Archive for December, 2012

God Became a Child

December 21, 2012

PLEASE NOTE:  This Advent season at Faith Lutheran we are using Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “God is in the Manger” devotional booklet for daily devotions and weekly sermon themes.  What follows has been taken from that booklet.

 

“And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”  John 1:14

 

“Mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6) is the name of this child.  The child in the manger is none other than God himself.  Nothing greater can be said:  God became a child.  In the Jesus child of Mary lives the almighty God.

 

Wait a minute!  Don’t speak; stop thinking!  Stand still before this statement!  God became a child!

 

Here he is, poor like us, miserable and helpless like us, a person of flesh and blood like us, our brother.  And yet he is God; he is might.

 

Where is the divinity, where is the might of the child?  In the divine love in which he became like us.  His poverty in the manger is his might.  In the might of love he overcomes the chasm between God and humankind, he overcomes sin and death, he forgives sin and awakens from the dead.

 

Kneel down before this miserable manger, before this child of poor people, and repeat in faith the stammering words of the prophet:  “Mighty God!”  And he will be your God and your might.

 

Let us pray:  Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.  With your abundant grace and might, free us from the sin that binds us, that we may receive you in joy and serve you always, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

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The Great Turning Point of All Things

December 20, 2012

PLEASE NOTE:  This Advent season at Faith Lutheran we are using Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “God is in the Manger” devotional booklet for daily devotions and weekly sermon themes.  What follows has been taken from that booklet.

 

“What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.” Romans 8:31-34

 

What kings and leaders of nations, philosophers and artists, founders of religions and teachers of morals have tried in vain to do – that now happens through a newborn child.

 

Putting to shame the most powerful human efforts and accomplishments, a child is placed here at the midpoint of world history – a child born of human beings, a son given by God (Isaiah 9:6).  That is the mystery of the redemption of the world; everything past and everything future is encompassed here.

 

The infinite mercy of the almighty God comes to us, descends to us in the form of a child, his Son.  That this child is born for us, this son is given to us, that this human child and Son of God belongs to me, that I know him, have him, love him, that I am his and his is mine – on this alone my life now depends.  A child has our life in his hands….

 

Let us pray:  Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.  With your abundant grace and might, free us from the sin that binds us, that we may receive you in joy and serve you always, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Christmas, Promise Fulfilled

December 19, 2012

PLEASE NOTE:  This Advent season at Faith Lutheran we are using Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “God is in the Manger” devotional booklet for daily devotions and weekly sermon themes.  What follows has been taken from that booklet.

 

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”  Luke 1:26-33

 

Moses died on the mountain from which he was permitted to view from a distance the promised land (Deuteronomy 32:48-52).  When the Bible speaks of God’s promises, it’s a matter of life and death…

 

The language that reports this ancient history if clear.   Anyone who has seen God must die; the sinner dies before the promise of God.  Let’s understand what that means for us so close to Christmas.

 

The great promise of God – a promise that is infinitely more important than the promise of the promised land – is supposed to be fulfilled at Christmas…

 

The Bible is full of the proclamation that the great miracle has happened as an act of God, without any human doing…

 

What happened?  God had seen the misery of the world and had come himself in order to help.  Now he was there, not as a mighty one, but in the obscurity of humanity, where there is sinfulness, weakness, wretchedness, and misery in the world.

 

That is where God goes, and there he lets himself be found by everyone.  And this proclamation moves through the world anew, year after year, and again this year also comes to us.

 

Let us pray:  Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.  With your abundant grace and might, free us from the sin that binds us, that we may receive you in joy and serve you always, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Human Beings Become Human Because God Became Human

December 18, 2012

PLEASE NOTE:  This Advent season at Faith Lutheran we are using Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “God is in the Manger” devotional booklet for daily devotions and weekly sermon themes.  What follows has been taken from that booklet.

 

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:11-12

 

The figure of Jesus Christ takes shape in human beings.  Human beings do not take on an independent form of their own.  Rather, what gives them form and maintains them in their new form is always and only the figure of Jesus Christ himself.  It is therefore not an imitation, not a repetition of his form, but their own form that takes shape in human beings.

 

Human beings are not transformed into a form that is foreign to them, not into the form of God, but into their own form, a form that belongs to them and is essential to them.

 

Human beings become human because God became human, but human beings do not become God.  They could not and cannot bring about that change in their form, but God himself changes his form into human form, so that human beings – though not becoming God – can become human.

 

In Christ the form of human beings before God was created anew.  It was not a matter of place, of time, of climate, of race, of the individual, of society, of religion, or of taste, but rather a question of the life of humanity itself that recognized in Christ its image and its hope.

 

What happened to Christ happened to humanity.

 

Let us pray:  Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.  With your abundant grace and might, free us from the sin that binds us, that we may receive you in joy and serve you always, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

God Becomes Human

December 17, 2012

PLEASE NOTE:  This Advent season at Faith Lutheran we are using Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “God is in the Manger” devotional booklet for daily devotions and weekly sermon themes.  What follows has been taken from that booklet.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”  John 1:1-5

God becomes human, really human.  While we endeavor to grow out of our humanity, to leave our human nature behind us, God becomes human, and we must recognize that God wants us also to become human – really human.

Whereas we distinguish between the godly and godless, the good and the evil, the noble and the common, God loves real human beings without distinction…

God takes the side of real human beings and the real world against their accusers…

But its not enough to say that God takes care of human beings.  This sentence rests on something infinitely deeper and more impenetrable, namely, that in the conception and birth of Jesus Christ, God took on humanity in bodily fashion.  God raised his love for human beings above every reproach of falsehood and doubt and uncertainty by himself entering into the life of human beings as a human being, by bodily taking upon himself and bearing the nature, essence, guilt, and suffering of human beings.

Out of love for human beings, God becomes a human being.  He does not seek out the most perfect human being in order to unite with that person.  Rather, he takes on human nature as it is.

Let us pray:  Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.  With your abundant grace and might, free us from the sin that binds us, that we may receive you in joy and serve you always, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

World Judgment and World Redemption

December 14, 2012

PLEASE NOTE:  This Advent season at Faith Lutheran we are using Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “God is in the Manger” devotional booklet for daily devotions and weekly sermon themes.  What follows has been taken from that booklet.

 

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”  John 3:16-21

 

When God chooses Mary as the means when God himself wants to come into the world in the manger of Bethlehem, this is not an idyllic family affair.  It is instead the beginning of a complete reversal, a new ordering of all things on this earth.

 

If we want to participate in this Advent and Christmas event, we cannot simply sit there like spectators in a theater and enjoy all the friendly pictures. Rather, we must join in the action that is taking place and be drawn into this reversal of all things ourselves.  Here we too must act on the stage, for here the spectator is always a person acting in the drama.  We cannot remove ourselves from the action.

 

With whom, then, are we acting?  Pious shepherds who are on their knees?  Kings who bring their gifts?  What is going on here, when Mary becomes the mother of God, where God comes into the world in the lowliness of the manger?

 

World judgment and world redemption – that is what’s happening here.

 

And it is the Christ child in the manger himself who hold world judgment and world redemption.  He pushes back the high and mighty; he overturns the thrones of the powerful; he humbles the haughty; his arm exercises power over all the high and mighty; he lifts what is lowly, and makes it great and glorious in his mercy.

 

Let us pray:  Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God, and open our ears to the preaching of John, that, rejoicing in your salvation, we may bring forth the fruits of repentance; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Look Up, Your Redemption is Drawing Near

December 13, 2012

PLEASE NOTE:  This Advent season at Faith Lutheran we are using Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “God is in the Manger” devotional booklet for daily devotions and weekly sermon themes.  What follows has been taken from that booklet.

 

Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Luke 21:28

 

Let’s not deceive ourselves.  “Your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28), whether we know it or not, and the only question is:  Are we going to let it come to us too, or are we going to resist it?  Are we going to join in this movement that comes down from heaven to earth, or are we going to close ourselves off?

 

Christmas is coming – whether it is with us or without us depends on each and every one of us.

 

Such a true Advent happening now creates something different from the anxious, petty, depressed, feeble Christian spirit that we see again and again, and that again and again wants to make Christmas contemptible.  This becomes clear from the two powerful commands that introduce our text:  “Look up and raise your heads” (Luke 21:28).

 

Advent creates people, new people.  We too are supposed to become new people in Advent.  Look up, you whose gaze is fixed on this earth, who are spellbound by the little events and changes on the face of the earth.  Look up to these words, you who have turned away from heaven disappointed.

 

Look up, you whose eyes are heavy with tears and who are heavy and who are crying over the fact that the earth has gracelessly torn us away.

 

Look up, you who, burdened with guilt, cannot lift your eyes.  Look up, your redemption is drawing near.  Something different from what you see daily will happen.

 

Just be aware, be watchful, wait just another short moment.  Wait and something quite new will break over you:  God will come.

 

Let us pray:  Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God, and open our ears to the preaching of John, that, rejoicing in your salvation, we may bring forth the fruits of repentance; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Becoming Guilty

December 12, 2012

PLEASE NOTE:  This Advent season at Faith Lutheran we are using Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “God is in the Manger” devotional booklet for daily devotions and weekly sermon themes.  What follows has been taken from that booklet.

 

Come now, let us argue it out, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.  Isaiah 1:18

 

Because Jesus took upon himself the guilt of all people, everyone who acts responsibly becomes guilty.  Those who want to extract themselves from the responsibility for this guilt, also remove themselves from the ultimate reality of human existence.

 

Moreover, they also remove themselves from the redeeming mystery of the sinless guilt bearing of Jesus Christ and have no share in the divine justification that covers this event.  They place their personal innocence above their responsibility for humankind, and they are blind to the unhealed guilt that they load on themselves in this very way.

 

They are also blind to the fact that real innocence is revealed in the very fact that for the sake of other people it enters into the communion of their guilt.  Through Jesus Christ, the nature of responsible action includes the idea that the sinless, the selflessly loving become the guilty.

 

Let us pray:  Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God, and open our ears to the preaching of John, that, rejoicing in your salvation, we may bring forth the fruits of repentance; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Taking On Guilt

December 11, 2012

PLEASE NOTE:  This Advent season at Faith Lutheran we are using Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “God is in the Manger” devotional booklet for daily devotions and weekly sermon themes.  What follows has been taken from that booklet.

 

Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Matthew 19:16-19

 

Because what is at stake for Jesus is not the proclamation and realization of new ethical ideals, and thus also not his own goodness (Matthew 19:17), but solely his love for real human beings, he can enter into the communication of their guilt; he can be loaded down with their guilt…

 

It is his love alone that lets him become guilty.  Out of his selfless love, out of his sinless nature, Jesus enters into the guilt of human beings; he takes it upon himself.  A sinless nature and guilt bearing are bound together in him indissolubly.

 

As the sinless one Jesus takes guilt upon himself, and under the burden of this guilt, he shows that he is the sinless one.

 

Let us pray:  Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God, and open our ears to the preaching of John, that, rejoicing in your salvation, we may bring forth the fruits of repentance; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Jesus Enters Into The Guilt of Human Beings

December 10, 2012

PLEASE NOTE:  This Advent season at Faith Lutheran we are using Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “God is in the Manger” devotional booklet for daily devotions and weekly sermon themes.  What follows has been taken from that booklet.

 

For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.  2 Corinthians 5:10

 

Jesus does not want to be the only perfect human being at the expense of humankind.  He does not want, as the only guiltless one, to ignore a humanity that is being destroyed by its guilt; he does not want some kind of human ideal to triumph over the ruins of a wrecked humanity.

 

Love for real people leads into the fellowship of human guilt.

 

Jesus does not want to exonerate himself from the guilt in which people he loves are living.  A love that left people alone in their guilt would not have real people as its object.

 

So, in vicarious responsibility for people and in his love for real human beings, Jesus becomes the one burdened by guilt – indeed, the one upon whom all human guilt ultimately falls and the one who does not turn away but bears it humbly and in eternal love.  As the one who acts responsibly in the historical existence of humankind, as the human being who has entered reality, Jesus becomes guilty.

 

But because his historical existence, his incarnation, has its sole basis in God’s love for human beings, it is the love of God that makes Jesus become guilty.  Out of selfless love for human beings, Jesus leaves his state as the one without sin and enters into the guilt of human beings.  He takes it upon himself.

 

Let us pray:  Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God, and open our ears to the preaching of John, that, rejoicing in your salvation, we may bring forth the fruits of repentance; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.