Category Archives: Christmas

Second Sunday after Christmas

 

Homily 1: A Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation

Today, more than ever, we need a spirit of wisdom and revelation in this world, even in the church. This has always been needed. It is a special privilege to know the glorious presence and power of Almighty God. The human mind, alone, cannot conceive or understand the riches of God. Paul wrote to the Church in Corinth::

But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the human heart conceived,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—

these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God,   (1 Corinthians 2:7-10)

God has destined us to know him, to understand his character, to seek his presence in our lives, not just his favor. Satan does not want that to happen. He clouds our minds. He seeks to destroy any understanding of God. The last thing he wants is Immanuel, God with us. He wants us to believe that God is not with us and that he we never be with us. When King Herod learned of the Christ child he sought to kill. He did not really know who this new born was, but the demons who entered him did. From the Gospel of Matthew we read:

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

`And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.'”   (Matthew 2:1-6)

We understand why Herod was inquiring about the birthplace of Jesus. He wanted to kill the child because was a threat to him. He was not only a threat to him, but to the whole world order, even the order of our day. Evil does not seek out the wisdom of God. Rather, evil does its best to cover up that wisdom.

The wise men from the East were seeking wisdom. They were not Jews, but they had read some of the prophets. They desired to know wisdom. They desired to know God. God led them to seek his wisdom. God led them to seek Jesus. Jesus is God’s wisdom. From John’s Gospel:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.   (John 1:1-5)

Are we living in darkness or are seeking the light of God? Are we seeking the wisdom of God? Are we seeking to know God? God has come in the flesh. But to fully know him we still need to diligently seek what this means:

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.   (Hebrews 11:6)i

We must approach God with faith. And we must seek him above everything else:

When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart,   (Jeremiah 29:13)

The Apostle Paul prayed for the Church in Ephesus:

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe.   (Ephesians 1:17-18)

Let us take the time and energy to seek God as did the wise men. The travelled a great distance to do so. Are we willing and prepared to go the distance in our day?

 

Homily 2: How Dear to Me Is Your Dwelling

The  psalmist wrote:

How dear to me is your dwelling, O Lord of hosts!
My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.

The sparrow has found her a house
and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young;
by the side of your altars, O Lord of hosts,
my King and my God.

Happy are they who dwell in your house!
they will always be praising you.   (Psalm 84:1-3)

It should not have been surprising that the young boy Jesus would seek out the House of God the Father. The Temple in Jerusalem was that place for the Jewish people. It was a place of pilgrimage, the high altar of God, where people received atonement for their sins. From Luke we read:

Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  (Luke 2:41-49)

Mary, the mother of Jesus would later understand. For the moment, both parents were surprised and confused:

But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.   (Luke 2:50-51)

The Temple in Jerusalem was the House of God. That was ordained and established by God. But that was about to change. At the end of his earthly ministry, Jesus spoke there words:

“Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.   (John 2:19-22)

After the the resurrection of of Jesus a transference occurred. Jesus was now the Temple of God. This was khown at the moment of Jesus’ death on the cross:

Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.   (Matthew 27:50-52)

Jesus is the House of God now. How desirous are we to enter the House of God” Again, the psalmist wrote:

For one day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room,
and to stand at the threshold of the house of my God
than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.

For the Lord God is both sun and shield;
he will give grace and glory;

No good thing will the Lord withhold
from those who walk with integrity.

O Lord of hosts,
happy are they who put their trust in you!   (Psalm 84:9-12)

We live in very troubling times. Our only refuge is the Lord Jesus Christ. But there are keys to entering the House of God. Everyone one is invited, but not everyone is accepted. Scripture tells us:

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.   (100:4-5)

We are not good. Only God is good. We may only enter with a grateful heart. God is also looking for a contrite heart. Is that who we are?

For thus says the high and exalted One
Who lives forever, whose name is Holy,
“I dwell on a high and holy place,
And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit
In order to revive the spirit of the lowly
And to revive the heart of the contrite.   (Isaiah 57:15)

John, the revelator, heard in heaven:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them,   (Revelation 21:3)

Jesus will soon be setting u his millennial kingdom on the earth. We must not wait. Now is the time that we should join ourselves to God. Reading from the Prophet Zechariah:

Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion! For lo, I will come and dwell in your midst, says the LordMany nations shall join themselves to the Lord on that day, and shall be my people; and I will dwell in your midst. And you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. The Lord will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem.   (Zechariah 2:10-12)

Amen.

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Holy Name

Yeshua (ישוע) – Deliverer

In Judaism names have meanings. A name does more than merely identify someone. It speaks to their character, to their calling, and to the blessing that God has placed upon them. Abram was renamed by God so that he became Abraham, the father of many nations. Jacob became Israel because he had wrestled with God and had prevailed. Simon became Peter, the rock upon whom God would build His church.

The Son of God was named Jesus or, in Hebrew, “Yeshua” – which means God saves. In today’s Gospel we read:

An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  (Matthew:18-21)

It was customary in Judaism to dedicate each male child to God on the eighth day after his birth. This was the time that the child was circumcised and was also given his name. This was true for Jesus. From Luke we read:

After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.  (Luke 2:21)

God the Father wants to place us on the same footing as Jesus. Jesus received his name on the eighth day and the blessing of the Father. We are to receive that same blessing as well if we come under the name of Jesus. God does this through an adoption which occurs when we embrace Jesus as our Savior and Lord. Paul wrote in today’s Epistle:

When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.   (Galatians 4:4-7)

God has always desired to bless His people and place His name on them. During the time of Moses He instructed His priests how to do this:

The LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:

“The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”

“So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”  (Numbers 6:27-28)

We are so blessed to have the name of our Lord placed upon us. We are called Christian because Jesus is making us into His image. When we receive the name of our Lord with humility and thanksgiving, God the Father places upon us the character and nature of Jesus. Have we been adopted by God? If not, now is the day of salvation.

There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”   (Acts 4:12)

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Holy Innocents

flight-into-egyptThe Protection of Children

We read from the Prophet Jeremiah:

Thus says the Lord:

A voice is heard in Ramah,
lamentation and bitter weeping.

Rachel is weeping for her children;
she refuses to be comforted for her children,
because they are no more.   (Jeremiah 31:15)

Our children are so vulnerable on this earth, Jesus was no exception. God risked himself and made himself vulnerable to the evil in this world. The plan of Satan is to kill, steal, and destroy. God has come that we might have life and life more abundantly (John 10:10).

Today we read about the wisemen searching for a child born under a miraculous sign. The Christ Child they sought was more than an inconvenience to Herod. After all, the wisemen had called the child “King of the Jews” and sought Him out to worship. This was just too much for Herod to swallow. Not understanding Judaism and the prophecy concerning the child, Herod could take no chances. His very kingdom might be threatened. He was prepared to take drastic measures to ensure his reign. Thus Joseph, the father of Jesus had to be warned about the threat against his son. From the Gospel of Matthew we read:

When the wise men had departed, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”   (Matthew 2:13-15)

Herod was a monster. Reading from Matthew:

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.  (Matthew 2:16)

We have even more Herod’s today. All of our children are under threat, regardless of age. Do we not abort our children up to nine months of pregnancy and beyond, simply because they are an inconvenience to us? Have our churches been willing to speak out about this, so-called, woman’s right to choose? Abortion has nothing to do with women’s rights and everything to do with child sacrifice. The Apostle Paul:

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.   (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

What could be worse? In the entertainment industry, government, and even the church, a terrible monster lurks behind the scene. It devours our children while we are looking the other way. Child trafficking, pedophilia, and even child sacrifice have been hidden, but God is now exposing it. His judgement will fall on the perpetrators. They will no longer be able to hide.

The Apostle John, on the Island of Patmos, had a vision in which God will do away with all the evil we are now experiencing:

I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them as their God;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”   (Revelation 21:1-4)

How do we live while we await the culmination of Christ’s ministry? We need to conduct ourselves in a more godly way while we are still on earth. We need to take responsibility for the care of our children. Those of us who have remained silent about the plight of our children need to repent.

When we do not care for our children, we have not cared for our Lord:

‘”Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.”   (Matthew 25:45)

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Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist

saint-john-the-apostle-08Walk in the Light

When all the other disciples had deserted Jesus at the cross, John was there with Mary the mother of Jesus. He was called the disciple that Jesus loved. He wrote a Gospel which has the simplest structure and words with regard to reading level, but which contains some of the deepest understandings of the nature of God and His purposes. John was probably the only Apostle who died of old age. Reading from the Gospel of John:

Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; he was the one who had reclined next to Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!” So the rumor spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”   (John 21::20-23)

John was exceptional in so many ways. His message was also exceptional. Many scholars want to write off the authenticity and validity of John’s Gospel, since it seems a variance with the Synoptic Gospels. Some will say that his Book of Revelation was some sort of mystery code written only for its day. However, John cannot be ignored if we are to grasp the essence of the Christian Faith.

What is John’s message? Can we summarize what the Spirit of God was saying through his writings? Let us say that John was the messenger of Light in a dark world. Jesus is that Light and He draws us to Himself through a community of love. From John’s First Epistle:

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.   (1 John 1:5-9)

For many people today Christianity is a self-help program. John teaches us that we must live in community, that we cannot have true fellowship with one another unless we are transparent. We must live in the Light of God if we are to have true fellowship. The only downside is that we will be exposed for who we really are. We are sinners. That is why we prefer the darkness of this world:

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.   (John 3:18-20)

If we understand the Gospel of John then we will not stop at the edge of the Light. We must enter into the Light. We must enter into Jesus. When we do we have this promise from him:

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  (1 John 1:8-9)

John’s teachings are the culmination of the season of Advent message and a declaration of the Christmas message that Jesus has come in the flesh. His Gospel is an invitation to live in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. Will that be our desire for Christmas this year? If so, how long can we make it last? It will last for an eternity if we remain in the Light.

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