Tag Archives: Bethlehem

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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Christmas Day: Proper II

mangerThe Greatest Gift of All

These readings are traditionally used during the Christmas Day service in many liturgical churches.

Homily for Adults

Christmas is an exciting time. Children have been anticipating the day all year. The Jewish people were waiting for their Messiah for a very long time. In fact, they had not heard from a prophet for four-hundred years. Were they now ready to hear directly from God? Are we ready?

Can we imagine how excited the shepherds were when they heard a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”   (Luke 2:14)

The shepherd could not have fully understood what the angels were saying, but they did not sit idly by:

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.  (Luke 2:15-16)

The message to the shepherds is a universal message from God. How do we respond to it today? We are talking about the greatest gift of all. Do we receive it? Do we unwrap it? Children do not need to be told to unwrap their presents.

The Apostle Paul helps us unwrap God’s gift:

When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.   (Titus 3:4)

Part of unwrapping Christmas is understanding and receiving the new birth in Christ. This gift from God is for each one of us, but we must acknowledge it with thanksgiving. We cannot take it for granted. It is not meant to be set aside and forgotten.

An often neglected part of unwrapping Christmas is the receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit is for our renewal. God will pour his Spirit on us and into us. This is the Spirit which leads us into all truth and fully explains all that Jesus has taught us and is still teaching us.

If we have received God’s gift, then we, like the shepherds, will have cause for great celebration:

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.   (Luke 2:20)

Are we excited about the greatest gif of all enough to want to unwrap it and share it with others?

 

Homily for Children

Gather the children together up near the altar. Give them a chance to settle down and feel comfortable.

Homilist: Do you enjoy getting gifts at Christmas?

   Kids: Yes!

Homilist: Do you like unwrapping them?

   Kids: Of course!

Homilist: How can you tell that a gift is yours?

   Kids: It has my name on it.

Homilist: Would you like to wait a little while before opened your gifts?

   Kids: No!

Homilist: What would you do with a gift when it has been opened?

   Kids: We would look at it and maybe play with it!

Homilist: What if you got the Greatest Gift of all time and your name was written to it? Would you not unwrap it?

    Kids: No way!

Homilist: Now remember that you have to send thank-you notes to everyone who has given you a gift.

    Kids; Yeah, we know. But what about that gift you were talking about? What kind of gift is it?

Homilist: It is a gift from God.

   Kids: Wow! What is it?

Homilist: The birth of His Son Jesus who came to the earth for us.

    Kids: Oh! The baby Jesus.

Homilist: Why is His birth important?

    Kids: Because He came to save us?

Homilist: Yes. Do you think everyone who knows about this gift should unwrap it?

   Kids: If their name was on it.

Homilist: Everyone’s name is on this gift!

   Kids: What do you mean unwrap it?

Homilist: Take it out of the box and play with it.

   Kids: Jesus wants to play with us?

Homilist: Yes, and after we do we should send Him a thank-you note.

    Kids:  Can you send a note to heaven?

Homilist: He is listening to us and He is always with us. If we just say we are thankful He would hear us.

     Kids: Oh! When should we thank Him?

Homilist: Every day. Wouldn’t it be sad if someone didn’t open God’s gift?

     Kids: No way. They have to open it.

Homilist: I want to read a verse from scripture to you:

Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.   (Ephesians 2:4-8)

Homilist: Do you see that grace is a gift of God?

   Kids: Yes. But do we really have to send God a thank-you note?

Homilist: Let me read you this scripture:

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.   (Romans 10:9-10)

Homilist: God needs us to thank Him with our mouths.

   Kids: Can we do that now?

Homilist: Yes, and at each new day we need to thank him for the greatest gift of all.

Amen.

Obviously this homily is not a script to be memorized by the children. It will not do the homilist any good to memorize it either, because at some point our listeners are going to take off on a tangent. This advice from our Lord apples:

“Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”   (Luke 12:11-12)

What is desired is a dialogue with the children. They are a fearsome force to face, but with patience, listening carefully what the children may be saying, and waiting on the Holy Spirit, some good may emerge. We need to have courage and place ourselves fully in the hands of the Lord.

SaveSave

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