Lessons and Hymns for Advent 3 A

These are the Scripture readings you will hear this coming Sunday:

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28

Click here to read the above lessons and the propers for the day.

The Coming of the Christ Brings True Rejoicing in His Forgiveness

When he preaches repentance, John the Baptizer points us to Christ Jesus. John was sent by God “as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him” (John 1:7). He baptizes with water in order to “make straight the way of the Lord,” who shall redeem His people from their sins (John 1:23). That Lord Jesus “who comes after” John now stands among us and makes Himself known to us (John 1:26–27). He has been anointed by the Holy Spirit “to bring good news to the poor” and “to bind up the brokenhearted” (Is. 61:1). By the washing of the water with His Word and Spirit, He clothes His Church with “the garments of salvation” and adorns her with His own righteousness “as a bride adorns herself with her jewels” (Is. 61:10). Therefore, we “rejoice always” in the Lord, “pray without ceasing” and “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:16–18). For “the God of peace,” who has called you by the Gospel, will surely “sanctify you completely,” so that “your whole spirit and soul and body” will “be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:23–24).

These are the hymns we will sing:

Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates (LSB 341)
When All the World Was Cursed (LSB 346)
Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness (LSB 563)
Comfort, Comfort Ye My People (LSB 347)
Hark the Glad Sound (LSB 349)

“The devil is in the business of telling people where to go. God is in the business of inviting people to come”

Our weekly devotion from the sainted Rev. Earl Feddersen (he didn’t have one for last week):

Isaiah 40:1-11
2 Peter 3:8-14
Mark 1:1-8

Within three sentences, a woman once told me about two visitors: She mentioned a member of a confrontational sect who went to her house and a friend who came to her house. If I had not been preparing for the Second Sunday in “Come,” otherwise known by its Latin title “Advent,” I would not have noticed her change of verbs. The reason for the subtle shift was that the second visitor was welcome!

God “came” to the world in Jesus, but not because He was welcome. There was no room and no bed for Him. In no time flat, people tried to kill Him–in less than half a normal lifetime they succeeded.Nonetheless, we are hard-pressed to find a passage saying He left heaven to “go” to earth. It does not say something about earth, but about God, when the Bible says He came!

All the lessons for Sunday have forms of the word, “come.” Given the coldness, if not, hatred of earth–a place to which God had no reason to come–it is a powerful and wonderful message of His grace that we share at Christmas:

He came!

Lessons and Hymns for Advent 2 B

These are the Scripture readings you will hear this coming Sunday:

Isaiah 40:1-11
2 Peter 3:8-14
Mark 1:1-8

Click here to read the above lessons and the propers for Sunday.

You Are Prepared through Repentance for the Coming of the Lord

“The gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1) begins when John the Baptist appears and comes “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4). As the prophet Isaiah had written, John is the messenger of the Lord, sent before His face to prepare His way. To this day, the ministry of the forerunner continues in the preaching of the Law and the Gospel and in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. By these ways and means, “the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together” (Is. 40:5), and the Good Shepherd “will gather the lambs in his arms” (Is. 40:11). He speaks “tenderly to Jerusalem,” and He comforts His people by pardoning their iniquity (Is. 40:1–2). What is more, He promises “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13). Repent, therefore, and humble yourself as you wait for His coming in peace (2 Peter 3:14), because He “is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

These are the hymns we will sing:

Savior of the Nations, Come (LSB 332)
On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry (LSB 344)
Hark! A Thrilling Voice Is Sounding (LSB 345)
I Leave All Things to God’s Direction (LSB 719)
Let the Earth Now Praise the Lord (LSB 352)

Mid-Week Stewardship Thought

If Only

Most discontented people believe they can correct their problems through some external changes.  They focus on what they don’t have and what they believe needs to be changed rather than acknowledging and appreciating the blessings they do have.  Contentment or discontentment is a state of mind.  Even though contentment has little to do with outward circumstances, we still focus on “if only things would change.”  The “what ifs” or “if onlys” are not going to make a meaningful difference, but people believe that changing circumstances will change everything.  Do we find ourselves complaining if only we owned a nicer home, had more money, lived in a different neighborhood, had a different career, etc.?  The list of “if onlys” can be endless.  Until we find our rest in Christ, we are going to continue our search for contentment in the wrong places.  The theologian Augustine said, “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.” People or things will never fill us; only God’s presence and its accompanying contentment will allow us to live a truly contented life.

Prayer:  Dear Lord, help me to find my contentment in You and not in things.  Amen.

Blessings on your stewardship journey!

Lessons and Hymns for Advent 1 B

These are the Scripture readings you will hear this coming Sunday:

Isaiah 64:1-9
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Mark 11:1-10

Click here to read the above lessons and the propers for the day.

The Lord Jesus Comes in Meekness and Humility to Save Us

Although we pray that God “would rend the heavens and come down” (Is. 64:1), that He would take vengeance against our enemies, we ourselves “have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Is. 64:6). We have continued in our sins for “a long time, and shall we be saved?” (Is. 64:5). Yet, the Lord does not punish us in anger. He comes in voluntary meekness and humility to save us by His grace. Just as He once came into Jerusalem to sacrifice Himself for us upon the cross (Mark 11:4–8), He still comes to His Church with the fruits of His Passion. By His ministry of the Gospel, we are “enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge,” and so He will “sustain you to the end” (1 Cor. 1:5, 8). Although “heaven and earth will pass away,” His words “will not pass away” (Mark 13:31). As He sends disciples to call us to Himself in the fellowship of His Church, so will He “send out the angels” to gather us and all of His elect “from the ends of the earth” to Himself in heaven forever (Mark 13:27).

These are the hymns we will sing:

The Advent of Our King (LSB 331)
Jesus Came, the Heavens Adoring (LSB 353)
Jerusalem, My Happy Home (LSB 673)
O Savior, Rend the Heavens Wide (LSB 355)
Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer (LSB 918)

“Prepare to meet your Maker”

Our weekly devotion from the sainted Rev. Earl Feddersen:

Isaiah 65:17-25
2 Peter 3:3-4, 8-10, 13
Matthew 25:1-13

Two weeks ago, I saw a sign on a mountain highway in Idaho that repeated a message I saw last summer in the Smokey Mountains: “Prepare To Meet Your God!” I remember one in Colorado that was professionally painted and constructed. The message was similar: “Prepare To Meet Your Maker.” In those settings, such a sign has a sobering, if not frightening effect. For many people, it is always a doomsday sort of message.

In the setting of steep, winding roads, with hairpin curves, people may need a little jolt of a sense of danger. I know I will never forget the way a boat and trailer seemed to push our van down the Little Bighorn Mountains one time. Hot brakes are not on my list of fun things! But is preparing to meet God synonymous with preparing for danger?

Old Testament prophets were often upset that the people of Israel had a smug and self-satisfied concept of their relationship with God. Many Israelites looked forward to what they called “the Day of the Lord.” They anticipated God coming with judgment against their unrighteous, hostile neighbors. Prophets often pointed out that Israel was itself a long way from righteous. Those prophets called Israel’s religion a pretense — form without meaning, words without intentions, entertainment instead of worship. They accused the people of ignoring justice for the poor and substance for the needy. Some prophets warned that the Day of the Lord would mean judgment against Israel — a day of darkness and not of light!

In Old and New Testaments, the Day of the Lord is mixed with judgment and salvation. Naturally, our perspective of the event will be colored by our expectations. In the image of last week’s lesson, if God is coming with blessings for those on the right and curses for those on the left, you will anticipate the event quite differently depending on your location. The problem is that we may think we are in one place when we are actually in the other. Where are you?

In the Gospel Lesson, Jesus tells a story that emphasizes the need to be prepared at all times to meet our God. His story puts a slightly different slant on the results of God’s coming. Here is an updated version of the story from Feddersen’s Fables. One Saturday a wedding was held in one town, but the reception was 60 miles away at another town. After the wedding, professional photographers held sway, so everyone except the wedding party went ahead to the hall. There were five bridesmaids and five groomsmen, counting the best man and maid of honor. When the photography was finished, the bride and groom rode with the best man and maid of honor, two groomsmen and two bridesmaids rode in another car and the other four followed in a third car.

The people in the third car had not thought ahead about the distance, and they ran out of gas on the way. The engine stalled when they were between towns, so it took quite a while to get gasoline and finally arrive at the reception. When they arrived, the hotel doorman asked for their invitations. They said they didn’t have any because they were in the wedding party. He laughed and said, “Right, and I’m the groom! The wedding party arrived over an hour ago.” With that, he shut the door and walked away. The four of them missed out on the party because they had not prepared by filling the gas tank in advance.

If you haven’t guessed it, the parable is about the foolish and wise bridesmaids, who either did or did not bring enough oil for their lamps. The reason to be prepared is that, if you are not, you miss out on the party!

I am reminded of another story; it concerns a couple of fellows named Wilbur and Orville Wright. One day, a friend stopped at their bicycle shop and they took him to a special shed where very few others had ever been. They showed him a biplane with a homemade, twelve horsepower engine, and they even showed him where the pilot could lay prone between the wings to fly the thing. They told him that they had just finished putting the final touches on it. Filled with enthusiasm, he suggested that they go out to Kitty Hawk and fly it. Wilbur said, “Are you kidding? Do you know how much money we’ve got tied up in this thing?” Orville added, “We’re not about to take a chance on wrecking it by trying to fly it!”

The story is obviously not true, but the truth is just as many prophets and Jesus said it — some people miss out on the party even when it looks on the surface like they are prepared. Can you imagine the Wright Brothers taking their plane out to Kitty Hawk and forgetting to bring gasoline? You see the Wright boys didn’t just want an airplane — they wanted to fly!

Too many Christians just want an airplane or, with reference to the other story, they are satisfied to have a car on the parking lot. The fact that it doesn’t have any fuel doesn’t concern them. After all, the party won’t be till later. But the Christian life is not a possession. It is not something you have, but something you live.

In Jesus’ parable, the bridegroom came at an unexpected time. The lesson concludes: “You know neither the day nor the hour.” We are never prepared for the unexpected. If we expect something, we get prepared! Five bridesmaids thought the groom might come late, so they brought extra oil. They expected him. They just didn’t know when! If he came early, they were prepared. If he came late, they were still prepared. Jesus is coming.

While on an expedition to the Antarctic, Sir Ernest Shackleton left some men to explore Elephant Island while he and the rest went on. By the time he returned to pick them up, the sea had frozen over. Three attempts to reach them ended in failure. When he finally found a narrow channel through the ice and made it to the island, he was delighted to find that they were not only alive and well but all prepared to get aboard. After they were all safely on their way home, Shackleton asked about their being entirely ready to board when he arrived. They told him that every morning their leader rolled up his sleeping bag and said, “Get your things ready, boys, the boss may come today.” Jesus is coming.

Using the technique of a certain earthquake prognosticator, I am compelled to warn you that there is a 50 percent chance that Jesus will come on the day you read this devotion. That means there is a 50-50 chance He will come on that particular day. In other words, either He will or He won’t. Since we know He is coming, but we don’t know when, the odds are the same every day!

Here are some thoughts on preparedness. If He comes this Sunday morning, where do you suppose He will head to look for His people? There is a 50-50 chance He will come on the day our nation has set aside to give Him thanks. Where will you be and what do you plan to do that day?

It is interesting how Jesus tried to prepare His disciples for His death. Yet, when it happened, it was unexpected. In the last days of His life on earth, Jesus confused two of the surest things everybody knows: (1) God can’t die, and (2) dead men can’t rise up again. Along with those, He also did a number on these: Some things can’t be forgiven. No one can love that much. All murderers go to Hell. The only sure things are death and taxes.

For those who believe in Christ, eternal life is a sure thing, so is a party that has been described as the wedding feast of the Kingdom of God. Other sure things include the peace beyond human understanding and the joy of Christ’s presence now … at least for those who have fuel for their lamps or in their tanks. Are you ready? Will you be at the party?

Mid-Week Stewardship Thought

Thanksgiving Day, is a public holiday celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States. It originated as a harvest festival. Thanksgiving has been celebrated nationally on and off since 1789, after Congress requested a proclamation by George Washington. It has been celebrated as a federal holiday every year since 1863, when, during the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens,” to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November.

Together with Christmas and the New Year, Thanksgiving is a part of the broader holiday season.

The event that Americans commonly call the “First Thanksgiving” was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in October 1621.  This feast lasted three days, and—as accounted by attendee Edward Winslow—it was attended by 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims.  The New England colonists were accustomed to celebrating “thanksgivings” regularly—days of prayer thanking God for blessings such as military victory or the end of a drought.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to praise and thank You each and every day.  You are the creator and source of all good things for which I give You thanks.  In Jesus’ holy name I pray.  Amen.

Blessings on your journey as a steward!