Tag Archives: Christmas

“Brace Yourself”

December 29, 2014

Read Luke 2:33-35.
A sword will pierce through your own soul also. Luke 2:35B

Today is the fifth day of Christmas. Let’s continue to look at the first of two Israelites who saw the Christ Child at the temple long before the wise men arrived.Simeon has seen the Christ, and sung his song of praise to God. Now he turns to give Mary a private message all her own. His prophecy is not for Joseph. By at the time it reaches its fulfillment Joseph will no longer be on earth. His work will be complete. But Mary will still be here.

It is amazing to me how much God revealed to her through a total stranger. Up to this point Mary had heard the wonderful outcome of her Son’s life and the great things He would accomplish. But for the first time on this 40th day, she saw the difficulty of His mission and His ministry. Simeon warned her of the opposition her Son would face and the price He would pay to save the world from sin, death, and hell.

Simeon said, “This Child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed” (Luke 2:34b). Many Israelites will reject Jesus, and fall under God’s judgment for refusing to believe. On the other hand, many others will believe in Jesus Christ and rise to live with God in paradise for His sake.

“He will be a sign that is spoken against” (Luke 2:34b). Simeon predicted the rejection Jesus faced from the religious establishment in Jerusalem that eventually charged Him with blasphemy and vehemently sought His death.

“And a sword will pierce your own soul also” said Simeon warning Mary to brace herself because she will suffer a piercing grief when she stands by the cross and watches her Son die for the sins of the world.

God hasn’t promised that we who trust in Jesus Christ would never suffer troubles, illness, rejection, or death in this life. If it happened to His dear Son and Mary the mother of Jesus our Lord, it will happen to us as well. But He also reminds us of the great future that is ours if we endure in faith. For Jesus Christ conquered sin and death. He rose again on the third day and will return to judge the living and the dead and give eternal life to all those who put their hope, faith, and confidence in Him.

THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, Your love is so amazing. You gave Your own Son to the agony of the cross to save us from our sins. Yet in Your mercy, You didn’t overlook the sorrow Mary would feel at that moment. Prepare us for the moments when we must suffer, and help us look beyond to the glory we will share with You eternally in our heavenly home. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Advent Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries
By Reverend Wayne Palmer

 

“In My Lifetime”

December 27, 2014

 Read Luke 2:25-28.

It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Luke 2:26

My wise men are making progress along their way. Since yesterday, they have moved a little closer to the manger scene. But there are two other people who really should be included in our Nativity scene. In fact they saw the infant Jesus before the wise men did. These faithful Jews were in the temple on the 40th day after Jesus’ birth when Mary and Joseph brought Him up to the temple to present Him to the Lord.

The first is a man named Simeon. Luke describes Simeon as “righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him” (Luke 2:25b). It’s not that Simeon was perfect, he was a sinner like all of us and needed the Son of God to save him. But since he trusted God’s promise to send a Savior, the consolation of Israel, and since the Holy Spirit was upon him, we know Simeon was a believer. His faith in Jesus made him righteous and devout.

And Simeon had received a special promise from the Holy Spirit. For generation after generation God’s faithful people had been waiting for the coming of the Savior. This was a promise given clear back in the Garden of Eden to Adam and Eve. Each generation wondered if He would come during their lifetime, but countless generations had come and gone without seeing the promised Savior. But Simeon knows how close that coming finally is. In fact, during his lifetime, before he departs from this earth to rest with God in heaven, he will see the promised One-the Lord’s Christ. And this is the day, the 40th day of Jesus’ life, when God kept His promise.

You and I have that special honor too, like Simeon. Today we look at Jesus through the eyes of faith. We know that He has come and has saved all of us from sin, death, and the devil by His perfect life, and His innocent suffering, death, and resurrection. We also know He will return again, but we don’t know if that will happen in our lifetime or not. But one thing is certain, whether we depart from this world or Christ Jesus returns first, we will see Jesus with our own eyes, face to face-just as Simeon did. In the meantime, filled with the Holy Spirit, let us go up to the house of the Lord to worship every week, and joyously look forward to the day when we too will see Christ Jesus with our own eyes.

THE PRAYER: Lord God, thank You for Your promise that I will see Jesus when I depart from this world. Strengthen my faith through Your holy Word, Baptism, and Holy Communion that I may live in peace and share the Good News of Jesus’ salvation with everyone You bring into my life. Grant me the courage to do this until that great day when You let me depart in peace. In Jesus’ Name. I pray. Amen.

Advent Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries
By Reverend Wayne Palmer

“Jesus Goes Up To God’s House”

December 26, 2014

Read Luke 2:21-24.

They brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord. Luke 2:22B

Our Nativity scene has the baby Jesus, Mary, and Joseph and the angel and shepherds. The only figures left in my collection are the wise men. But they weren’t part of the first Christmas gathering. In fact, at the moment the shepherds were hurrying to find the baby, the wise men were just first seeing the star in their own countries. They still had to gather their provisions and set out on their long journey to meet the King of the Jews.

So on Christmas morning I like to put my wise men on the opposite side of the room from the Nativity scene, and slowly move them closer and closer each day through the twelve days of Christmas until they arrive at Jesus’ feet on Epiphany Day, January 6. Since today is the second day of Christmas, they still have a long way to go.

In the meantime, during these twelve days of Christmas, we will be looking at two events that occurred in the life of the infant Jesus before the wise men arrived. On New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day we will speak about His circumcision and naming, which occurred when Jesus was eight days old. But in the meantime we will jump ahead to a special event that occurred when Jesus was 40 days old.

Forty days after an Israelite woman gave birth to a son, she was to be purified and her firstborn male child was to be presented to the Lord. This set Jesus apart for a life of service to God-a service that would include living a perfect life and require His suffering and death to take the curse of sin, death, and hell away from us forever.

In our Baptism God joined us together with Jesus and set each of us apart for lives of service to Him. He forgives our sins for Jesus’ sake. He gives us Jesus’ own righteousness, makes us His own children, and fills us with His Holy Spirit. Like Jesus, we dedicate our lives to serving others and telling them the joyful news of the eternal Kingdom Jesus won for us all through His life, death, and resurrection. When our earthly lives reach their end, Jesus Himself will present us to our Heavenly Father, and welcome us into our eternal home.

THE PRAYER: Jesus, by Your presentation, When they blessed You, weak and poor, Make us see Your great salvation, Seal us with Your promise sure; And present us in Your glory To Your Father, cleansed and pure. Amen.

Advent Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries
By Reverend Wayne Palmer

“The First Visitors”

December 25, 2014

Read Luke 2:8-20.
The shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” Luke 2:15B

Do you enjoy a large gathering on Christmas Day? Or are you isolated this year by work, finances, weather, or for some other reason? You are not alone. It is certainly possible that Mary and Joseph came into the first Christmas feeling the same way, huddled together and all alone with their newborn baby.

God didn’t leave them alone for long. When He sent an angel with the first Christmas invitation He didn’t choose a mighty emperor or king, prominent priests or Levites, or even wealthy, powerful people. Instead He sent His angel to poor shepherds watching over their flock at night. The angel told them the exceedingly good news that God had kept His promise-a Savior had been born! Because Jesus would take their sins and pay the full price we all owe God, they could leave their flocks and hurry into the presence of their God and King.

Suddenly the sky was filled with a multitude of angels praising God. The overjoyed shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they hurried and found Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. And so began the first Christmas gathering.

Can you imagine the joy Mary and Joseph felt when this unexpected company arrived? We continue this wonderful tradition by hurrying from our homes to “go over to Bethlehem” and gathering together with our Christian brothers and sisters in church to “see this thing that has happened.”

On this day as you gather with family, friends, and your Christian brothers and sisters at church, don’t forget your eternal home where Jesus no longer lays in a manger, but sits on His royal throne at the Father’s right hand. Mary and Joseph no longer wear their poor clothing but shine in the glorious righteousness of Jesus with which they are robed in paradise. The shepherds are before the throne of God, worshiping the Son of God who saved them from their sins.

And if there is an empty spot at your Christmas gathering because a loved one has left this world in faith, then take heart. Like the shepherds, they have gone to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord had told them about. One day you and I will gather with them because God’s Son became human, took our sins upon Himself, and died in our place on the cross. Through His glorious resurrection He has guaranteed we will rise again and live with Him forever in paradise.

THE PRAYER: Almighty God, thank You for this wonderful day in which our Savior was born. As we gather at church and in our homes, fill us with joy. And like the shepherds may we return, glorifying and praising You as we share with our family, friends, and neighbors all that we have heard and seen, just as You told us. Then, in Your perfect timing, bring us to Your eternal gathering in our heavenly home. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Advent Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries
By Reverend Wayne Palmer

“The Virgin Who?”

December 23, 2014

Read Luke 1:26-38.

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph,of the house of David…. Luke 1:26-27A

Our Nativity scene has a shelter and a manger. Now it’s time to start adding the figures. My Nativity figures have a special meaning for me because my dad hand painted each of them a few years before he left us to go to his eternal home. He took great care painting the faces of baby Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, the shepherds, the wise men and the angel. Now, because of his faith in Jesus Christ his Savior, Dad has spent 22 years looking at those same glorious faces in his heavenly home.

As we begin placing the figures into the Nativity scene let’s take some time to examine each one. It is interesting that a shelter and manger stand ready in Bethlehem for that special night. But look as hard as you want, you can’t find the virgin mother in that little town just south of Jerusalem. You have to travel 70 miles north to the region of Galilee and to a town called Nazareth. That’s where a young virgin lives. That’s where God sends His angel Gabriel.

Look closely at the virgin and the clothes she wears. It is obvious this young woman has no claims to fame. Her family is not wealthy, powerful, or influential. Her betrothed husband is a carpenter who has no claim to fame either except, perhaps, that both he and his virgin wife are descendants of King David. God could have selected any virgin girl to be the mother of His Son, but He specifically chose this young woman.

You and I are also unlikely people God has chosen. So often we are self-absorbed and concerned about all the wrong things-problems that in the end don’t pile up to a hill of beans. These days before Christmas we usually focus on the least significant things, and we display our irritation and impatience to our families, co-workers, and everyone we encounter who is standing in our way. Now is the time to slow down and follow the story of our Savior’s birth.

The angel explains to Mary that she will be the mother of God’s Son through the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit. He will be a holy Child, whose Father is God. Being human He will be able to suffer and die in our place. And being God’s Son, He will be able to win salvation for all people by His suffering and death on the cross, and He will be able to stomp death into the dust.

This Christmas we would do well to learn from Mary’s humility and simple trust. “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word. …” (Luke 1:38a). When we approach Christmas with that same trusting response, we will enjoy a more profound and joyous celebration of our Savior’s birth.

THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank You for choosing an unknown virgin to be the mother of Your Son. Give me true humility that I may live as Your child and live with You in Your heavenly home forever. I pray this in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Advent Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries
By Reverend Wayne Palmer

Christmas Eve Service – Carols & Candles

A favorite Christmas tradition at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Olean, is our 11:00 pm. Christmas Eve service. We are extending an invitation to everyone in our community to attend and join us in celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

If you need directions or other information regarding this service – or any other services or activities at St. Paul Lutheran Church – please contact our office at 812-689-6989.

Children’s Christmas Program

Please join us on Wednesday evening, December 24, at 7:00 p.m. as children of our congregation share the story of Jesus’ birth.