I wrote this during Christmas season a few years ago. I thought I would share it again.. Merry Christmas. He is God with us.
This hymn was written for Sunday, August 20th. Verse 4 was adapted from "A Lamb Alone Bears Willingly". Feel free to use this hymn.
Jesus is alive.
It is not that we are committed to an idea; or that we have bought into certain principles by which we will live our lives. It is much more that we are talking about.
Many around the world will say that they follow the teachings of _______ (fill in the blank: Marx, Confucius, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther, and others). But they do not talk about a personal relationship with them, or talk to them.
What would happen if I visited the tomb of Abraham Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois and claimed to be having a conversation with him? I would stand a pretty good chance of having the guards take me by the arms and lead me away. The whole world knows that anyone who claims to talk with Abraham Lincoln and thinks he answers is not fully sane.
We say prayer is talking with Jesus. The rest of the world may look at us as odd and old fashioned, religious fanatics and out of touch. But they do not try to tell us that it's "just as insane" as talking with Napoleon.
The claim that Jesus is alive is so powerful a claim and it is right at the heart of what it means to be a Christian. Even the world around us has backed off and ridicules prayer for other reasons.
Because the Commandments teach us so much about our sins, God’s people in the Old Testament were very aware of their sins. For that reason there is also a huge variety of sacrifices in the Old Testament. Just from the first 6 chapters of Leviticus there are:
Sin Offerings, and
There were the daily sacrifices, the sacrifice of the Lamb at Passover (see Exodus 12), the Scapegoat (on whom the sins of the nation were placed and who then was driven out of the camp – so the Bible says Jesus had to go outside the city to be crucified), and many more.
All these sacrifices point to Jesus. They tell us how Jesus Christ has taken every kind of our sins on Himself and died in our place.
The Shepherds were out in the fields watching their flocks by night.
Read Genesis 35:19-20. It tells how Rachel died "and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem)" and how Jacob went on and "pitched his tent beyond the tower of Eder."
Then read Jeremiah 31:15-16. It tells about "Rachel weeping for her children". It is at Ramah that the people of Judah were gathered, chained and roped together, and led off to exile in Babylon. But verse 16 says, "Keep your voice from weeping . . . they shall come back from the land of the enemy."
Putting those two passages together (1) God gives hope for the mothers of Bethlehem whose children were killed by Herod -- "they shall come back." But also (2) the Rabbis expected that the first announcement of the coming Messiah would be at "Migdol Eder;" the "tower of Eder." Eder means flock (as in flock of sheep), so "Migdol Eder" means "Tower of the Flock." Look up Luke 2:8-11 and see if they were right.
Why were the shepherds out in the fields at night? Most sheep are brought into the sheepfold where they are safer. But Bethlehem is close to Jerusalem. Sheep that were destined to be sacrificial sheep at the Temple had to be kept outside, in nature not in buildings all the time. Shepherds built towers to more easily watch their sheep.
So the angels went to shepherds watching over sacrificial sheep to tell them about the One Lamb, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. This is amazingly appropriate, isn't it?
According to Rabbinic tradition the name of the Messiah was concealed from eternity, to be revealed only when the time was right. So the revealing of the name was tremendously important. A lot of details about Jesus are already told in the Old Testament – where He would be born, when He would be born, which tribe of Israel He would be from, etc. – but not His name.
The name Jesus was independently revealed to both Mary and Joseph. If you read through Isaiah 7:14 you would expect His name to be Immanuel. But . . . first the angel appeared to Mary and told her she would bear the Savior of the world and told her to call Him Jesus. Then Joseph found out that she was pregnant and did not believe her. Only then did an angel appear to him in a dream and tell him to call the baby Jesus.
The name "Jesus" was revealed to both Mary and Joseph, to each one of them independently. This is one example of God’s Word being corroborated by matching dreams, visions, or revelations. (See also Paul & Ananias in Acts 9 and Peter & Cornelius in Acts 10.) This is important in confirming Mary's truthfulness and that the dream Joseph had really was from God.
God the Father is the "Fountainhead" of the Trinity. God the Son, Jesus Christ, is begotten of the Father and the Holy Spirit proceeds from Father and Son. There never was a time when the Father was alone. Jesus Christ, God the Son, is eternally begotten; and the Holy Spirit is eternally proceeding.
Please notice: there is tremendous joy within God as He creates and brings forth life! (This is the part of this unit that I want to impress on you most of all.) God loves life! and rejoices in giving life!)
It is part of the character of God the Father – this rejoicing in bringing forth life. There is celebration within the Trinity. Proverbs 8:22-31 talks about Wisdom sharing in the work of creation. Wisdom in this passage is very likely a word for the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son. In vv. 30-31 Wisdom says, "then I was beside Him, like a master workman, and I was daily filled with delight, rejoicing before Him always, rejoicing in His inhabited world and delighting in the children of man." By the way, the Hebrew word for "rejoicing" is also used for celebrating, playing, gamboling (what lambs do when they jump and run around the pasture), and dancing. There is a song titled "Lord of the Dance," that starts out, "I danced in the morning when the world was begun . . ." and then goes on to tell the story of salvation.
The angels were created; and once they are created they also join in the celebration! In Job 38:4-7 God asks Job, "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the world? . . . when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?"
THE CHARACTERISTICS OR ATTRIBUTES OF GOD
((Small Catechism Questions # 93 – 95))
Our Small Catechism describes God in the following ways (Question # 93). God is:
A. Spirit (a personal being without a body)
B. Eternal (without beginning and without end)
D. Almighty, all-powerful (omnipotent)
E. All-knowing (omniscient)
F. Present everywhere (omnipresent)
G. Holy (sinless and hating sin)
H. Just (fair and impartial)
I. Faithful (keeping His promises)
J. Good (kind, desiring our welfare)
K. Merciful (full of pity)
L. Gracious (showing undeserved kindness, forgiving)
How did the disciples respond to Jesus' resurrection? They did not accept the truth easily. In fact their response and experience fits into the fourfold pattern of: Denial; Hearing; Encounter; and Confessing & Proclaiming.
(1) Denial– at first every one of them denied that Jesus could possibly be risen.
(2) Hearing (The Message was Proclaimed to them) – before they saw Jesus every one of His followers heard the message that He was risen; from angels or others who had already seen Him. But they still refused to believe.
(3) Encounter with Jesus – only after hearing that Christ is Risen did they get to see Him. This is when the disciples finally believed Jesus was alive.
(4) Confessing & Proclaiming – they confessed their faith in Jesus; and then began proclaiming, telling others that Jesus is risen.
Christ is Risen!
He is Risen Indeed!
Each person around you carries within them the image of God, because they are created "in the image of God." We are to honor the image of God within each other, and treat each other with an awareness of that image. What does that mean?
James 3:8-10 says, "But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people, who are made in the likeness of God. . . . My brothers, these things ought not to be so."
I teach my children that when they call each other names, then they are calling names of someone who is in the image of God. So even if they are unaware of it they are calling God those names.
When we treat each other poorly we are doing these things to the image of God within each other. (Jesus said whatever we do to the least of His brothers we do to Him. Matthew 25:40, 45)
This is also part of the reason the prophets in the Old Testament were offended by social injustice in their days. Because how we treat those who have been made in the image of God is part of our respect or lack of respect for God. It cannot be separated from our worship life.
With that awareness, how should a young man treat a young lady when they are out on a date? Should he try to take advantage of her or pressure her into immorality?
How should husbands and wives treat each other?
How should we treat our enemies? criminals? terrorists? Very often the punishment for evil remains the same. But it is carried out with an understanding of a deep tragedy. Someone created in the image of God has done evil and so have defiled the image of God within themselves. They have made themselves what God does not want them to be and are in danger of being separated from Him forever.
They need the Savior, Jesus Christ!
Rev. Mark Willig
Pastor Willig is the pastor of Friends in Christ Lutheran Church. He has been a pastor for 34 years.