Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Christmas 1, December 28/29/30, 2013
Sermon by Pastor Paul G. Eckert
Text - Matthew 2:13-23

    The theme for this sermon is “JOURNEYING THROUGH LIFE
TO LIFE.”  How much traveling or journeying have you done?  I’ll
start out with some of my journeying so far.  It started in lower
Michigan where I grew up.  Then I journeyed to Wisconsin for my
college and seminary years.  The first congregations I served took me
north to Ontario in Canada and to upper Michigan.  Then in 1959 my
family and I headed south again to Wisconsin to serve in St. Jacobi
Congregation in Milwaukee and then in Greenfield.  I’m quite sure that
many of you here today have done more traveling than that.
    But whatever the number of locations or miles, we aren’t at the end
of our journeying, are we.  What will the end be?  It’s not where and
what we deserve, but what Jesus, whose birth we just celebrated, had
come to this earth to make possible for us.  We’ll speak of  that as
    1. Danger caused journeying here. (13)
When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in
a dream.  “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and
escape to Egypt.  Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to
search for the child to kill him.”
        a) The Magi or wise men, after seeing a special star, had traveled
            hundreds of miles from the east looking for the promised King. 
            After seeing the baby Jesus, instead of reporting His exact
            location to Herod, they fled the land to get away from Herod.
        b) But that didn’t stop Herod from looking for someone he
            saw as a threat some day to his position.  So an angel told
            Mary and Joseph to get out of the country and take the child
            Jesus and travel many miles to Egypt until the danger was past.   
    2. Danger was there also for others. (16)
When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he
was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem
and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance
with the time he had learned from the Magi. 
        a) Herod didn’t get an exact address from the Magi.  But
            knowing the city was Bethlehem, he ordered the killing of all
            baby boys in an age range he felt sure would include Jesus.
        b) The number may have been small, but the killing was murder.
    3. There still is danger all around us.
        a) We don’t have a Herod, but we do have a government that has
            made it legal to murder babies in the womb.
        b) And we have heard many voices in the past Christmas season
            that have tried to get the baby Christchild out of Christmas.   
    4. And danger will still continue in 2014.
        a) Yes, there will be danger from car accidents and things like
            that, just like in 2013.
        b) There are increasing dangers for Christians in Islamic lands
            and also in the U.S.; temptations  to fall from God and to
            stay away from His Word and not to share Jesus with others.
            c) If possible, like the Magi and Mary and Joseph, travel away
            from such danger.  And stay close to God and His Word,
            trusting Him for what He in His wisdom permits in our lives..
II    THE CERTAINTY OF GOD’S CARE.  (13-15a,19-22)
    1. Marvel that Jesus needed care.
        a) Our Jesus is God’s Son, the Word made flesh, the one of
            whom Scripture says, “Through him all things were made;
without him nothing was made that has been made.”
        b) Why did He through whom all things were made need care?
    2. Here we see why Jesus humbled Himself.
        a) Listen to these words from Philippians 2 about Jesus “-- who,
being in very  nature God, did not consider equality with God
something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the
very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And
being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and
became obedient to death - even death on a cross!”
        b) Could Jesus have walked away from Pontius Pilate, from    
            soldiers who crucified Him?  Yes, He had the power.  But in
            His love for us and the world He set that power aside.
    3. Here we can see God’s care.  (13-15a)
When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in
a dream.  “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and
escape to Egypt.  Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to
search for the child to kill him.”  So he got up, took the child and
his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed
until the death of Herod.”
        a) God cared for the Magi, sending them home safely.
        b) He protected His Son here, because His saving plan for the
            world was not death by Herod, but a sacrifice on a cross. 
    4. Know that His care is also for us. (19-22)
After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to
Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother
and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the
child’s life are dead.”  So he got up, took the child and his mother
and went to the land of Israel.  But when he heard that Archelaus
was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid
to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the
district of Galilee, ---.    
        a) Mary and Joseph probably didn’t fully understand why with a
            very young child they had to do all this traveling.
        b) Have we in the past  fully understood why God permitted
            some things to happen to us?  Will we always know in the
            coming year of 2014 what God has in mind if something comes
            that we would choose not to have happen?
        c) While we often cannot understand, we can trust God’s guiding
            care, knowing as Scripture says:  “He who did not spare his
own Son, but gave him up for us all - how will he not also, along
with him, graciously give us all things?”
    1. God’s OT promises were fulfilled.  (15b,17-18,23)
        a) Our text refers to three: - (Jeremiah 31:15) Then what was
said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: “A voice is heard
in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her
children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”
-  (Hosea 11:1) And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said
through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” 
        b) A third reference: - and he went and lived in a town called
Nazareth.  So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets:
“He will be called a Nazarene.”  This speaks of OT prophecies that
Jesus would be mocked and despised.   All of these were fulfilled.
    2. So also the promise of salvation was fulfilled.
        a) Think of these promises: a virgin birth in Bethlehem, being
            betrayed for 30 pieces of silver, being pierced and hanged on a
            tree, being forsaken by God in our place; then also being
            victorious and arising from the dead - b) All werefulfilled.
    3. Likewise the promise of life for us will be fulfilled.
        a) God has promised to be with us in this life.  But this life
             won’t always continue - who wants that in this vale of tears?
        b) What Jesus has promised is that we’ll be with Him in His glory
            without tears.  In other words, Heaven is our home, a promise
            that will be fulfilled as surely as the prophecies in our text were
            all fulfilled, as surely as Jesus after His crucifixion arose from
            the dead to be our Resurrection and our Life.
    4. Yes, our journey through life leads to true life.    
        a) How sad if all we knew was that we were heading into
            another year of time with a totally unknown future.   
        b) How sad if we knew that all we could anticipate was danger
            and problems and aging and dying and death and hell.
        c) Thank God that because of Christmas and everything it really
            means, because of the truth of God’s love and of His promises,
            we know more. 

    The Magi journeyed many miles from the east to Jerusalem and to
Bethlehem, and then back to the East.  Mary and Joseph journeyed
from Galilee to Bethlehem, and then with Jesus to Jerusalem, to Egypt,
and back to Jerusalem and to Nazareth in Galilee - a lot of journeying.
    We continue our journeying, knowing there will be dangers, but also
knowing that we have God’s guiding care, and that our Savior God
will fulfill His promises to us of glory to come.  In such confidence, as
we head into 2014, we’ll continue JOURNEYING THROUGH

Friday, December 27, 2013

CHRISTMAS EVE December 24, 2013 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: Galatians 4:4-7 “BORN TO SAVE US!” GOD’S PERFECT GIFT

December 24, 2013
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
Text: Galatians 4:4-7

1.     Perfect Timing
2.     Perfect Planning
3.     Perfect Results

Galatians 4:4-7 (NIV 1984) “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. 6Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ""Abba", Father." 7So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.”

          I really didn’t understand it. People kept calling us the Griswolds. I suppose it had to do with the fact that the tree we cut was wider than our van, took three men to boost on top of it and dwarfed the van once it was tied on. This is what happened. My wife, Chris, daughters Jamie and Anna and I were getting our Christmas tree at a cut your own place in Muskego. We found what for each of us was the perfect tree. The girls want one that is big and will fill our front window. This one would. Perfect! For Chris, she wants one where the branches are full with no gaps in it. This one was. Perfect! For me?  The price tag said $10. Perfect! Have you ever noticed how at Christmas time there is this fascination with trying to find what’s perfect? You try to pick the perfect Christmas tree. Merchants try to convince you that they have the perfect Christmas gift. So every kiss begins with Kay and a diamond will make the perfect gift. No it’s the Lexus with a red bow on top. That’s the perfect gift. Or… you name it. Really this isn’t surprising if you think about it. Imitation, they say, is the highest form of flattery. And this pursuit of perfection at Christmas is merely an imitation of what God did at the first Christmas.
          Jesus was born to save us and by giving us His Son Jesus God gave us the perfect gift. You heard the details of what happened in the readings from Luke. Now let’s look at what God had the Apostle Paul write in his letter to Galatian churches to see some of the why. First we see that God’s perfect gift had perfect timing. “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son.” In some cases timing is everything. The snap of a ball. The pianist’s finale. The choreography of a fireworks display. God’s timing in sending Jesus was perfect. Paul describes it as the time had fully come. Now what that fully means we can only guess. Some have. They see that God waited for a time when there was a universal language, Greek, so that news about Jesus could be shared easily between cultures. They see that God waited until there was a time of relative peace, the Pax Romana, the peace enforced by the Roman Empire so that travel was safer. They suggest these reasons and many more. The important truth though is that God’s timing was perfect. It was the perfect moment in history. The perfect moment in God’s plan of salvation. Now let God’s perfect timing when He sent His Son into the world lift you up and encourage you as you deal with things in life that are out of your control. When things are out of my control and your control that means they are in God’s control. This covers accidents and illnesses. It covers unexpected job changes and everything else that happens out of our control. You can rejoice in it! God’s timing is perfect. When you are feeling doubts or worried about things that are out of your control remember God’s perfect gift of Jesus that shows His perfect timing.
          God’s planning was perfect too. Why are you doing that? What are you hoping to accomplish? Those are important questions to ask and be able to answer when it comes to any endeavor from choosing a college to attend to building buildings to giving gifts. Why did God do that? What was He hoping to accomplish by having His Son born as Mary’s son too in Bethlehem. These words tell us. “God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5to redeem those under law.” Jesus was sent on a mission. There was a problem, a very serious problem. Sin. You might feel or see it in your life as guilt in the pit of your stomach, or anger that this world is unfair. You experience it when you live for yourself like the commercials tell you to and buy for yourself and call attention to yourself and still you feel empty and unhappy. It all gets traced back to sin, disobedience of the God who created us. And truly the problem of sin is a whole lot worse than feeling anger, guilt or emptiness. Sin separates us from God who is holy. We can’t be with Him now or forever in heaven. Sin condemns to Hell. Now how do you fix the problem of sin? Well you can try harder not to sin so you don’t feel guilty and mess up relationships the next time. You can try to do something nice to make up for bad things you do. But you know, those things don’t ultimately work. Try as hard as we want we keep sinning and messing up our lives. None of our ways takes care of sin. But God does. Here is the problem. Sin is wrong. Sin must be punished. People are sinful. How do you punish sin without punishing people? Only holiness and perfection get to exist with God. People are not holy. They can’t obey perfectly. How can they get the holiness they need to live with God? With perfect planning God provided a substitute.  He sent His son. Born of a woman. Jesus became one of us.   Born under law. Jesus would have to obey all the laws of God we must. To redeem those under law. Jesus would pay the price of sin. He would be punished. That’s perfect planning. Stand in awe of God with me! Who else would come up with a plan that could provide obedience and pay for sin all wrapped up in one perfect gift? Jesus who was born to save us. Remember God’s planning is perfect when things aren’t going well for you. Go back to God’s perfect gift and see that He knows what He is doing, always. You can trust His planning.
          And you can look forward to enjoying the results. Once again God is perfect. “That we might receive the full rights of sons. 6Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ""Abba", Father." 7So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” These words of God were originally written to people who lived in a different culture than we do now. Their culture had slaves. Slaves are property. They have no rights. It’s the children and specifically in that culture the sons who inherited the property. Can you imagine how you would feel if you lived back then and were a slave or maybe a daughter and so you would not be inheriting anything and then one of the sons of the family came and said, “Here you can have my rights. You can call Him father. And you will inherit everything I do.” You’d say. “Can this be true?” Well it happened for real when God gave his perfect gift, Jesus who is born to save us. Because of sin we forfeited any right to be God’s children. Because of Jesus we are His children. God sent Jesus born to save. His perfect life, the life of a perfectly obedient son, is credited to every believer. His death would pay the full guilt price of every sin so God can have us with Him forever. And now we are children of God. Heaven is our home and heaven is perfect. God’s gift is perfect!
          My Christmas tree—not so much. A few days after I set it up it fell over. Not because I set it up wrong. The tree is weighted to one side. It’s not perfect. It’s been starting to drop needles now too. It’s not going to last forever. It’s not perfect. Neither are diamonds or lexuses—or is that lexi? Nor any other gifts we get. But Jesus is and what He has done for us means we will last forever. What can we say other than “Thank you God for your perfect gift. Jesus, born to save.”  Amen.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: 1 Samuel 2:1-10 “SAMUEL’S FAMILY: PREPARE WITH JOY!”

December 18, 2013
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
Text: 1 Samuel 2:1-10


          I think I’m detecting a pattern here during our Advent Worship. You hear you are going to have a baby or do have one and you sing a song of praise. After Mary heard she was going have a baby and shared the news with her cousin Elizabeth she broke into a song of praise that we now call the Magnificat. As you heard in our Advent reading when John the Baptist was born to Zechariah and Elizabeth, Zechariah sang a song of praise. Our text today is kind of another song of praise. It’s sometimes called the Old Testament Magnificat because of some content similarities with the Song of Mary. We find it in the prayer Hannah prayed in 1 Samuel 2:1-10.

1 Samuel 2:1-10   (NIV 1984) “Then Hannah prayed and said: "My heart rejoices in the LORD; in the LORD my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance. 2"There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. 3"Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the LORD is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed. 4"The bows of the warriors are broken, but those who stumbled are armed with strength. 5Those who were full hire themselves out for food, but those who were hungry hunger no more. She who was barren has borne seven children, but she who has had many sons pines away. 6"The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up. 7The LORD sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts. 8He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. "For the foundations of the earth are the LORD's; upon them he has set the world. 9He will guard the feet of his saints, but the wicked will be silenced in darkness. "It is not by strength that one prevails; 10those who oppose the LORD will be shattered. He will thunder against them from heaven; the LORD will judge the ends of the earth. "He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed."  

Hannah was the mother of the Old Testament prophet, Samuel. He faithfully served the Lord as the nation of Israel moved from the time of the judges to the time of the kings. Do you remember his beginning? His mom Hannah had no children. She prayed to God at the Tabernacle for the gift of a son and vowed that if God gave her a son she would give him back for a lifetime of service to the Lord. God answered Hannah’s prayer. She gave birth to Samuel. When he was perhaps three Hannah took him to serve at the Tabernacle. He would not live at home. He would stay their full time. Moms, can you imagine that? How would you feel when you said Good bye? I guess that’s what makes Hannah’s praise stand out. She said this prayer on the day she left Samuel at tabernacle.
          Listen again to how she starts. “My heart rejoices in the LORD; in the LORD my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance.”  It’s almost impossible to believe but Hannah rejoiced. Her prayer to God is one of thanks and praise. Why? How could she do that? The Holy Spirit had Hannah focusing on the big picture. In the little picture Hannah had to say good bye to her little boy. From what Scripture records Hannah would see him once a year at the annual sacrifice. Certainly that caused sadness. But in the big picture she was aware of God’s plan of salvation. Her son would serve the God who saves His people. Her son would anoint the next kings including the one who needed to be king, Jesus’ ancestor, King David. She and her family were in God’s plan of salvation.
Seeing the big picture helped Hannah to rejoice in her relationship with God. Listen again to how she saw God. "There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. 3"Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the LORD is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed. 4"The bows of the warriors are broken, but those who stumbled are armed with strength. 5Those who were full hire themselves out for food, but those who were hungry hunger no more. She who was barren has borne seven children, but she who has had many sons pines away. 6"The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up. 7The LORD sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts.” Hannah saw that God was holy. A Rock. She saw that God helps the needy, the humble, the lowly and who spits out the proud and self righteous, those who are full of themselves. That helped Hannah to rejoice in who she was and who God was. With no child back in those days she had been pitied and looked down on. Probably by herself too. Now she knew that the Holy God helped the poor in spirit, those who appear to be nothing to the eyes of the world. The proud and arrogant would get theirs in due time.
Now what can we learn from Hannah that helps us get ready to celebrate Christmas and always be ready for Christ to come a second time? How about that we remember to see the big picture? It would have been easy for Hannah to be overcome with the sorrow of saying good-bye to her little boy but seeing the big picture of God’s greater plans she rejoiced. How about you? Are you bogged down in the details? Are they taking your joy away? Life in the sin messed world is riddled with hard things we must face. We might be poor in spirit and in money. Sicknesses come and go. Family problems. Saying good bye to loved ones for a short time or the longer time of death. Sins of weakness and sins of choice cause problems for ourselves and others. If those or other problems have you down pray to the Holy Spirit to help you focus on the big picture. God has his plans. Like Hannah and her son Samuel you and I are privileged to be a part of them. Think of it. You are a piece in God’s plan of salvation. You too get to rejoice.
You too know and see God in the right light. God is holy. He does help the humble and the lowly. There is no place for pride or arrogance before Him. Remember it is not by strength that one prevails, but by trusting in God. And He’s a God we can trust. You see Hannah wasn’t the only one who gave away a son, was she? God did. God did when He sent His one and only son Jesus. There was a big picture. People were helpless to save themselves. People were damned to Hell. People needed to be delivered. For that a sacrifice needed to be made. It was much greater than not seeing a child for a time. God would have to punish Jesus. And He did. But that’s not where it ended. Jesus rose. Jesus lives. Jesus will come again. So God’s people prepare with joy. Amen.

Monday, December 16, 2013

December 14/15/16, 2013 Advent 3 Sermon

December 14/15/16, 2013  Advent 3
Sermon by Pastor Paul G. Eckert
Sermon text - Matthew 11:1-11
Christmas, but let’s start out with Easter.  At the first Easter, instead of
expecting Jesus’ resurrection, all of Jesus’ disciples first wondered
about it.  But one of them, Thomas, became infamous for his doubting.
When told of Jesus’ resurrection he said, “Unless I see the nail marks
in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my
hand into his side, I will not believe it.”  But later, when doubting
Thomas finally saw the risen Jesus, he said, “My Lord and my God!”
He no longer doubted, but believed the truth of the resurrection.
    Let’s move on now from the doubting that took place at the first
Easter and come to our present season of the church year and say,
    1. Jesus was carrying out His ministry.  (1)
After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went
on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee.
        a) That ministry included teaching His disciples for three years so
that they could do the preaching in the future after the first Easter.
        b) That instructing was not only 12 students and 1 teacher, but
learning also took place as the disciples traveled with Jesus and heard
Him preach to many people as He carried out His ministry on earth.
    2. John had met consequences in his ministry.  (2a)
When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, ---.
        a) Why was John in prison?  Matthew 14 tells us, “Now Herod
had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because
of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, for John had been saying to
him: ‘It is not lawful for you to have her.’”  John was arrested, and
finally beheaded, because he spoke against marriage being dishonored.
        b) Could that happen today?  What if your pastors spoke against
marriage being dishonored, said that according to God’s Word the
sexual relationship belongs only between husband and wife, that same-
sex or unmarried sexual relationships are wrong, a sin, in God’s eyes?
Could it come to us being arrested, put in prison, because we’re not
politically correct?  As things are in our country now, who knows.   
        3. But did John here also really have doubt?   (2-3)
When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his
disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should
we expect someone else?”
        a) It is possible that with this question John did not doubt but
wanted his disciples to find out for themselves and be convinced.
        b) But it is also possible that John did doubt, maybe because he
thought if Jesus were the correct one something more would have
happened already.  Doubt can come into our lives too.  Right?
    4. Do we need encouragement?  (3)
“Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone
        a) I’m sure our problem is not doubt about who Jesus is.
        b) But might the emphasis in some of our homes be that
Christmas is about expecting a Santa Claus and presents, and Jesus is
        c) Do we need encouragement to let there be no doubt as to what
we are celebrating in Christmas, that this Christ child is our Savior?
    1. There should have been no doubt.  (3)
“Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone
        a) John knew Jesus well.  They were the same age.  Their
mothers knew each other.  John had baptized Jesus in the Jordan River.
        b) Maybe John just wanted reassurance when he was in prison.
    2. Jesus provided Biblical physical proof.   (4-5a)
Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and
see:  The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have
leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, ---.”
        a) Jesus could have answered simply with, “Yes, I am.”
        b) Instead here He referred to promised miracles publicly done.
    3. And He pointed to His good news.  (5b)
-- the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.
        a) The good news is the forgiveness of sins that promises heaven.
        b) That, like the miracles, had been foretold in the Bible from the
beginning.  Jesus reminded John that He was doing what was foretold.
    4. Jesus does the same for us.  (6)
“Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”
        a) Do we, like John, want to be reassured as to what we believe?
        b) Then open your Bible.  Look at what Scripture foretold.
        c) Jesus fulfilled it all.  The baby in the manger is the right one to
celebrate as our Savior.  Don’t ever fall away from Him.
    1. He had been firm in his preaching.   (7)
As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the
crowd about John: “What did you go out into the desert to see?
A reed swayed by the wind?” 
        a) John wasn’t wishy-washy, giving what people wanted to hear.
        b) His message, even if it brought consequences like being put in
prison and death, was the truth and what the people needed to hear. 
    2. His concern was not for himself.  (8)
“If not, what did you go out to see? A  man dressed in fine
clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces.” 
        a) John’s message was not to make himself rich.
        b) Rather he called people to repentance so that they could be
rich, the wages of their sins paid by Jesus who would die for their sins.
    3. John himself had been foretold.  (9-10)
“Then what did you go out to see? A prophet?  Yes, I tell you, and
more than a prophet.  This is the one about whom it is written: ‘I
will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way
before you.’”
        a) John himself was the fulfillment of God’s Word.
        b) This prophecy is from the Old Testament, Malachi 3:1.
    4. His message is still needed by us.  (10)
“This is the one about whom it is written: ‘I will send my
messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’”
        a) Are your Christmas decorations all set?
        b) Do you need more preparing to get ready for Christmas?
        c) Let our real preparing be to heed John’s call to repentance for
our sins and to welcome our Savior into our hearts and homes.   
    1. John was the greatest prophet.  (11a)
“I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not
risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; ---”
        a) Isaiah, Jeremiah and so on were great prophets.
        b) They could write about Jesus’ coming.  But John was greater
in this way that he actually saw Jesus and could prepare His way.
    2. Yet Jesus says that we are greater.   (11)
“I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not
risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in
the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
        a) John was dead, beheaded, before Jesus completed His
ministry.  He didn’t live to see Jesus’ crucifixion or resurrection.   
    b) You and I know all those details, have the rest of the story.  We
wouldn’t rank ourselves on the level of John.  Yet, with what we have
seen and know, in that sense we can be called greater than John.
    3. Let John’s preparation continue with us.
        a) Heed John’s call to repentance.  Don’t defend your sin or
excuse it.  Be truly sorry whenever violating God’s holy revealed will.
        b) Then go to the One for whom John prepared the way, the One
who humbled Himself the first Christmas so that He could be sacrificed
on a cross for all of our sins and arise to prove His victory for us.
    4. And look forward to fulfillment.
        a) In Heaven we’ll see John.  And John will have his head on.
        b) And you and I will have glorified bodies too, without sickness
or problems.
        c) Let all of that be what we are really celebrating this Christmas
season and always.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

ADVENT 2 – SONG SERVICE December 7-9, 2013 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

December 7-9, 2013
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude


          You’ve heard of it before, I’m sure. The three Rs of education. Reading, wRiting and aRithmatic. Even though all those words don’t start with the letter R but rather the sound they are an easy way to remember the basics of education. And they are the basics that keep getting taught. There are many things that were taught a century ago that are not being taught in schools any more. There are classes that kids in school today take that kids in the past never did. But the basics are still there, reading, writing, arithmetic.
          There are some basics to focus on in the Advent season of the church year as well. For centuries Advent has focused the hearts and minds of believers on preparing for Jesus. As Pastor Waldschmidt mentioned last week there is an emphasis on preparing for Jesus’ second coming at the end of the world as well as preparing to  celebrate His first coming at Christmas. As we look at how God prepared people in the past we notice something. There are some basics. Some ways of preparing that are always repeated. With a little maneuvering they become the three Rs of Advent.

The first teacher is a man named John the Baptist. He teaches to Repent.


FIRST READING:  Matthew 3:1-12 (NIV 1984) In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea 2and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." 3This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: "A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.' " 4John's clothes were made of camel's hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 7But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9And do not think you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. 11"I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear  his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire."

          The Gospel lesson focuses on the work that John the Baptist did to prepare people for Jesus. He did so by helping people see their need for a Savior from sin. Many of the people of John’s day knew they needed a Savior. They came out to John knowing they weren’t good enough to get to heaven on their own. They confessed they were sinful. Some did not, some surprising ones, the Pharisees and Sadducees. They were the church going people of the day, the ones whose outward lives looked pretty good. John spoke pretty strongly to them. Called them a bunch of snakes. He warned them about relying on anything else but Jesus as their Savior. He warned that where there was no repentance there would be judgment. It’s clear. Repentance is a necessary part of preparing for Jesus.
To repent means to confess or own up to your sins, to be remorseful for the wrong you have done, to trust in the forgiveness provided by Jesus and in thankfulness to turn away from sin, to produce fruit in keeping with repentance. What would John the Baptist see and say if he were the preacher here this morning? Would he find the first kind of people who freely confessed their sin and were glad to hear their Savior had come? Or would he find churched people like the Pharisees and Sadducees? People going through the motions of worship and religion? People who say, “Another Christmas. Jesus is born. Yeah, we know all that.” Would he have to say something like,  Don’t think you can say to yourself, “I’m alright with God. I go to church. My parents were believers.” to point out that we aren’t saved by our actions or our heritage but only by Jesus? Repent. It’s one of the basics. Something for us to practice every day.

5 & 7: Hymn 14 urges us to just that.
Sunday: Our Ladies Choir reminds us to keep focused on what we are waiting for.

 Our second teacher is a man named Isaiah.  He gives us the second R of Advent:

SECOND READING:  Isaiah 11:1-10 (NIV 1984) A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him-- the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD-- 3and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; 4but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. 5Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. 6The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. 7The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. 8The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest. 9They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. 10In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.”

          Isaiah was one of the Old Testament prophets of God who did his work around 700 years before Jesus came to help the people be ready for their Savior he painted a picture for them of what Jesus would do. Jesus is the stump or root of Jesse, the descendant of David that was one of the signs of the true Messiah. He would be a righteous ruler who would be just, fair and right the wrong of the world so natural enemies could be friends and danger wouldn’t be danger anymore. Jesus brought this peace when He came the first time. By nature because of sin we are enemies of God but Jesus destroyed the hold sin has on us. We are forgiven and given His righteousness instead. All the wrongs in this world won’t be righted until Jesus comes the second time. Thinking of Him coming the second time leads us to rejoice. Just think about that for a minute. What is it that gives you joy right now? What makes your eyes light up? Well if you are hungry it’s the sight of food coming. If you are running low on gas it’s the sight of a gas station coming soon.  But if you really want joy then it will have to be with people. Parents think of the joy you felt the first time you held your newborn you waited for so long. Think of the joy military families feel when their deployed loved one comes safely home. Advent has us rejoicing as we anticipate how great it will be when Jesus comes the second time. He’s going to make everything right. “They will neither harm nor destroy all my holy mountain. The nations will rally to him and his place of rest will be glorious.”  Rejoice.

5 & 7: Hymn 19 has us thinking about how we will meet the Lord
Sun: Our Mixed Choir’s version of Psalm 24 pictures us welcoming our Lord.
Our next teacher is the Apostle Paul and the third R of Advent is Reflect.

THIRD READING:  Romans 15:4-131(NIV 1984) For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, 6so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. 8For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God's truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs 9so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it is written: "Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to your name." 10Again, it says, "Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people." 11And again, "Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and sing praises to him, all you peoples." 12And again, Isaiah says, "The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him." 13May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

          There are a couple of different ways we use the word reflect. It can mean to take some time and think seriously about something, like when you reflect on the past. Another way we use the word is to bounce back or show an image of like when the moon reflects sunlight and it lights up or a mirror reflects the image in it. Both of those meanings help Advent Christians as they prepare for Jesus to come. Paul reminded the Roman Christians that everything that was written in the past was written to teach us and encourage us. What he was talking about was God’s Word, the Bible. It’s a gift from God to teach us and encourage us. We need to reflect on it. That means to read it, hear it, think seriously about what it says. Then the Holy Spirit goes to work in our hearts.
          Then we can reflect Jesus, look like Him be an image of what He did. Paul put it this way, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Paul reminds us how Jesus accepted us sinners. He didn’t wait until we were all cleaned up and acceptable to Him. He cleaned us up with forgiveness and made us acceptable. Paul urged the Christians in Rome to reflect that acceptance with each other. In their time it was Jews accepting Gentiles even though they were different and Gentiles accepting the Jews. We reflect Jesus when we accept each other. Rich or poor, blue color or white collar whatever difference the Devil tries to use to divide us we can set aside. In our families we practice forgiveness. In our classrooms we include each other. In our congregation we disagree or have differences of opinion without being disagreeable or becoming enemies. Reflect on Christ and Reflect Him toward others.
          Those are the three R’s of Advent. Repent, Rejoice, Reflect. Like the other Rs they are basic to our preparation, need to be learned again and again and become useful when they are used. God’s blessings to you as you Repent, Rejoice and Reflect. Amen.