27 January 2013

Today, His Preaching Is in Your Ears

Today, in your ears, all the promises of God are fulfilled for you through this preaching of Christ Jesus.  For with His Word He breathes the Spirit of the Lord upon you, in order to give you life.

He is the Christ, the Lord’s Anointed, and it is precisely for such preaching that His Father has poured out the Spirit upon Him.  Not as an alternative to the Cross, but this preaching and the Cross are of one piece.  He preaches what He received in His Baptism, that is, repentance and forgiveness of sins, both of which are completed in His Cross and Passion.  His preaching, also, is both to and from the Cross: for Him, and for His hearers; for His followers, and so now for you.

He is anointed by the Spirit of the Lord to be the true King of Israel, and, as the King, the Savior of His people.  He saves the people for life with Himself in His Kingdom, by rescuing them from the devil’s kingdom, releasing them from the burden of sin and the curse of death; and He reigns over them in love and peace, by the Spirit of His own God and Father.

All of this He accomplishes in Himself, in His own Body, by His Cross and in His Resurrection from the dead.  But now He makes it all yours — He gives it to you — by the preaching of His Word of the Gospel.  From His lungs, across His tongue, and out of His mouth, grace flows off His lips into your ears.  This is how He saves you from sin, death, and the devil.  This is how He reigns over you in love, as your King.

He is anointed for the Cross and Resurrection — as you, also, have been baptized into the same Cross and Resurrection of the Christ.  But so has He been called, ordained, and sent by His Father to preach this Gospel.  He is such a Preacher, first of all.  He who is the Word of God made Flesh, is the Preaching of the Father, by which all things are made and given life.

Do not despise this preaching of God’s Word, but hold it sacred, and gladly hear and learn it.  For it continues to this day, and to this place, in the synagogue of His Church on earth.  As the Father has sent Him, so has He ever called, ordained, and sent His Ministers of the Word to preach in His Name.  The Spirit of the Lord is still actively present and at work in this preaching of His Word.  From these lips, sanctified by the Spirit with the Gospel that He places upon them, Christ Jesus preaches Himself into your ears, and through your ears into your heart and mind, body and soul.

That is what the Liturgy confesses and affirms, several times over, in the Salutation: That the Lord is with you in this preacher, because the Spirit of the Lord is upon me to preach.  Which is to read, interpret, and proclaim the Holy Scriptures, as the priests and Levites did in the days of Nehemiah and Ezra, when the Lord brought His people back from captivity to the promised land.  Only, now, it is the preaching of the promise fulfilled in Christ Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, crucified and risen.  And, as such, the promise is fulfilled for you, in your ears, with this Word that is preached.

This preaching leads to and from Holy Baptism, as you have recently heard in the case of St. John the Baptist, and as you shall hear again from St. Peter and the other Apostles, from the Day of Pentecost onwards.  Indeed, there is no Christian Baptism apart from the preaching of Christ.

So, too, this preaching belongs to the right administration of the Lord’s Supper, that it might be given and received in the remembrance of Christ Jesus, in faith, and with thanksgiving.  Therefore, as often as we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, the Gospel of His Cross is preached.

This preaching of Christ is the forgiveness of all your sins.  Not simply news and information, but absolution.  With this Word, you are forgiven.  This preaching sets you free from your captivity to sin and death.  It releases you from the accusation of the Law, and from the devil’s oppression; because it delivers to you the Atonement of Christ the Crucified.  It justifies you, and reconciles you to God, with His Resurrection from the dead.  It grants you the true sight of faith, by the Spirit of Christ Jesus; because it bestows the Peace of the Lord upon you, by His gracious favor.

This is your freedom, that Christ your Savior, by this preaching of His Word, forgives you all your sins.  And, because your sins are thus forgiven, this preaching also promises the resurrection of your body, and the life everlasting of both body and soul.  That is not an empty hope, nor some “pie in the sky, by and by,” but this Word, which releases you from guilt and shame, and sets you free from sin and death, shall also raise your body up in glory at the last, and so forevermore; as surely as Christ Jesus is risen from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity.

What your ears now hear, today, is what you truly receive.  It is yours.

But what are you looking for, so expectantly, with your eyes?  What do you long to see?  Some proof of the promise?  Some tangible evidence of the truth that is proclaimed?

The Lord speaks such lovely words to you, and offers such a gracious and glorious hope.  Yet, everything continues, so far as you can tell, much as it has been before.  The way the Lord comes to you and deals with you is all so familiar and friendly enough, so far as it goes.  But is your heart content with words that you have heard so many times?  With a preacher who is no different and no better off than you?  With water, bread and wine, which is all that your eyes can see?

You also have heard of the miracles, signs, and wonders that Jesus of Nazareth has done for other people in other places: How He healed the sick, and raised the dead, cast out demons, opened blind eyes and deaf ears, quieted the winds and waves, and provided more than enough food for many thousands of men, women, and children.  If you, then, have found favor in His sight, does He offer you nothing more than wondrous words and pretty promises?  He made water into wine for the wedding in Cana, but where are His miracles for your marriage, or His favors for your family?

Have a care, now, that you do not reject the Preacher and His preaching.  In demanding something you can see with your eyes, you risk losing what is here being given into your ears.  There is nothing lacking in this Word of the Gospel of Christ Jesus, but if you harden your heart to it and refuse to receive it, He and His preaching shall pass through your midst and be on His way.  Then shall you suffer such a drought and famine of His Word, that you shall hunger and thirst for His preaching, but there will not be a crumb nor a drop remaining for you.

On the surface of it, so far as you can see, for now, the way in which He goes seems to confirm your doubts and fears and skepticism.  For His rejection escalates into His arrest, betrayal and brutal beatings, condemnation, and finally crucifixion.  He’s executed as a criminal, while most of His friends desert Him.  Though He promises to save others, He does not save Himself from suffering and death.  He walks into it willingly, and submits to it quietly.

So, if what you see is what you get, is this what you should want for yourself and for your children?  For this is where His preaching leads, as Christ Himself proceeds to the Cross.

It is, again, for this that He is anointed by the Spirit and sent by the Father.  His preaching not only points to the Cross, but draws its power from the Cross.  He is not overcome by sin and death, but at the right time, when His Hour comes, His Father hands Him over, and He lays down His life voluntarily, in order to atone for sin and conquer death.  His holy Bloodshed is the true wealth of the Gospel, which is distributed by the preaching of His Cross and Passion.

Recognize your real poverty, your real need, and repent of your sins, that you not perish in your unbelief and idolatry.  Whatever else you may have, or not have, in this body and life, your most serious sickness is sin, which deafens your ears and warps your sight, so that you don’t even know what’s true or false, and you can’t discern what is real.

Do not trust your own intelligence or instincts, nor your experience and feelings, but hear and heed the Gospel.  Hunger and thirst for the righteousness that is offered and given to you by this Word.  For here is what you need above all else: the forgiveness of your sins, and reconciliation with God in Christ Jesus, by His Cross and in His Resurrection, by His grace and mercy for you.

Do not despair over what you have been and what you have done, and do not doubt that this Gospel is for you.  For today, in your ears, the Lord Jesus Christ is preaching to you.  He has not slipped away and left you.  No, but in spite of your sins and failings, He has not removed His Word from you, nor has He withdrawn His Holy Spirit from you.  He has not abandoned this house, nor departed from this congregation.  As His custom has been for these past 90 years, He is still coming here and preaching His Gospel in this place.

While it is still day, then — while it is still “Today” — before the night comes, hear His Word of grace.  Not only with your ears, but also with your heart and mind.  Trust His Word.  It is Truth.  Receive and rest in His favor.  For in Christ Jesus, it is the acceptable year of the Lord, that is, the Year of Jubilee, in which you are released from captivity and brought home.

Your home, dear child of God, is with the Lord, in both body and soul.  And even now — though you look for the resurrection of your body, for the new heavens and new earth, the home where righteousness dwells — even now you are at home with the Lord wherever He is found: in the preaching of His Gospel, in the remembrance of your Baptism, and in His Body and His Blood.  For you belong to the Lord, not as a slave, but as a beloved brother or sister.  He is your Kinsman, in the flesh conceived and born of St. Mary, but also by His grace and Redemption.  He has called you and received you to Himself, and accepted you as His own, by the Gospel.  His Father is your Father.  His Land is your Land, now and forever.

Neither by genealogy nor geography, but by His Holy Baptism of water with His Word and Spirit, you belong to His one Body.  His wisdom and His strength are yours, and you are glorified in Him; for He covers your nakedness, your humility, and your shame, with His own honor and glory.

The same is true of your Christian neighbor, your brother or sister in Christ.  He cares for him or her as a beloved member of His Body, as He also cares for you.  Which means, too, that as you love and serve your neighbor in Christ, you are caring for a fellow member of the same Body.

It is in such loving care for one another that you see the gracious works of the Lord, already in anticipation of the resurrection of the body.  For your own mortal body of flesh and blood — and your Christian neighbor’s body, baptized into Christ — shall be raised from death and the grave, and glorified forever, like unto the crucified and risen Body of Christ Jesus, to which you belong.

As you suffer with and for Christ Jesus here, and as you bear His Cross in love for your neighbor, so shall you be glorified with Him, in body and soul, hereafter in eternity.  For already are you cleansed and sanctified by His Word and Spirit, unto the life everlasting.  And in your Baptism, your body also has been anointed — your ears to hear His Word and the preaching of it, and your lips and mouth to speak what you have heard: To confess the Lord Jesus Christ, to call upon His Name, and to praise His Holy Name, at all times and in all places.

Therefore, do not mourn or weep, dear Christian, but rejoice in the Lord.  For He, indeed, rejoices over you in holy Love.  As He forgives you all your sins, and has made you holy and righteous in His sight, so does He delight in you with great joy.  And His great joy in you is your true strength.

This Day — Today — is holy to Him, to the Lord your God; for it is sanctified by Christ Jesus, both by His Resurrection from the dead, and by His preaching of the Gospel to you now.

At His holy Word, then, eat of the Fat Portions with which He feeds you, and drink of the Sweet Wine which He pours out for you and for the many, for the forgiveness of all your sins.  Have you not heard?  He sends and distributes these sacred Portions to you, who had nothing and were not prepared, because He has prepared this great Feast for you, for His Name’s sake.

Worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness, by hearing His Word and receiving His gifts.  The Word that He preaches is true, and the gifts that He gives you are good.  Oh, give thanks unto the Lord, and Christ be praised!  For in Him, in His Body, you are lifted up to God in Peace.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

20 January 2013

The Bridegroom Gives Life to His Bride

The Holy Scriptures praise marriage highly, and it is highly to be praised.  For it is the culminating high point of the Lord’s good creation: Not simply a man in lonely isolation, but male and female, the Lord God made them in His Image; the woman taken from the man, then brought to the man, to be united with him in one flesh.

In this union of husband and wife — in heart and mind, body and soul — the Love of God is manifested: The unity of the Holy Triune God, the Father in the Son, the Son in the Father, in the personal and permanent Bond of the Holy Spirit, each and all of whom is Love.  But, so also, that God has created you in love, in order to make you His own and unite you to Himself, that you should have life in Him and with Him, forever and ever, in heart and mind, body and soul.

So the very Word of God, the almighty and eternal Son, by whom the man and the woman, holy marriage, and all of creation has been made, has Himself become flesh, in order to become one flesh with you, and with His Holy Bride, the Church.  This is the purpose for which God created anything at all and everything that is.  This is the Marriage that every other marriage signifies, and which every other marriage is called to celebrate and participate in.

But there is a tension here: in holy marriage, even at its best in this world, as in the rest of God’s good creation.  There is not only the goodness of the creative Word, which has established it, but also the brokenness of the fall into sin and the curse of death.  It lies in wait even in the marriage rite itself: “Til death us do part.”  And you know, perhaps quite personally and painfully, that many different sins may break the bonds of marriage, even before death, in this fallen world.

Thus, it is all rather precarious, rather than permanent, and it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to consider all the ways the wine is spent.  There are those who have no wife or husband, who long to be married; and those who are married, who regret it and resent their spouses.  In all of this, there is the constant temptation of bitterness, cynicism, and despair, whereby God’s good gift of marriage is despised, and its high and holy purpose is denied.

On the other hand, there is also the risk of idolizing marriage and family, both in a general way, and in your own spouse and children, in particular: Whether you have them and make false gods of them, or you covet such people and relationships which God has not given to you.

This is the way of things in the midst of sin and death, namely, that you despise God’s good creation, because you perceive how fleeting and fading this fallen world is, or that you worship the creation instead of the Creator, as though the people and things and opportunities of this life on earth were the source of life and happiness forever.  Either way is sinful, and either way you miss the point; whether you are married or unmarried, whether you are rich or poor, and whether you drink freely of wine or only of water.

There is, however, another alternative, which is found only in Christ Jesus.  The One by whom and for whom all things are made is still an option, and He is the only option that actually does give life and remains forever.  He is no imaginary lover.  His Gospel is no hoax.  He has come in the flesh in order to be with you, to redeem you in body and soul, to pour out His Life-giving Holy Spirit upon your fallen flesh — through His forgiveness of all your sins — and so to raise you up from death and the grave to the life everlasting with His own God and Father in Paradise.

He draws near, beloved, to woo you to Himself in peace and joy; to wed you and make you His own wife.  Here we are speaking, not of human sexuality, nor of mortal marriage “until death,” but of divine intimacy, and of eternal fellowship with the Father and His Son in the Holy Spirit.  Put away all perverse and provocative thoughts and the lusts of your flesh.  Purify yourself in Him, as He Himself is pure.  For Christ is all in all.

As you are all sons of God in Christ Jesus, by your Baptism into Him, so are you all together called to be His Holy Bride.  Before God, there is neither male nor female, but you are all one Body in Christ: one flesh and blood with Him.  It is rather in relation to your neighbor, to each other here on earth, that there are varieties of gifts, of stations, and of service.  But each and all of these, by one Spirit, take their cues from the one Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Head of His whole Body, the Church, and the heavenly Bridegroom of all His Christians.

He is the New Adam, who gives not death but life to all His children.  His Bride is the New Eve, whom He cares for and protects; so that she has life in Him, and so that she in turn gives birth to the children of God by His Word and Holy Spirit.  He does not take from her, nor does He give, forbidden fruit, but He produces and pours out the most excellent Fruit of the Vine, which is the Spiritual Food and Drink of His own flesh and blood.  So does the Husband sustain His Wife, the Bridegroom give life to His Bride; for He delights in her forever, and He has named her His own.

You see that in Christ Jesus all things are made brand new.  From the inside-out, He brings about the New Creation in Himself, in His own holy Body.  He first of all becomes true Man, a child of Adam, Himself, because He is conceived and born of the Woman.  And then He reverses the fall into sin and the curse of death, by entering into their arena and taking them on.  He sets Himself against the serpent who beguiles, and He perseveres in the true wisdom of steadfast faith, in perfect obedience to His God and Father.  He is the promised Seed of the Woman, who crushes the serpent’s head by suffering the serpent to bruise Him: By the shedding of His Blood He atones for the sins of the world, and so it is that, by His death, He conquers death and defeats the devil.

His own Body, crucified and risen from the dead, is the First Fruits of the New Creation.  For He was born of the Woman, in order to be the New Man, from whom the New Woman is taken and brought to Him, and given to Him, by the Father.  He suffers and dies, voluntarily, in love, so that New Life might come forth out of death and the grave, out of the ground that was cursed by sin.

It is in His Holy Church, by His Ministry of the Gospel, that the New Creation of Christ Jesus is now realized, even here on earth in the midst of sin and death.  That is the Truth, and the Glory of God in Christ, which faith perceives and beholds in the preaching of His Word, and in His Holy Sacraments; despite all of the apparent contradictions in this fallen and dying world.

It would still seem that everything is simply running out, falling apart, turning sour, and returning to the dust, until even the dust shall disintegrate and be no more.  Yet, here is the Bridegroom, who has come; who speaks, and it is so; whose own flesh is the evidence and guarantee that your flesh also shall be raised from the dust of the earth, and shall be glorified in Him, and shall feast with Him in His Kingdom at the Wedding Banquet that is never exhausted and never ends.  Thus do you live, in your body of flesh and blood, within His Holy Church, and within your own place in life.

As the ministers of Christ deal with you by His divine command — as they preach His Word, as they absolve sinners in His stead, as they baptize in His Name, and as they serve His Supper — it is Christ Himself who is at work to fill you up, in body and soul, with His Spirit and His Life.

You also, then, do whatever He tells you to do, in whatever particular place He has stationed you.  Proceed according to His Word, in the confidence that He is at work to accomplish His purposes: for you, and in you, and through you for others, even though you may have no idea at any given point what He is doing or going to do.  The outcome is in His hands, as you, also, are in His hands.  Although you know not when or how He will act, His Gospel teaches you that He delights in you, and that He desires to give you His good gifts.  That, for now, is all you really need to know.

Do not be dissatisfied or discontent with what you have, or with your situation; and do not allow yourself to be eaten up with envy over what you do not have.  Instead, receive whatever you are given with thanksgiving to the Lord, and sanctify all of these things unto yourself by the Word of God and prayer, and put them to use in your life on earth to the glory of Christ’s Holy Name and for the benefit of your neighbors in the world.  So shall others see His Glory and believe in Him.

If you are married, then be chaste and pure within your marriage: love and cherish your own spouse, and be faithful to her or him, until death.  And if you are unmarried, then be chaste and pure in your celibacy, and use your time and energies to serve the Church and the community in holy faith and Christian love.  None of you lives unto yourself alone, but each and all of you are called to live unto Christ Jesus, who is your Husband and your Head, both now and forever.

For do you not know that all of you who are baptized into Him, are married to Him as members of His Bride, the Church?  And that is not simply “until death,” but unto the life everlasting.

Pray, therefore, in the confidence of Christ Jesus, your Lord.  Look to Him for all that you need, for all good things, and learn to live by faith in His vows and promises to you.  Be persistent in your prayer; not presumptuous, as though you would dictate what He must do, but in the sure and certain hope that He is gracious, and that He will act in love to save you.  Neither impatient nor willful, but persistent in praying, “Thy Will be done,” and saying “Amen, amen, it shall be so,” with the voice of faith.  That is to live as the Bride of Christ, who always relies on her Bridegroom.

St. Mary sets a beautiful example for the Church, in this regard, in turning to her Son with the need at hand, and then in turning to the servants with the wise counsel to hear and heed His Word.  She is not dissuaded by His reply, which sounds like a rebuttal and rejection.  Nor does she presume upon Him.  She does not command, but she seeks His help, and she trusts that He will provide in due season.  His Hour has not yet come, but His great heart of Love, which takes Him to that Hour of the Cross, is ever the same, and is ever open to His people.  So His heart is open now to you.

Despite your failings and all that you lack, He rescues and redeems you in love; because He is your Bridegroom, and this is how the true Husband cares for His own dear Wife.  He does not hold your sins against you, nor does He even look at them, but He lays down His Life and gives Himself for you, in order to bear your burdens, to comfort you in all your griefs, to cover your shame with the glory of His righteousness, and to clothe your nakedness with the beauty of His holiness.

Where you have been prideful of yourself, and where you have made idols out of created things, repent of your sins.  Where you have despaired of any hope or help to be found in the Lord your God, and where you have despised the good gifts of His creation, repent of your sins.  Believe the Gospel of Christ Jesus, and find yourself, your vocation and life in His Body of flesh and blood.

From His riven side, from the Hour of His Cross, from His open heart of Love, He pours out the water and the blood, and His Holy Spirit generously upon you, in order to save you from sin, death, and the devil, and to give you real life forever with Himself, within His own Marriage and Family, which is the household and family of His own God and Father.

From the sacred waters of Holy Baptism to the blessed wine of the Holy Communion, He cleanses and purifies you, with His Spirit, by His Gospel of forgiveness, through His holy, precious Blood.  And by these same means of grace, He not only quenches your thirst, as with living water, but He also fills you up with genuine joy and gladness, even as He Himself is full of Grace and Truth.

For He brings you to His banquet hall, and His banner over you is love.  Here He fills you with good things, from the abundance of His House.  He takes you to Himself, to have and to hold, from this very Hour, unto the neverending New Day of the Resurrection.  He plights thee His troth, so that He and all His goods are now also your own; and neither He nor they shall be taken from you.

Beloved of the Lord, He is the Giver of the Feast, and He is the Feast Itself, in which you behold His Glory: The Glory of His Cross and Resurrection, and His Glory as your Bridegroom, from whom you shall never be parted; for He will never leave you nor forsake you.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

13 January 2013

The Vocation of St. Jesus the Baptist

In Christ Jesus, by your Baptism into Him, God is your true Father, and you are His own dear child.  He loves you and is pleased with you.  He hears and answers your prayers, pours out His Spirit upon you in peace, and gathers you to Himself, through Jesus Christ, your Lord.

Not only has the one true God become true Man in the Person of Christ Jesus, conceived and born of St. Mary; but, see and hear what this incarnate God does for you, in His own flesh: In the Love of the Father and the Holy Spirit, for you and for the redemption of the whole world, He takes His place with all the people in the waters of the Jordan.  To be more specific, He takes His place with all the sinners in their sinful predicament.  Though He is without any sins of His own, He submits Himself to the Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, for the salvation of sinners.  By doing so, He enters upon the Way of His Cross; He takes upon Himself your suffering and death.

At the same time, and also for the salvation of all the people, it is in His Baptism that He receives, as true Man, the Spirit and the Promise of the Father.  His eternal Sonship is now also received and realized in His humanity.  The Holy Spirit comes down from heaven, in bodily form, like a dove, to rest and remain upon His Body of flesh and blood.  So is He anointed as the Christ or Messiah, to be the “Prophet, Priest, and King supreme,” and to baptize His people with the same Holy Spirit.

As the King, He takes responsibility for you, and for all the citizens of His Kingdom; He takes the government upon His shoulders, as we have heard and confessed throughout Christmas Tide.  He is the Prince of Peace after the heart of His own God and Father, and an everlasting Father in His own right.  For He is the New Adam, the Head of the New Creation, which lives in Him forever.

As the merciful and great High Priest in all things pertaining to God, He prays and intercedes at all times, for all the children of men; He sacrifices Himself, His Body and His Blood, to atone for the sins of the world; and He opens up heaven to all who believe and are baptized into Him, by the way of His own Baptism, His Cross and Resurrection.  In His prayer and His sacrifice, and through the waters of His Baptism, He brings you to the Father in and with Himself: reconciled to God; adorned in His righteousness, innocence, and blessedness; and blameless in body and soul.

And as the Prophet, who is the very Word of God made Flesh, He is the Voice of the Father to you.  He preaches the Gospel to you, which is the forgiveness of all your sins in His Name, and by this preaching He bestows the Spirit of His Father upon you.  With His Breath, He gives you His Life.

All of this, which He does for you, flows from who He is: Not simply who He is by nature from eternity — though that is the foundation for everything else — but, now also, who He is called to be in His human flesh.  That is to say, He does what He does, for you and for all, according to His Vocation as the Christ, the Lord’s Anointed, and as the true and perfect Man; as the promised Seed of the Woman, of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, of David, and of Mary; and as the true Israel of God.

Arising and emerging from the waters of His Baptism, as such a Man of God, He prays with the voice of faith; even as He also then preaches with the Voice of His Father.  In all things, indeed, He lives and He dies, He rises and ascends, in the love and the good pleasure of His Father.

Even more to the point at hand, He proceeds on His Way — from the Jordan River to His Cross and Passion — by the Word and Spirit of His Holy Baptism; which is to say, specifically, by faith in this promise of His Father: “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.”

On this basis, by such faith, He lives in love for His Father, and in love for His “many brethren,” who are children of God by His grace.  Not only that, but He lays down His life for you, as well, in order to atone for all your sins by His death — in the confidence that His Father will raise Him up again in peace — just as surely as He enters, and emerges from, the waters of His Baptism.

All of this He does and He accomplishes, for you and for “all the people,” in and with His Body of human flesh and blood: in order to save you for life everlasting with God in both body and soul.

And everything He thus accomplishes, fulfills, and receives in His flesh, He also credits to you, gives to you, and pours out upon you by grace, by His Word and Holy Spirit: With His Voice, which is the preaching of His Gospel; and in bodily form, that is, by visible and tangible means of grace, by the Sacraments, as “the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove.”

As the Word of God and human Flesh are one Christ, so are water and the Spirit one Baptism in His Name.  For the Lord your God is with you in the waters, even through death and the grave, into the Resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.  Therefore, as you pass through the waters of the Red Sea out of Egypt, and as you go through the waters of the Jordan River into Canaan, He is there with you; for He has been baptized for you, and you are baptized into Him.

Thus, you receive Christ Jesus, His God and Father, and His Holy Spirit, in your Holy Baptism: Not only the Son of God as your Savior, but His Sonship as your own, by the gracious adoption of God.  For just as Jesus is anointed by the Spirit to be the Christ, so are you anointed by the same Spirit to be a Christian.

This is who and what God calls you to be.  This is your first and foremost vocation.  Not your job, nor what you should be doing, but who you actually are in Christ Jesus: God’s own dear child, His beloved son or daughter.  What you do, and how you live, as a Christian, flows from that identity, in whatever particular place God has stationed you in the midst of your pilgrimage.

So often, you are tempted to define yourself, to evaluate your worth, and to discern the meaning and purpose of your life, on the basis of what you do and accomplish.  But that is really backwards, inside-out, and upside-down.  It is a basic form of works righteousness, which simply cannot give you life or save you.  It leads to pride and arrogance, or else to despair on account of your sins.

Repent of your sins, and do good works of love, to be sure.  But do not define your life by either.

No, dear child of God, it is not what you do, neither your works nor your sins, that define your life.  Rather, by the Word and Spirit of God, you are a new creation, a new person, a new man or woman: Indeed, you are a child of God, a beloved and well-pleasing son of God in Christ Jesus.

And now it is who you are, by His grace, that defines and determines your life in His peace.  For you live by faith in His Word and Promise.  You live by the Holy Spirit, who has been poured out upon you generously through Jesus Christ your Savior, by the virtue of your Holy Baptism in His Name.  You live in the sure and certain confidence of your dear God and Father; for you are His true child, and He loves you, now and forever.  You live in the hope of the open heaven, which Christ Jesus has opened to you by His Cross and Passion, and in His Resurrection from the dead.

Do not be afraid.  He is still with you in the waters, and He will bring you safely through.  As death no longer has any dominion over Him, neither does it have dominion over you.  You live in Him.

Here, then, is how you live as God’s own dear child: I urge you, first of all, to pray, as the Lord Jesus prayed throughout His earthly life and ministry, and as He ever lives to intercede for you.  Pray, with all boldness and confidence, as the Lord Himself has taught you and invited you to pray: in the certainty that you are heard and answered.  Do not suppose that it will do no good, nor as though you must bargain with God or twist His arm to help you.  But pray as a child to your Dad, to your true God and Father in Christ, who loves you and withholds no good thing from you.

And as you sanctify your days with the Word of God and prayer, do your job, fulfill your duties, carry out your responsibilities, and love your neighbors well, in whatever particular tasks your dear Father has given you to do.  Not as though your life depended on it, but to please your Father, and to serve and care for your family, for your brothers and sisters in Christ.  Your place in His family is not at stake, nor His love and good pleasure, which are yours for the sake of Jesus, your Savior.  But your good works of faith and love are pleasing to your God and Father, because you are His own child, and because you are pleasing to Him in that same Lord Jesus Christ, His beloved Son.

The Truth of the matter is in the Word that He speaks to you in the Gospel, and in the Flesh of Christ Jesus, in which that very Word is fulfilled for you: Repentance and faith, the forgiveness of all your sins by His Cross, and the righteousness of God in His Resurrection from the dead — all of these are accomplished for you in Christ; and everything that belongs to Him, is now yours:

His Father and His Sonship are yours.  His Spirit and His holiness are yours.  His heaven, and His Life everlasting in body and soul, all of this is yours, now and forever.

For the God and Father of your Lord Jesus Christ has given you the new birth of water and His Holy Spirit, and has forgiven you all your sins by the Gospel of His Son.  So shall He also keep your body, soul, and spirit blameless, unto the Day of Christ Jesus, your Savior, when He comes in glory to judge the living and the dead.  The One who calls you is faithful, and He shall do it.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

06 January 2013

Come, and Worship Christ, the Newborn King

When you have learned to know the value of Holy Absolution, Dr. Luther writes, you shall gladly run a hundred miles to have it.  For the forgiveness of sins, in the Name and stead of Christ, is more precious than gold or silver.  Indeed, it has been purchased and won for you by His holy, precious Blood, and it gives you eternal life with Him, with the Father and the Holy Spirit.  You can’t buy that kind of prize, nor could you discern it on your own, but here it is given to you freely with a Word.  This Gospel of forgiveness, through Jesus Christ your Lord, is truly your greatest treasure.  When all else has been said and done, it really is the only treasure that matters.

Come, then, receive the forgiveness of sins, and life and salvation, in the One who has been born (and has died) “the King of the Jews.”  Though you would not know where to look, nor would you ever find Him by your own wisdom, reason, or strength, He calls you to Himself, and leads you and guides you on the way, by His Word.

The stars, along with the sun and moon, are for signs and seasons in this world, but they do not point you to the Christ apart from His Word.  The magi recognized the significance of the new star they had seen, but they likely knew what it meant from the Prophecies of the Old Testament concerning the Star and Scepter of Israel and Judah; whether they knew those Prophecies directly from the Holy Scriptures, or by tradition from Balaam, from Solomon, or from Daniel, who was given the oversight of the magi in Babylon and Persia.  In any case, they recognized in the rising of the star the birth of a new Jewish King, who would have salvific importance, not only for His Jewish kinsmen, but for the Gentiles and the whole world.  For by the Seed of Abraham, all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.  This knowledge, too, is the promise of God in the Scriptures.

And it is not the star, but the preaching of the Scriptures, that leads the magi — and now you — to the Christ.  Thus it is known that He is born in Bethlehem of Judea.  Only when that Word of the Lord has been confessed, does the star appear again, in order to seal what God has spoken, and to mark the presence of His Word made Flesh.  So, too, the means of grace confirm His Word and promise to you, and mark His presence here with you.

For Christ Jesus truly is God-with-us in the flesh, as the Prophets foretold.  And He has come in the flesh, conceived and born of the Woman, the Blessed Virgin Mary, in order to save you in body and soul, from sin and death, and from the power of the devil.

This is the sort of King that He is: The divine King who bears the government on His shoulders; who becomes like His subjects, in order to serve them, and to share His royal dignity with them; who invades “the darkest depths of Mordor,” in order to plunder Satan’s kingdom, to set free those who are held captive in the slavery of sin and the fear of death, and to make them free citizens of His own eternal Kingdom.  For His Kingdom is not of this world, but of God, and of the Gospel, of the Resurrection, and of the New Creation.

Nevertheless, His coming and His Kingdom do trouble and shake up every earthly kingdom, and every power structure, which would set itself up as a god.  Eventually, all such lords and gods of men shall be removed from their thrones and thrown down, whether they be a Caesar or a King, a President or Governor, a petty tyrant or a bully in the home, the office, or the classroom.  All these rulers of this earth conspire against the Lord, and against His Christ, but they shall not prevail; nor shall they remain.  But of His Kingdom there shall be no end.

The newborn King of the Jews is no tyrant or bully of any kind.  He is a Man after His Father’s heart: the Son of God from all eternity, and now also great David’s greater Son.  He is anointed — in His flesh — by the Spirit of God His Father, to be the Messiah (the Christ) who shall save His people from their sins.  He rules with equity, with justice and righteousness; not by violence or force, but by His Word and Spirit.  He shepherds His people in peace and joy, because He delivers them from all their enemies and reconciles them to God.  He feeds and waters them in green pastures and cool, clear streams; which is to speak, not only of the wants and needs of the body, but of spiritual food and drink for both body and soul, for now and for ever.

He establishes this peace within His Kingdom, between God and man, and by the Gospel of His Incarnation, His Cross and Resurrection, He bestows exceedingly great joy upon all who come to Him.  For, not only does He become true Man — made Flesh by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary — but so does He also bear in His Body the full calamity and bitter weight of man’s sin and mortality.  Thus, He is born “the King of the Jews,” in order to be nailed to the Cross, crucified under Pontius Pilate.  And by this sacrificial death of His, He does away with sin and death, and He rescues fallen mankind (including you) from every evil of body and soul.

Better than any earthly diplomat or negotiator, He is the perfect Mediator between God and man.  He makes reparations for all the wrongs that every man, woman, and child has done, and He repairs the breach between the Creator and the children of Adam and Eve.  In love for His Father, and for all those whom He has not been ashamed to call His brothers and sisters, His voluntary suffering and Self-sacrifice bring Peace where there has been no peace; such Peace as the world cannot give.  Such is the almighty power of this King, Jesus the Christ, whose strength is perfected in the willing weakness of His Cross and Passion.

As He lays down His life for you, in love, so does He take it up again, in the strength of His Father and the power of His Spirit.  Having given Himself over to death for the salvation of the world, so does He receive the power and the Glory and all authority in heaven and on earth.  It is the authority of the Gospel, of forgiveness, with which He pardons and emancipates you from every crime and punishment.  So does He reign in love, as the true King, at the Right Hand of the Father, while all of His enemies are placed beneath His feet.  And to you, who come to Him, who call upon His Name, He gives the life everlasting in body and soul; just as He is risen from the dead, and lives and reigns to all eternity.

You come to Him now, and you call upon His Name, because He has come to you, and He calls and gathers you to Himself by the Gospel.
That is how and why you are here: with Him who is God-with-you.  For His Gospel — that is, the forgiveness of all your sins, and the free gift of everlasting Life — His Gospel is the blessed and beautiful Light that now shines in the deep darkness of this fallen world.  It is by this Gospel that you see and know the way.  It is by this Gospel that you believe in Jesus Christ, your Lord, and come to Him, to worship Him.

Arise, and shine, therefore.  Your Light has come.  The Glory of the Lord has risen upon you.  And the great Sun of Righteousness, this bright Morning Star, shines upon you here within His Church through the Gospel.  Indeed, here in the Church on earth, the divine Mystery of all the ages is made known; not only to the Jews and Gentiles alike, but even to the powers and principalities in the heavenly places, to the angels and archangels, and to all the host of heaven.  The Holy Triune God is manifested and made known in the flesh and blood of the incarnate Son, Christ Jesus, in His Church: where His Gospel is preached and His Supper is administered according to His Word.

Have you not heard that He is “with His Mother”?  Over and over again, St. Matthew has said so.  The Lord our God has become flesh of her flesh, and blood of her blood, in order to be with us — in order to be our Savior from sin and death.  You’ll not find God anywhere else than in His flesh and blood.  But, just so, these very sacred things are given and poured out for you here in this House of the Living Bread, in this Sacrament of the Altar of Christ.

Read this Sign of His coming, and recognize His presence here for you, by the means of His Word.  Know what this Bread and this Wine are, and what they are for, by hearing what Christ Jesus says concerning them: His Body given for you to eat, His Blood poured out for you to drink, for the forgiveness of all your sins.  This is the Gospel of your Savior: not the sign of a star in the heavens, but your Savior Himself here on earth.

Come, and worship Him here, as the magi worshiped Him in Bethlehem.  How so?  In Spirit and in Truth, which is to say, by the Holy Spirit, according to the Word of God.  That means, in the humility of repentance, and in the confidence of faith.  It is from the heart, first of all, by such faith in His Word, that you worship Him.  Apart from such repentant faith, whatever worship you attempt is nothing but idolatry.  But not to worship Him at all would be equally blasphemous.  So, then, repent of your sins, believe the Gospel, and ascribe to the Lord the Glory due His Name.

The faith and worship of your heart will not remain hidden in your heart; but, as the Lord saves you in body and soul, by His Word and with His Word-made-Flesh, so do you humble yourself and honor Him with your whole body and life.  With all that you are and have, acknowledge Him as your God and King, as your great High Priest, and as the Sacrifice by which you are redeemed.

Look at the example of the magi: They journey to find the Christ Child, to worship Him in person.  And they open up their treasures and give them to Him.  Then they return to their own country — much as the shepherds returned to their sheep — only now they go by “another way.”  Their whole way of life is changed by their encounter with Immanuel, Christ Jesus, and so their stations in life are now served to the Glory of His Name.

It is the same for you, beloved of the Lord, notwithstanding the differences in your circumstances.  You need not go to Bethlehem of Judea, nor follow a star hither and yon.  But you worship the same Lord Jesus Christ by taking the time to journey to the House where He is to be found.  And this journey, in particular, is for your sake, and for your own benefit, not for His; in order that you might hear and receive His Word of Absolution, and eat and drink of His Body and Blood.

Your worship of Christ begins, not with what you give, but with His gifts of the Gospel to you.  You kneel or prostrate your body before Him, not to buy Him off, but in order to receive His mercy and His help.  Even repentance and faith derive, not from yourself, nor from your heart, but from His Word and Spirit.  You come to worship Him because He is your Savior, Christ the Lord, and all of your worship of Him — in heart and mind, body and soul — arises with His saving of you.

In return, you worship Him with your treasures and your talents.  But these are not for His sake or benefit, either, but for His Holy Family; which is now also your own household and family in Him.  Remember, again, that He is found “with His Mother,” and it will be St. Joseph who cares for both Mother and Child in and out of Egypt.  So you worship Christ with your treasures by using them to care for His people, for your neighbors in the world, and for the Church and Ministry of the Gospel.  And like the magi, you return to your own country and go about your life, still in the world, but in a new and better way.  You are not in league with Herod, but a subject of the newborn King of the Jews, a free citizen of His Kingdom.

It has often been said that the gifts of the magi confess who Christ is: The Gold, that He is King; the Frankincense, that He is God (for incense is offered to God as the prayer of His people); and the Myrrh, that He is Priest and Sacrifice.  Truly, He is each and all of these.  But the gifts of the magi are also tangible signs of the worship that you are called to bring: The myrrh of repentance, as your old Adam is put to death with Christ; the frankincense of faith, in which you pray and confess, praise and give thanks, and call upon the Name of the Lord; and the gold of your love for one another in Christ, as you exercise a stewardship of His gifts to you in service to your neighbor.

With repentant faith before God, and with fervent love for God and for each other, you worship the Lord in the splendor of His Glory, in the beauty of His holiness.  Not of yourself, but of His Gospel.  It is in His Light of forgiveness that you become a light of love for others.  Deep darkness still surrounds you in this valley of sin and death, and there is still the darkness within you, within your heart and mind, your thoughts and feelings, your words and actions.  Yet, the Light has come — in the flesh and blood of Christ Jesus — and, behold, His Light continues to shine upon you:

He daily and richly forgives your sins with His Word of the Gospel, His Holy Absolution.  And in His Body given, His Blood poured out, His Glory still rises upon you.

Here, indeed, is Christ Himself, your dearest Treasure.  Here He is, the bright Morning Star, the Sun of Righteousness, with healing in His wings for you: In His Name, your sins are all forgiven.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

05 January 2013

The New Creation in the Baptized Body of Christ

Here is the New Creation that God the Father makes by His Son and with His Holy Spirit.  It is in the Body of Christ Jesus, the incarnate Son; and the Life of the new heavens and new earth is in His holy and precious Blood.  For He has come in the flesh to receive and bear the Spirit on behalf of the children of men; in order to pour out the Spirit upon them, and to give them new birth as children of God.

This is what He has done for you, and given to you, by the washing of water with His Word in Holy Baptism.  In this way, by this means of His grace, He has manifested Himself to you, and made Himself known to you.

Otherwise, because of sin and death, you did not know Him; you would not and could not know Him.  Nor could you have found your way to Him or figured Him out.

But, see here, He has come to you.

From before the foundation of the world, He has known you in His love; and so has He come down from heaven to raise you up with Himself, to give you Life with His God and Father.

It is for such Life and Love that He conceived you in your mother’s womb and gave you birth; and for such Life and Love that He has recreated you and given you the new birth of Holy Baptism.

Before you ever called upon Him, and before you even knew to pray, or how to pray, He has answered your prayer and met your deepest need and longing with Himself.

He has done away with death by taking away the sins of the world.  As the Lamb of God, He has borne them in His Body to the Cross, and He has given Himself into death as the Sacrifice of Atonement.  He has poured out His Lifeblood, for you and for all, to redeem you from death, and to grant you His own divine Life by the Spirit.

It is for this purpose that He comes to St. John, to be baptized by him.  He enters the waters of the Jordan in His own Body of flesh and blood, conceived and born of St. Mary, in order to achieve and establish the salvation of the world.

On the one hand, He receives your sins, and the sins of the whole world, into His flesh; so that, by the shedding of His Blood, all those sins should be paid for, and death thereby undone, the devil defeated.  In this respect, He is baptized into your death; because He makes His Body mortal with your sins, in order to open the way for your mortal body to pass with Him through death and the grave into the Resurrection of the Body and the life everlasting.

Therefore, on the other hand, He receives the Spirit of His God and Father into His flesh; so that His own flesh and blood — bearing the Spirit to and from the Cross, and in His Resurrection from the dead — His own flesh and blood should become the first fruits of the New Creation.

In this, also, His divine Sonship from all eternity is realized in His humanity, so that He might become the firstborn of many brethren.

As pivotal as the Baptism of Jesus was for Him, for His Life and Ministry, and for His great work of Salvation, so pivotal is your Baptism for you.  In those waters of the font, your body of flesh and blood has been cleansed of all your sins and set free from death.  And at the same time, you have received the Spirit of Christ Jesus and the gracious adoption of His God and Father.

This now is your life, even in your flesh here on earth, and as it shall be in the resurrection of your body forever and ever.  For the flesh of Christ is your Anchor in the Paradise of the New Creation, your Stronghold in the new heavens and the new earth.  What He has already accomplished, once for all, by His Baptism into death, is fully yours by your Baptism into Him.

Therefore, your labors are not in vain, no matter what you may seem to be accomplishing (or not) in this fallen world.  Nor do you bear children for calamity — whether your infants live but a few days or to a ripe old age.  Because you and your children are the blessed offspring of the Lord.  It is no longer the legacy of sinful Adam, but the inheritance of Christ, the Second Adam, which belongs to you by His grace.

That is no fickle or arbitrary thing, but a sure and certain promise, a sure and certain hope, in His own crucified and risen Body.  As you are baptized into His death, so do you live in His rising.  And as the Spirit remains upon His Body, so does the Holy Spirit, the Author and Giver of Life, rest and remain upon you.  And so shall He raise you up at the last, even forevermore.

In the Body of Christ, God the Father has built a House that stands fast and shall not fall.  And you now live in that House.  So, too, the Body of Christ is the Father’s true Vine, in which His whole Vineyard lives and grows and prospers.  And from His Vine you drink the sweetest Wine of all, which is the holy and precious Blood of Christ, as of the Lamb unblemished and spotless.

So does the Lord your God rejoice over you with gladness in the midst of His Holy City, His true Jerusalem, in heaven and on earth.  For you are His beloved and well-pleasing child, and He shall permit no evil, nor any harm to befall you, in all His Holy Mountain.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

04 January 2013

I Baptize with Water that You May Know Christ

Concerning himself, John does not want to speak.  He is the voice who cries out about Christ the Lord.  So when he speaks, he would speak only of Him.

When pressed for an answer, John chiefly confesses who and what he is not.  In particular, he is adamantly not the Christ; nor is he worthy to assume that office and role.  For he is certainly not the Redeemer of Israel; nor would his whole body and life be adequate or able to redeem anyone from sin and death.  Rather, he too relies upon the Christ to whom he points with his preaching.

Nor is he Elijah.  Although, it is true that he comes in the spirit and the power of Elijah, as the Lord spoke by the Angel Gabriel, concerning St. John, at the annunciation of his conception and birth.

He will turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God, by his preaching of repentance and forgiveness of sins in the One who comes after Him.  For that is St. John’s special office and role as the Forerunner, who goes before the face of the Lord to prepare His Way.

In this respect, though he is not that Prophet, like Moses, who would actually be the Word of the Lord in human flesh — for that Prophet is none other than Jesus the Christ — yet, St. John is something uniquely more than any other Prophet, because he ushers in that very Word-made-Flesh in person.

Although he is not the true Light, which, coming into the world, enlightens every man, St. John is a witness to the Light, so that, by his testimony, all might come to know and believe in the Light.

That is why he baptizes — in the wilderness on the far side of the Jordan — in order that you might know, through the waters of Baptism, the One whom you otherwise do not know.

This is the Way of the Lord that St. John prepares: namely, through the waters of the Jordan River, out of the wilderness, into the Land that God has promised.

The true Redeemer, Jesus the Christ, passes through those waters on His Way to the sacrifice of His Cross in Jerusalem.  And it is by His Cross that He accomplishes — for you and for all — the repentance that St. John preaches.  So it is, that, by His death, you are turned back to God in faith, and you are turned to one another in love.

For it is by His sacrificial death that your sins are atoned for — by the Blood of God Himself — and your iniquities are all forgiven (they are remembered no more); and God’s righteous wrath and anger are spent (upon His Son in your stead) and are thereby removed from you.

This Baptism with water now saves you by this forgiveness of the Cross of Christ.  And it is by this forgiveness of your sins that you know the Lord your God rightly, and you are reconciled to Him, and you are returned to Him: to God the Father, by the Spirit, through Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son.

It is in your Baptism that the Lord God makes His Name known to you; not as your adversary or an enemy, but as your own dear Father in Christ Jesus.  So that, now, you call upon the Name of the Lord your God, and you lay hold of Him by faith in His Word and promises.

And though you are not worthy of the least of all His grace and mercy toward you, yet, by virtue of your Baptism into Christ, you are fed from His hand here at His lavish Table.  And in this great Feast, the wilderness has become an oasis of peace, and this house a holy and beautiful Temple.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

01 January 2013

Always More Gifts in the Name of Jesus

When Dr. Norman Nagel was asked, back in 1980, what the coming decade would hold for the Lutheran Liturgy, he answered in a way that was so typical of his whole evangelical theology: As always, he said, there would be God’s giving of His gifts.  Always more gifts; sometimes more than we can manage, an embarrassment of riches.  But still God keeps on giving, and what He bestows upon His people is nothing less than Himself.

Anything can be turned into a cliché, and all of its contours flattened into abstract generalities. But Dr. Nagel has it right.  For such is the grace of God, that He pours Himself out — the Father in the Son, the Spirit by the Savior — so that His divine eternal Life becomes yours, that you might live forever in His Love, and that you should be a son of God in Christ.

Though it does not yet appear what all this means, and though you cannot fully comprehend its significance, because it exceeds your imagination, hopes and dreams, there is nothing abstract or generic about this Life and Sonship, which you have been given in Holy Baptism.

St. Paul, elsewhere, describes your Baptism as a circumcision made without hands.  And today you have heard him say that, by your Baptism into Christ, you have become a descendant of Abraham, an heir of all the promises that God gave to Abraham — the promises he sealed unto him, in his flesh, by the covenant of circumcision.  Thus are you blessed by God, and you inherit, not simply a plot of land in Palestine, but a sure and certain place in Paradise with all the saints in Light.

For your Holy Baptism unites you with Christ, in His Cross and Resurrection, and clothes you with His righteousness and holiness, so that everything that belongs to Him now also belongs to you.  Just as He, first of all, by His circumcision, became the recipient of God’s promises to Abraham.

He lives by faith in those promises, as true Man, but He is also their fulfillment, as the promised Seed of Abraham.  He is the very One to whom the covenant pointed: God’s Word made Flesh.  The humiliation that He suffers, and the blood that He sheds, in His circumcision, culminates in the suffering and death of His Cross.  Then and there He makes Atonement for the sins of the world, and He reconciles the world to God; so that, in His Resurrection, God justifies the world with the righteousness of His Son.  That is what He gives to you, by grace, in your Holy Baptism.

Neither your Baptism, nor circumcision, were ever intended as works by which man would justify himself before God.  These are, rather, the sacramental signs and seals of God’s Word and promises, all of which are fulfilled in Christ Jesus.  He is subject to the Law of circumcision, so that, in His own flesh and blood, the covenant is completed and established for you and for all.  That is to say, He is the Son of Abraham who receives everything God swore to give to Abraham, and in His Resurrection those gifts become the possession of all who are baptized into Him.

The promise is there, already, in the Name of Jesus, which God gave by the angel Gabriel.  Like the Son of God Himself, this precious holy Name is also a pure gift of divine grace.  It confesses that Yahweh saves His people from their sins; and that the Baby conceived and born of St. Mary is Yawheh in the flesh.  Both God Himself and His promise become flesh and blood, for the Word of God from all eternity, now in time becomes true Man.  Therefore, not only in Holy Baptism, but also in the Holy Communion, the promise of salvation is given to you in the flesh of Christ Jesus.

As the promise and the flesh of God are one and the same, in the Person of Christ Jesus, so are you redeemed and saved in both body and soul, in your flesh and blood, as well as in your soul and spirit.  That has significance for the way in which you love and serve your neighbor with your body, in view of the fact that your body shall be raised from death and the grave to the life everlasting.  What you receive and do with your body matters, because your body shall be raised up and glorified forever in the Body of Christ Jesus.

As He received His Name at His circumcision, so have you received His Name in your Baptism.  Not that you are called “Jesus,” but that He and His salvation have become yours, by His grace.  For, in naming you with His own Name — that of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — He truly conveys Himself to you.  In this, His face shines upon you (without scaring you to death!); He blesses you with His Glory (not for destruction, but for Life); and He grants you real Peace through His forgiveness of your sins.  For where sins are forgiven, and God Himself does not condemn you, there is no longer any fear of death, but only grace, mercy, and peace, and life and salvation.

This is, indeed, what the Lord Jesus has accomplished for you.  He is as good as His Name: By His Cross and Resurrection, He has saved His people from their sins, and He brings them into the safety of eternal Life with His God and Father in heaven.  This is what your Baptism has given to you, to start with, and no less so the preaching of the Gospel.  It is through such speaking of His Word that the Lord your God blesses and keeps you in His true Peace, both now and forever.

It is through this speaking of His Word that He keeps on giving more gifts, which culminate and center in this Holy Sacrament of His Body and His Blood.  In this eating and drinking of Christ, you are living already in the eternal Eighth Day of His Resurrection and of the Life everlasting.

Which puts this New Year of His grace, and each and every day and night of your life on earth, into the proper perspective of eternity.  For you are the Lord’s, and your Life and Salvation are safe and secure in Him, today, tomorrow, and forever.

In the holy Name of Jesus. Amen.