Sunday Thoughts for December 30

The Third Day of Christmas
December 27, 2018

The Lord be with you

This coming Sunday is the First Sunday after Christmas, or simply Christmas 1. It is also the sixth day of Christmas and December 30, 2018. The Christmas season lasts just twelve days and so the maximum number of Sundays in Christmas is two. This year we have only one. Epiphany is always January 6, and January 6 is the first Sunday in January.

Due to how busy I’ve been in preparing the services for this week (one each for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday), I was unable to post any “Thoughts” on the services prior to them to help people prepare. I hope you had a chance to attend one or more of the services. If you were unable to join us for the actual worship services, you can find the sermons at:

Advent 4 – Small Packages
Christmas Eve – The Giving Plate (a narrative sermon)
Christmas Day – Christmas Carol Meditations (meditations on three Christmas Carols)

I have often said that if one reads the Old Testament correctly, that is, the way the New Testament writers read it, then you find it is all about Jesus. This Sunday I’m going to “put my money where my mouth is.” The sermon is titled “An Exodus Christmas.” We will consider both our reading from Exodus and our Psalm in light of Jesus, and Christmas in particular.

Our appointed lessons for Sunday are: Psalm 111 (9a, b); Exodus 13:1–3a, 11–15; Colossians 3:12–17; Luke 2:22–40. We will be using Matins for our liturgy. Our hymns will be “Let All Together Praise Our God” (LSB 389), “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” (LSB 356), and “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” (LSB 366).

Below are the readings for Sunday and some initial thoughts.

Psalm 111 (9a, b)
He sent redemption to his people;
he has commanded his covenant forever.

1 Praise the LORD!
I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
2 Great are the works of the LORD,
studied by all who delight in them.
3 Full of splendor and majesty is his work,
and his righteousness endures forever.
4 He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered;
the LORD is gracious and merciful.
5 He provides food for those who fear him;
he remembers his covenant forever.
6 He has shown his people the power of his works,
in giving them the inheritance of the nations.
7 The works of his hands are faithful and just;
all his precepts are trustworthy;
8 they are established forever and ever,
to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
9 He sent redemption to his people;
he has commanded his covenant forever.
Holy and awesome is his name!
10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever!

Glory be to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen.

He sent redemption to his people;
he has commanded his covenant forever.

Initial Thoughts: As is case in almost all English translation of the Bible, in the Old Testament when you see the word “LORD” in all capitals it is a translation of the Divine Name God gives himself at the burning bush when he spoke with Moses (Exodus 3:14). Because the writers of the Hebrew Old Testament didn’t use vowels, and because the Jews stopped speaking this holy name, scholars debate how it should be pronounced. The generally accepted way is “Yahweh.” A convoluted history of translation has given us the name “Jehovah,” but this pronunciation is certainly wrong. The antiphon is taken from verse 9 and is a “regular” antiphon. Antiphons are intended to capture the key thought of the Psalm so the key thought of the Psalm is that God has sent redemption to his people and established his covenant with them forever. This was fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus was sent on the first Christmas and the covenant was established by his incarnation, birth, life, death and resurrection. For this we are to “praise the Lord” and give him thanks with our whole heart. The birth of Jesus is certainly one of the great works of the Lord that we study with delight. Everything about the life of Jesus is full of splendor and majesty. His righteousness, which he grants us by grace through faith in him, endures forever. In Christmas we see that our Lord is gracious and merciful. When the Psalmist speaks of God providing food it is paralleled with God remembering his covenant forever. While the manna in the wilderness is behind this, it looks forward to the Lord’s Supper, which the manna foreshadowed. The “power of his works” is mainly found in the atoning work of Jesus which he accomplished for all nations. Those who receive the gift of faith receive this wondrous inheritance. This promise, this “precept,” should be accepted because it is “trustworthy.” The grace of the Gospel is established forever. Through Jesus God has sent redemption to his people, that is, all who believe in Jesus. All redemptive work in the Old Testament that preceded Jesus pointed forward to him. All redemptive work God has worked after Jesus points us back to that ultimate redemption Jesus merited for us. The “fear of the Lord” is respect, honor, awe, trust, and such things. Those who turn their hearts away from Jesus turn away from true wisdom.

Exodus 13:1–3a, 11–15
1 The LORD said to Moses, 2“Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine.”
3 Then Moses said to the people, “Remember this day in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of slavery, for by a strong hand the LORD brought you out from this place. …
11 “When the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites, as he swore to you and your fathers, and shall give it to you, 12you shall set apart to the LORD all that first opens the womb. All the firstborn of your animals that are males shall be the LORD’s. 13Every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. Every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem. 14And when in time to come your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to him, ‘By a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery.
15 For when Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of animals. Therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all the males that first open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.’”

Initial Thoughts: This takes place after the Hebrews had left Egypt but before they crossed the Red Sea. The omitted verses cover the establishment of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This feast was a memorial of the deliverance the Lord was accomplishing for the Hebrews and marked the beginning of the year for them. The deliverance also pointed forward to the deliverance we receive through Jesus and the unleavened bread pointed forward to the Lord’s Supper which, of course, points us back to, and makes us sharers in, the atoning work of Jesus. The slavery the Hebrews were delivered from was, of course, a real slavery. However, it was also a symbolic slavery. It points us to our bondage to sin, death and the devil, from which Jesus delivered us. Canaan, the land the Hebrews were going to, was to make us think of our eternal home. Biblical faith was never just about inheriting dirt in the Middle East. All that stuff about the firstborn points to Jesus as the first born of Mary and the Only-Begotten Son of the Father. Singling out the first born male child pointed to Jesus as one who would not only be the first born but also a male. That the firstborn was to be sacrificed pointed to the redemptive death of Jesus. That an animal was to be substituted for the human child pointed to the substitutive nature of the death of Jesus.

Colossians 3:12–17
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Initial Thoughts: If we are honest, this passage is a bitter pill. In America we are taught the exact opposite of this. Traits like compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience are viewed as manifestation of weakness. The key to growing is such Christlike traits is found in verse 16. The Holy Spirit, working through the word, conforms us into the image of Jesus. This word is found in the Bible, naturally, but also in solid hymns, sermons, and the like. Those who abandon the word find that they abandon Jesus over time.

Luke 2:22–40
22 When the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35(and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
39 And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.

Initial Thoughts: The purification after birth is referred to in Leviticus 12:1-5. This was for Mary. Jesus would have been circumcised on the eighth day, but this purification would have happened 40 days after the birth of Jesus. One might think of it as being 41 days, depending on how you count the days, but I like 40 because it corresponds with the years the Hebrews wandered in the wilderness and the days Jesus was in the wilderness being tempted by Satan. At any rate, we find here the fulfillment of this ceremonial law and the reason it was established, to point to Jesus. Simeon shows up and, being inspired by the Holy Spirit, recognizes right away what is going on. He provides us with the Nunc Dimittis, which we still sing to this day. The expansive nature of the work of Jesus is captured beautifully in this biblical canticle. But this will come at a cost, the life of Jesus, which all the animal sacrifices pointed to. So, a “sword” would pierce the soul of Mary. This is obviously symbolic as swords cannot pierce souls. It is referring to Mary’s sorrow when Jesus is crucified. So, we have presented the work of Jesus from birth to redeeming death. Anna, another faithful saint, is also present. Though we do not have any of her words recorded, we are told that she “began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.” In other words, her words were in complete harmony with Simeon’s, and the entire Old Testament. Jesus was the promised Messiah who would save us from sin, eternal death and the power of the devil. There is actually little time referent in verse 39 which reports the move to Nazareth. All it really tells us that the move happened after the purification ritual. When we factor in the account found in Matthew, we understand that they did not immediately move to Nazareth. This would make sense as Mary and Jesus would have been under a stigma due to the nature of our Lord’s birth. Few would have believed the actual facts of the case. The Holy Family remained in Bethlehem and then went into exile in Egypt. Finally, after the death of Herod, the family moved to Nazareth.

Christmas Blessings
Pastor Rickert