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Friday, Jan. 22, marks the 48th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision which opened the way for legalized abortion in the United States; and I would have to count that day to be one of the saddest in American history because, since that day, more than 61 million babies have been murdered in this country through legalized abortion.

It is, as I’ve said before, America’s holocaust because we have killed — or stood by and done little or nothing while it happened in our own land and communities — 61 million of our own children inside or partially inside their mothers’ wombs. More than 20 million of those murdered children are African American — more than the entire African American population in the U.S. in 1960. If God graded on a numbers-based curve — and He doesn’t — Adolph Hitler and his Nazi regime would come out looking like saints in comparison to us.

And why have we done it? The argument we usually hear is that it is a woman’s right and her freedom of choice. But the truth is that it is selfishness. People do not wish to be burdened and inconvenienced with the responsibilities of giving birth to and raising a child. They place themselves and their own plans and desires above the needs of another human being and choose to kill a child rather than being responsible and giving of themselves to care for it.

Science itself tells us that the unborn child in its mother’s womb is a human being — a heartbeat at 3 weeks, a highly developed brain by 8 weeks, thumb sucking by 9 weeks — and yet we still kill each day an average of 2,360 human beings for the convenience of mothers and fathers. We are alarmed at the death toll from the coronavirus but still murder more babies each and every day through abortion.

The Bible clearly forbids us to murder human beings (Ex. 20:13; Deut. 5:17). And the Bible also clearly teaches that it is God who creates life in the womb and appoints to that life a number of days on this earth: “You brought my inner parts into being; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will praise you, for You made me with fear and wonder; marvelous are Your works, and You know me completely. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in secret, and intricately put together in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw me unformed, yet in Your book all my days were written, before any of them came into being” (Psalm 139:13-16).

Since, as I said before, God does not grade on a curve, even one abortion is a terrible tragedy and heinous crime. But the crime goes on in America’s death camps; and the judgment of God, who created and gives life and values each life so much He gave his Son to redeem it, will fall upon our nation and people for all the innocent blood that is shed in our land, whether in abortion clinics or doctors’ offices and hospitals (cf. Deut. 21:1-9; Gen. 9:5-6). Perhaps we are beginning to see it in the current pandemic.

Some would argue and say, “What about cases of rape and incest and those pregnancies which endanger the life of a mother?”

The fact is that they are only a very, very small percentage of the pregnancies which end in abortion. But in cases of rape or incest, why should the child be put to death for the sins of another? Why not put to death the guilty rapist and the sexual predator? Yet, we destroy the innocent and let the guilty off with minimal punishment. And even when medical professionals determine the life of a mother could be at stake, is abortion the right answer? I’ve known of mothers who, without medical warning, gave their lives to deliver a healthy child and of many who’ve been told they would die if they gave birth but went on to have several children and with few complications.

My point is simply this: Pray for God’s mercy upon our people and an end to legalized abortion in our land, use your voice and your votes to protect human life whether young or old, encourage and teach Biblical morals to children and youth regarding God’s design for marriage and bearing children, and stand up for the protection of life against those who would urge us to tolerate their ongoing slaughter of the innocent.

And this is especially important now as our new federal government leadership has promised to defend and further enable this merciless slaughter of children in our land.

O Lord, open our eyes to see our great wickedness and repent before Your full judgment falls upon our land and people! Amen.

[Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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The Baptism of our Lord

Matthew 3:13-17

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. 14 But John prohibited Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he permitted Him. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, He came up immediately out of the water. And suddenly the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending on Him like a dove. 17 And a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

What if Jesus were to walk into our church today and ask to be baptized? What would we say?

After all, Baptism is a means of grace whereby God offers and gives forgiveness of sins to sinners for the sake of the new covenant established by Jesus’ blood, shed upon the cross for the sins of the world! Cf. Heb. 9:11-15; 8:7ff.

John baptized those who came to him confessing their sins and seeking God’s pardon and forgiveness for the sake of the atoning sacrifice of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (cf. Matt. 3:1ff.; Mark 1:4-5; Luke 3:1ff.; John 1:29). And, on the Day of Pentecost, Peter urged his hearers to “repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

And Jesus? He was and is sinless! He “was in every sense tempted like we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). “He is holy, innocent, undefiled, separate from sinners, and is higher than the heavens” (Heb. 7:26). “He committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth” (1 Pet. 2:22; cf. Isa. 53:9).

With John the Baptist, I would have to say, “I need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” (Matt. 3:14). And, yet Jesus did come to John and was baptized of him in the Jordan River. He told John, “Let it be so now, for it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). Then John permitted Jesus to be baptized.

Why did Jesus come to be baptized by John? He didn’t need to repent of sin! He didn’t need God’s forgiveness! But God did command and establish Baptism as the sign and sacrament by which one becomes a party and partaker of the new covenant He was putting in place by means of the atoning sacrifice of His Son (cf. 1 John 2:1-2; Heb. 10:19ff.; Gal. 3:26ff.; Matt. 28:18-20).

And it was fitting — to fulfill all righteousness — that our Substitute, our Savior, be baptized that He might associate Himself with us, taking our place under the Law to fulfill it for us and then bearing upon the cross the full and just punishment for our sins and the sins of the entire world of sinners. It was necessary to establish the new covenant and to offer to all who partake of it through Holy Baptism the forgiveness of sins and life eternal which Christ purchased and won for all when he suffered and died upon the cross.

Luther writes of Jesus’ Baptism: “Why does He come and seek Baptism, as there is no sin and uncleanness in Him which Baptism would remove? That will be a blessed Baptism. John here is getting a sinner who in His own person has no sin, and yet is the greatest sinner, that has and bears the sin of the whole world. For this reason, He permits Himself to be baptized and confesses with this action that He is a sinner. However, not for Himself, but for us. For He here takes my place and thy place and stands in our stead who are sinners, and since all, especially the arrogant saints, do not want to be sinners, He must become a sinner for all; He assumes the form of our sinful flesh and complains, as many psalms testify, on the cross and in His passion, of the weight of the sins which He bears” (Luther, 7, 691; 11, 2130).

In another reference, Luther writes: “Jesus says: …If that shall be performed that the poor sinners may come to righteousness and be saved, you must baptize Me. Because for the sake of sinners I have become a sinner, must therefore do what God has charged the sinners to do, in order that they may become just through Me” (Luther, 13, 1575; 11, 2139).

And so, our Savior took on human flesh and blood and joined Himself to us that He might be our Substitute and redeem us. Because Jesus was baptized and then went to the cross to pay the price for our sins, all who believe and are baptized receive God’s pardon and forgiveness, a place in God’s eternal kingdom, by means of Holy Baptism.

In Baptism, we who trust in Christ have our sins washed away in Jesus’ shed blood and, as Christ was raised up from death, we are given God’s Spirit and new life in Christ Jesus!

And what happened when Jesus was baptized? We read in Matthew 3:16-17: “And when Jesus was baptized, He came up immediately out of the water. And suddenly the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending on Him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’”

When Jesus came up out of the waters of the Jordan, the heavens opened and the Spirit of God descended upon Him like a dove. And a voice came from God the Father in heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Thus, we have the entire Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — present and participating in Jesus’ Baptism. So also, in our Baptisms, we are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19). Though the minister applies water, He does so not in his own name or even in the name of the church he serves. The waters of Holy Baptism are applied in the name of the Triune God, for God Himself accomplished our salvation.

The Father sent His only-begotten Son into the world to redeem us and be a perfect sacrifice to atone for our sins. The Father and the Son give to us the Holy Spirit, who regenerates us, bringing us to faith in Christ Jesus, and washes away our sins in Jesus’ blood, making us children of God and heirs of eternal life through faith in our Savior (cf. John 3:3-6; Gal. 3:26ff.; Tit. 3:3-7).

And John the Baptist, seeing the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus (cf. Heb. 1:9; Psalm 45:7; Ezek. 16:9), was assured that Jesus was and is indeed the Son of God and the Lord’s Christ.

We read in John 1:32-34: “Then John bore witness, saying, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “The One on whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” I have seen and have borne witness that He is the Son of God.’”

So, what does all of this mean for you and for me? It, of course, means that Jesus is the eternal Son of God in human flesh, but it also means He associated Himself with you and me, He fulfilled all righteousness in our stead, and He bore on the cross the full punishment for our sins.

In His Baptism, Jesus joined Himself to us that he might be our Substitute and atone for our sins. And in our Baptisms, we are joined to Christ that His death might be our death and our sins be covered by His blood shed upon the cross for the sins of the world. And, in our Baptisms, we are joined to Christ that we might be credited with His perfect righteousness and be accepted as children of God through faith in Christ, our Savior!

God grant to you through faith in Your Savior the blessings of Holy Baptism — forgiveness for all your sins, a new birth and life worked in you by the Holy Spirit, and eternal life in Christ’s everlasting kingdom.

O gracious God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — we thank You for the blessings made our own in Baptism. Keep us in the true and saving faith, joined to Christ our Savior through Baptism, unto life everlasting. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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Hymn: “Now sing we, now rejoice” In dulci iubilo c. 1300 Author unknown Tr. Arthur T. Russell

1 Now sing we, now rejoice,
Now raise to heav’n our voice;
He from whom joy streameth
Poor in a manger lies;
Not so brightly beameth
The sun in yonder skies.
Thou my Savior art!
Thou my Savior art!

2 Come from on high to me;
I cannot rise to thee.
Cheer my wearied spirit,
O pure and holy Child;
Thro’ Thy grace and merit,
Blest Jesus, Lord most mild,
Draw me unto Thee!
Draw me unto Thee!

3 Now thro’ His Son doth shine
The Father’s grace divine.
Death o’er us had reigned
Thro’ sin and vanity;
He for us obtained
Eternal joy on high.
May we praise Him there!
May we praise Him there!

Invocation
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +

Confession
Beloved in the Lord! Let us draw near with a true heart, and confess our sins unto God our Father, beseeching Him, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to grant us forgiveness.

Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.

Almighty God, our Maker and Redeemer, we poor sinners confess unto You, that we are by nature sinful and unclean, and that we have sinned against You by thought, word and deed. Therefore, we flee for refuge to Your infinite mercy, seeking and imploring Your grace, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Then the Minister shall say: Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, has had mercy upon us, and has given His only-begotten Son to die for us, and for His sake forgives us all our sins. To those who believe in His Name, He gives power to become the sons of God, and has promised them His Holy Spirit. He that believes, and is baptized, shall be saved. Grant this, Lord, unto us all. Amen.

Psalm: Psalm 50 A Psalm of Asaph.
1 The Mighty One, God, is the Lord; He has spoken and summoned the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. 2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God has shined. 3 Our God will come, and will not keep silent; a fire consumes before Him, and a strong tempest is around Him. 4 He calls to the heavens above, and to the earth, that He may judge His people: 5 “Gather My faithful ones together to Me, those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.” 6 The heavens will declare His righteousness, for God Himself is judge. Selah 7 “Hear, O My people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you; I am God, even your God. 8 I will not reprove you for your sacrifices or for your burnt offerings that are continually before Me. I will take no young bull out of your house, nor male goats out of your folds. 10 For every wild animal of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. 11 I know every bird of the mountains, and the creatures that move in the field are Mine. 12 If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is Mine, and all its fullness. 13 Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? 14 Sacrifice a thank offering to God, and pay your vows to the Most High, 15 and call on Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will glorify Me.” 16 But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to declare My statutes, or take My covenant in your mouth? 17 You hate instruction, and cast My words behind you. 18 When you see a thief, you are pleased, and have a share in those who commit adultery. 19 You let loose your mouth to evil, and your tongue is bound to deceit. 20 You sit and speak against your brother; you accuse your own mother’s son. 21 These things have you done, and I kept silent; you thought that I was indeed like you; but I will reprove you and make a case before your eyes. 22 “Now consider this, you who forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver: 23 Whoever sacrifices a thank offering glorifies Me and makes a way; I will show him the salvation of God.”

Gloria Patri
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.

Kyrie
Lord, have mercy upon us. Christ, have mercy upon us. Lord, have mercy upon us. Amen.

Gloria in Excelsis
Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men. We praise You, we bless You, we worship You, we glorify You, we give thanks to You, for Your great glory. O Lord God, heav’nly King, God the Father Almighty. O Lord, the only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ; O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us. You who take away the sin of the world, receive our prayer. You who sit at the right hand of God the Father, have mercy upon us. For You only are holy; You only are the Lord. You only, O Christ, with the Holy Spirit, are most high in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Collect
O God, by the leading of a star You made known Your only-begotten Son to the Gentiles. Lead us, who know You by faith, to enjoy in heaven the fullness of Your divine presence; who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Catechism Lesson
157. Whose own have you become by the redemption? Christ has redeemed me, purchased, and won me, so that I am now His own, and He is my Lord.
296) Rev. 5:9. You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood.
297) Isa. 53:11. He shall see of the anguish of his soul and be satisfied. By his knowledge My righteous servant shall justify the many, for he shall bear their iniquities.

Old Testament: Isaiah 60:1-6
1 Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. 2 For the darkness shall cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples; but the Lord shall rise upon you, and His glory shall be seen upon you. 3 The nations shall come to your light and kings to the brightness of your rising. 4 Lift up your eyes all around, and see: They all gather themselves together; they come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be carried at your side. 5 Then you shall see and be radiant, and your heart shall thrill and rejoice because the abundance of the sea shall be converted to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. 6 The multitude of camels shall cover your land, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come; they shall bring gold and incense and shall bear good news of the praises of the Lord.

Epistle: Ephesians 3:1-12
1 For this reason I, Paul, am the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles. 2 You may have heard of the administration of the grace of God which was given me for you, 3 how by revelation He made known to me the mystery, as I have written briefly already, 4 by which, when you read it, you may understand my knowledge of the mystery of Christ, 5 which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it is now revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, 6 how the Gentiles are fellow heirs, and fellow members, and partakers of the promise in Christ by the gospel. 7 Of this I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power. 8 To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the incomprehensible riches of Christ, 9 and to reveal for all people what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God, who created all things through Jesus Christ, 10 so that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, 11 according to the eternal purpose which He completed in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.

Gospel: Matthew 2:1-23
1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, wise men came from the east to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who was born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” 3 When Herod the king heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where Christ should be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for this is what the prophet wrote: 6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are no longer least among the princes of Judah; for out of you shall come a Governor, who will shepherd My people Israel.’” 7 Then Herod, when he had privately called the wise men, carefully inquired of them what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring me word again, so that I may come and worship Him also.” 9 When they heard the king, they departed. And the star which they saw in the east went before them until it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with great excitement. 11 And when they came into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary, His mother, and fell down and worshipped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 But being warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they returned to their own country by another route. 13 Now when they departed, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and escape to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word. For Herod will seek the young Child to kill Him.” 14 When he rose, he took the young Child and His mother by night, and departed into Egypt, 15 and remained there until the death of Herod, to fulfill what the Lord had spoken through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called My Son.” 16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was utterly furious and sent forth and killed all the male children who were in Bethlehem and the surrounding region, from two years old and under, based on the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet: 18 “In Ramah a voice was heard, grieving and weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be comforted, because they are no more.” 19 But when Herod was dead, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” 21 And he rose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus reigned in Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Nevertheless, being warned by God in a dream, he withdrew to the region of Galilee. 23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”

Apostles’ Creed
I Believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord; Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary; Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead and buried; He descended into hell; The third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into Heaven and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; The holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints; The Forgiveness of sins; The Resurrection of the body; And the Life everlasting. Amen.

Hymn: “The star proclaims the King is here” Author: Caelius Sedulius

The star proclaims the King is here;
But, Herod, why this senseless fear?
He takes no realms of earth away
Who gives the realms of heav’nly day.

The wiser Magi see from far
And follow on His guiding star;
And led by light, to light they press
And by their gifts their God confess.

Within the Jordan’s crystal flood
In meekness stands the Lamb of God
And, sinless, sanctifies the wave,
Mankind from sin to cleanse and save.

At Cana first His power is shown;
His might the blushing waters own
And, changing as He speaks the word,
Flow wine, obedient to their Lord.

All glory, Jesus, be to Thee
For this Thy glad epiphany;
Whom with the Father we adore
And Holy Ghost forevermore.

Sermon
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, wise men came from the east to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who was born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him. …” Matthew 2:1-2 (read verses 1-23)

Once again, through the recounting of the Scriptures, we have heard of the birth of the Christ Child in Bethlehem of Judea. God the Son was made true man, born of a virgin, and laid in a manger. An angel told the shepherds in the field nearby that this Child was none other than the Savior of the world, the Messiah and Jehovah God Himself!

Wise men (and the Bible doesn’t tell us their names or how many) from a land or lands east of Judea learned of the Messiah’s birth through the appearance of a star and traveled a great distance to come and worship this newborn King and bring Him costly gifts.

In Numbers 24:17, it was prophesied through Balaam the prophet: “I will see him, but not now; I will behold him, but not near; a star will come out of Jacob, and a scepter will rise out of Israel, and will crush the borderlands of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.”

And in Isaiah 60:1-6, we heard: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For the darkness shall cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples; but the Lord shall rise upon you, and His glory shall be seen upon you. The nations shall come to your light and kings to the brightness of your rising. Lift up your eyes all around, and see: They all gather themselves together; they come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be carried at your side. Then you shall see and be radiant, and your heart shall thrill and rejoice because the abundance of the sea shall be converted to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. The multitude of camels shall cover your land, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come; they shall bring gold and incense and shall bear good news of the praises of the Lord.”

When they arrived in Jerusalem, King Herod was troubled at their quest and inquired of the chief priests and scribes where the Messiah was to be born. They rightly understood the Scriptures and quoted from Micah 5:2, pointing out that Bethlehem was to be the place of Messiah’s birth.

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, although you are small among the tribes of Judah, from you will come forth for Me one who will be ruler over Israel. His origins are from of old, from ancient days” (Micah 5:2).

But what happened after this? The wise men continued on their journey and were led by the star to Bethlehem and to the very house where Jesus was. There they worshiped Jesus and offered Him gifts.

Herod the king felt threatened by the birth of the Messiah and sought to kill Him and prevent Him from reigning upon the throne of David.

The chief priests and scribes knew the Scriptures and could tell Herod where the Messiah was to be born, but nowhere do we ever hear of their traveling to Bethlehem to worship their newborn Savior and King.

The question today is: “What about you?”

You have heard of His birth and know of His sufferings and death for your sins (and the sins of the world) and of His glorious resurrection. You have heard God’s offer of mercy and forgiveness to all who repent and look to Jesus in faith for pardon and life eternal. How do you respond?

• Do you reject Jesus and try to silence those who would speak to you of Him because Jesus is a threat to you and to your way of life?
• Do you know all the facts about Jesus and His redemptive work but still fail to come and bow before Him and give Him your praise and worship?
• Or, like the wise men of old, do you follow the star (hearing and believing what the Holy Scriptures say of the Christ Child) to find Messiah Jesus and worship your God and Savior, presenting Him with the costliest of gifts — even your very selves?

O dearest Jesus, You are the Almighty God and our Maker. We thank You for taking on flesh and blood and coming into this world to redeem us from sin and death. We praise You and give to you our treasures and our lives. Amen.

Votum (Philippians 4:7)
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will protect your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Offertory (Psalm 51:10-12)
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me with Your willing spirit.

General Prayer
Almighty and most merciful God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: We give You thanks for all Your goodness and tender mercies, especially for the gift of Your dear Son, and for the revelation of Your will and grace: and we beseech You so to implant Your Word in us, that in good and honest hearts we may keep it, and bring forth fruit by patient continuance in well-doing.

Most heartily we beseech You so to rule and govern Your Church universal, with all its pastors and ministers, that it may be preserved in the pure doctrine of Your saving Word, whereby faith toward You may be strengthened, and charity increased in us toward all mankind.

Grant also health and prosperity to all that are in authority, especially to the president and congress of the United States, the governor and legislature of this state, and to all our judges and magistrates; and endue them with grace to rule after Your good pleasure, to the maintenance of righteousness, and to the hindrance and punishment of wickedness, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty.

May it please You also to turn the hearts of our enemies and adversaries, that they may cease their enmity, and be inclined to walk with us in meekness and in peace.

All who are in trouble, want, sickness, anguish of labor, peril of death, or any other adversity, especially those who are in suffering for Your name and for Your truth’s sake, comfort, O God, with Your Holy Spirit, that they may receive and acknowledge their afflictions as the manifestation of Your fatherly will.

And although we have deserved Your righteous wrath and manifold punishments, yet, we entreat You, O most merciful Father, remember not the sins of our youth, nor our many transgressions; but out of Your unspeakable goodness, grace and mercy, defend us from all harm and danger of body and soul. Preserve us from false and pernicious doctrine, from war and bloodshed, from plague and pestilence, from all calamity by fire and water, from hail and tempest, from failure of harvest and from famine, from anguish of heart and despair of Your mercy, and from an evil death. And in every time of trouble, show Yourself a very present Help, the Savior of all men, and especially of them that believe.

Cause also the needful fruits of the earth to prosper, that we may enjoy them in due season. Give success to the Christian training of the young, to all lawful occupations on land and sea, and to all pure arts and useful knowledge; and crown them with Your blessing.

These, and whatsoever other things You would have us ask of You, O God, grant unto us for the sake of the bitter sufferings and death of Jesus Christ, Your only Son, our Lord and Savior, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end.

We join in the prayer that our Lord Jesus taught us to pray …

Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13)
Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come; Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Benediction (Number 6:24-26)
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you; the Lord lift His countenance upon you, and give you peace. Amen.

Hymn: “Songs of thankfulness and praise” Author: Christopher Wordsworth

Songs of thankfulness and praise,
Jesus, Lord, to thee we raise,
manifested by the star
to the sages from afar;
branch of royal David’s stem
in thy birth at Bethlehem;
anthems be to thee addressed,
God in man made manifest.

Manifest at Jordan’s stream,
Prophet, Priest and King supreme;
and at Cana, wedding guest,
in thy Godhead manifest;
manifest in power divine,
changing water into wine;
anthems be to thee addressed,
God in man made manifest.

Manifest in making whole
palsied limbs and fainting soul;
manifest in valiant fight,
quelling all the devil’s might;
manifest in gracious will,
ever bringing good from ill;
anthems be to thee addressed,
God in man made manifest.

Sun and moon shall darkened be,
stars shall fall, the heavens shall flee;
Christ will then like lightning shine,
all will see his glorious sign;
all will then the trumpet hear,
all will see the Judge appear;
thou by all wilt be confessed,
God in man made manifest.

Grant us grace to see thee, Lord,
mirrored in thy holy Word;
may we imitate thee now,
and be pure, as pure art thou;
that we like to thee may be
at thy great Epiphany;
and may praise thee, ever blest,
God in man made manifest.

[Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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“Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” Psalm 90:1-2

One certainty as we enter into each new year of life is God Himself. He has been man’s dwelling place in all generations. He has created us, given us life, and holds our life in His hand. “In him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth … And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:1, 2). “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:1-4).

The Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, has always been and always will be! You and I have been created by God, and we still depend upon Him for our every breath! Cf. Psalm 139:13-16; Daniel 5:23.

Our lives are short, averaging only 70 to 80 years. We are like grass which grows up and flourishes in the morning but is cut down and withers by evening. Our lives pass like a watch in the night. Because of our sins, which are ever before the LORD, we feel the heat of His wrath and wither and die.

Knowing this, we ought to “number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (v. 12). We ought to read and study His Word that we might learn the truth about ourselves and the lives we live here in this world. And, we ought to repent of our rebellious and sinful ways and turn unto the LORD in faith and receive the compassion and mercy which He offers and gives for the sake of the innocent sufferings and death of His own Son, Jesus Christ, in our stead!

Then, when we trust in God to mercifully forgive us for Jesus’ sake, we can “rejoice and be glad all our days” (v. 14). We can live our short lives here in faith because we have been redeemed by God’s own dear Son and have everlasting joy awaiting us in heaven when this life is done!

O everlasting God, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” Let us see the brevity of this life and its cause, our own sinfulness; and let us return unto You for mercy and forgiveness for the sake of Christ Jesus, the Son, and His innocent sufferings and death in our stead. Amen.

“Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men. For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night. Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up. In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.” Psalm 90:3-6

Why is that we grow old and die? Why do our bodies not continue to rejuvenate and live forever? The answer is here, in the Scriptures: “Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men.”

God turns us to destruction. He causes our bodies to grow old and ultimately die. Why would God do this? Is it some sort of cruel joke He plays upon us by giving us life and then taking it from us?

It’s not a cruel joke, but it is true. God, through Moses, the human author of this psalm, tells us it is so. Moses witnessed it as an entire generation died in the wilderness. We witness it yet today as generations die. And, of course, whether we wish to admit it or not, we too must finally face the truth stated in this psalm as each one of us gets older, weaker, and ultimately dies and returns to the dust of the ground.

“Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men. For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night. Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up. In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.”

God is eternal. A thousand years to God is like a single day when it is past – like a few-hour watch in the night. Our entire lives, on the other hand, are like a dream which suddenly vanishes away. They are swept away, as in a flood. We are like grass which is growing and flourishing in the morning but cut down and withered by evening (cf. Isaiah 40:6-8).

Should we be surprised by this? When Adam sinned in the Garden, God told him what would happen: “And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Genesis 3:17-19).

Again, we may like to think this passage of God’s Word doesn’t apply to us, but we are descendants of Adam. We have inherited his sinful nature and are under the same curse. Adam’s life – though long by our standards – was cut short because of his sin. Our lives, too, are cut short because of our sin. Unto dust, we return!

Though we may think it terrible that we must grow old and die, it is a blessing that it is so. God created Adam and Eve holy and without sin. They lived in perfect harmony with God their Maker. But all that was lost in the fall, and we too are born into this world at enmity with God. Instead of loving God, trusting Him and seeking to honor and glorify Him, we love ourselves, doubt God and His Word, and selfishly seek our own ambitions and glory.

God has something far better in mind for us than a continued existence in sin and disobedience in a world cursed because of sin and disobedience. That’s why He sent His only begotten Son into this world a true man to live a perfect and sinless life for us and then suffer and die upon the cross for your sins, my sins and the sins of the whole world.

Christ Jesus paid in full, and through faith in our crucified and risen Savior, we sinners have forgiveness for all our sins and the promise of life everlasting in a perfect world where we will live without sin and in perfect fellowship with God our Maker. That is far better than living on here in rebellion against the Lord God and His commandments!

Yes, it’s true; even believers in Jesus have to die. Though they have forgiveness for all their sins and the certainty of life everlasting in heaven, their bodies grow old, become weak and diseased, and finally return to dust. But their souls are carried by God’s angels into heaven. And on the Last Day, their bodies will be raised up and changed into perfect and glorified bodies – no longer subject to sin and death. Then, believers in Christ Jesus will live on forever in perfect harmony and fellowship with the LORD God, their Maker and Redeemer.

Indeed, “Our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Philippians 3:20-21).

“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

Yes, we must die here in this world. But, in Christ Jesus, we shall never die but live forever with Him in the mansions of His Father’s house!

O dearest Lord Jesus, grant me faith to trust in You for the forgiveness of all my sins and for a place in Your everlasting kingdom. Grant that I might face my own death trusting in You for life. Amen.

“For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled. Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance. For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told. The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath. So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” Psalm 90:7-12

The truth expressed by this ancient psalm of Moses may be hard for us to swallow. Our lives here in this world – our youth, our health, our strength, our beauty – are consumed by God’s anger. Why? All our sins, including our secret sins, are laid out before Him. God sees into our hearts and knows our every thought and desire. No evil thought or desire, no unkind word or evil act is hidden from His sight.

From the time of our conception and birth on, we are subject to the divine judgments of a holy and pure God against sin. Each and every day of our lives pass away in His wrath and judgment. When we are young, we may not realize this; but as we grow older, we see and feel His anger and judgment upon us for our sinfulness.

As the psalm says, we “spend our years as a tale that is told.” They pass quickly and then are over and past. Our lifespan, even with modern medicine, is still only about 70 years. And if we reach 80 or more, our years are filled with labor and sorrow. Our lives – even if long – are “soon cut off, and we fly away” to meet our Maker and be judged by Him.

God’s anger and wrath against sin and His judgments upon us are hard for us to fathom. We don’t fully know or understand how to fear and honor the LORD God, nor do we understand and rightly consider His wrath against our own sin. We fail to consider how quickly life is cut off. We don’t recognize, even as we see death and suffering around us, that we too will soon die and meet our Maker and Judge.

Moses prays and we too ought to pray: “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”

Rather than spending our days in this world as though we will never die and face God’s judgment, we ought to number our days and realize that time is short here in this world. Why? “That we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” – that we might hear and study God’s Word and learn of Him and His ways.

If we read and study the Bible – which is God’s Word – we will not only learn of God’s will and our utter sinfulness. We will learn of His mercy in sending His Son Christ Jesus into the world to suffer and die for our sins and rise again that we might have forgiveness for our sins and not be condemned when we stand before His throne of judgment. We will learn that God offers and gives life eternal through faith in Messiah Jesus.

The Bible tells us, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). It also says, “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:14-17).

O LORD God, give us the wisdom to realize that life is short and we will soon fly away to stand before Your throne of judgment. Teach us to number our days and apply our hearts unto wisdom that we may not put off what is important but, starting now and continuing throughout our lives, devote ourselves to the study of Your Word that we may learn of You and of the salvation You have provided for us and all people in Your Son, Jesus Christ. In His name, we pray. Amen.

“Return, O LORD, how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants. O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil. Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children. And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.” Psalm 90:13-17

Sometimes we wonder how long it will be before the LORD turns to us in mercy. When will He cease dealing with us in wrath and show us His compassion and forgiveness?

For 40 years, Moses saw the people of Israel dying in the wilderness because of the Lord’s wrath and judgment against their unbelief and sin (cf. Numbers 13-14; Deuteronomy 1:22ff.) Moses too, because of His own disobedience, was prohibited from entering the land of promise (cf. Numbers 20:1-13; 27:12-14).

As sinners, deserving nothing but God’s wrath and punishment, we too pray that the LORD God would turn to us in mercy. We pray that His wrath, which we all see and feel on account of our sins, will quickly accomplish its work in us and that God would show to us His mercy and forgiveness.

“O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” We pray that we might learn and take hold of God’s grace and mercy by faith early in life that we might rejoice and be glad all our days. Though we see and feel God’s judgments against sin in our lives and in the world, we pray that God would graciously reveal to us His mercy and forgiveness for the sake of the sacrifice of the Son – that He would make us know that in Christ Jesus our sins have been paid for in full and are, through faith in Christ’s sacrifice, forgiven us for Jesus’ sake. Then, even though we must suffer – His chastening – in this world as a result of our sinfulness and the wrath of God against sin, we know that God has pardoned us, forgiven us and will give us life everlasting with Him in heaven for Jesus’ sake. We take comfort in His mercy. We rejoice in it and are glad that He has accomplished our eternal salvation and that the everlasting joys of heaven await us.

Moses prayed, “Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil. Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children.”

With Moses and all the people of God, we pray that the LORD would turn our sorrows into joy and gladness. We pray that, as we have suffered and felt the wrath of God against sin during much of our earthly lives, so He would also, in His grace and mercy, fill us with true gladness and joy – that we would see and know the mighty working of our God in sending His Son to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of all the world. We pray that both we and our children would see and know the glorious salvation won for us through the innocent sufferings and death of God’s Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Indeed, many times when I pray, all I can say is: “Lord, have mercy upon me” and “Lord, have mercy upon the souls of my children and grandchildren and grant that they too would know You and the great and glorious salvation You have provided for them in Christ Jesus.”

Moses concludes this inspired psalm: “And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.”

O let the beauty – the wondrous righteousness and holiness of Christ Jesus – be upon us! Let us be cleansed with Jesus’ blood and be reckoned righteous and holy in Your sight, O Lord!

May God grant us life in fellowship with Him for Jesus’ sake, and may He bless and establish the work of our hands. May He move us and enable us to live our lives for Him and to do the work He has given us to do that others, too, might see and take hold of God’s mercy and forgiveness through faith in Christ Jesus.

Turn to us in mercy, O LORD God, and show us the glorious salvation You have provided for us and all mankind in Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior. In His name we pray. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible]

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O come, all ye faithful
Author: John F. Wade

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him, born the King of angels; Refrain

Refrain
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation;
O sing, all ye citizens of heaven above!
Glory to God in the highest; Refrain

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning;
Jesus, to Thee be glory given;
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing. Refrain

Invocation
P: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. +
C: Amen.

Confession
P: Beloved in the Lord! Let us draw near with a true heart, and confess our sins unto God our Father, beseeching Him, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to grant us forgiveness.

P: Our help is in the name of the Lord,
C: Who made heaven and earth.
P: I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord;
C: And You forgave the iniquity of my sin.

All: Almighty God, our Maker and Redeemer, we poor sinners confess unto You, that we are by nature sinful and unclean, and that we have sinned against You by thought, word and deed. Therefore, we flee for refuge to Your infinite mercy, seeking and imploring Your grace, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

P: Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, has had mercy upon us, and has given His only-begotten Son to die for us, and for His sake forgives us all our sins. To those who believe in His Name, He gives power to become the sons of God, and has promised them His Holy Spirit. He that believes, and is baptized, shall be saved.
P: Grant this, Lord, unto us all. C: Amen.

Psalm 89:1-8 A Contemplative Maskil of Ethan the Ezrahite.
1 I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever; with my mouth I will make known Your faithfulness to all generations.
2 For I have said, “Mercy shall be built up forever; Your faithfulness shall be established in the heavens.”
3 You have said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one; I have sworn to David my servant:
4 ‘Your offspring I will establish forever, and build up your throne for all generations.’ ” Selah

5 Let the heavens praise Your wonders, O Lord; Your faithfulness also in the assembly of the holy ones.
6 For who in the skies can be compared to the Lord? Who among the heavenly sons is like the Lord?
7 God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the holy ones and awesome to all those who surround Him.
8 O Lord God of Hosts, who is a mighty Lord like You, with Your faithfulness all around You?

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Holy Gospel Luke 2:22-40

22 When the days of her purification according to the Law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 It was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 Led by the Spirit, he came into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, 28 he received Him in his arms and blessed God and said:

29 “Lord, now let Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; 30 for my eyes have seen Your salvation 31 which You have prepared in the sight of all people, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.”

33 Joseph and His mother were amazed at those things which were spoken about Him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Listen, this Child is destined to cause the fall and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign which will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. And a sword will pierce through your own soul also.”

36 And there was Anna a prophetess, a daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age and had lived with her husband seven years from her virginity. 37 And she was a widow of about eighty-four years of age who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 Coming at that moment she gave thanks to the Lord and spoke of Him to all those who looked for the redemption of Jerusalem.

39 When they had performed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth. 40 And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom. And the grace of God was upon Him.

“Lord, now let Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.” Luke 2:29-32

Are you ready to die and stand before God, your Maker? Are you at peace with God, knowing that full atonement has been made for your sins? Do you have the assurance that God has fulfilled His promises to send the Messiah and Savior and that He now forgives and accepts you as His own dear child for Jesus’ sake?

Simeon was an old believer who had been waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promises, for the coming of God’s promised Messiah and Savior. And God had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen with his own eyes the Lord’s Christ.

And directed by the Holy Spirit to come into the temple at Jerusalem precisely when Mary and Joseph came to the temple with the Christ Child to do what was required by the Law of God (Lev. 12:1-8; Ex. 13:2,11ff.; Num. 3:13; 3:40ff.; 8:17; 18:14-16), Simeon took Jesus up in his arms and said: “Lord, now let Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.”

He had now seen the promised Christ Child — God the Son in human flesh — and held Him in his arms. And Simeon was now ready to die in peace and face God’s judgment because he knew that His God and Savior had come and that, for the sake of the holy life this Child would live in his stead, and for the sake of the innocent sufferings and death this Child would accomplish, atonement would be made for all his sins. Simeon was assured that through faith in Christ Jesus he was forgiven and accepted by God. He was ready to die in peace, for in Christ Jesus he had God’s promised Savior from sin and its eternal punishment!

What about you? Are you ready to die and stand before God, your Maker? Are you at peace with God, knowing your sins are paid for and forgiven for Christ’s sake?

For such confidence, we look to the pages of Holy Scripture; for there we too see our Savior and the salvation God has provided for us. There we see Christ’s holy life for us under God’s law, and there we see His bitter sufferings and death for us upon the cross and His glorious resurrection.

“But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born from a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4-5).

In the Holy Scriptures, we see Jesus, our Savior, the Light of the Gentiles and the Glory of His people Israel. There we hear God’s gracious offer of pardon and forgiveness in Christ Jesus. There we learn that, through faith in Christ Jesus, we are not condemned but have forgiveness for all our sins and life eternal!

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned. But he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:16-18).

When we look at Christ through the Holy Scriptures and hold Him in our arms by faith, we too can be ready, as Simeon was, to depart this life in peace! “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we also have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and so we rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:1-2). God grant us such faith in Christ Jesus our Savior!

Lord Jesus Christ, let our eyes look to You through the pages of Holy Scripture, that we too may trust in You and always be ready to depart this life in peace. Revive the weak in faith and strengthen all of us, that we may stand fast in our Savior until He returns to grant unto us and all believers everlasting life. Amen.

Offertory
ALL: Create in me a clean heart, O God: and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence: and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation: and uphold me with Thy free Spirit. Amen.

General Prayer

Almighty and Everlasting God, You are worthy to be held in reverence by all the children of men, we give You most humble and hearty thanks for the innumerable blessings, both temporal and spiritual, which, without any merit or worthiness on our part, You have bestowed upon us.

We praise You, especially, that You have preserved unto us, in their purity, You saving Word, and the sacred ordinances of Your house. And we beseech You, O Lord, to grant and preserve unto Your holy Church, throughout the world, purity of doctrine, and faithful pastors who shall preach Your Word with power; and help all who hear, rightly to understand, and truly to believe the same. To that end, we pray Your blessing on Bishop Heiser, on our pastors, and on all the pastors of our diocese.

Be the Protector and Defender of Your people in all time of tribulation and danger and may we, in communion with Your Church, and in brotherly unity with all our fellow-Christians, fight the good fight of faith, and in the end receive the salvation of our souls.

Bestow Your grace upon all the nations of the earth. Especially do we entreat You to bless our land, and all its inhabitants, and all who are in authority. Cause Your glory to dwell among us, and let mercy and truth, righteousness and peace, everywhere prevail. To this end, we commend to Your care all our schools and pray You to make them nurseries of useful knowledge and of Christian virtues, that they may bring forth the wholesome fruits of life.

Graciously defend us from all calamities by fire and water, from war and pestilence, from scarcity and famine. Protect and prosper everyone in his appropriate calling, and cause all useful arts to flourish among us. Be the God and Father of the widow and the fatherless children, the Helper of the sick and the needy and the Comforter of the forsaken and distressed.

We pray for all those ill from the coronavirus, from other diseases or afflictions, or suffering from the effects of isolation. Grant health and healing to those ill and infected and comfort all with the Gospel promises of forgiveness of sins and the everlasting joys of heaven through faith in Christ Jesus, Your Son and our Savior.

And as we are strangers and pilgrims on earth, help us by true faith and a godly life to prepare for the world to come; doing the work which You have given us to do while it is day, before the night comes when no man can work. And when our last hour shall come, support us by Your power, and receive us into Your everlasting kingdom; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, forever and ever. Amen.

Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven; Hallowed be Thy Name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven; Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil; For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

Benediction
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you; the Lord lift His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” Amen.

Let us all with gladsome voice
Author: Urban Langhans

Let us all with gladsome voice
Praise the God of Heaven,
Who, to bid our hearts rejoice,
His own Son hath given.

To this vale of tears He comes,
Here to serve in sadness,
That with Him in Heav’ns fair home
We may reign in gladness.

We are rich, for He was poor;
Is not this a wonder?
Therefore praise God evermore
Here on earth and yonder.

Christ, our Lord and Savior dear,
Be Thou ever near us.
Grant us now a glad new year.
Amen, Jesus, hear us!

[Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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