Lessons and Hymns for Christmas Day

Lessons:

Isaiah 52:7-10
Psalm 2
Hebrews 1:1-12
John 1:1-18

The Living and Life-Giving Word of God Dwells among Us in the Flesh

The Lord sends out His ministers of the Gospel to make disciples “of all the nations,” so that “all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” For the Lord has “bared His holy arm” in the incarnate Christ (Is. 52:7, 10). The Child in the manger, born of the Virgin Mary, is the very Word of God, the only-begotten Son of the Father, “whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also He created the world” (Heb. 1:2). As “all things were made through Him” (John 1:3), so are all things redeemed and made new in Him. In His body of flesh and blood, we behold “the radiance of the glory of God” (Heb 1:3), “glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). He dwells among us in peace that we might have life and light and salvation in Him. For by His Word of the Gospel, we are born again as the children of God, bearing His name and sharing His eternal life.

Hymns we will sing:

Angels from the Realm of Glory (LSB 367)
O Jesus So Sweet, O Jesus So Mild (LSB 546)
We Praise You, Jesus, at Your Birth (LSB 382)
Let Our Gladness Have No End (LSB 381)

Twelve Days of Christmas

The following was received from one of our members:

There is one Christmas carol that has always baffled me.

What in the world do leaping lords, French horns, swimming swans, and especially the partridge who won’t come out of the pear tree have to do with Christmas?

This week, I found out.

From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics.

It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children would remember.

The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.

Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.

Three French horns stood for faith, hope and love.

The four calling birds were the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.

The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.

Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit–Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.

The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.

Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit–Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.

The ten lords a-leaping were the Ten Commandments.

The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.

The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles’ Creed.

Now, personally, I don’t know if any of this is true but it sure puts a better spin on a song that can get tedious to sing!

Lessons and Hymns for Christmas Eve

Scripture Readings you will here at Christ the King on Christmas Eve:

Isaiah 9:2-7
Titus 2:11-14
Luke 2:1-20

The Light of Christ Shines Forth in the Darkness

Heaven and earth rejoice on this night because the glory of the Triune God is manifested in the human birth of “our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). In Him, the Father’s grace, mercy and peace rest upon the world. The silence of death is broken by this “good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10). And all we who have gone astray like lost and wandering sheep, who have “walked in the darkness” of doubt and fear and sinful unbelief, behold “a great light” in the nativity of Christ (Is. 9:2). In Him “the grace of God has appeared” (Titus 2:11). For this Child of Mary who is born for us, this dear Son of God who is given to us, will bear the burden of our sin and death in His own body on the cross. He thereby establishes a government of peace, “with justice and with righteousness,” which shall have no end; not by any work of man, but “the zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this” (Is. 9:7).

Hymns we will be singing:

Oh, Come All Ye Faithful
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Joy to the World
Silent Night
Lo, How a Rose Is Growing
What Child Is This?
It Came Upon the Midnight Clear
The First Noel
O Little Town of Bethlehem
Good Christian Friends, Rejoice

Think there will be time for a sermon and the celebration of Holy Communion? I know there will be! Service begins at 7:30 pm.

Home For Christmas

(Devotion from Rev. Earl Fedderson, “Edit-O-Earl”)

Micah 5:2-4
Hebrews 10:5-10
Luke 1:39-55

Humans do not necessarily have the same homing instincts as other animals. Stories abound concerning lost cats and dogs traveling across continents to get home. Birds are the most amazing of all. One bird, a Manx Shearwater, was transported from Skokholm Island, off the coast of Wales, to Harvard University. There it was tagged and released. Twelve and one-half days later, it was back in its burrow on Skokholm, having traveled 3050 miles at about 244 miles per day.

The U.S. Navy once had more than one albatross around its neck. A whole community, flock, covey, gaggle or whatever you call a bunch of albatrossities lived on Midway Island. Finding them to be more than just a nuisance to their jet aircraft, the Navy decided to transplant them elsewhere. In their infinite wisdom, the sailors divided up the community, transporting them to four locations — each over 3000 miles away — the Philippines, Japan, the Mariana Islands and Hawaii. Within a month they were back!

We humans may lack that kind of sophisticated interior programming, but we do have a certain homing instinct of our own, especially at Christmas. We sing, “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays” and “I’ll be Home for Christmas.” The word “home” conjures up all sorts of images and feelings in most people. For some it is something nostalgic — a simpler time and place. For some it means the people, wherever they may gather.

For the very fortunate of all of us, home is where we belong, where we are comfortable, where there are people we love and by whom we are loved, people on whom we can count. Home is where, as Robert Frost put it in The Death of the Hired Man, “When you go there, they have to take you in.”

But I am painfully aware that for others, juvenile delinquents, adult criminals, addicts, alcoholics and the disturbed, none of that is so. The fortunate of these find a place where others take them in even though they don’t have to. Other people, such as an abused spouse or child think of going home as an ordeal. For many, it is not a happy place and they go there with sweaty palms, bowed head and rolling stomach.

Some people become afraid of home even though they never had a bad experience there. E. Stanley Jones told a story of a girl who was afraid to go home — not because of her past, but her present. She wandered away from home and got lost in the life of a great city. The evil of the place swallowed her and she wound up in a house of shame. The girl’s mother heard what had happened and went out with a heavy heart to find her daughter. She took photographs of herself to every “house of ill-repute” she could find. One day the girl entered a place and carelessly glanced at a picture on the mantle. Coming closer, she recognized her own mother. She read two words written on the picture: “Come home.” It was signed, “Mom.” She fled that place immediately and there was a great homecoming that night.

The greatest miracle of this holy season is that Jesus left His home for Christmas. I’m not talking about Mary going to visit Elizabeth, as in this Sunday’s Gospel, or Mary and Joseph going to Bethlehem. I’m referring to the Son of God leaving and knowing that, for 33 years or so, He and His Father would have to communicate by long distance. You and I aren’t worth that — the cost and the hassle are too great. To leave the warmth of His Father’s presence for the cold of earth and its inhabitants, to travel alone to a place where He wouldn’t be welcome and to people who would abuse and eventually murder Him — to leave home for Christmas is beyond human comprehension. But He didn’t have to be at home with His Father to know the warmth of a love He had known forever. He left home so that you and I could know it as well!

He left in order to bring home His prodigal brothers and wandering sisters. He left to bring us a clear picture of our Father — all we have to do is look at Him. He left to bring a gift, an offering on our behalf, and His sacrifice brings us forgiveness. He left to bring us the message, “Come home.” And He signed it in His own blood.

At this time of the year, no less than any other, we are entrusted with the responsibility of getting that message to all the world. There are people in our families, our neighborhoods and in villages and cities all over the world who have no idea that their Father is waiting on the porch, looking down the road, waiting for them to come around the bend so that He can jump up and run to them with His Christmas gift and huge welcome home. No one is abused at our Father’s home. No one has been too foolish, too prodigal or too long absent.

This Sunday’s Gospel Lesson begins as if it were just another story from Luke about the family ties between Mary and Elizabeth. It is an account of Mary making a visit to relatives. Her arrival, however, prompts little John the Baptizer to jump for joy! Since he hasn’t been born yet, Elizabeth is the startled recipient of his exuberance. Like her baby, Elizabeth was also filled with the Holy Spirit, and she wondered, “Why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Mary’s response has the ring of something well-planned and polished, but it is a song of uninhibited praise of God:

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has been mindful of the humble state of His servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me — holy is His name.” Most of our tunes for this lovely song of praise are, as are our thoughts about this young maiden, gentle and soft. But the song is rather revolutionary: “He has performed mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.”

Mary believed God, and Mary sang. From the very beginning, the good news from the angel had a tremendous load of bad news as well for Mary, but she believed, and she sang. No one is ready to hear about an unplanned pregnancy. What would Joseph say and do? What will the community say and do? Let’s remember that stoning her to death was a live option! But Mary believed; Mary praised God; Mary sang!

Christmas is a time for visiting relatives and exchanging gifts. It is a time for nostalgia and remembering, but, more than any of these, Christmas is a time to praise God! It is a time to believe, and a time to sing. And it is a great time to come home.

Joyful Singing

Today the children of our preschool are practicing their songs they will sing for the Christmas Celebration on Friday. This program comes in two parts: the first section is sung in our sanctuary and centers on the Good News we hear in the birth of our Savior, Jesus; the second is done in our Fellowship Hall and the songs are secular in nature.

I watched part of the practice and it is a delight to see the joy in the eyes of the children (and also the teachers!) as they raise their voices in song to celebrate Christmas. It is a special time for children and it is a good thing that they can sing about the love of Jesus as a baby.

Psalm 96 is the appointed psalm for Christmas Eve and it speaks well to all of us singing praises to our God:

1 Oh sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth!
2 Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples!
4 For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be feared above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
6 Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

7 Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!
8 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering, and come into his courts!
9 Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; [1]
tremble before him, all the earth!

10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.”

11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
12 let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
13 before the Lord, for he comes,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
and the peoples in his faithfulness.

May you raise your voice to the newborn King just as our children are (and will be) doing. Let the Lord hear loud and clear from you about your joy as you receive the precious gifts from your Savior, Jesus Christ.