“The Voice Still Crying in the Wilderness”

The 2nd Sunday of Advent (C)
“The Voice Still Crying in the Wilderness”
December 9, 2018

Sermon Text: Malachi 3:1-7b, Luke 3:1-14

Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from our Advent King, Christ Jesus. Amen.

Dearly Beloved of the Lord,

Amazingly, it will still catch people by surprise… the vast majority of men, women, teenagers and children who happen to be living at that time… carrying out their lives… carrying on as if this will all continue on.

It is no overstatement to say that the world will be in shock at the second coming… our victorious King, Christ Jesus, coming down from heaven at the sound of the trumpet… on the last day… with legion upon legion of His angels and all the company of heaven singing and giving glory to God in the highest.

All of this was foretold… spoken about by the voice crying in the wilderness which has resounded throughout time… right up until the end.

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“Preparing Our Hearts and Homes – Our Advent Journey”

“Preparing Our Hearts and Homes – Our Advent Journey”
Midweek Advent Series
“The Lighting of the Candles”
December 5, 2018

Sermon Text: John 8:2-19

Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

There is something about evening time. As darkness comes over the land, so does peace and quiet… at least significantly more so than during the hustle and bustle of the day… the workday or school day.

With the sun now setting very early, we see lights going on much earlier – street lights, car lights, home lights and, of course, Christmas lights. And although much progress has been made in the way of artificial lighting in making it appealing, it simply does not “hold a candle” to natural firelight… candlelight… with its warm glow.

We in the Christian Church certainly know about candlelight. It has been used in worship for thousands of years. And for good reason. Make no mistake about it… the use of candles… the lighting of candles… was not the idea of man. Its importance and symbolitry were not either. They are divinely prescribed and used.

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“Bookends and Everything in Between”

The First Sunday in Advent (C)
“Bookends and Everything in Between”
December 2, 2018

Sermon Text: Luke 19:28-40

Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from our Advent King, Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Dearly Beloved of the Lord,

Interesting isn’t it? To be at the beginning, and likewise see the end. To stand at the “starting line” but also have the “finish line” in clear view… plain view.

And this, having to do with our Lord’s saving mission here on earth. With a new Church Year… with the beginning of the Advent Season, we are at the start of it all.

As such, for you, me and all of Christendom, it is about the incredibly imperative preparation underway then and now for receiving the long-awaited Christ… the long-awaited Messiah… the Blessed Savior that God promised to send to our first parents covered in sin and, in turn, all who would come after them, including you and me.

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“In the Sixth Month the Angel Gabriel was Sent”

The Fourth Sunday in Advent (B)
In the Sixth Month the Angel Gabriel was Sent”
December 24, 2017

Sermon Text: Luke 1:26-38

Peace be unto you from the Messiah, Christ Jesus. Amen.

Dearly Beloved of the Lord,

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God.” (Luke 1:26)

You know, that is what angels do. They are sent… by God. They do His bidding. And Holy Scripture… both the Old and New Testament… is replete with accounts of the same… of the Lord our God sending His angels to earth… to mankind… to carry out some divine work and many times, to deliver a divine message.

St. Luke tells us this is exactly what the angel Gabriel was sent to do in the

“sixth month”… the sixth month, that is, of Elizabeth’s pregnancy… to bring a message.

No ordinary message, mind you. Which, coming from an angel, couldn’t be ordinary. It had to be extraordinary and it was… it certainly was.

It would be an understatement to say that it was a message that all the world longed to hear… all in the world, that is, who knew of the promise… who knew of the Messiah to come… and believed in the same, had faith, saving faith, that He would come. God said it. They believed it!

They counted on it. And what is more, they clung to it. They clung to the promise of a savior who was their only hope… their only hope of salvation, their only hope of being forgiven of their sins and freed from the eternal consequences of the same, namely death and damnation.

They, the faithful and all of creation, Scripture tells us, longed for the news that was, at first, only for the ears of a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David.” The virgin’s name was Mary. (Luke 1:27)

On the orders, at the command of the Lord our God, the angel Gabriel comes to Mary… sweet Mary, blessed Mary… one of the Lord’s own… one of the Lord’s faithful… one who, yes, knew the promise… knew of the Messiah and believed He would come… but had no idea it would all unfold… that it would all come to be… in this miraculous and marvelous way…

… that she would be the mother of the Savior of the world, for the name she is to call Him, “Jesus,” declares this very thing.

… that she would be the mother of God now coming in the flesh… her flesh… of her own flesh and blood… of ours and all mankind. That this new Adam would have the very same flesh and blood as the first Adam and all of his descendants. That this new Adam, the Son of Man and Son of God, would be everyone’s true brother… yours and mine.

Mary had no idea that she would be the mother of the King of kings and Lord of lords, for as the angel declares to her, the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:32-33)

Mary had no idea of the shepherds who would come with haste to worship the Christ Child, her Child. And after them, awhile later, wise men, bearing gifts for the Christ Child, her Child… gifts suitable for a king. A King who eventually would wear a crown of thorns.

No… for sure… Mary had no idea what was in store for her or her Son. No idea, at that point, of the manger… no idea of the cross… no idea, not a clue, that she would witness both her Son’s birth as well as His death.

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God.”

And Gabriel went, because that is what angels do. They go where God sends them, do what God commands of them.

So do the faithful… the faithful man, woman, teenager and child. Those baptized in Christ. Those upon whom the Holy Spirit is working wonderfully and mightily.

They go where God sends them, do what God commands them, dedicating their whole life to the same. As did Mary, sweet Mary, blessed Mary, who upon hearing all that Gabriel said, all that God had chosen her to do… to be… simply responded, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)  Because that is what the faithful do.

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God.” And then, so was Mary. And so was the Son of God whose birth we will celebrate in a matter of hours.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son… He sent His only begotten Son… that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John. 3:16)

Because that is what the one true God does. Out of love… pure love… for you… for me and all the world. He has mercy upon us. He showers us with His grace. He saves us. He receives us unto Himself and gives us His Kingdom which knows no end.

Rejoice my friends. Be comforted and at peace with all that is yours in Mary’s Son. Amen.

May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.

“In the Sixth Month the Angel Gabriel was Sent”  12/24/17  The Rev. Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL

Part III: Christ – Our Savior

Midweek Advent Series – “Christ – Servant, Substitute, Savior”
Part III: Christ – Our Savior
December 20, 2017

Peace be unto you this blessed evening from our Advent King, Christ Jesus. Amen.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. He is your Savior, my Savior, everyone’s Savior even though the world will not acknowledge it… acknowledge Him.

It does not matter. It does not change the reality of it all… it does not change what happened… what was accomplished… what the very Son of God did, as we say, “for us men and for our salvation.”

This includes His birth, His coming to earth… His ministry while He walked this land… healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind, raising the dead, performing many other miracles, and preaching about the Kingdom of Heaven to all who would listen… to all who had “ears to hear.”

And then among His accomplishments… that which is central to it all… central to our faith… central to our now having eternal life… is Christ’s suffering and crucifixion… His dying… God dying on the cross whereupon our salvation was affected. If was finished. It was done. Signed, sealed and delivered in blood!

Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. We have heard it so many times that personally, individually, it may have lost its import and impact without our even knowing it, our being aware of it. How is it with you?

Do we say, if not with words, then in thought, “We know all this already! We know Jesus is our Savior! Tell us something new! Tell us something more!

Hmm… the wanting of something new… to have… to obtain… to pursue something new. The urge goes back to our first parents, Adam and Eve.

They wanted more… something new… in their case to “be like God” instead of enjoying what wonderfully was the perfect life and perfect relationship they enjoyed with the Lord their God in paradise.

You will also remember Holy Scripture’s account of the Acts of the Apostles, and how in the Book of Acts, it talks about St. Paul going to Athens, being in Athens and at the Areopagus where the learned, the scholars and the philosophers would gather. We read in Acts 17, Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.” (Acts 17:21)

The new and novel may be interesting and exciting, my friends, but not at the cost of forgetting or failing to ponder the known and to understand it more, appreciate it more… and this by considering and exploring all of its many facets more… far more.

Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. He is your Savior, my Savior, everyone’s Savior. As humbling as this may be for you… as it is for me… the truth is, we… to a person… have not even begun to scratch the surface of our understanding and appreciating the same… that which is found in God’s Word… God coming into the flesh… God dwelling with us. And this includes: (A) the very fact of the matter; and (B) the reality of what it means to you, me and the world, then, now and all of the days hereafter… for all of time and beyond time.

Because you know what? If we had a far greater understanding and appreciation of God’s Word now, right now… and what we claim to be our faith… things would be a lot different in your daily life and mine now, right now.

For example, just in terms of how we keep or fail to keep the Advent season. How we, in so many ways, jump the gun and go straight into ‘full Christmas mode”… and this, not even in regard to the true Christmas, but rather the commercialized Christmas, the glitz, the glamor, the lights, the music, the smells and the bells.

And all of this because, to varying degrees, we have convinced ourselves that yes… sure… we know that Jesus is our Savior… we know the “real reason for the season” that is, Christ’s birth… we know the nativity account… so given this, we can move beyond all of that and get about enjoying, really enjoying, the holidays from Thanksgiving on, having one highpoint after another and yes, fit in the worship of the Lord as much as we can with everything else going on in our lives… our secular lives.

Indeed, it is amazing and quite sad, tragic even, that during this time of all times, many spiritual lives are on life support with oh-so shallow and weak pulses. How is it with you?

With the help of the world, Satan and our own sinful flesh, we have convinced ourselves that we can have it both ways, when in reality one way will always dominate, predominate… and it will not be the way of the Lord. It will not be the holy and higher things. We are only kidding ourselves. The sinful flesh… the Old Adam in us… is strong and quite persuasive.

For many people, Advent is a farce… a charade… in regard to it truly being kept, properly kept as a penitential time, a time of real reflection and introspection… real soul-searching. How is it with you? How has it been for you these past three and a half weeks?

And Christmas is no better. Oh, for sure, we will stop by on our way to some family gathering or party and pay our respects to the Baby Jesus, even bemoaning the inconvenient time of the Christmas service, given everything else we have to do… want to do.

Certainly, we will give lip service to the fact that Christ is the greatest gift from highest heaven, while we focus predominantly on earthly presents, given and received.

And then, in just a month or so, we will do it all over again, this time blowing by Ash Wednesday, Lent, Holy Week and even Good Friday to get to what? Easter Sunday. And then it is far more for secular rather than spiritual reasons. Ya, we know… Christ died on the cross for us and rose again on the third day. Tell us something new!

We can all say that we want Jesus to be the reason for the season, but words alone to not make it so. Talk is cheap! And even if it were true, guess what? It isn’t enough. For the fact of the matter is, our Lord Jesus Christ, the very Son of God… our Savior… our Messiah… is not just the reason for this or that season… He is the reason for our entire life, here in time and in eternity. Why? Because Christ is our life!

My friends, for you, for me, the truth hurts because it unceremoniously and with great speed and precision cuts through all of the crap… all of the garbage… all of our rationalizing and compromising… all of our so-called “justifying” which again and again comes up short… and it brings us to our knees in rightful contrition over the gravity of our sinful ways, selfish ways.

The truth of the Law brings us rightly and thankfully to repentance… to our making confession of our sins… to our getting the great weight of the same off of our chests… freeing our hearts, our minds, our very souls.

And here is the wonderful thing. God’s Truth also heals… wonderfully heals… completely heals. His Divine Truth in Jesus Christ heals and restores us as we hear the words of absolution sweetly spoken, confidently spoken, announcing to us… proclaiming to us… that we are fully forgiven and given a new start, a fresh start… and this, in the One whose birth we are preparing to once again celebrate… this, in the One whose glorious return… imminent return… we are making ready.

How will it be for you… from here on out? Behold, Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. He is your Savior and mine and we couldn’t be more thankful, appreciative and humbled by the same. Amen.

May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.

“Christ – Our Savior” 12/20/17 The Rev. Mark H. Hein St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL

“The Anointed One”

The Third Sunday in Advent (B)
“The Anointed One”
December 17, 2017

Sermon Text: Isaiah 61:1–4, 8–11

Peace be unto you from our Advent King, Christ Jesus. Amen.

Dearly Beloved of the Lord,

One would expect it to be verses… passages… sentences… found in one of the Gospel accounts… in either Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, where Jesus declares to the disciples,

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit.” (Isaiah 61:1-3)

This describes perfectly the person and the work of our Lord Jesus Christ does it not? Jesus, “the Christ”… literally translated, “the Anointed One.” He was anointed to be our “Servant, Substitute and Savior” as we have been considering in our midweek Advent services. Chosen by the Father, sent by Father, with the Spirit of the Lord God upon Him.

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Part II: Christ – Our Substitute

Midweek Advent Series – “Christ – Servant, Substitute, Savior”
Part II: Christ – Our Substitute
December 13, 2017

Peace be unto you this blessed evening from our Advent King, Christ Jesus. Amen.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

“We have a substitute.” So, what is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear that? Even after being out of school for more years that you would like to remember, we often think about a “substitute teacher.”

God bless them! And especially those who find out at the last minute that they are standing in for another teacher. If I was a substitute, I think I would always recite the 23rd Psalm before entering the classroom, particularly where it says, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” (Psalm 23:4)

And amazingly, pertaining to our focus this blessed evening, there was one Substitute who literally walked through the valley and actually entered into death… for us… in our place… taking what should have most assuredly been our place… what was our place… still would be our place… if He had not come.

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