The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist-in-Residence

The Lutheran Library Publishing Ministry

Bethany Lutheran Worship on
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Advent Services - 7 PM Central Time in December.

Saved worship files and Greek lessons are at the live worship link.

email: greg.jackson.edlp@gmail.com,
which works as gregjacksonedlp@gmail.com too.

Luther's Sermons, Lenker Series
Book of Concord Selections
Martin Chemnitz Press Books

Norma A. Boeckler Author's Page

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson's Author's Page

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve Candlelight Service - 2014. 7 PM Central Standard Time.

The Nativity, by Norma Boeckler.



Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve Service

Christmas Eve Service, 7 PM Central Time.
Christmas Readings and Hymns
Bethany Lutheran Church
Springdale, Arkansas
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Hymn 77:1-6 All My Heart This Night Rejoices 2.25

The First Gospel
Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

KJV Isaiah 40:1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. 2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins. 3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: 5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. 6 The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: 7 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. 8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. 9 O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!

The Place of Jesus’ Birth
KJV Micah 5:2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

#102 O Come All Ye Faithful                                                    1:7

KJV Isaiah 9:2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

Virgin Birth
KJV Isaiah 7:10 Moreover the LORD spake again unto Ahaz, saying, 11 Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above. 12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD. 13 And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. 15 Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. 16 For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.

Incarnation
KJV Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

#109 While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks                             1:35

Matthew's Account
KJV Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. 20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. 22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. 24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: 25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.


Luke’s Account
KJV Luke 2:1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. 2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. 8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 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. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 




The Sermon - The Humanity of Christ

The divinity of Christ is so clear throughout the Scriptures. The Messianic prophecies teach His divinity. We see it in His miraculous Virgin Birth, throughout His ministry, in His death and resurrection and His Ascension.

But today I would like to emphasize His humanity, since both Natures are united in Christ. His humanity is a constant source of great comfort, often forgotten when people feel weighed down by sin. Others feel ignored by God, although God knows and sees all.

KJV Luke 2:1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. 

This is human. No one can tax God, yet the family of Jesus had to trudge uphill to be taxed by Caesar Augustus. The Jewish Messiah was a subject of the Roman Emperor, certainly a great irony. But this had great implications for all people. By God's design, the Messiah was born in a corner of an civilization that reached across the world of that time, an empire that absorbed all the best from the ancient Greeks and other subject people. (Ancient history saying - The Romans had the drains, but the Greeks had the brains.)

Although this baby would be nothing in the eyes of the great, wise, and powerful, His ministry and message would be at the crossroads of history, the tipping point in time where His followers would be able to travel everywhere, and would be chased everywhere. In a small, closed country they would have been cornered and liquidated. Instead, they were spread across the continents, by roads and by sea.

If we wonder about God's compassion - what indignity did the Son of God not face? It began with the circumstances of His miraculous birth. If everyone had known - what a crowd of nobles and teachers would have been there. The entire village would have been blocked off by soldiers. But just the opposite was true. Our cul-de-sac knew more about the baby born a few months ago than Israel knew about Jesus' birth. 

2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 

And we still have this imperial taxing today. We changed counties, and our new county made sure they got their $10 personal tax from us for owning the Town Car limousine. If I had not paid it, I would not have received new plates. And I did pay it late, so there was a bonus for the county executives. Taxes are for us humans. Jesus became 100% human in His Incarnation, remaining 100% divine as well.

The taxing and other details fix Jesus' birth at a specific time in history. He is not a mythical figure. In some world religions, there is uncertainty about whether the so-called founder ever existed. Their writings are completely confused about who wrote what. Biographical details are from centuries later (in other world religions) and do not really matter very much, because the person is usually not central to the religion. When the person matters, there are fantastic details from the world of magic or the occult. They are not historical. 

The Christian Faith is grounded in history and attested by many historical sources.

3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

The Roman Empire did not take rejection from anyone, so its people were used to obeying orders. Roman justice was swift and brutal, so there was no debate about obeying or not. Thus the census and taxation brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, to David's city, since the Promise of the Savior was rooted in David, his line, his past glory, the village of the little shepherd who defeated Goliath with a slingshot.

We saw the slingshot demonstrated in Eureka Springs, not far from us. American kids think of a Y-shaped weapon with a big rubber band, but David used more of sling that could be fired with remarkable accuracy, as we witnessed. "Never bring a sword, spear and armor to a slingshot battle," they would say later. That showed that a little one could defeat a giant with the right weapon.

This foreshadowed a little baby defeating the entire Roman Empire and Pharisaical Judaism with the Word. All the powers of earth were marshaled against Him, but He won, defeating sin, death, and the devil, spreading the Faith throughout the Roman Empire, first through Jews, then through Gentiles as well.

4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

Joseph was obedient and took his wife from the lowlands to the highlands of Jerusalem/Bethlehem. We experienced that (by car) in Arizona, with Phoenix in the valley and Flagstaff up in the mountains. No telling what that kind of trip by foot would be like.

They had to return to their native city, in terms of lineage, a clever way for Rome to keep track of everyone. But it also meant crowded conditions. Certain conditions had to be met for the Savior to be born. One was that the throne had to be held by a non-Jew, which was true of Herod. That was the first time.

People do not believe the Old Testament prophecies, but Herod did. He was afraid, for good reason. He was not from David's line and yet the Great King (Messiah - King anointed with oil) would be from David's line.

Why not Jerusalem for the royal birth? Because David was not from Jerusalem but the little village of Bethlehem. Jesus would be born in a little village made doubly famous by King David and by the Savior, the Son of David.

David was born in a palace. God made him king. Jesus was born a king but He was not born in a palace, only in a rented room. Nothing good can happen if it starts in a rented room - so the great and wise tell me. They rely on the guilt-offerings of the unrepentant wealthy (like Marvin Schwan) and the bribes of insurance companies (like Thrivent) to make a big impression.

We went to the dedication of the glamorous new chapel at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. So much money was spent on it. They did not worship before? They did, but that was not adequate for the shrinking neo-Roman seminary. They needed glamour, so they sought out a gift from Marvin Schwan, who was thanked ostentatiously in the narthex. What would have Samuel said to Marvin? Not thanks for the loot, but "You are the man!" (2 Samuel 12.7) And to robed ecclesiasts gathered to celebrate their glory, "Brood of vipers." Jesus said, "White washed graves full of dead men's bones."




6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. 

The Christmas pageants spend a lot of time on the refusal of the innkeeper to take in the Holy Family, but it is revealed in a simple phrase here - no room at the inn. No room at the relatives? Nothing is said here, but one imagines many possibilities never realized. The Gospel is not warmly welcomed by everyone. Opposition and hatred is common. Sometimes it is just indifference. 

Family members are often the cross to bear, especially when they have a religious background of sort. Our Asian friends were converted by evangelism, by a Billy Graham event in Hong Kong. Their families responded by saying, "You have deserted the culture and faith of your family." They were not congratulated but condemned.

When seminarians graduate and receive their first call, they find out that the old congratulations and blessings and gifts have turned into crosses to bear. If they are honest and faithful, that never stops. Luther said he seldom heard a kind word all his life, which is still true today. The non-Lutherans ignore his teaching and the Lutherans despise it. But he did not cling to popularity but the Word.

I always thought The Manger was altogether too soft and appealing in the pageants. Clearly this was in an area reserved for animals. This had to be a side area for sheltering the animals, not appealing to anyone. So the newborn was wrapped and placed in a feeding trough. I have seen those on a farm. The owner tears into a bale of hay and throws some in the feeding trough, where the food is soon chewed by the mules and cattle and horses.

But this is the key symbol of the Incarnation. Jesus the Son of God was wrapped up like any other baby, though born in the humblest circumstances. We are never so tiny and fragile again as we were as newborns. It is always a blessing to hold a newborn. They are light as feathers and rubbery for childbirth. The bones have yet to harden. Sleep overcomes them quickly. They look like strangers in this world, unused to the lights and sounds.

When I ask children about the Savior coming to us as a baby, they explain God's wisdom, "No one is afraid of a baby." So - here is the beginning of the Gospel - foretold in so many ways. The Savior is born. Not only is He human (which they did  expect) but He is born in the humblest and most neglected circumstances. 

Can He identify with our sorrows and difficulties? Yes. I have students who have been homeless from an accumulation of circumstances. One of them wants to work with the poor, because he has also suffered from the difficulties of life and wants to help with the Gospel.


8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 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. 

I have explored garden myths. A New Testament myth has this NOT happening in December. Some writers move from one assumption to another and declare an imagined truth. Then they mix in their lack of faith and voila - the Christmas story is celebrated December 25th to keep everyone from the pagan orgies of a Roman festival. As if - people said, "Are you going to the candlelight service or the orgy?" 

But comical fantasies survive through repetitions. 

The first witnesses of the birth of the Savior were working men, and they were given the blessing of the angelic host appearing before them. First one angel appeared, and that was frightening. The meaning of angel (Greek and Hebrew) is messenger. God used His angels to tell these working men about a great message, which is Ev-Angel in Greek - good news.




11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 

The message is poetic and was probably used constantly as a catechism, a teaching passage. It is easy to remember and repeat. The Good News came to working men, not to academics, to priests, to nobles in the palace. Those are often the people who suppress and persecute the Gospel. 

This is a scandalous message, to use the original meaning of scandal. The Greek word meant the trip mechanism in a trap. The Savior in a manger? No, so they walk away without believing. So the modernists are today. They have a thousand reasons for rejecting the manger and the cross.

But God has given us an eternal message of peace and hope - no earthly peace, but eternal peace and hope in God's Promises.

Luther included this message for those who build cathedrals and neglect the needy, good words in an era of cathedral building and naming -

Luther:
59. It is altogether false to think that you have done much for Christ, if you do nothing for those needy ones. Had you been at Bethlehem you would have paid as little attention to Christ as they did; but since is now made known who Christ is, you profess to serve him. Should he come now and lay himself in a manger, and would send you word that it was he, of whom you now know so much, you might do something for him, but you would not have done it before. Had it been positively made known to the rich man in the Gospel, to what high position Lazarus would be exalted, and he would have been convinced of the fact, he would not have left him lie and perish as he did.

60. Therefore, if your neighbor were now what he shall be in the future, and lay before you, you would surely give him attention. But now, since it is not so, you beat the air and do not recognize the Lord in your neighbor, you do taut do to him as he has done to you. Therefore God permits you to be blinded, and deceived by the pope and false preachers, so that you squander on wood, stone, paper, and wax that with which you might help your fellow man.


#646 Silent Night                                                              4:38

First verse - in German
Verses 1-3 - in English
Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!


Heavenly Host
Luke 2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 15 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. 16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

The Prayers and Benediction


#87 Joy to the World                                                           1:20