(Final sermon as vacancy pastor at Zion)
IN NOMINE JESU
Glory be to God on high, for He has looked down upon His creation with mercy and love. He sees us. He loves us. He has mercy upon us, Kyrie eleison. He has seen our plight and our need for deliverance. Glory be to God on high, for today we celebrate this deliverance from sin, death, and the power of the devil. Today we celebrate the gift of the Savior, our Savior from the unholy triad. Today we hear the message of the angels, the message heard by the shepherds. We share in their wonder and amazement and as they beheld the awesome mystery before them, of God incarnate, coming in human flesh. We ourselves behold the mystery before us, for the Word who became flesh has dwelt among His people in His Word and Sacraments, and dwells among us today in these same Means of Grace, the Means to which He has willingly bound Himself for our sake.
Peace on earth, good will toward men. Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ, our Prince of Peace. The Lord has come to bring peace–His peace–to our chaotic and sin-filled world. His peace He gives us, that peace which the world cannot give. He gives us comfort, joy, and peace, just as He did on that holy night. The shepherds’ peaceful night was interrupted by an angel of the Lord and then the whole heavenly host. They brought the shepherds glad tidings of comfort and joy, for the long-promised Prince of Peace had come as the Babe of Bethlehem, the Infant holy, the Infant lowly. The sight of the infant Priest holy borne brought the shepherds peace, comfort, and joy, a joy they could not keep to themselves. They told the good news about Jesus and returned, glorifying and praising God, giving glory to God on high.
They had worshiped Him in the temple of the stable, at the altar of the manger. An odd location, is it not? Keep in mind that for nine months the temple was the womb of His blessed virgin mother. Then on that silent and holy night the new temple was the stable, for where the Lord is present, there is His temple. Here He is in His Word and in His body and blood. Here is His temple, for here our Lord is present, where He gives His gifts–here in the Christ-Mass.
The Lord became incarnate on account of our sins of the flesh and our sins of thought, word, and deed. You see, we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment. We are not at peace with God. Humanity is not at peace with itself. Peace on earth is an illusion, as there are wars and rumors of wars. We do not love one another as ourselves because we do not love God as we ought: fearing, loving, and trusting in Him above all things. Since we do not love God as we ought, we are not at peace with Him, and we lack true peace, His peace. Without this peace that surpasses all understanding, it is impossible for us to fully comprehend, appreciate, and cherish the Christ of Christmas. We need the Christ to have been born. We need the Christ to have taken on our human flesh. We need the Christ to have died on the cross for our sins.
Glory be to God on high, for He has come down to us, born as we were. Behold the altar of the manger, where our Lord once lay. Behold the altar before you, from whence He gives His gifts. Behold the altar of the cross that He ascended for you, where He gave His body and shed His blood, the body and blood with which He was born, the very body and blood He offers in His Supper this holy morning. Behold, He who came in the flesh and comes in Word and Supper came from the empty tomb the Victor over sin, death, and the power of the devil. Christ is born. Christ is risen. These are the glad tidings He gives us today, the glad tidings of great joy He brings as He comes to us through His read and proclaimed Word, the Word proclaimed by the angels to the shepherds that holy night, and now by the shepherds to the sheep this holy day in the Divine Service.
As your shepherd for the past four years and five months, it has been my honor and privilege to be the bearer of God’s gifts to you, the bride of Christ. Even as the Wise Men were overjoyed to worship the Christ-child, bringing Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh on that first Epiphany, it has been my joy to worship Him with you, bringing you His gifts of the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation. Even as they gave Him gifts to prepare Him for His burial, I have proclaimed to you Christ crucified…Christ risen…Christ ascended…Christ coming to you in His Word and Sacraments. And now the Lord of the Church has called me to do the same at a sister congregation in Utah; so my time among you draws to a close—but with mixed emotions, and I ask for your prayers. God has blessed my bride Tanya and me with many dear brothers and sisters in Christ here at Zion. We cherish you, we thank God for you, and we will keep you in our prayers, especially as you move into the next phase of the vacancy, as Pastor Wagner will soon occupy this pulpit. I pray that the Holy Spirit will move Zion to call a pastor to tend to your spiritual needs on a more permanent basis, that you would continue to receive God’s gifts, not only at Christmas but every time you are gathered together here in His Name. It is my wish and my prayer for you, dear friends. I love you all, and I wish you God’s peace.
Glory be to God on high; hosanna in the highest! Amen.
“The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7). Amen.
SOLI DEO GLORIA
Send Pastor Mark Schlamann an email.