Sermons

Translating God's Word for a new generation

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As we work our way through the Gospel of Matthew this year, we see a transition this week from the introduction of Jesus to the beginning of His ministry. Matthew summarizes Jesus’ ministry in three areas: Jesus taught, He proclaimed the good news of the Kingdom, and He met the needs of the people (Matt. 4:23.). This weekend, we will experience the light of Jesus and explore what generous faith in Christ looks like in our lives.

God’s heart is a heart of generosity. In His generosity, He called a people (Israel) to be His own . . . for a purpose. That purpose was to be a light to those who were strangers and foreigners (Gentiles). Those foreigners--which include us--also have a purpose. Our purpose is to share God’s salvation “to the ends of the earth.” The Apostle Paul calls this purpose a “partnership with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord”. God’s Word encourages us to have generous hearts, fulfilling the purpose of our lives.

This weekend, we celebrate the baptism of Jesus. Come hear about the perfect Son of God who was washed in the Jordan River and see how extraordinary He is. Years before this happened, Magi from the East had come to realize how unique this individual was as they gave Him their worship and their gifts. He is the Lamb of God proclaimed by John. He is the glorious true King promised to God's people, descended from the line of King David. And He is the Savior who has come to bring us salvation. Let us gather at the river to share in the Baptism Day of our Lord!

We know from Scripture that the Magi who visited the infant Jesus were not literal kings, nor were they three in number. The hymn “We Three Kings” draws its inspiration from the representation of the wise men found in the traditional Nativity scene. Here, the Wise Men are different races, representing the teaching of Scripture that all the nations and all the rulers of the earth will one day bow before Christ the King. These wise men brought gifts not just for an ordinary king, but gifts fit for the Messiah who would rule over all nations (gold), be praised and worshiped with the Father and the Holy Spirit (incense), and die and be buried on humanity’s behalf (myrrh). Let the light of these gifts enliven your Faith in the King of Kings.

When a video goes viral online, our friends tell us, “Look at that!” While people in previous centuries didn’t have viral videos, they held parades through their city gates so they all could be part of some great event. As we share the news of God entering human history in the person of Jesus, we bring our friends to that once-for-all yet eternal event. God kept His promise, Joseph named Mary’s son Jesus, and we are called saints by the grace of God. It’s news that can’t be kept to ourselves; we have to tell our friends, “Look at that! Look at what God has done!”

Our faces tell a lot about what’s going on inside. Some days we might be gloomy. But when we hear truly joyful news, it changes us from the inside. Our faces light up with smiles and we join our friends in rejoicing. Isaiah prophesied abundant joy when the Messiah would come, which He did centuries ago. In our joy, we wait patiently for His return. Though our Lord will return as judge, Isaiah promises, “He will come and save you.” Now there’s great news to put a smile on your face!

When things are going wrong, we encourage our friends, saying, “Look up. Things will get better.” But that takes hope based on some report or promise. Our Advent hope is based on the promises God has made throughout history, some of which we still wait to see fulfilled. Paul hopes that Jews and Gentiles will learn to live together in harmony. But John the Baptist warns that only repentance will enable us to move forward. Advent is a time to recognize God’s grace in forgiving our sins and to look up and forward in hope!

“Look out!” That's about all we can yell as something unexpected is about to happen. The person we are warning has to be awake to respond. That’s why Jesus tells His disciples, including us, to be awake and watchful for His return. He is our Lord, Master and King! Advent is a time of preparation for His coming: once in history, to us in Word and Sacrament today, and finally at the end of time. When our Lord returns, he will usher in the Kingdom of God, which Isaiah says will be so peaceful that people will “beat their swords into plowshares.” Before that day, preparing means leading lives of love. Salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. Look out! The King comes!

“Oh, my God!” How often do you hear these words? Do you hear them as words of awe that glorify the Name of God and His relationship with us? Or do you hear them as a mere exclamation point thoughtlessly thrust into conversations as verbal filler?

“I AM.” “Jesus.” Those are the two names of God from our first two weeks of our series. This week’s name is “Rescuer”. This awesome name elicits from us EXCLAMATION (Oh), PROCLAMATION (My) and EXALTATION (God). That is OMG in the sense that truly honors the Name of God.

Have you ever been the victim of identity theft? Hopefully not. But if you have, you know that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, that feeling of invasion and violation. Jesus can relate. He knows that others will come in His name. Others will steal His identity. They may do it for wealth, or power, or even fame, but the ultimate prize will be to steal us from the peace that surpasses all understanding. Jesus does not intend to scare us with this news. He shares this news with His children to keep us on guard and safe from this theft of our identity as children of God.