Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sermon for 22 December 2010, Advent Evening Prayer/SS Christmas Service

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.

Romans 1:1-7

According to the Flesh
Wednesday of Advent IV, 22 December 2010
Sunday School Christmas Service
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Jesus is true God. Jesus is true man. Both are true. Without these teachings from Scripture about Jesus, there would be no point in celebrating the birth of a Jewish peasant some two thousand years ago. Our young people are here tonight to tell the story of God taking upon Himself human flesh. The point of all of those usually boring genealogies in the Bible is to show that God was faithful to His promises to send a Savior from sin through the descendants of Adam & Eve, Seth, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Jesse, and David. This son of Mary, Jesus, was a descendant of David as to His human nature.
Why did Jesus come? He was given the name Jesus because He will save His people from their sins. When you acknowledge that you, too, are a sinner because of your sins of thought, word, and deed, you identify yourself with the people Jesus came to save. You recognize that salvation is in Christ Jesus alone and you need Him to have any hope of heaven. That’s good news. That’s Gospel.
In the first seven verses of the book of Romans, Paul lays out the basics of the Gospel, plain and simple.
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God…
What is that Gospel?
…which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Gospel is about Jesus. It’s not just warm feelings of love and happiness this time of year. You can get that from a cup of cocoa. The Gospel confesses Him as both the Son of God and descendant of King David. Jesus was born in Bethlehem so that He could die in Jerusalem. Because of Jesus’ resurrection, God gives grace, undeserved good gifts, and the gift of faith, belief and trust in Jesus, so that people from all nations, like you, would be called to belong to Jesus Christ.
That’s something. That you belong to Jesus Christ means that you don’t belong to another. That you belong to Christ means that He is your hope, your salvation from sin, death, and the devil. That you belong to Christ means that you don’t trust in your own merits, works, or supposed goodness to get you in the pearly gates.
O.K. You trust in Jesus. You pray to Him. You have faith in Him. Does that make any difference to you at any time of the year other than Christmas. Christ could come back any day. Just because He didn’t come back yesterday or the day before that doesn’t mean we can neglect the obedience that comes from faith. You have been called to be saints. You are called to be holy. You are called to be filled with Jesus’ gift of His Word, daily, and His Holy Supper often. You have been forgiven and you are called to live like it.
“Peace on earth, good will to all,” we sing this time of year, but we often keep that peace and good will to ourselves on the other 364 days. We may not believe that we’re saved by works, but others around you do. Out of Christian love, we must share our hope in Christ so that they would realize that peace with God only comes from heaven’s all-gracious king. It is not very loving to keep the ultimate messages of peace and good will to ourselves. What a privilege we have to share that good news with friends, family, and neighbors. Yes, we do have to continue to live with these people. I see the benefit of living with them for all eternity well worth the risk of speaking up now.

Those within the church have probably done more to destroy the faith of other Christians than those outside the Church. One author has called this, “When Bad Christians Happen to Good People.” It happens. You’ve probably seen it happen, yourself, or even experienced it. You may have been “burned” yourself. A congregation member or a pastor did, said, or failed to do something, and that so offended a fellow Christian, that they went away. Later, that offense may have become an excuse to stay away.
We need to put ourselves in the shoes of those hurt by the church in order to better understand that kind of hurt. No Christian is perfect. Anyone who thinks he or she is, apart from being perfect in Christ, is a hypocrite. Christians aren’t perfect—just forgiven. We must all learn humility and recognize our mistakes and misdeeds, and dare to confess them as sins. Then, perhaps we can be of the right heart and mind to invite people back to Church. If they know we care about them and what happened to them, maybe they’ll accept an invitation to come back on Christmas Eve.

Rejoice! God Is With Us! Our congregation is called by Jesus’ name of Immanuel. After over a century in this community, the Lord is still blessing you. He is with you in Word and Sacrament no matter if the community is in a boom or a bust. The Lord has continued to bless you. And you have returned to Him for His use the gifts He has entrusted to you as stewards.

The basic Christmas message is Jesus. God and man at the same time, He was born to die so that you might live eternally. Jesus is the reason for the season. You can’t really have Christmas without Christ. Invite Jesus to His own birthday party this year. Read the Christmas story from the beginning of Matthew and Luke. And believe. Believe like the young people who have shared the message of Christmas with you tonight.
Jesus Christ is true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and is also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, your Lord, who has redeemed you, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won you from all sins, from death, and the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that you may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true. Amen.
To all those…who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:7) Amen.