161218 Matthew 1:18-25

Text: Matthew 1:18 – 25
Theme: Do You Have Any Concerns This Christmas?

Last week, Pastor Pagels reminded us that we only had two weeks of shopping days left until Christmas. Well, another week has passed, and Christmas Day is already next Sunday! What are your con¬cerns this morning, knowing that Christmas is getting so close? Are you concerned because you don't have all your presents bought yet or that you won't get everything you put on your list this year? Or, maybe you are concerned about how you will pay for all the things you bought this year. Perhaps you concerned about what you will feed the friends and family who will be joining you this Christmas?

This morning I ask you to re-think the concerns that you have for this Christmas. God's Word before us today, taken from the Gospel lesson for this weekend, leads you and me to consider our answer to the question: DO YOU HAVE ANY CONCERNS THIS CHRIST¬MAS? From this portion of God's Word we will see that we will have two concerns: a concern for other people and a concern for the Word of our God. I invite you to listen again to two verses from the Gospel Lesson we heard earlier. At this time I am reading verses 24 and 25 of Matthew chapter 1:

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Read more: 161218 Matthew 1:18-25

161214 Isaiah 7:10-14

Text: Isaiah 7:10-14
Theme: The Virgin Will Conceive

Heavy is the head that wears the crown. If there was anyone who understood those words, it was King Ahaz. Ahaz doesn't rank among the most famous rulers of Judah, but he was arguably the worst. Instead of doing what was right in the eyes of the Lord (2 Kings 16:2), he adopted the detestable worship practices of Judah's heathen neighbors, including child sacrifice. He removed the altar from Solomon's temple and replaced it with the replica of an idol altar he had seen in Damascus. Apparently that level of apostasy wasn't enough for Ahaz because he later shuttered the temple entirely and set up altars on every street corner in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 28:24).

To put it mildly, Ahaz made some very poor choices in his life, and his actions had consequences. The Lord's judgment came through two warring nations, Aram and Israel. Aram was a natural enemy of Judah, but Israel was family. Their kings were pressuring Ahaz to join their alliance, to help them fight against the Assyrian superpower to the north. When Ahaz refused, Aram and Israel attacked Judah with such a vengeance that "the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind" (7:2).

When Isaiah and his son approached Ahaz by the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, the king was not taking a leisurely stroll on the river walk. No, he was inspecting the city's water supply. He was preparing for the worst. He was preparing his capital for a long and drawn out siege.

Read more: 161214 Isaiah 7:10-14

161211 James 5:7-11

Text: James 5:7-11
Theme: Patience Is An Advent Virtue

The parking lot was crowded, but she was still hopeful that she would be able to get in and out without getting hurt. Once inside she took a slip of paper and stood in line until her number was called. And then she waited. She looked at the back wall with all the special stamps on display. And she waited. She watched the people in front of her with packages of different shapes and sizes and wondered what was inside. And she waited. She stood on one foot and then the other, and walked around a little bit. And she waited. And then she heard that magic number, "98," which meant that it was finally her turn to approach the post office counter.

Most of us could insert ourselves into this made up story, especially this time of year, especially as we approach the busiest week of the year for sending packages in the mail. The final days leading up to Christmas are enough to test anyone's patience. It doesn't matter where you are going. It will probably take you longer to get there. And then it will take you longer than normal to do what you need to do once you arrive.

The person who came up with the phrase, "Patience is a virtue," was on to something. Patience is noble, admirable, a quality that is very desirable. But describing patience as a virtue implies that it is something not so easy to achieve.

Even though James never had to wait in line at the post office in the middle of December, even though James was never concerned about the number of shopping days left until Christmas (by the way, including today there are fourteen), he understood how elusive patience can be.

That is why he repeatedly encouraged first century Christians to wait patiently for their Lord to return. That is why he encourages twenty first century Christians to do the same. And as we watch and wait for Christmas Day, as we watch and wait for our Lord to return on the Last Day, James the brother of our Lord will help us remember that...


Read more: 161211 James 5:7-11

161207 Isaiah 35:1-10

Text: Isaiah 35:1-10
Theme: Promises Made, Promises Kept: The Redeemed Will Rejoice!

Have you ever made a promise, and not kept it? I think that most of us here have at one time or another made a promise, but then we failed to keep the promise. How do you feel when someone makes you a promise but doesn't keep it? For example, how would you feel if someone told you, "On Christmas morning there will be presents for you to open.", but then Christmas morning comes and there is not one present that has your name on it! I am sure that you would be very disappointed.

Most likely there were many of God's people living at the time of Isaiah who were afraid that God would not keep his promises to them. The Lord made them a promise that as they lived out their days in exile, they would have reason to celebrate. I am sure that as year after year went by, there were some who doubted more and more that the Lord would keep his promise. But after the 70 years in exile came to an end, and God's people returned to the promise land, they had reason to rejoice.

In his Word, our Lord God has made you and me promises as well. As we take a closer look at Isaiah chapter 35 this evening, we will see that they are promises made and promises kept. Tonight, the Savior God's promise is that THE REDEEMED WILL REJOICE! At this time, I will read again verses 4-7 of chapter 35:

Say to those with fearful hearts, "Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you." Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs.

Read more: 161207 Isaiah 35:1-10

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Compelled by the love of Christ, St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School seek to reach out to our families, community and world, using Law and Gospel to make disciples, growing and nurturing them in their Christian faith and life.


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