Archive for December, 2012

The Power and Glory of the Manger

December 7, 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 Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”  Luke 1:46-55

 

For the great and powerful of this world, there are only two places in which their courage fails them, of which they are afraid deep down in their souls, from which they shy away.  These are the manger and the cross of Jesus Christ.

 

No powerful person dares to approach the manger, and this even includes King Herod.  For this is where thrones shake, the mighty fall, the prominent perish, because God is with the lowly.  Here the rich come to nothing, because God is with the poor and hungry, but the rich and satisfied he sends away empty.

 

Before Mary, the maid, before the manger of Christ, before God in lowliness, the powerful come to naught; they have no right, no hope; they are judged….

 

Who among us will celebrate Christmas correctly?  Whoever finally lays down all power, all honor, all reputation, all vanity, all arrogance, all individualism beside the manger; whoever remains lowly and lets God alone be high; whoever looks at the child in the manger and sees the glory of God precisely in his lowliness.

 

Let us pray:  Stir up our hearts, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son.  By his coming give to all the people of the world knowledge of your salvation; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

 

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The Scandal of Pious People

December 6, 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.

 

But we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.  1 Corinthians 1:23-25

 

The lowly God-man is the scandal of pious people and of people in general.  This scandal is his historical ambiguity.  The most incomprehensible thing for the pious is this man’s claim that he is not only a pious human being but also the son of God.  Whence his authority:  “But I say to you” (Matt. 5:22) and “Your sins are forgiven” (Matt. 9:2).

 

If Jesus’ nature had been deified, this claim would have been accepted.  If he had given signs, as was demanded of him, they would have believed him.  But at the point where it really mattered, he held back.  And that created the scandal.

 

Yet everything depends on this fact.

 

If he had answered the Christ question addressed to him through a miracle, then the statement would no longer be true that he became a human being like us, for then there would have been an exception at the decisive point…

 

If Christ had documented himself with miracles, we would naturally believe, but then Christ would not be our salvation, for then there would not be faith in God who become human, but only the recognition of an alleged supernatural fact.  But that is not faith.

 

Only when I forgo visible proof, do I believe in God.

 

Let us pray:  Stir up our hearts, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son.  By his coming give to all the people of the world knowledge of your salvation; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

The Wonder of All Wonders

December 5, 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.

 

None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.  1 Corinthians 2:8-10

 

God travels wonderful ways with human beings, but he does not comply with the views and opinions of people.  God does not go the way that people want to prescribe for him; rather, his way is beyond all comprehension, free and self-determined beyond all proof.

 

Where reason is indignant, where our nature rebels, where our piety anxiously keeps us away: that is precisely where God loves to be.  There he confounds the reason of the unreasonable; there he aggravates our nature, our piety – that is where he wants to be, and no one can keep him from it.

 

Only the humble believe him and rejoice that God is so free and so marvelous that he does wonders where people despair, that he takes what is little and lowly and makes it marvelous.  And that is the wonder of wonders, that God loves the lowly……

 

God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings.  God marches right in.  He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would least expect them.  God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken.

 

Let us pray:  Stir up our hearts, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son.  By his coming give to all the people of the world knowledge of your salvation; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

The Mystery of Love

December 4, 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.

I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.

It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus.

And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

I want you to know, beloved that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ; and most of the brothers and sisters, having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear. Philippians 1:3-14

The mystery remains a mystery. It withdraws from our grasp. Mystery, however, does not mean simply not knowing something.

The greatest mystery is not the most distant star; on the contrary, the closer something comes to us and the better we know it, then the more mysterious it becomes for us. The greatest mystery to us is not the most distant person, but the one next to us.

The mystery of other people is not reduced by getting to know more and more about them. Rather, in their closeness they become more and more mysterious. And the final depth of all mystery is when two people come so close to each other that they love each other. Nowhere in the world does one feel the might of the mysterious and its wonder as strongly as here.

When two people know everything about each other, the mystery of the love between them becomes infinitely great. And only in this love do they understand each other, know everything about each other, know each other completely. And yet, the more they love each other and know about each other in love, the more deeply they know the mystery of their love.

Thus, knowledge about each other does not remove the mystery, but rather makes it more profound. The very fact that the other person is so near to me is the greatest mystery.

Let us pray: Stir up our hearts, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son. By his coming give to all the people of the world knowledge of your salvation; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Respect for the Mystery

December 3, 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.

 

I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  Colossians 2:2-3

 

The lack of mystery in our modern life is our downfall and our poverty.  A human life is worth as much as the respect it holds for the mystery.  We retain the child in us to the extent that we honor the mystery.  Therefore, children have open, wideawake eyes, because they know that they are surrounded by the mystery.

 

They are not yet finished with this world; they still don’t know how to struggle along and avoid the mystery, as we do.  We destroy the mystery because we sense that here we reach the boundary of our being, because we want to be lord over everything and have it at our disposal, and that’s just what we cannot do with the mystery.

 

Living without mystery means knowing nothing of the mystery of our own life, nothing of the mystery of another person, nothing of the mystery of the world.

 

It means remaining on the surface, taking the world seriously only to the extent that it can be calculated and exploited, and not going beyond the world of calculation and exploitation.

 

Living without mystery means not seeing the crucial processes of life at all and even denying them.

 

Let us pray:  Stir up our hearts, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son.  By his coming give to all the people of the world knowledge of your salvation; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.