Christmas Day 2022

Let us pray: Dear Savior, although we have come to honor You on Your birthday, our joy is that You came down at Christmas to honor and uplift us!  You fulfilled the eternal plan of salvation for our souls that angels longed to look into since the creation of this world.  Yes, we thank You for taking on our flesh and living for a while among us!  Moreover, today we also thank You for still dwelling with us in Your Holy Word of Truth and in the living Word of Your sacraments.  May we never dishonor You with doubt, but instead honor You with love and humble obedience.  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE WORD WHO BECAME FLESH!

TEXT:  John 1: 1-14

Dearly Beloved Children of the Heavenly Father:

          Remember when Pontus Pilate uttered those famous words: “What is truth?”  Well, we know the answer to that question, don’t we?  Our loving Savior provides it for us in His living Word when He said: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

          The eternal truths of Christmas are under attack.  They have always been resisted, after all, Satan hates Christmas.  But, in our day they are resisted more openly and that’s why more and more people have been robbed of Christmas joy.  Just this past week I was treated to another crass example of this denigration of Christmas joy which is built upon Godly truth. PBS recently aired a show in which a talking head from the Harvard Divinity School, along with the other supposedly Christian scholars especially amazed me.  Again and again they attacked the truthfulness of the various accounts of Christ’s birth.  Again and again they sought to rob Christianity of its power and joy by showing their lack of knowledge as to what grace really is.   

          My friends, no matter how humans try to steal God’s glory and interject their own sin-tainted opinions into the truth of Christmas, they will never totally succeed.  And that’s because:

CHRISTMAS ENDURES BECAUSE TRUTH ENDURES

I

          Let’s review a few vital points about our faith on this holy day—points that PBS got wrong.  First, there are only two religions in the world.—Faith in God’s grace and works.  Islam and Judaism both miss the point of the Old Testament that they misuse.  Both are built on the necessity of human works to make humans right with God.  But Christianity, true Christianity, teaches that God had to save us.  That in love He sent His Son to buy us back from sin and Satan.  Christianity teaches that salvation is not something we do, it is something God did for us and something that God gives to us as a free gift—through faith!  And that my friends, is why we don’t live in fear, guilt, or have to engage in a repetitive prayer 4 or 5 times a day to make us right with God.  No, Jesus has already done so by giving His life for ours on a cross.  Moreover, if you look at those other religions, the burden for eternal life is place upon man.  But in Christianity, the Baby Jesus came to take that burden for us—recall His words: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” 

          Secondly, we hear the talking heads today tell us things like: “Matthew’s Gospel account of Christ’s birth is totally different than Luke’s or John’s.  So, obviously it is all made up stuff, not real truth.”  What garbage!  Yes, Matthew wrote to a different audience than the others, that being converted Jews.  So Matthew obviously stressed different points of Christ’s birth.  But that does not mean any of them are wrong.  Instead, it means that to gain a complete picture of what happened in Bethlehem we need to study all three accounts and bow to their expertise.  I dare say, if I asked 3 or 4 of you to write about today’s service and give it to me next week, all would have a different flavor.  All would stress unique viewpoints.  And taken together all would provide a more complete picture, wouldn’t they?

          And thirdly, just because some details in one account get left out, it doesn’t mean they didn’t happen.  Likewise, just because secular history cannot confirm the flight into Egypt, doesn’t mean it didn’t occur.  After all, it was a secret trip.  Mary and Joseph lived in fear for their lives against the long arm of King Herod.  Would you blab to strangers about your sudden appearance in their community if you were under the gun?

II

          Against this backdrop we sit here on Christmas Day confronted with perhaps the most profound section of the entire Bible.  John didn’t write about the nuts and bolts of Christ’s birth because he didn’t have to—Luke already had.  So, instead, John gives us the mysterious, Divine truths that lay behind it.  He relates how the Baby Jesus was the eternal Word of God.—The same Word that created the universe in Genesis.  Then John states something earth-shattering: “The Word was God…and the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

          The modern Jews are the same as the ancient Jews in that they cannot get their minds around the fact that God became human in order to save us.  The followers of Islam believe that  Christ was a prophet, like Mohammed, but fail to accept His divinity.  Indeed, like all other religions apart from Christianity, their focus is on what they must do to save themselves and make themselves right with God—works—instead of accepting the fact that such a thing is impossible due to sin, so that God freely gave us His underserved love in the Christ-Child instead. 

          St. John tells us that such doubting and rejection has always been present.  “He was in the world…but the world did not recognize him.  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.”  And yet, Christmas Endures because Truth Endures!  John tells us that, too.  “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children  born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” 

          There you have it!  As long as God’s Word remains in this world and people hear and ponder the Christmas story, that Word will work to save souls and uplift sinners like us.  Why?  Because Christ is that eternal Word, Christ is divine, and Christ alone gives us eternal love and forgiveness.  Yes, Christmas joy will always endure until the end of times  because Christ is enduring.  He is eternal.  He is the Son of God—our Savior.  And He has chosen us to be recipients of His grace and truth. Rejoice!   Amen

THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH…

Pastor Thomas H. Fox.     

Christmas Eve 2022

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM GOD’S SON, OUR ETERNAL SAVIOR!

TEXT: The Christmas story in Luke 2 and Matthew 1 & 2

Fellow Redeemed Worshippers of Christ The King: 

          AT CHRISTMAS GOD FOOLS SATAN!  It was true 2000 years ago and it is still true today.  Let me explain what I mean.

          You know Satan is a fallen angel.  He was created by God with a free will to be used positively to honor the  Almighty.  But, Satan and the other demons chose to exercise their will negatively.  They chose to dishonor God by trying to supplant Him, and when that didn’t work, by corrupting humans like us.  As a created being, Satan is not all-powerful, all-knowing, or all-present; only God has those qualities.  Satan’s understanding of God’s goodness is also so corrupted by his pride that he doesn’t understand our Lord’s goodness, love, and mercy. To the devil those are foreign concepts. So, let’s see how God used all this against Satan to fool him and protect the infant Christ, thereby insuring our salvation. 

  1. Mary and Joseph both lived in Nazareth.  A hidden-away village far out into the countryside.  It was the direct opposite of where Satan, who is puffed up by pride, would expect Christ’s earthly parents to reside.
  2. God sent an angel to both Mary and  Joseph to take away any fear they would have over the amazing events to come.  That angel announced Christ’s miraculous conception to the virgin Mary, and also dispelled any misgivings Joseph may have had at her amazing story.  Both remained quiet when tongues started to wag and Mary started to show her pregnancy.  Satan didn’t expect Christ’s parents to act in such a noble way, because He has no honor.  But, God fooled him and thereby prevented Satan from finding them and harming both them and the divine fetus. 
  3. Then God also used that famous census to fool Satan.  He got Mary and Joseph to leave Nazareth and journey to Bethlehem.  Once there, the inns were full.  Satan would have expected Christ to be born in Jerusalem, or at least a fine palace or home.  But, no, only a stable was found.  The demons left hell and searched the city.  But, God fooled them through humility and simplicity.
  4. The angel choirs that appeared to the shepherds on Christmas Eve were there primarily to announce the most amazing event the world had ever experienced: God’s Son taking on human flesh to save corrupted and corruptible humans!  Saved by a Baby!  Amazing!  Babies are powerless and helpless.  And yet this Baby has the power to help and protect us!  And He has!  And yet, Christ was still a Baby.  So, those angel hosts  were also there to insure Satan could not harm anyone or subtract from their joy.
  5. Some have wondered why so many cases of demon possession appear in the Bible during Christ’s ministry?  The answer is simple.  Satan threw everything he had against Jesus, once he realized He was on the earth.  Demons scoured the countryside looking for Him. And they tried again and again to destroy Him.  Those Bethlehem angel choirs must have gotten demonic attention.  And when Satan’s tool, King Herod, heard of the wise men entering Jerusalem, Satan must have rubbed his hands in glee!  He would use Herod to do his dirty work.  But, again, after finding out that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, and after going there to worship Christ, God intervened and fooled the devil.  He sent those seers back by another route.  And that same night God sent an angel to Joseph in a dream warning him to leave immediately for Egypt to insure their safety.  How angry Satan must have been when his evil minions returned to their hellish abode with nothing to show for their work!
  6. Did Satan quit looking for Christ?  No.  All the Gospels testify to that fact and we’ve already touched on it concerning the many cases of demonic possession during Christ’s time.  But, God fooled that evil fool!  Christ was safely in Egypt.  The gifts of the wise men served to provide for the financial security of the holy family during those three years.  And once Satan’s ally, Herod, was dead, God brought that holy family back to Nazareth where Christ grew up in the safety of obscurity until He was ready to begin His ministry. 
  7. Tonight we stand in awe of God’s goodness.  Tonight we ponder the mystery of how the infinite God could be contained in finite human flesh.  We shake our heads in total wonderment over the profound simplicity of His love for us—wrapped up in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.  What can we do but rejoice?  What can we do but offer our hearts and lives to Him Who offers His all to us?    Additionally, we should all ponder the Christmas story keeping in mind the many sub-plots that God authored along the way.  Tonight I’ve shared a small sample of one of those subplots—how God fooled Satan every step of the way.  Satan expected pomp, luxury, and grandiose accommodations for Jesus’ birth.  He expected worldly kings to accompany Him.  He expected glamour and glitz.  But, God fooled him and sent the direct opposites!  He sent angels appearing to shepherds, not kings.  A Star which impacted foreign believers, not the pompous practitioners of religiosity in Jerusalem.  He gave Jesus humble parents, not rich or famous ones (at that time!).  He gave His Son to the meek and lowly, not the proud and arrogant.  All this fooled Satan and prevented him from disrupting that first Christmas. 
  8. My Friends, God does the exact same thing for us, right here, right now.  Satan is in hell tonight thinking that he has won.  He has the delusional belief that he has finally corrupted Christ’s birthday via crass materialism, drunkenness, gluttony, and anything else that will keep people away from Jesus’ birthday party.  Satan belittles the humble, the poor of spirit, the faithful Christian.   To him we don’t even count because we’re such a minority.  And yet, God humbles the proud and exalts the humble.  Yes, God is using you tonight to make the devil look very, very foolish.  Because you, dear Christian, have willingly chosen to give the Baby Jesus the one gift Satan covets beyond all others—your heart.  And in the process, God transforms you into mighty saints by transplanting in its place, the heart of your Savior!  Amen

THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH…..

Pastor Thomas H. Fox

December 11, 2022: 3rd Sunday in Advent

Let us pray:  Dear Lord Jesus,  how we long for Your coming!  We look with longing eyes for Your coming in the manger, for Your coming at the end of the ages, and for Your coming through Word and Sacraments—bestowing on us Your grace.  Today cause us to lift up our voices through prayer and praise in the anticipation of all those certainties.  Amen

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

TEXT:  Zephaniah 3: 14-17

Fellow  Redeemed Sinners: 

          The word of the day is: cacophony. Think a raucous dissonance—kind of crows making a ruckus when a hawk comes close.  Today is about singing. 

          I’ve noticed that people who aren’t afraid to sing tend to be happy, well-adjusted, and possess a certain joy of life.  Since ancient times singing has been viewed as an important expression of the heart and even the culture.  Did you know that before writing was invented, ancient poets sang their sagas?  Put something to a tune, and it’s easier to memorize.  Likewise, in ancient cultures, these bards were elevated to an even higher plane than the nobility.  The Celtic, Norse, Greek and most other societies kept their ancient history alive through the singing of those stirring sagas. 

          I’m a bit frustrated that in modern America we don’t teach and stress the importance of song with our youth.  The singing voice differs from the speaking voice.  You can do more with it when it comes to making a point and stressing an emotion.  That’s one reason why hymn singing should always be kept alive in the church.  It’s a natural outgrowth of the depth, the pathos of Godly truth interacting in our lives.

          Today is the joyous Sunday of Advent.  Today’s lesson incorporates joyous song from God’s people as a response to His boundless grace.  And so, as we look at this lesson, I want each of you to take home this truth:

A SINGING CHURCH MAKES A FOR A SINGING GOD

I

          History teaches us that some ages are more chaotic than others.  Well, the times of our text were ultra chaotic.  The superpower of the time, Assyria was imploding.  The social order was a mess.  Poor little Israel was caught in the middle.  You’d think lamentations, songs of sorrow and worry, would populate their top ten hit list.  But no.  Instead, God steps into this void of worry and doubt over their future and says this through His prophet Zephaniah: “Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel!  Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem!  The Lord has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy.  The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm.  On that day they will say to Jerusalem, ‘Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp.  The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save.’”

          These words are addressed specifically to the believers in Israel, to God’s Holy Church.  They are also addressed to you and me.  For although 2600 years may separate us from the Israel of that time, the reason for rejoicing, for singing of God’s greatness, still reigns supreme.  For this is a prophecy of ultimate deliverance from every ravage of sin and human evil.  This is a prophecy of Christmas.  This is a prophecy of the coming Savior.  It is He Who takes away all God’s anger over our sins.  It is He Who suffered and died to save us.  It is He Who instills in us the steel-spined back-bone of faith.  It is He Who energizes us so that our hands don’t hang in limp despair.  It is He Who bestows on us the joy over life—eternal life, blessed life with Him. 

          The Hebrew word used here for singing also includes the concepts of joy and the loud announcing of that inner joy.  Folks, that’s what we’re doing today.  Every song you sing announces the joyous faith in your heart.

II

          And now comes the clinching verse.  Listen carefully to it.  “He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

          Imagine the great delight of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and later the wise men circled around the baby Jesus?  Imagine how they held Him, loved Him, stroked Him, and sang lullabys to Him?  Now imagine that same Jesus holding you, cuddling you when you’re sad and fearful.  Imagine Him quieting you with His eternal love shown most clearly by Him taking on your pain via the cross and Him triumphing over it via His resurrection!

          And throughout this continuous journey of life, “He will rejoice over you with singing!”  The joy of God’s heart in saving you causes Him to burst forth in song!  Yes, God sings!—Where do think the angels learned how?!  God sings over you!  Well, there you have it.  It has come full circle in the heavenly realms.  We sing over Him and He sings over us.  What a picture of devoted love and joy!  So, after today, don’t be afraid to sing His praises.  For a singing church makes for a singing God!  Amen

THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH….. 

Pastor Thomas H. Fox

December 4, 2022: 2nd Sunday in Advent

Let us pray: Dear Savior, as we start to approach Your manger continue to fill us with awe, wonder, and a sense of deep joy.  Inspire us to be worthy of Your coming.  Move us to sweep our hearts clean of all moral dirt so that we can hold You with clean hands and a pure heart.  Yes, make our Christmas joy complete.  Amen

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

TEXT:  Matthew 3: 1-12

Fellow Redeemed Sinners: 

          Christmas shopping is cranking into high gear.  So, how many gift items have you checked off your list? Is it 1/3, ½, or maybe everything is already purchased and you can just sit back and enjoy the season?  But perhaps you’ve forgotten someone?  Or, how about the present from another at work that you didn’t expect?  Isn’t it embarrassing when they give you a gift and it’s too late to give them one in return?  So, if you’re wise, you’ll keep a few extra gifts on hand—just in case.

          Advent is our season of preparation for Christmas.  It’s prime time to make those lists, check them twice, and then do a brain scan as to whether you’ve forgotten anyone.  And so today I want to focus your attention on that one issue:

THE FORGOTTEN CHRISTMAS GIFT

I

          John the Baptist was Christ’s second cousin.  God caused him to be born for one reason and one reason alone—to prepare the way of the Lord.  Or, to get people ready for Christ’s work of saving souls.  John was 6 months older than Jesus.  So, upon reaching his age of majority, 30 years old, John had a scant 6 months to ready people for meeting God’s Son in human flesh—of preparing them for Jesus’ ministry.  Because of this, John never wasted a moment.  He didn’t dance around the subject matter; no, he bluntly told it like it was.  “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’  This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: ‘A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”

          John’s austere message of sweeping one’s heart clean of sin, his austere clothes, and strict diet—all of that was part of the complete package.  It all served to accentuate the urgency of getting ready to meet the Savior of the world.

          So, are you urgently preparing for Christmas?  And no, I’m not talking about cards, letters, decorations, food, or human gifts.  They are really the fluff of Christmas, not the real essence of it all.  Are you urgently focused on analyzing the state of your faith, the health of your Christian convictions, and whether or not you’ve made room for the baby Jesus in your heart?  And if you have, how much room? 

II

          When John burst upon the scene, he was so different, so unique, that people of every stripe and background came out to hear him.  Many common folk were baptized by him into the truth of the coming Messiah.  They confessed their sins, gratefully accepted God’s forgiveness, and had their new-found faith confirmed. In short, they were willing to give to God all they had because in Christ God was giving them all He had.  In this, they reflected the essence of what Christmas is all about.

          But, there were others, Pharisees (who liked to piously put on a good show for all to see so that they could justify themselves in their own eyes) and Sadducees (who also went through the motions of religiosity but never really took any of it to heart)—these folks also went out to meet John.  They remind me a lot of similar folks today.  You know what I mean.—The people who never come to church during the entire year but might, might come at Christmas in order to placate their conscience, or to hear some emotional music, or just to save face with the relatives.  Likewise, there are those who think just by coming to a Christmas service they’ve given the gift of their presence to Jesus.  Or by putting a Christmas offering in the plate they’ve made sure that they haven’t forgotten to give the blessed Baby a gift—so that He won’t forget to give them His gift of forgiveness and a cleansed heart.

          John knew such folks and had little time for them.  He lights into their miserly hypocrisy in our lesson.  “You brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.  And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’….The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.’”

III

          Advent is the time, now is the time to remember THE FORGOTTEN CHRISTMAS GIFT.  And that gift is your humbled heart.  The baby Jesus doesn’t just want, expect, demand, and deserve an occasional hour of your time, or a few dollars from you, or a half-way commitment towards repentance.  No, He expects, demands and deserves the entire you.  He expects, demands and deserves the entire human He raised up and created—both body and soul.  He expects, demands, and deserves your heart. 

          Celebrating the birthday of God’s Son cannot be done in a half-way or a half-hearted manner.  He is coming to give His all to you.  He is coming to give His life, His soul, and His heart to you.  He is coming to focus His total attention upon you in order to lay hold of your heart and transport it into final glory.  And to accomplish all that, there is only one thing He needs from us—a heart that really, truly desires to be filled with His love.  A heart that actually has room for His love because it is humbled and cleansed from all distractions.

          One last thought about THE FORGOTTEN CHRISTMAS GIFT OF THE HEART.  A few years ago Debra Ann and I had an especially busy holiday season.  We were able to get our tree a few weeks before the big day.  I put it into the bucket of water to drink and we fully expected to put it up and decorate it.  But, things always seemed to get in the way and Christmas arrived with that tree still sucking up water in the garage.  I remember hauling it outside after church on Christmas day so that the birds could perch on it.  But, that year we had a very blessed Christmas!  We had Jesus.  And more importantly, He had us!  We had the church services, the carols, the love of others, good health, and the warmth of His blessing.  Even though we had no decorations, we had remembered to make time to give Him our hearts.  We never forgot about Him and most importantly, He never forgot about us.  Ponder that truth alone as you walk toward His manger.  Amen

THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH…..   

Pastor Thomas H. Fox