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“And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose. These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.” John 1:19-28

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 18:15-19.

Who was John the Baptist? He himself said, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias” (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; Luke 1:76-79; Matt. 11:14; 17:10-13). 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. Luke 3:1ff.; 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 and do not point to ourselves as the way of life, but we are a “voice … crying 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, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). We point people to Jesus, the only Hope and Savior of this lost and dying world!

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. Luke 24:46-47; Acts 1:8; 3:19-21). In Jesus’ shed blood, there is forgiveness and life everlasting for all who repent and look to Him in faith for salvation (cf. John 3:14-18)!

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 is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” John 1:18

Do you want to know God? Do you want to see the Father’s face? But how can sinful human beings like you and me know or see the almighty and holy God?

Moses saw the form of God and beheld His glory after the LORD passed by Him (Ex. 33:17-23; 34:5-8). God also spoke with Moses face to face (Num. 12:6-8). Yet, no man has ever seen God’s face (Ex. 33:20).

But Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, who is in the bosom of the Father — being God Himself, one with the Father and the intimate companion of the Father — He has declared and revealed God the Father to us.

And so, do you want to know God the Father? Do you want to see Him as He really is? Look to Jesus, for He is God the Son in human flesh. He is in the bosom of the Father. To see and know Jesus is to see and know God the Father (cf. John 14:8ff.).

In Jesus, we see and know God’s great love for us sinners. God’s Word says to us: “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10); and, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

Through the Word of God, we learn of Jesus. He died for our sins and rose again, removing the enmity between God and man caused by our disobedience to God’s holy commandments (cf. Col. 1:19-23; 2:9-15). Jesus took our punishment so that we might have forgiveness for all our sins and life eternal instead of condemnation and the eternal torments of hell.

When we look at Jesus as He is revealed to us in God’s Word, we see the great love of God the Father toward us sinners. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). When the paralyzed man was let down before Jesus, He said, “Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee” (Matt. 9:2). When the woman caught in the very act of adultery stood before Jesus, He told her, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (John 8:11).

Through the teaching of the Scriptures, we see God the Father sending His Son to die in our stead, bearing the just punishment for our sins. We see Him reaching out to us sinners through His Son, offering to us forgiveness and life in His name. We see Him desiring nothing more than that we would repent of our sinful ways and turn to Jesus for forgiveness and life! Cf. 2 Peter 3:9; Ezekiel 33:11; Matthew 23:37, Acts 3:19-21.

Do you want to know God? Do you want to see the Father’s face? Look to Jesus, for in Him the Father reaches down to us in love, provides atonement for our sins, and offers to us forgiveness and everlasting life through faith in Jesus’ name.

It is as Jesus said to His disciples in John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

O God the Father, grant that we may see and know You through the Son, Jesus Christ, and place our trust in Him. In His name, we pray. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is He that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east, and are 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 (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 (cf. Numbers 24:17; Isaiah 60:1ff.) and traveled a great distance to come and worship this newborn King and bring Him costly gifts.

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 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 on 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 the short distance to Bethlehem to worship their newborn Savior and King.

The question today is: “What about you?”

You have heard of Christ’s 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, like King Herod, 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, like the chief priests and scribes, 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, trusting in Him as Your Savior?

Or do you, like the wise men of old, 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.

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

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“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.” Luke 2:29-32 Read Luke 2:22-39

Each Sunday in our worship service, following the Lord’s Supper, we sing the Nunc Dimittis, the words of Simeon at the presentation of our Lord, recorded in Luke 2:29-32. It’s also an option in the Order of Vespers.

Simeon of old was ready to depart this life, but God had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Christ, the promised Messiah and Savior from sin, the one promised of old who would “redeem Israel from all his iniquities” (Psalm 130:8).

Now, having seen with his eyes and having taken Jesus up in his arms, Simeon was ready to depart this life in peace because he had seen the promised Christ Child. He was ready to die 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 and for the sake of the innocent sufferings and death this Child would accomplish, atonement for his sins would be made.

He was ready to die at peace with God for, in Christ Jesus, he had a Savior from sin and its eternal punishment! Having believed the promises of God and waited years for God to send his Savior, Simeon was privileged to see the fulfillment of God’s ancient promises with his own eyes and to take up his Savior in his own arms!

What about you? Are you ready to die and stand before God, your Maker? Are you at peace with God, knowing that 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 on the cross.

There we see Jesus, our Savior, the Light of the Gentiles and the Glory of His people Israel. There we learn of God’s pardon and peace upon all who repent of their sinful ways and look in faith to Christ Jesus and His atoning sacrifice on the cross. There we learn that, through faith in Christ, we are not condemned but have eternal life!

The Scriptures tell us “that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). The Scriptures tell us that “he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2); and that through faith in Him, “we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7). The Scriptures tell us that for a believer to depart this life is “to be with Christ; which is far better” (Phil. 1:23). God’s Word assures us that the one who hears Jesus’ word and believes on Him that sent Him, has “everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24).

And so, when we look at Christ through the Scriptures and trust in Him, we too can be ready, as Simeon was, to depart this life in peace; for, as the Scriptures say, “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:1-2).

And it is most certainly fitting that we sing these words of Simeon after partaking of the Lord’s Supper, for there we partake of Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (cf. John 1:29). As Simeon took up the Christ Child in his own arms and said the words of the Nunc Dimittis, so we take up Christ in the Lord’s Supper and eat and drink of His body and blood given and shed for the remission of our sins.

And, as we depart this service, we depart in peace, knowing that Christ has come and won for us forgiveness and life everlasting. We leave with the assurance that our sins are pardoned and forgiven and that we have peace with God because Christ died for our sins and rose again.

And, when we depart this life, we can say with Simeon, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.”

God grant us such faith and peace in Christ Jesus our Savior!

Lord Jesus Christ, let our eyes behold 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 life everlasting. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.” Luke 2:8-20

When Jesus the Messiah was born and laid in a manger, an angel announced His birth to shepherds staying in a field nearby and keeping watch over their flock by night. The heavenly messenger brought them good tidings of great joy not just for themselves but 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 peace between God and men and God’s goodwill toward sinful mankind.

How could this be? Jesus Christ satisfied the righteous demands of God’s holy law for us, keeping all God’s commandments perfectly and without sin in His thoughts, desires, words and deeds. And He suffered and died on the cross in our stead and paid in full the just punishment for the sins of all 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 this joyful news, 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 the words of the shepherds concerning her Son and pondered them in her heart.

And, 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 dear 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, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger at Bethlehem, and then fulfilling all the demands of God’s commandments for us and making full atonement on the cross for our sins!

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 is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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