives of these men. They not only supported them in the dark, troubled waters, but led to their final safety.

What a vivid picture of the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ! “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (Jn. 1:4-5) He is the Light of the world, and He gives life to all who believe in Him. Even God’s prophet Isaiah writes in our Old Testament reading: “Arise, shine, for your light has come….” What God’s Word is talking about here is a different kind of light and a different kind of darkness. And when this special light that God speaks about begins to shine through that ugly darkness, the results are very joyful.  Notice what the prophet says. Isaiah assures you that “your light has come”…not “a light has come.” In other words, the Light has come for you!

         This Light is the same light that continues to shine in the darkness of our world today through the preaching of God’s Word. After all, God the Holy Spirit has promised to be in His Word and work in the hearts of those who hear His Word. As God’s Word is proclaimed in the darkness of this world, it is this Light that pierces the darkness of sin in the hearts of people everywhere. And it has shined on you too! Just as God took His Word to the Wise Men in the East, so He took His Word to you in your Baptism. Just as the Wise Men were led to Jesus in flesh and blood by God’s Light and Word, you too have been led to Jesus’ body and blood on the altar by God’s Light and Word. Just as these unworthy Wise Men fell before the Lord…you also who are unworthy fall before the Lord in repentance.

         And by God’s grace, you believe His Word and come to worship the One born for you. You come and fall before God your Savior, like the Wise Men. Your wisdom…your journey …your works…your treasures…whatever you are, or have, or have done…are nothing compared to this One born for you! This One born for you is everything! He is your light…your life…your forgiveness…your hope…your Savior. He is for you! The Lord Jesus is for you on the cross…He is for you in His resurrection and ascension. The Light of the world is for you when He comes again to judge both the living and the dead. It is you who receive from Him the greatest gifts of all…the gifts of faith, forgiveness of your sins, and the promise of life eternal.

So epiphany…this revelation of God’s Son and what He has come to do…is for all people, including you and me. By grace through faith in Jesus Christ and His work for you, His light is shining in the darkness of your life. It shines on you and shines through you. This Light makes saints out of sinners. “Arise, shine, for your light has come,” Isaiah proclaims, “and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” (Is 60:1) Amen.


Sermon for the First Sunday after Christmas

“What Comes after Christmas?”

Luke 2:22-40

12/30/18

“What comes after Christmas?” Wind-down and wrap-up of the season of visits and festivities. “Christmas tree recycling center”  Good-byes to loved ones For some, a post-Christmas cold or flu may even set in; many at any rate experience a touch of “the blues.”

“What comes after Christmas?” Back to the routines of life, within our families, in our homes, where we work, where we go to school. “What comes after Christmas?” In short, LIFE!

“It was the same in Jesus’ time.” After that first Christmas, the shepherds had flocks to get back to, families to feed. After that first Christmas, Mary and Joseph had a baby to care for! They had duties and obligations. On the eighth day, as we will hear on New Year’s Eve, Jesus had to be circumcised. On the fortieth day, the event we heard about in today’s Gospel, Jesus had to be presented in the temple and a sacrifice offered for Mary’s purification. We know from Matthew’s Gospel that in time Joseph had to whisk Mary and the child Jesus away to Egypt to escape from evil King Herod. The birth of Jesus certainly did not put life on hold or stop the flow of events—some happy and some sad—which life in its normal course brings with it.

“And yet with Jesus here, the routine of life and the tasks of life are now suffused with the peace that He brings. That, beloved, is the eternal Christmas Gospel.”  Jesus was born into a fallen world. He was born into a world broken and sick. He was born into a world—our world—of deceit, selfishness, corruption, and death. Jesus, God’s own Son, was born here as one of us to bring redemption, to effect a reconciliation between mankind and God. He was born to “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

Since our sinfulness creates an obstacle to life with God, Jesus came to become sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21), and so to bring us to God. By His work, Jesus created a new relationship of peace between humans and God. Jesus, as the prophet Isaiah said, was born to be the Prince—the “Prince of Peace.”

We repeat those comforting words in the Gradual for the Christmas season (see Isaiah 9:6). This peace that Jesus brings is what the angels had sung about on the night of Jesus’ birth: “Glory to God,” they sang, “and peace on earth” (Luke 2:14).

We Christians sing about this peace in the Christmas carol, “Hark! The Herald Angels  Sing”—“peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled”. God sent His Son to make peace with all, and with you. Therefore, if you believe that Jesus is your Prince of Peace who makes everything right between you and God, then your post-Christmas days will be filled with peace—His peace.

Consider our text. Simeon was a man longing for peace with God—for his nation and himself—and one day, led by the Spirit, Simeon found that peace as he encountered Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus in the temple. The family from Nazareth was there in Jerusalem to fulfill the requirement of God’s Law concerning the presentation of a firstborn male child, and the purification of a mother after childbirth. But they were also there so that the Holy Spirit could fulfill His promise made to Simeon—His promise that the man Simeon “would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (v.26). When Simeon saw Jesus “he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: ‘Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation’” (vv.28-29).

Simeon said that he was ready to “depart in peace” because he had now seen the Christ child. He had seen with his own eyes the One who would do the hard work of Simeon’s salvation. Simeon believed God’s promise, and Simeon believed in the baby whom his eyes were now seeing, and so by his faith in Jesus Simeon enjoyed peace.

What comes after Christmas for you? Are there regrets; is there loneliness, fears, guilt, sorrow? Is there dread of getting back to the routine of life? With Jesus, there can be true peace for you. Every believing heart that trusts in Jesus pulses with the peace that Jesus brings—even in the midst of all that life brings. You know, sometimes it is asserted that the Bible, the preaching and teaching of the Church, and the doctrines of Christianity need to be more relevant to life. The reality, though, is that there is nothing more relevant to people of any age than God’s truth.

There is nothing more impactful for your life than the Gospel. Trust in the Gospel promise of the forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake is the only thing that can quiet a person’s heart and make living life a joy. It is the only thing that can give the heart peace as one faces the challenges of life or the reality of death. You know, most people assume that Simeon died shortly after holding Jesus in his arms—that his words “depart in peace” referred to his expected death. Still, it is possible that God gave Simeon many more years to live. In that case, God surely let Simeon live with true peace in his heart.

So we, too, who believe in Jesus have Jesus’ peace whether living or dying. Consider that after we receive Christ’s body and blood in Holy Communion we always hear the pastor say, “Depart in peace,” and afterward we sing Simeon’s very words in the canticle we call the Nunc Dimittis. We know that through the forgiveness of sins received in this Sacrament, we have peace with God—peace to die, peace to live, and peace simply to be God’s children, for Jesus has brought us to God. As St. Paul wrote in Galatians 4, that Jesus came “to redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”

So, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this seventh day of the Christmas season, as the glow of Christmas continues to fade all around us, this is the message, and this is the truth for you and all God’s children: after Christmas comes peace, true peace, for you. For Christmas changed things. God’s Son, Jesus Christ, came to earth at Christmas, in the flesh like yours, was laid in Bethlehem’s manger, and in time hung on a cross to bring you to God. He died on the cross for your sins, for my sins.  He died for all those who have lived, are living, or will live. In daily repentance and trust in him, you find that your sins need trouble you no more. Relying on Jesus, you find that the unknowns of the future terrify you no more. All that the baptized believer like you sees, every day, is Jesus Christ. And Jesus stays with you, for He is risen, and His peace stays with you, constantly.

 It shall not be removed. It cannot fade. This festival we call Christmas, it is not just a blip, a blink of light, a passing time of celebration, although many people may see it as nothing more than this. Rather, Christmas is the celebration of the light of salvation that has come into our lives with the birth of Christ, the light of salvation that shines on and endures for us, the light that continues to drive out the darkness of sin in us.

Christmas is the ushering into the world of the great Prince—the Prince of Peace. Christmas is the celebration of the deep and permanent peace that God’s own Son has brought to us. Yes, and Jesus has brought us that peace right where we are and right where we are living, in the circumstances of our lives. His peace will accompany you through the close of this year and into the next—through every day that He gives you to live before Him by faith now on earth and at last in the unending peace of heaven. What comes after Christmas?

Life comes after Christmas—life in the peace of Jesus. Amen


Christmas Day

Text: John 1:1-14 (15-18)

Title: “The Christmas Light”

Date: Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Pastor Steve Bocklage

In these enlightened times too many people see and experience Christmas without Jesus. A young working wife tries to prepare a proper Christmas. She spends many hours cleaning and shopping, then on Christmas day, plays hostess for a family feast of 23 people. She is cooking before the crack of dawn and by sunset, she is exhausted. Her hopes were so high. But without Jesus, she sees Christmas from the dark.
         How about the husband who is sent out shopping with the official Christmas list, clutched like the Holy Grail in his hand. His wife has impressed upon him the importance of the list and warned him not to deviate from it. After making all the purchases, he senses that he has stuffed Christmas into his small sports utility vehicle. Without Jesus, he is seeing Christmas from the dark.
         Without Christ, advertisers say that the true meaning of Christmas is giving. Without Christ, counselors say the true meaning of Christmas is forgiving yourself and others. Without Christ, TV shows say the true meaning of Christmas is family getting together for the holidays. Without Christ, non-profit organizations see the true meaning of Christmas as feeding those who are less fortunate. The truth is…as good as these things are to do and the Lord wants you to do…without Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in your life…you will see Christmas from the dark.

         It is a simple fact that if you want to see your Savior in His Bethlehem bed, you need to be moved out of the darkness into the light. That is why you need the Christmas Light born in Bethlehem. As St. John writes in the Gospel reading: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him…. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (Jn. 1:1-5) Come and see “the Word”…come and see Jesus Christ…your Savior and Lord. In order to see His coming, you need to journey back in time, more than 20 centuries. The time is during the reign of Caesar Augustus, the first of Rome's emperors. Calling for a census, he has sent the citizens of the countries under his control to be counted. This command of a Roman emperor brings Joseph…with his very pregnant wife Mary…to the little Judean town of Bethlehem. Before that first night is over, she delivers her Child and wraps Him in swaddling clothes. Then she places Him in the warmest and safest place she can find, which happens to be a feeding trough filled with hay for the animals. That’s because Joseph’s distant relatives in Bethlehem have no room in their guest rooms. The only room available to Joseph and Mary is the third room under one of the houses where the animals are kept overnight for safety. This room that we call a stable is where Mary gives birth…a simple stable filled with all the sights and smells that go along with such a place.

Unnoticed by the world in that simple stable, you can see your Savior. Come in for a

moment and see! You will have to step into the stable's darkness and stand by Mary to see God's light. Look into the manger and see the baby Jesus. See the Defeater of the devil. Look into the manger and see the Destroyer of death…the Savior from sin. This Baby is special. Go ahead and take a look! Look into the face of this Baby, and know that you are looking at the Light of the world! You are looking upon the face of the Son of God!
         Of course, you do not have to take my word that this Baby is special. Just ask the shepherds, who have come to see Jesus and pay their respects. They had to see this thing which has come to pass, which the Lord has told them about. “"Do not be afraid,” the angel said to them, “for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”” (Lk. 2:10-11) Then the angel gives directions on how to find the newborn Babe. But before the shepherds could leave, other angels…a great company or multitude of the heavenly host…join with this solo angel, praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." (Lk. 2:14)
         With these words, the shepherds are moved from darkness into the Light. At the beginning of that night, these shepherds had been outcasts and the lowly and the poorest of workers. Now they have a Savior. Look at their faces! They are not rushing back to their flocks. They are going to tell others about what they have seen and heard. That is the reaction people have when they are moved from darkness into the Light of Christ. We cannot help ourselves. The Good News of great joy the angels talked about is not just for shepherds. It is for all people…yes even for you and me. That’s because, Jesus is everybody's Savior. (cf. Jn. 3:16)
         It has been almost 37 years now but the television images are still vivid in my mind. On January 13, 1982, Air Florida’s Flight 90 took off from Washington National Airport with ice and snow build-up on its wings. Shortly afterwards, the plane crashed into the 14th Street Bridge over the frozen Potomac River, just two miles from the White House. One of the small-band of survivors was in the freezing water clinging to the plane’s tail section. Every time the rescue helicopter lowered a lifeline to him, this man passed it to another passenger. When the helicopter had rescued all the others and finally came back to get him…it was too late. He had gone under the icy waters. This man knew as he passed the lifeline to the others that he was giving up his chances for life. He sacrificed his life to a cold death in the river so that others could live.

         In a similar but greater way, God’s beloved Son, Jesus Christ, does the heavenly Father's business of saving you and me. St. John tells us: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world; but so that the world through him might be saved.” (Jn 3:17) God's plan of salvation consists of Jesus being nailed to a cross, as the prophets foretold. Hanging in pain and suffering on that cross…suspended between heaven and earth…“the Word [who] became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14) dies for you and me…and for everyone. He dies as your Substitute. He dies to rebuild the bridge that sin has torn down between heaven and earth…between God and man. He pays the price on the cross so that you do not have to perish but can have life…life that is indestructible…life that never ends…life that is eternal.  

Yes, without Jesus in one’s life, Christmas is seen from the dark. But here is Good News: "I am the Light of the world,” declares Jesus in John 8, “he who follows me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life." (Jn 8:12) Because Christ… “the Word”…suffers and loses His life on the cross, everyone who believes in “the true light, which enlightens everyone” (Jn. 1: 9) will be forgiven and saved. In His resurrection victory, “the Word [who] became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14) defeated death to become your King…your Lord…and your Redeemer…to become your Christmas Light…to give life to all who believe in Him. What a wonderful Christmas gift He is! Have a Merry and Blessed Christmas! Amen.


Christmas Eve Evening

Text: Isaiah 9:2, 6-7

Title: “The Great Light of the World”

Date: Monday, December 24, 2018

Pastor Steve Bocklage

Television has been busy for over a month now with Christmas Specials. It seems everyone in the entertainment industry has to have one. Lots of fairy tale settings…places with a warm fire…and goodies to eat. It’s all happiness and light. This is the "imagined" Christmas, how things are supposed to be.
         As we gather tonight to sing Christmas carols and hear once again about the birth of the Babe born in Bethlehem…we are also reminded of people who have "walked in darkness." (v.2) We read from Isaiah a hopeful message of a child being born but very much into a situation of darkness. “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.” (v 6a) Notice how poetic yet simple this birth announcement is put together by God’s prophet Isaiah. A birth announcement is one of the simplest announcements we humans know how to make. As simple as it is to say that a child is born, we must recognize who this particular Child is: Wonderful Counselor…Mighty God…Everlasting Father…Prince of Peace.” (v 6b) Indeed, this Child lying in the manger many centuries later is definitely no ordinary child.

         And for the people to whom our sermon text was written…for the people who claimed it as a prophecy of the Messiah…and for us…it’s really about living in darkness. There is indeed a darkness in the world that we dare not deny. Darkness touches the lives of everyone. It’s to this darkness that the words of Isaiah speaks. To those who know what it is to live in darkness…to live with pain and suffering…this passage is about hope. It’s about a Light that can lighten darkness. It’s about knowing darkness in our lives and looking to God as the One who gives hope and light! It’s about people in spiritual darkness who are walking unaware of the path before them. Luke 1:79 speaks of the purpose of Christ’s coming…which is “to give light to those who sit darkness and in the shadow of death.” Jesus Christ, the great Light, does not merely illuminate. He is the very source of light. (cf. Gen 1:3 and 1:16) He provides light where the darkness of our sin and rebellion reside. That’s why Isaiah calls us to embrace the God of new possibilities…the God of resurrections…who can bring His Light into the darkness. 
         Jon Krakauer, author of the book titled Into Thin Air, tells of his harrowing experience climbing Mt. Everest. On May 10, 1996, Krakauer made it to the top. He paused only for a few minutes before heading down, his muscles exhausted, his limbs frozen, and his brain oxygen-deprived. As he descended, some clouds drifted up and enveloped him. Soon, thunder, lightning, and a snowstorm threatened to disorient him, but he was close enough to base camp number 4 to get to the sheltering tents before the full force of the storm hit.

         Four climbers arrived at the summit shortly before Jon and did not have time to get to the camp before darkness. The storm caused them to lose their way. Exhausted and lost, they simply lay down to wait out the night. When they awoke in the morning, they found they had lain down just one step from the 4,000-foot precipice of the South Wall. They had slept the night on the edge of a cliff in the middle of a snowstorm.

         Likewise, our culture and the entertainment industry can disorient you and me with the winds of relativism and the darkness of unbelief. Many people are unaware that they sleep on the edge of disaster. That’s why Isaiah’s call to you and me is to live positively as God’s people….as people who have seen the Light…who have experienced the Light…and who have been transformed by that Light.

Tonight, we will not deny the reality of the darkness. But neither will we deny the reality of the light. We will, however, affirm with both Isaiah and the four Gospel writers that there is no gloom or doom for those who walk in Christ’s light. After all, the Babe born in Bethlehem is the Light and Savior of the world. Amen

        

        


Christmas Eve Evening

Text: Isaiah 9:2, 6-7

Title: “The Great Light of the World”

Date: Monday, December 24, 2018

Pastor Steve Bocklage

Television has been busy for over a month now with Christmas Specials. It seems everyone in the entertainment industry has to have one. Lots of fairy tale settings…places with a warm fire…and goodies to eat. It’s all happiness and light. This is the "imagined" Christmas, how things are supposed to be.
         As we gather tonight to sing Christmas carols and hear once again about the birth of the Babe born in Bethlehem…we are also reminded of people who have "walked in darkness." (v.2) We read from Isaiah a hopeful message of a child being born but very much into a situation of darkness. “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.” (v 6a) Notice how poetic yet simple this birth announcement is put together by God’s prophet Isaiah. A birth announcement is one of the simplest announcements we humans know how to make. As simple as it is to say that a child is born, we must recognize who this particular Child is: Wonderful Counselor…Mighty God…Everlasting Father…Prince of Peace.” (v 6b) Indeed, this Child lying in the manger many centuries later is definitely no ordinary child.

         And for the people to whom our sermon text was written…for the people who claimed it as a prophecy of the Messiah…and for us…it’s really about living in darkness. There is indeed a darkness in the world that we dare not deny. Darkness touches the lives of everyone. It’s to this darkness that the words of Isaiah speaks. To those who know what it is to live in darkness…to live with pain and suffering…this passage is about hope. It’s about a Light that can lighten darkness. It’s about knowing darkness in our lives and looking to God as the One who gives hope and light! It’s about people in spiritual darkness who are walking unaware of the path before them. Luke 1:79 speaks of the purpose of Christ’s coming…which is “to give light to those who sit darkness and in the shadow of death.” Jesus Christ, the great Light, does not merely illuminate. He is the very source of light. (cf. Gen 1:3 and 1:16) He provides light where the darkness of our sin and rebellion reside. That’s why Isaiah calls us to embrace the God of new possibilities…the God of resurrections…who can bring His Light into the darkness. 
         Jon Krakauer, author of the book titled Into Thin Air, tells of his harrowing experience climbing Mt. Everest. On May 10, 1996, Krakauer made it to the top. He paused only for a few minutes before heading down, his muscles exhausted, his limbs frozen, and his brain oxygen-deprived. As he descended, some clouds drifted up and enveloped him. Soon, thunder, lightning, and a snowstorm threatened to disorient him, but he was close enough to base camp number 4 to get to the sheltering tents before the full force of the storm hit.

         Four climbers arrived at the summit shortly before Jon and did not have time to get to the camp before darkness. The storm caused them to lose their way. Exhausted and lost, they simply lay down to wait out the night. When they awoke in the morning, they found they had lain down just one step from the 4,000-foot precipice of the South Wall. They had slept the night on the edge of a cliff in the middle of a snowstorm.

         Likewise, our culture and the entertainment industry can disorient you and me with the winds of relativism and the darkness of unbelief. Many people are unaware that they sleep on the edge of disaster. That’s why Isaiah’s call to you and me is to live positively as God’s people….as people who have seen the Light…who have experienced the Light…and who have been transformed by that Light.

Tonight, we will not deny the reality of the darkness. But neither will we deny the reality of the light. We will, however, affirm with both Isaiah and the four Gospel writers that there is no gloom or doom for those who walk in Christ’s light. After all, the Babe born in Bethlehem is the Light and Savior of the world. Amen

        

  

We have 6 guests and no members online