Wednesday Thoughts for December 19

The Lord be with you

Tomorrow (December 19) will be our third and final Wednesday Advent service for the year. This will wrap-up our look at Advent/Christmas traditions. Quite obliviously, there are WAY more traditions associated with these seasons than the three I’ve chosen. I’ve picked three that I think are big ones and, perhaps, the messages might also encourage some to look behind some of the other traditions of the season.

Tomorrow we will consider Christmas Trees and their background. Our Old Testament lesson will be Genesis 2:8-9. Our Psalm will be Psalm 1. Our Epistle lesson will be 1 Peter 2:20-25. Our Gospel lesson will be Luke 6:43-46. Naturally Christmas Trees are not referred to in the Bible. However, there is biblical background that helped inspire the trees.

We will again be using Responsive Prayer for our liturgy. This is a non-chanting service. Our opening hymn will be “Savior of the Nations, Come” (LSB 332). Our homily hymn will be “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” (LSB 357). Our closing hymn will be “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” (LSB 338).

We will again follow our worship time with a time of fellowship in the commons room. The service begins at 7:00 PM and will go about 45 minutes.

Below are the lessons and a few thoughts.

Genesis 2:8-9
8And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Thoughts: This is simply part of the Creation story in Genesis. Adam and Eve are placed in the Garden of Eden where there is an abundance of all kinds of trees, both trees that bear editable fruit and/or are simply pleasant to look at. The scene is set for the confrontation with temptation as the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil are specifically introduced. Using Lutheran terminology, one might call them the tree of the Gospel and the tree of the Law.

Psalm 1 (3)
1 Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

Thoughts: Psalm 1 serves as our Gradual. Verse three will be our antiphon. Believers in Christ are compared to a tree that is located next to a stream. Such a tree can weather droughts, or whatever, because its roots are watered by the stream. The stream represents the word of God The non-believer has no such advantage. They have walked away from the life-giving word and therefore wither and die, like a tree that has no water source. This is just one way the Bible uses trees in a symbolic way.

1 Peter 2:20-25
20For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Thoughts: In this passage we find the word “tree” being use to refer to the cross of Christ and this is the connection we will find in the homily. The passage is about Jesus. We notice how different the values of the Bible are compared to the world. Just one difference can be found in verse 20. Accepting the consequences for your actions without complaining is widely valued in America. However, if you are being unjustly singled out, in America it is widely admired if you stand-up for yourself. The example of Christ is not the American (or fallen human) way. Thank God that Jesus is not a fallen human. He was able to walk a different way, a way that achieved eternal life for us.

Luke 6:43-45
43 “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Thoughts: Here we again have people compared to trees (like in the Psalm). Good trees bear good fruit and evil trees produce bad fruit. We might say, “Actions speak louder than words.” Another way we might say this is, “He can talk the talk but does he walk the walk.” So those who say, “I’m a Christian,” but avoid worship, avoid supporting the church, avoid the Bible, avoid supporting mercy missions, and so on, bring their words, “I’m a Christian” into serious doubt. Words are indeed important (they are also good fruit), but so are actions. Of course, the fruit from the tree of the cross of Christ is eternal life.

Well, I hope to see you tomorrow as we consider the Christmas Tree, its background and meaning for us today.

Blessings in Christ,