Archive for December, 2012

First Sunday after Christmas: The Seed of David Comes to His Temple

December 30th, 2012 2 comments

A Rod has come forth from the stem of Jesse (Is. 11:1–5)–the Seed of David whose kingdom shall be established forever (2 Sam. 7:1–16). In the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son Jesus to redeem us from the judgment of the Law (Gal. 4:1–7). Now He is presented in the temple in fulfillment of the Law and revealed to be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:22–40). Christ has enlightened us in baptism, giving us to be adopted as sons of God and heirs of eternal life. Receiving the Holy Sacrament of His body and blood, we are prepared to depart this world in peace, for our eyes have seen the salvation of God in Him.

The appointed Scripture readings for this day include:

Introit: Ps. 93:1, 3–4; antiphon: Ps. 93:5, 2
Psalm: Psalm 89:1-8 (antiphon: verse eight)
Old Testament: Isaiah 11:1–5
Gradual: Ps. 45:1–2
Epistle: Galatians 4:1–7
Verse: Ps. 93:1
Gospel: Luke 2:22–40

In His temple now behold Him,
See the long expected Lord;
Ancient prophets had foretold Him—
God has now fulfilled His word.
Now to praise Him, His redeemèd
Shall break forth with one accord.

In the arms of her who bore Him,
Virgin pure, behold Him lie,
While his agèd saints adore Him
Ere in faith and hope they die.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Lo, th’incarnate God most high.

Jesus, by Thy presentation,
Thou, who didst for us endure,
Make us see our great salvation,
Seal us with Thy promise sure.
And present us in Thy glory
To Thy Father, cleansed and pure.

Prince and Author of salvation,
Be Thy boundless love our theme!
Jesus, praise to Thee be given
By the world Thou didst redeem.
With the Father and the Spirit,
Lord of majesty supreme!

Words: Hen­ry J. Pye, Hymns, 1851 (stan­zas 1-3); Will­iam Cooke (stan­za 4), 1853.

O Princely Child from David’s Stem

December 29th, 2012 2 comments

If you are not familiar with Studium Excitare, the web journal of confessional language studies at Martin Lutheran College, you may well wish to subscribe to its feed. It regularly publishes translations of previously untranslated treasures from the age of the Reformation and Lutheran Orthodoxy. Here is a translation of a hymn by Pastor Jeremiah Gumm for noting this on his excellent blog site, also recommended to you.

O Princely Child from David’s Stem
O Fürstenkind aus Davids Stamm (KELG133)

Sung to the tune of “O Morning Star”

by Philip von Zesen

Translated by Aaron Jenson

O Princely Child from David’s Stem,
My Life, my Comfort, and my Friend,
My Soul’s Bridegroom and Savior,
I should thank You eternally
That You draw near in poverty–
What could I give You ever?
We know
No woe,
Joyful always
Sing we God’s praise,
Sadness waning,
For the Prince of Peace is reigning.

I myself full of gladness live–
I know not what I ought to give
The chosen child from above.
Take for Yourself, O Child most kind,
Take now my courage, heart, and mind.
Ignite my soul with Your love.
And be
In me
Sealed securely
That I surely
Ne’er replace You,
But in love ever embrace You.

Stay, Priceless Treasure, Jewel most bright,
Stay with me, O my heart’s Delight,
The Hope of all the weary.
Dew from Heaven, O make me grow.
O Wondrous Manna, Yourself show
To outcasts poor and dreary.
Keep bright
Your Light
On the earth here
As in Heav’n clear.
To those pining
Bring Your Word forever shining.



Categories: Lutheran Hymns

December 27: St. John, Apostle and Evangelist

December 27th, 2012 Comments off

John was the son of Zebedee and Salome, and the brother of James the Greater. In the Gospels the two brothers are often called after their father “the sons of Zebedee” and received from Christ the honorable title of Boanerges, i.e. “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17). Originally they were fishermen and fished with their father in the Lake of Genesareth. According to the usual and entirely probable explanation they became, however, for a time disciples of John the Baptist, and were called by Christ from the circle of John’s followers, together with Peter and Andrew, to become His disciples (John 1:35-42). The first disciples returned with their new Master from the Jordan to Galilee and apparently both John and the others remained for some time with Jesus (cf. John ii, 12, 22; iv, 2, 8, 27 sqq.). Yet after the second return from Judea, John and his companions went back again to their trade of fishing until he and they were called by Christ to definitive discipleship (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20). In the lists of the Apostles John has the second place (Acts 1:13), the third (Mark 3:17), and the fourth (Matthew 10:3; Luke 6:14), yet always after James with the exception of a few passages (Luke 8:51; 9:28 in the Greek text; Acts 1:13). From James being thus placed first, the conclusion is drawn that John was the younger of the two brothers. In any case John had a prominent position in the Apostolic body. Peter, James, and he were the only witnesses of the raising of Jairus’s daughter (Mark 5:37), of the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1), and of the Agony in Gethsemani (Matthew 26:37). Only he and Peter were sent into the city to make the preparation for the Last Supper (Luke 22:8). At the Supper itself his place was next to Christ on Whose breast he leaned (John 13:23, 25). According to the general interpretation John was also that “other disciple” who with Peter followed Christ after the arrest into the palace of the high-priest (John 18:15). John alone remained near his beloved Master at the foot of the Cross on Calvary with the Mother of Jesus and the pious women, and took the desolate Mother into his care as the last legacy of Christ (John 19:25-27). After the Resurrection John with Peter was the first of the disciples to hasten to the grave and he was the first to believe that Christ had truly risen (John 20:2-10). When later Christ appeared at the Lake of Genesareth John was also the first of the seven disciples present who recognized his Master standing on the shore (John 21:7). The Fourth Evangelist has shown us most clearly how close the relationship was in which he always stood to his Lord and Master by the title with which he is accustomed to indicate himself without giving his name: “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. After Christ’s Ascension and the Descent of the Holy Spirit, John took, together with Peter, a prominent part in the founding and guidance of the Church. We see him in the company of Peter at the healing of the lame man in the Temple (Acts 3:1 sqq.). With Peter he is also thrown into prison (Acts 4:3). Again, we find him with the prince of the Apostles visiting the newly converted in Samaria (Acts 8:14). We have no positive information concerning the duration of this activity in Palestine. Apparently John in common with the other Apostles remained some twelve years in this first field of labour, until the persecution of Herod Agrippa I led to the scattering of the Apostles through the various provinces of the Roman Empire (cf. Acts 12:1-17). Notwithstanding the opinion to the contrary of many writers, it does not appear improbable that John then went for the first time to Asia Minor and exercised his Apostolic office in various provinces there. In any case a Christian community was already in existence at Ephesus before Paul’s first labours there (cf. “the brethren”, Acts 18:27, in addition to Priscilla and Aquila), and it is easy to connect a sojourn of John in these provinces with the fact that the Holy Ghost did not permit the Apostle Paul on his second missionary journey to proclaim the Gospel in Asia, Mysia, and Bithynia (Acts 16:6 sq.). There is just as little against such an acceptation in the later account in Acts of St. Paul’s third missionary journey. But in any case such a sojourn by John in Asia in this first period was neither long nor uninterrupted. He returned with the other disciples to Jerusalem for the Apostolic Council (about A.D. 51). St. Paul in opposing his enemies in Galatia names John explicitly along with Peter and James the Less as a “pillar of the Church”, and refers to the recognition which his Apostolic preaching of a Gospel free from the law received from these three, the most prominent men of the old Mother-Church at Jerusalem (Galatians 2:9). When Paul came again to Jerusalem after the second and after the third journey (Acts 18:22; 21:17 sq.) he seems no longer to have met John there. Some wish to draw the conclusion from this that John left Palestine between the years 52 The Christian writers of the second and third centuries testify to us as aFrancesca8a tradition universally recognized and doubted by no one that the Apostle and Evangelist John lived in Asia Minor in the last decades of the first century and from Ephesus had guided the Churches of that province. In his “Dialogue with Tryphon” (Chapter 81) St. Justin Martyr refers to “John, one of the Apostles of Christ” as a witness who had lived “with us”, that is, at Ephesus. St. Irenæus speaks in very many places of the Apostle John and his residence in Asia and expressly declares that he wrote his Gospel at Ephesus (Adv. haer., III, i, 1), and that he had lived there until the reign of Trajan (loc. cit., II, xxii, 5). With Eusebius (Hist. eccl., III, xiii, 1) and others we are obliged to place the Apostle’s banishment to Patmos in the reign of the Emperor Domitian (81-96). Previous to this, according to Tertullian’s testimony (De praescript., xxxvi), John had been thrown into a cauldron of boiling oil before the Porta Latina at Rome without suffering injury. After Domitian’s death the Apostle returned to Ephesus during the reign of Trajan, and at Ephesus he died about A.D. 100 at a great age. Tradition reports many beautiful traits of the last years of his life: that he refused to remain under the same roof with Cerinthus (Irenaeus “Ad. haer.”, III, iii, 4); his touching anxiety about a youth who had become a robber (Clemens Alex., “Quis dives salvetur”, xiii); his constantly repeated words of exhortation at the end of his life, “Little children, love one another” (Jerome, “Comm. in ep. ad. Gal.”, vi, 10). On the other hand the stories told in the apocryphal Acts of John, which appeared as early as the second century, are unhistorical invention. Early Christian art usually represents St. John with an eagle, symbolizing the heights to which he rises in the first chapter of his Gospel. The chalice as symbolic of St. John, which, according to some authorities, was not adopted until the thirteenth century, is sometimes interpreted with reference to the Last Supper, again as connected with the legend according to which St. John was handed a cup of poisoned wine, from which, at his blessing, the poison rose in the shape of a serpent. Perhaps the most natural explanation is to be found in the words of Christ to John and James “My chalice indeed you shall drink” (Matthew 20:23). Source

A Blessed Christmas to One and All

December 24th, 2012 3 comments

I pray that our Lord will bless you richly as you meditate and ponder all the wonders, joys, mysteries and blessings of these days celebrating and rejoicing in our Lord’s nativity.

All my heart again rejoices
As I hear
Far and near
Sweetest angel voices.
“Christ is born!” their choirs are singing
Till the air
Now with joy is ringing.

Hear!  The Conqueror has spoken:
“Now the foe, sin and woe,
Death and hell are broken!”
God is man, man to deliver,
And the Son
Now is one
With our blood forever.

Should we fear our God’s displeasure,
Who, to save,
Freely gave
His most precious treasure?
To redeem us He has given
His own Son
From the throne
Of His might in heaven.

See the Lamb, our sin once taking,
To the cross,
Suff’ring loss,
Full atonement making.
For our life, His own He tenders,
And His grace
All our race
Fit for glory renders.

Softly from His lowly manger,
Jesus calls
One and all,
“You are safe from danger.
Children, from the sins that grieve you
You are freed;
All you need
I will surely give you.”

Come, then, banish all your sadness!
One and all,
Great and small,
Come with songs of gladness.
We shall live with Him forever
There on high
In that joy
Which will vanish never.

All My Heart Again Rejoices

by Paul Gerhardt, Lutheran Service Book, #360

Bach’s Christmas Oratorio – Recorded Live at Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Weimar, Germany

December 23rd, 2012 6 comments

One of but many wonderful things about this recording is that it was done in St. Peter and Paul Church in Weimar, Germany, and you have a beautiful view of the magnificent Cranach altar painting throughout. Enjoy! You can find the rest of the parts on YouTube.

Categories: Bach

The Fourth Sunday in Advent: Rain Down, O Heavens! (Rorate Coeli)

December 23rd, 2012 1 comment
Isenheim mirror

Detail from Matthias Grünwald’s Eisenheim Altar Painting. Inverted for purpose of display here.

“Rain down, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds pour down righteousness…” Is. 45:8

John the Baptizer Points Everyone to the Messiah
The coming of God in all His unveiled power at Mount Sinai was terrifying to the people of Israel. The thundering voice of the Lord puts sinners in fear of death (Deut. 18:15–19). God, therefore, raised up a prophet like Moses–the Messiah, the Christ. God came to His people veiled in human flesh. The skies poured down the Righteous One from heaven; the earth opened her womb and brought forth Salvation (Introit) through the blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of the Lord (Luke 1:39–56). The fruit of her womb is the very Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, the One whose sandal strap John was not worthy to loose (John 1:19–28). In Jesus we are delivered from fear and anxiety. In Him alone we have the peace of God which surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:4–7).

Introit: Ps. 19:1, 4-6; antiphon Is. 45:8
Deuteronomy 18:15–19
Psalm: Ps. 111 (antiphon v. 9)
Gradual: Ps. 145:18, 21
Philippians 4:4–7
Verse: Ps. 40:17b
John 1:19–28 or Luke 1:39–56

From Luther’s sermon for this Sunday:

“When the first teaching, that of the Law, and baptism are over and man, humiliated by the knowledge of himself, is forced to despair of himself and his powers; then begins the second part of John’s teaching, in which he directs the people from himself to Christ and says: “Behold the Lamb of God that takes upon itself the sin of the world.” By this he means to say: “First I have, by my teaching, made you all sinners, have condemned your works and told you to despair of yourselves. But in order that you may not also despair of God, behold, I will show you how to get rid of your sins and obtain salvation. Not that you can strip off your sins or make yourselves pious through your works; another man is needed for this; nor can I do it, I can point him out, however. It is Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. He, he, and no one else either in heaven or on earth takes our sins upon himself. You yourself could not pay for the very smallest of sins. He alone must take upon himself not alone your sins, but the sins of the world, and not some sins, but all the sins of the world, be they great or small, many or few.” This then is preaching and, hearing the pure Gospel, and recognizing the finger of John, who points out to you Christ, the Lamb of God. Now, if you are able to believe that this voice of John speaks the truth, and if you are able to follow his finger and recognize the Lamb of God carrying your sin, then you have gained the victory, then you are a Christian, a master of sin, death, hell, and all things. Then your conscience will rejoice and become heartily fond of this gentle Lamb of God. Then will you love, praise, and give thanks to our heavenly Father for this infinite wealth of his mercy, preached by John and given in Christ. And finally you will become cheerful and willing to do his divine will, as best you can, with all your strength. For what lovelier and more comforting message can be heard than that our sins are not ours any more, that they no more lie on us, but on the Lamb of God. How can sin condemn such an innocent Lamb? Lying on him, it must be vanquished and made to be nothing, and likewise death and hell, being the reward of sin, must be vanquished also. Behold what God our Father has given us in Christ!”

Bach for Advent IV: Cantata 132

Event: Solo Cantata for the 4th Sunday in Advent
Epistle: Philippians 4: 4-7; Gospel: John 1: 19-28
Salomo Franck (Mvts. 1-5); Elisabeth Kreuziger (Mvt. 6)
Chorale Text:
Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn

Christ’s members, ah, consider,
what the Savior has bestowed on you
through the pure bath of baptism!
Through the spring of blood and water
your garments will become bright,
which are stained from sin.
Christ gave as new garments
crimson robes, white silk,
these are the status of the Christian.

Here is the Soprano Aria from Cantata 132, text before video:

Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn!
Prepare the ways, prepare the path!
Bereitet die Wege
Prepare the ways
Und machet die Stege
and make the footpaths
Im Glauben und Leben
in faith and in life
Dem Höchsten ganz eben,
smooth before the Highest.
Messias kömmt an!
The Messiah is coming!

O Emmanuel

December 23rd, 2012 1 comment

December 23
Readings:  Isaiah 7:1-8:10 / Matthew 1:18-25

O Emmanuel,
Rex et legifer noster,
expectatio gentium,
et Salvator earum:
veni ad salvandum nos,
Domine, Deus noster.

O Emmanuel,
our King and our Lord,
the anointed for the nations
and their Savior: 
Come and save us,
O Lord our God.

“God helps those who help themselves.”  It almost sounds biblical.
Some people think it comes from the Bible, but it doesn’t.  It’s
actually unbiblical, even anti-biblical.  In truth, God helps the
helpless, those who cannot help themselves.  God saves those who cannot
save themselves.

“We are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.”  If God helps
only those who help themselves, then we are in a heap of trouble,
because when it comes to sin we are powerless to help ourselves.
Prisoners can do nothing to free themselves; the dead can do nothing to
raise themselves.  God must come to us to help us.  He must reach down
to us, we cannot reach up to Him.  He must come and be with us.

The promise of this last night of Advent is the promise of Immanuel -
God is with us.  Immanuel was the word-sign spoken by Isaiah to a
panic-stricken king.  Ahaz’s enemies had struck an alliance.  Rezin,
the king of Syria, and Pekah, the son of Remaliah, the king of Israel
had struck a deal.  Ahaz was the odd man out.  He cut a deal of his own
with Tiglath Pileser, the king of Assyria.  That would prove to be
Ahaz’s undoing.  Assyria would be like a flooded river pouring over its
banks, sweeping away Judah in the process.

Isaiah tried to warn Ahaz, and encourage him that God was with Him.
“Rezin and Pekah are nothing but smoldering stumps under the foot of
God’s judgment.  They have a plan but it will not stand and will not
come to pass.  You must trust Yahweh; take Him at His word.  But if you
will not believe, surely, you will not be established.”  Isaiah offered
a sign to Ahaz, but Ahaz refused.  It was the sign of Immanuel.  “The
virgin is conceiving and bearing a son and shall call his name
Immanuel.”  In nine months Ahaz would know that God was with them.  In
ten to twelve years, before little Immanuel knew right from wrong,
Rezin and Pekah would be history.  Immanuel would eat curds and honey.
Good and bad news rolled into one.  Agricultural land would be laid
waste.  Crops destroyed.  But there would still be plenty of milk and
wild honey.  Wilderness food.  It is back to the wilderness for God’s
people.  But God is with them.

Isaiah had a son.  His name, written in stone on a large tablet was
this:  Maher-shalal-hash-baz.  “The spoil speeds, the prey hastens.”
Destruction is at the door.  There are always two sides to God’s being
with us – destruction and salvation.  Immanuel and
Maher-shalal-hash-baz.  He is with us to save, and He is with us to
destroy whatever gets in the way of His saving us. When we pray “Thy
will be done,” we call upon God’s good and gracious will to save us. We
are also calling Him to break and hinder every will that opposes his
good and gracious will, including our own.  The Lord kills in order to
make alive.  He brings down in order to raise up.  He crushes in order
to create anew.

God’s last word is not death, but life.  Not Maher-shalal-hash-baz, but
Immanuel.  “The Lord is with you,” the angel said to Mary.  And the
Virgin conceived and bore a son.  Jesus.  Immanuel.  God with us.

God is with us in His Son Jesus.  He is the God who gets involved, who
puts on the uniform and plays the game.  He doesn’t sit by watching us
make a mess of things.  He doesn’t watch helplessly from His throne
heaven while we destroy each other here on earth.  He sets down his
crown, takes off his royal robes, puts on the workclothes of a
servant.  He takes on our humanity.  And in our humanity He humbles
himself to death on a cross.  Immanuel works and weeps and suffers and
sleeps and bleeds and dies.  He is with us in every facet of our
lives.  Nothing is left out of His being with us to save us.

The signs of Immanuel are all around us.  Advent calls us to them and
invites us to see them anew.  Where is God with you to save you?  In
the water of your Baptism.   There He is with you to make you His own -
the Spirit descending, the voice of the Father, Jesus at your side,
with you always to the end of the age.  You are joined to Jesus’ death
in Baptism, and He is joined to you.

He is with you in the word that speaks forgiveness to you.  “He who
hears you, hears me,” Jesus said of those He sent.  “Do you believe
that my forgiveness is God’s forgiveness,” the pastor asks the
penitent.  That is the Immanuel question.  Do you believe that God is
with us in this word?  To hear this forgiveness as God’s forgiveness?
Such a gift Immanuel is to arrange to speak with us in a way that we
can hear Him!

He is with you in His Supper, His own body and blood, born of Mary,
sacrificed on Calvary, raised from the dead, enthroned in heaven yet
humbly mangered in bread and wine for you.  There is no greater His
being Immanuel for you.

Jesus is Immanuel, the only Immanuel there ever was, the only one there
ever will be, the only one you need.  When He appears in glory, He will
be the same Immanuel who came by the Virgin, who laid in a manger, who
died for you on the cross, who come to you now in His Baptism, Word,
and Supper.  The good news, on this last night of Advent, is that you
are never alone as one of the Lord’s baptized believers.  God is with
you.  Immanuel.

Why Christmas is on December 25

December 22nd, 2012 14 comments

jesus_nativityThanks to Dr. Gene Edward Veith for this post.  Biblical Archaeology Review has a good scholarly discussion of why Christmas is celebrated on December 25. And it is evidently NOT because it was superimposed on a pagan holiday:

The most loudly touted theory about the origins of the Christmas date(s) is that it was borrowed from pagan celebrations. The Romans had their mid-winter Saturnalia festival in late December; barbarian peoples of northern and western Europe kept holidays at similar times. To top it off, in 274 C.E., the Roman emperor Aurelian established a feast of the birth of Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun), on December 25. Christmas, the argument goes, is really a spin-off from these pagan solar festivals. According to this theory, early Christians deliberately chose these dates to encourage the spread of Christmas and Christianity throughout the Roman world: If Christmas looked like a pagan holiday, more pagans would be open to both the holiday and the God whose birth it celebrated.

Despite its popularity today, this theory of Christmas’s origins has its problems. It is not found in any ancient Christian writings, for one thing. Christian authors of the time do note a connection between the solstice and Jesus’ birth: The church father Ambrose (c. 339–397), for example, described Christ as the true sun, who outshone the fallen gods of the old order. But early Christian writers never hint at any recent calendrical engineering; they clearly don’t think the date was chosen by the church. Rather they see the coincidence as a providential sign, as natural proof that God had selected Jesus over the false pagan gods.

It’s not until the 12th century that we find the first suggestion that Jesus’ birth celebration was deliberately set at the time of pagan feasts. A marginal note on a manuscript of the writings of the Syriac biblical commentator Dionysius bar-Salibi states that in ancient times the Christmas holiday was actually shifted from January 6 to December 25 so that it fell on the same date as the pagan Sol Invictus holiday.5 In the 18th and 19th centuries, Bible scholars spurred on by the new study of comparative religions latched on to this idea.6 They claimed that because the early Christians didn’t know when Jesus was born, they simply assimilated the pagan solstice festival for their own purposes, claiming it as the time of the Messiah’s birth and celebrating it accordingly. . . .

There are problems with this popular theory, however, as many scholars recognize. Most significantly, the first mention of a date for Christmas (c. 200) and the earliest celebrations that we know about (c. 250–300) come in a period when Christians were not borrowing heavily from pagan traditions of such an obvious character. . . . In the first few centuries C.E., the persecuted Christian minority was greatly concerned with distancing itself from the larger, public pagan religious observances, such as sacrifices, games and holidays. This was still true as late as the violent persecutions of the Christians conducted by the Roman emperor Diocletian between 303 and 312 C.E. . . . .

There is another way to account for the origins of Christmas on December 25: Strange as it may seem, the key to dating Jesus’ birth may lie in the dating of Jesus’ death at Passover. This view was first suggested to the modern world by French scholar Louis Duchesne in the early 20th century and fully developed by American Thomas Talley in more recent years.8 But they were certainly not the first to note a connection between the traditional date of Jesus’ death and his birth.

Around 200 C.E. Tertullian of Carthage reported the calculation that the 14th of Nisan (the day of the crucifixion according to the Gospel of John) in the year Jesus diedc was equivalent to March 25 in the Roman (solar) calendar.9 March 25 is, of course, nine months before December 25; it was later recognized as the Feast of the Annunciation—the commemoration of Jesus’ conception.10 Thus, Jesus was believed to have been conceived and crucified on the same day of the year. Exactly nine months later, Jesus was born, on December 25.d

This idea appears in an anonymous Christian treatise titled On Solstices and Equinoxes, which appears to come from fourth-century North Africa. The treatise states: “Therefore our Lord was conceived on the eighth of the kalends of April in the month of March [March 25], which is the day of the passion of the Lord and of his conception. For on that day he was conceived on the same he suffered.”11 Based on this, the treatise dates Jesus’ birth to the winter solstice.

The article goes on to document other ancient sources that associate the day of Jesus’s conception with the day of His death, going back to rabbinic Jewish texts that make similar connections.

O King of Nations, Come!

December 22nd, 2012 Comments off

December 22
Readings:  Zechariah 9:9-10 / 1 Peter 2:4-6

O Rex Gentium,
et desideratus earum,
lapisque angularis,
qui facis utraque unum:
veni, et salva hominem,
quem de limo formasti.

O King of nations,
the ruler they long for,
the cornerstone uniting all people: 
Come and save us all,
whom you formed out of clay.

Jesus is both King and Cornerstone.  As King, he governs by His gracious reign of forgiveness and peace as the King of kings.  As Cornerstone, He sets all the angles square and unites His church together as one in spite of our sad divisions..

He is the potter, we are the clay.  He is the King, we are His
subjects.  He is the Cornerstone, we are living stones built into a
temple for His Name.  We want this, and then again, we don’t want it.
The sinful nature resents the potter, refuses the king, resists the
cornerstone.  Sin is the overthrow of God’s reign, the attempt to be a
god in place of God.  It is the rebellion of the clay against the
potter who shaped it.  It is our attempt to determine the lines of our
future and destiny, to be our own cornerstone.

The outcome is chaos and death.  A kingdom in which everyone is king is
no kingdom at all.  It is anarchy.  A building in which every stone is
the cornerstone is a pile of rubble.  Individualism ends in isolation.
It is death to family, to community.  It was not good that man was
alone.  God sets us into community.  Sin erects walls, both visible and
invisible, barriers to community.  We define the boundaries of our own
little kingdoms and vow to defend them to the death.

Christ has come as King and Cornerstone.  His coming was without the
trappings of royalty.  A virgin mother.  A manger crib.  A borrowed
donkey.  Royal robes worn in mockery and scorn.  His crown was made of
thorns.  His throne was a cross.  He is a beggar king in a kingdom of

The crucified King is the King of kings.  The rejected stone is the
cornerstone.  As His second advent draws ever nearer, we are reminded
that His kingdom is not of this world, that His rule is eternal, that
He conquers with the sword of His Word.  As His baptized believers, we
are privileged to enjoy His reign even now through faith, to live under
Him in His kingdom, and to serve Him in everlasting righteousness,
innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives
and reigns to all eternity.

Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease, And be Thyself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel!

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December 21st, 2012 3 comments
Categories: Uncategorized

O Dayspring

December 21st, 2012 Comments off
by Pastor William Cwirla

The O Antiphon for December 21


Readings:  Isaiah 9:1-7 / Malachi 4:2 / Revelation 22:16

O Oriens,
splendor lucis aeternae,
et sol justitiae:
veni, et illumina
sedentes in tenebris,
et umbra mortis.

O Dayspring,
splendor of light everlasting: 
Come and enlighten
those who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death.

Today is the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere.  And
the longest night.  Though it is the darkest day, the Advent candles
burn brightly.  The church calls from the darkness to her Lord, her
Dayspring from on high, who is “the joyous light of glory.”

God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness.  God spoke Light into
the darkness.  Light is life.  Without lLght there is no life.
Darkness is death, the silence of God, the absence of God.

Our sin plunged the creation into darkness and death.  Sin loves the
darkness and hates the light.  Sin loves the death and hates the life.
Man turned away from God hides in the darkness.  Adam hid in the
darkness of the trees.  Judas betrayed his Lord at night.  Sin seeks
shelter under the cover of darkness.  Darkness cannot produce light.
It is nothing, formless and void, empty.  Light must be spoken into
darkness from the outside.

God sent His Son, the light of the world thrown into darkness.  He is
the light no darkness can overcome, the light of God’s love, His
promise of mercy.  “The people walking in darkness have seen a great
light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light
shined.”  Jesus is the Morning Star, the Dayspring, the signal of the
coming morning.  Day is at hand.  The Dayspring has risen.  The sun of
righteousness rises with healing in His wings.  He was born in darkness
that we might be reborn as children of the light.  He died in darkness
that we might live in the light of His life.  He rose at dawn to usher
in the new day of His resurrection.  He shines into our hearts by the
Holy Spirit who works through the Word, dispelling the darkness,
killing the death, bringing light and life.

Advent calls us out of the darkness to live in the light of Christ, to
be the children of the Light that we are.  “If we walk in the light, as
He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood
of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”  The night is over.  The
Day has dawned.  Christ has risen from the dead.  He has cast the
bright beams of His light upon you.

Flee the darkness.  Confess your sin.  Expose the darkness, the death,
to His light.  Cling to the light of His Word.  Live in the warm
brightness of His Light.  “You will do well to pay attention to this as
to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning
star rises in your hearts.”

O come, Thou Dayspring from on high, And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh,
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel!

The Festival of St. Thomas: Apostle and Martyr

December 21st, 2012 1 comment

The Apostle Thomas (Hebrew or Aramaic for “twin”) was also called Didymus (Greek for “twin”); either his parents gave him a most peculiar name or else he consistently went by his nickname. Absent when the Risen Lord appeared to the other apostles on the evening of Easter Day, He refused to believe that Christ had indeed risen until he had seen him for himself. When he saw Him the following week, he said to Jesus, “My Lord and My God.”

Because of this, he has been known ever since as “Doubting Thomas,” although “Disbelieving Thomas” or even “Faithless Thomas” probably would be more accurate. See John 20:19-29 for the full account.

We also remember his earlier words, when Jesus announced His intention of going to Jerusalem, even though His life was in danger there: Thomas said to the others, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (John 11:7-16) Thus, we see that Thomas was sturdily loyal.

At the Last Supper, Jesus said: “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas was the one who responded, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” To this Jesus answered: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (see John 14:1-6)”

John 21
records Thomas as one of the seven disciples fishing on the Sea of Galilee when the Lord appeared to them. Aside from these Biblical accounts, he appears only as a name on lists of the Apostles.

A few centuries later, a story circulated in the Mediterranean world that he went to preach in India; a community in the Kerala district claims descent from Christians converted by the preaching of Thomas. Among Indian Christians, tradition claims that Thomas was speared to death near Madras, and accordingly is often pictured holding a spear.

Since he was credited with the building up of the Church through his missionary journeys, a carpenter’s square also is a regular symbol of the apostle.

Bible Readings

Psalm 126
Habakkuk 2:1-4
Hebrews 10:35-11:1
John 14:1-7 or 20:24-29


Almighty and ever living God, who upheld and strengthened Your apostle Thomas with sure and certain faith in Your Son’s resurrection, grant us perfect and unwavering belief in Jesus Christ, our resurrected Lord and God, that our faith may never be found wanting in Your sight; through this same Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Prepared by: Pastor Walter Snyder








A Social Network Christmas

December 21st, 2012 3 comments
Categories: Uncategorized

O Key of David

December 20th, 2012 Comments off

December 20

Readings:  Isaiah 22:15-25 / Matthew 16:13-20

O Clavis David,
et sceptrum domus Israël,
qui aperis, et nemo claudit,
claudis, et nemo aperuit:
veni, et educ vinctum
de domo carceris,
sedentem in tenebris,
et umbra mortis.

O Key of David and scepter of the house of Israel,
you open and no one can close,
you close and no one can open: 
Come and rescue the prisoners
who are in darkness and the shadow of death.

Keys represent authority.  The one who has the keys has authority.
Shebna was King Hezekiah’s chief-of-staff.  He held the keys to the
palace.  He misused his authority by having his tomb carved where kings
were buried and enriching himself at his master’s expense.  The servant
wanted to be king.  And so he was stripped of his office, and Eliakim
was called to replace him.  Shebna had to turn in his keys.  It’s a
dire warning to all who hold authority not to use it for personal

God used this little bit of palace power politics to prophesy something
greater:  “I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David;
he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall
open.”  Those words are applied to Christ in the Revelation.  He is the
one “who has the key of David, who opens and no one shall shut, who
shuts and no one opens.”

Sin locks the doors on us.  It makes our lives a prison of fear; it
places us in solitary confinement – isolated from God and from each
other.  Like the disciples in the upper room on Easter evening, we are
locked up into ourselves, locked away from others.  As we confess in
the liturgy, we are “in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.”  No
matter how much we struggle against the chains and rattle the bars, we
are unable to break out of the prison.

But Christ has come and entered the prison.  He took on the Law’s death
sentence.  He stormed the gates of death and hell with His death.  He
turns the key to our cell.  He is the key, the key that unlocks us from
the Law and breaks the chains of death that bind us in fear. He sets us
free to live as free children in His free city.

Jesus is the key of David, who opens and no one can close, who closes
and no one can open.  And He entrusts the keys to His church, to bind
and loose from sin in His name.  He established the office of the keys
in the church, that is, the office of the ministry that turns the keys
which bind and loose in His stead and by His command.  We don’t have to
wonder where the keys to heaven are.  They are in the mouth of Peter
and of the pastor God has called and ordained to speak forgiveness to
you.  His mouth is the Lord’s mouth to forgive you.  The sins he
forgives are forgiven; the sins he retains are retained.  He turns the
key that unbinds you from your sin and frees you.  He does it not on
his own authority, but by the permission of the One who is the Key of

Advent disciplines us in the discipline of being forgiven, of
delighting in the Key of David who unlocks us from our sin, of living
in the freedom of being the forgiven children of God.

O come, Thou Key of David, come, And open wide our heav’nly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high, And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to you, O Israel!


December 19th, 2012 Comments off

And….The Apocrypha: Lutheran Edition is now available on Kindle. Click the image to go to the Kindle link to buy it:


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