Sometimes it comes too early, that rising sun. Sometimes it can’t come soon enough! Ever since the days of Moses, the Lord has used the picture of a rising sun to help his people anticipate the fulfillment of his promise to save. An old man named Zechariah recalled that image and sang of it at the birth of his son, John the Baptist. John would be the one to announce, “The waiting is over! Salvation is here!” That’s the reality and meaning of Christmas, and we keep right on celebrating it today. Christmas carols might be gone from the airwaves and playlists, but we’re still singing ‘em!
Christmas lights, candlelight, and the warm glow of the fire all bring light to this time of year. But there is a Light that shines like no other. God has sent his Son to overcome every kind of darkness in our world . . . in your world. Jesus is Life and Light that shines in the darkness.
The cradle of Christianity was, literally, in Bethlehem. But within a couple hundred years, "The Way" as Christianity was called, had spread throughout the Roman Empire. By the 300’s AD, a tribe of people known as Celts retreated to the British Isles at the edge of the empire. There they developed their own liturgies, hymns, and prayers. A modern historian describes Celtic Christian theology as, "Trinitarian, incarnational, and cosmic.” You'll notice an emphasis on all three in the liturgy we participate in today. Watch for elements in which we acknowledge God as three in one, as God who took on flesh, and as God who created all things. Our thanks to the members of The Lutheran Ceili Orchestra and its director Joey Schumann for helping us worship this weekend.
Where do you find joy? Perhaps a better question—how do you define joy? Is it an action, an emotion, a feeling? How do we exude joy or experience it if we don't know how to define it? For many, determining a joyful Christmas will mean comparing our Christmas experiences to a Hallmark special, Thomas Kinkade paintings, or our social media accounts. Today we will be digging into what brings God joy and learning from him how to experience his joy this Christmas.
How do you define peace? It’s one of those things that might be easiest to describe by what it isn’t. It isn’t conflict, doubt, turmoil, worry, etc. It’s . . . well, it’s peace. Let your God help. He’s in the peace business. At great cost, he made peace with you. And now, sometimes at cost to us, we can make peace with even our enemies. Welcome to the second week of the Christian church’s season of Advent. We light the second candle of our Advent wreath today—the candle of peace. It is our prayer that as you encounter Jesus today through his Word and sacrament you enjoy peace.
It's easy to look at the downward spiral of marginalized people, violence, immorality, and disinterest in God and become cynical. In more honest moments we look in the mirror and don't see much improvement. We aren't pillars of virtue either. But Christ Jesus gives us hope. The hope he gives isn't wishful thinking that things will get better or even that we'll get better. The hope he gives is rooted in what he came to do on the very first Christmas: to forgive every sin. He kept his promise to come to earth in Bethlehem, and he will keep his promise to come again and destroy everything that is wrong with his creation. That day will bring nothing but terror for those who look for hope only in this world. But for us who find our hope in being wrapped in Christ's righteousness, that day will bring nothing but joy. Welcome to Advent. We’re glad you’re here to worship with us the One who gives us the light of hope.