December 5, 2021: 2nd Sunday of Advent

Let us pray: Dear Savior, thank You for making us partners in Your Gospel through the gift of faith.  Thank You for joining each of us together in a congregation of saints who await the fulfillment of life.  Thank You for preserving us together amid a world in turmoil.  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, GOD’S GIFT OF GRACE TO YOU!

TEXT:  Philippians 1: 3-11

Dearly Beloved in Our Coming Christmas King:

          When I was in grade school one of our occasional events was group square dancing!  I know it sounds corny today, and we hated it, but it forced boys and girls into social interaction.  It was a bit embarrassing to be randomly pared with a girl.   I’m sure she didn’t enjoy it much either.  And then the song would play on the old record player and everyone would take each other’s hand and move through the steps we’d been taught.  What was really amazing about it all was that we’d have to speak to other, share a laugh over missteps and eventually, although no one would admit it, have fun!  Social interaction achieved! 

          Every congregation is comprised of a plethora of people.  Most have varied backgrounds.  Some are introverts and others are extroverts.  Age and socio-economic status are all different.  And yet, under God’s grace  we’re all partnered together, aren’t we?  And the chain of God’s love binds us all together for this moment in time.

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          St. Paul founded the church at Philippi—named for Philip, Alexander the Great’s father.  It was a cosmopolitan city with a diverse culture.  The church reflected this.  Now, while imprisoned in Rome, Paul reflects on all this and here is what he says: “I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident in this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

          Maybe you’re not always aware of it, but he’s talking to and about both you and me!  We pray, not only with, but for each other with joy!   Our fellow pew-sitter is a new creation in Christ and thereby we have a bond that even death and Satan cannot sever.  The church is the only forum which you can say that occurs.  So, cherish each other, interact with each other, rejoice with each other.  Get used to it all for it will last forever.

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          “It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my  heart, for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.  God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.”

          I have mixed emotions about live-streaming.  The positives in our current environment are obvious.  One being: thereby we reach people across the miles and miles, the sick, the shut-ins, and do mission work.  The negatives being less social interaction among the saints as a whole.  But the point Paul makes here is that miles don’t matter when it comes to God’s love for each of us in Christ.  And it never will!  For Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, His death and resurrection in our place, the indwelling of the Spirit, none of that is bound by time, or space, or circumstances.  We’re always bound together—with and under Christ and His gift of Advent grace.  So, do we, too, have affection for each other?  Yes!

III

          “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and peace of God.”

          Is that your prayer for the sick, the absent, those who live miles away and those who have moved away?  I hope so.  For when people give their hearts to God it truly is the “tie that binds.”  The bottom line is: we’re never alone.  We always have Christ and we’ll always have each other because we’re partnered together in the Gospel.  A blessed Advent season to each and  every one of you, my fellow partners!  Amen

The peace of God…..

Pastor Thomas H. Fox  

November 29, 2021: 1st Sunday in Advent

Let us pray: Dear Savior, as we begin a new church year, enliven and quicken our hearts to the dangers that surround us, but especially to the salvation and strength that You bring!  For then we can embrace Your birth and the new year with confidence and joy instead of fear and worry.  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST THE COMING CHRISTMAS KING!

TEXT:  Luke 21: 25-36

Dearly Beloved by Christ: 

          Have you compiled your Christmas lists yet?  They seem endless.  There’s the card/letter list, the gift list, the food menu, the events schedule and more.  Then there’s the end-of-the-year list of financial “stuff” and tax issues.   Checklists help get us ready to soldier through the holidays.  

          One of the Advent themes concerning Christ’s coming is: Christ is coming, or the end of time.  That’s the big one.  It’s ongoing through life.  Here Jesus begins by compiling for us a checklist of events for this inevitable day.  All of you are aware of what’s on it: celestial signs, oceans in tumult, and discord around the world.  These will precede His return.  Scary stuff.  Are you ready to meet Him? 

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          Then Jesus adds: ”This generation (or race, in some manuscripts) will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”  Immediately He adds some comforting words, however; “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words shall never pass away.”

          All of His words of judgement   against sin and human evil will stand. But so will His Gospel!  Words like: “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.”  Words like: “Fear not! For today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you, Who is Christ the Lord.”  Words like: “Rise and go, your faith has made you well.”  Words like: “Today you will be with Me in paradise.”  Yes, even amid seeming hopelessness, Jesus comforts and uplifts and protects His people!

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          And now we come to His checklist of how He does it.  “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life…and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

          God’s Word stands fast and true.  Jesus said that earlier.  So the checklist for you to do likewise comes directly from, and must be built on, God’s Word. Here it is: 1. Remember your baptism regularly and thank God for it!  2. Renew daily your new birth from the Spirit’s indwelling at baptism with daily repentance and thanks.  3. Feed your faith weekly at church keying in on the absolution whereby Christ cleanses you from sin and makes you stronger.  4. Commune as often as you can.  For if the resurrected Savior’s body dwells in you, you are and will  stand firm with Him.  5. Pray.  Do so without ceasing as the Bible says.  Talk to Him about your priorities and then address them with Him daily.  6.  Search out Godly concepts in the Bible which shape and mold everything you do—all  for His glory and your own well-being.  7. Don’t be afraid!  Fear results from focusing on human helplessness and our God and His Gospel are not helpless. 

          Advent is a time to enliven our conscience and not to deaden it!  Today’s Christmas/Advent checklist is God’s venue to make that happen.  And then, come what may,  either on Dec. 25th, Jan. 1st, or the final day—He’ll make you ready to stand along side of Him in paradise.  Amen

THE peace of God which…..

Pastor Thomas H. Fox