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Download Bulletin for Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021

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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“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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8 And in the same area there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And then an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were very afraid. 10 But the angel said to them, “Listen! Do not fear. For I bring you good news of great joy, which will be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign to you: You will find the Baby wrapped in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly there was with the angel a company of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, and good will toward men.” 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they came hurrying and found Mary and Joseph, and the Baby lying in a manger. 17 When they had seen Him, they made widely known the word which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. Luke 2:8-20

When Messiah Jesus was born and laid in a manger, an angel announced His birth to shepherds living in a field nearby and keeping watch over their flock by night. The heavenly messenger brought them good tidings of great joy for all people; for that very day in Bethlehem, the city of David, a Savior was born, the Messiah, the LORD (Jehovah) Himself in human flesh.

And, as the angel choir said in its hymn of praise, this child brought about peace between God and man and God’s goodwill toward sinful man. How could this be? Christ Jesus satisfied the righteous demands of God’s holy law for us, and He suffered and died on the cross and paid in full the just punishment for the sins of the world that God might have mercy upon us and graciously forgive our sins when we look to His Son in faith for pardon and peace!

Having heard these things, the shepherds were not content to go back to their work of guarding the flock; they went to see the things of which the angel had told them. And, they found it just as the angel had said. They found Mary and Joseph and, with them, the Christ Child lying in a manger.

Nor did the shepherds keep the good news to themselves; they told everyone — they made known abroad — what the angel had told them concerning this Child born in Bethlehem. Mary herself treasured up the words of the shepherds concerning her Son and pondered them in her heart.

When the shepherds returned to their flock, they were glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard, which was just as the angel had told them. They were rejoicing in God’s gift of a Savior who would redeem them and give them a place in God’s eternal kingdom.

Of course, these events in history have great significance for each and every one of us today. God’s own Son was born in Bethlehem on that historic day. His birth is good tidings of great joy to us as well, for He is the long-promised Messiah, the LORD God Himself, and He went to the cross for the sins of the world — for the sins of each of us — and He rose again in victory that each and every one of us might have forgiveness for all our sins and life eternal through faith in Him!

God would have us heed the message of the Christmas Gospel and turn from our sinful ways to Christ Jesus in faith that we might receive the pardon and forgiveness He won for us by coming into this world as a babe in Bethlehem and then fulfilling all the demands of God’s commandments and making full atonement on the cross for the sins of all!

Dearest Jesus, we thank you for coming into this world a true man — that babe born in Bethlehem — and going to the cross to redeem us and make us Your own. Move us to take the time to see, to believe, to worship and to spread abroad the good news of salvation through faith in Your name. 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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19 Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 They asked him, “Who then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” 22 They said to him then, “Who are you? Tell us so that we may give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say concerning yourself?” 23 John said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ just as the prophet Isaiah said.” 24 Now those who were sent were from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, “Why do you baptize then, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but One stands among you, whom you do not know. 27 This is He who comes after me, who is preferred before me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. John 1:19-23

Who was John the Baptist? He confessed that he was not the Christ, he was not Elijah, nor was he the Prophet promised by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15ff.

Who was he? “John said, ‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord,” just as the prophet Isaiah said’” (Cf. Isa. 40:3).

John was the messenger of God sent to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Mal. 3:1; 4:5-6). He prepared people for the coming of the Lord Jesus by calling upon all to repent of their sins and turn to the LORD God for forgiveness and life through faith in the Messiah who was about to appear and be offered up a perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world (cf. John 1:29).

Who are we as Christ’s Church in this world? What are we and all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ to be in this world? We are not the Christ, but we are a voice “crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’” Through our called ministers, we continue to call upon all to repent of their sinful and rebellious ways and to look in faith to Christ Jesus, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Jesus is coming again to judge the living and the dead. Soon He will appear in the clouds with all His holy angels and every eye will see Him (cf. Rev. 1:7; Matt. 24:29ff.)! Until then, we continue to be God’s voice, His witness, calling on all people to repent and believe on the LORD Jesus Christ (cf. Acts 1:8). In Jesus’ shed blood, there is forgiveness and life everlasting for all who repent and turn to Him in faith for salvation!

Dear LORD Jesus Christ, grant us Your Holy Spirit and embolden us to be Your voice in this world, calling on all to repent and trust in You for forgiveness and life everlasting! Amen.

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

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