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The True Meaning of Christmas




The new church year has begun! You can always tell because stores are crammed with Santas, red and green ribbon, and flashing, artificial Christmas trees. There’s nothing like preparing for the “true meaning of Christmas” in the Advent season with visions of commercialism dancing in our heads. 
(In case you missed it, that’s sarcasm….) 

Advent has lost its meaning in our country. Instead of using it as a time to contemplate our spiritual weakness and to look for the coming of the Savior, we fill it with “what to buy for whom” and “who is coming to Christmas dinner and what to cook for them”. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like presents as much as the next guy and I REALLY like to eat but to have them as a priority this time of year kind of defeats the purpose that our spiritual forefathers set for our soul’s growth. The liturgical calendar (pericopes) is there for a reason. It aids us in refocusing on what truly is important, year long.

Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things (earthly needs) shall be added to you.” (Mt. 6:33) “Zeroing in” in our sins and the need to repent during this time of year and lifting up our heads and hearts to the One Who created and redeemed us, we find, again and again, that which is most important. Let us remember that the “red” colors prevalent symbolize the Son of God’s blood that was shed for our salvation. “Green” reminds us of everlasting life and Santa….well, he was a real pastor whose main love was to proclaim the Savior’s life, death and resurrection for us.  So, let us daily repent and trust in Him Who came for us and for our salvation.

He is coming again! Rejoice and prepare your hearts! In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Thanksgiving Sermon

                                          Thanksgiving

Text( Luke 17: 11-19) Subject (Why Should We Give Thanks?) Theme (1. Because Jesus shows pity. 2. Because Jesus shows power. 3. Because Jesus gives praise.)

     In our text this morning, Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem to die. He would cross the Jordan River in Galilee, go south, cross again at Jericho and head toward Jerusalem along with other Jewish Passover worshippers. This was the customary path for Jews because of the hostility that existed between Samaritans and Jews.

     Samaritans, as you may remember, were a racial “cross” between the Jews and non-Jews; mostly the Jews old enemies, the Babylonians! The religion of the Samaritans was an odd “cross” too; one of the Hebrew faith and pagan Babylonian religion.  Of course, they hated each other!

     One of the ten men in our text is a Samaritan. But all of them were afflicted with the same disease; leprosy. In those days, there was no known cure. It was, eventually, fatal.

     In the Old Testament, over a full chapter (in Leviticus) is devoted to this awful ailment of leprosy. The law of God said that a leper must wear clothes that have been torn, no covering for his head was allowed, he must cover the lower part of his face, and cry out the words, “Unclean! Unclean!” whenever he met someone who did not have the disease. They were, also, not permitted to go near others who were healthy. They must live alone; outside of town.

     In our text, Saint Luke writes, “Now it happened as (Jesus) went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’” Jesus met ten lepers who, in accordance with Jewish law, “stood at a distance” and “said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” Notice that race and religion no longer mattered (socially) to them. They were together because that was the only way they could be heard; Jew or not! Notice, too, that the Bible, in the original language, does not say, “They yelled out”! Why? Because their vocal cords, which normally allowed a person to increase one’s volume when “yelling”, were gone; rotted out by the awful disease of leprosy!  They had to unite in hoarsely saying the words in order to be heard. “Jesus, master have mercy on us!”

     They wanted to be healed, yes, but even more importantly they wanted to be back with their families and friends! For those who had faith, I am sure they wanted to be able to hear the Word of God again! Remember, they were absolutely cut off from the Temple; forbidden to even get close to where the Word of God was read and proclaimed!

     If, God forbid, we were stricken with such a disease that we had to be quarantined, how would we feel? There are deadly viruses about that cause people to be cut-off from their families and friends; for which there are no cures. Think of the loneliness, the pain of being separated from your loved ones and friends forever! As we lay there, imagine not being able to hear the Word of God ever again! No comfort, no assurance and constant pain. Such is the condition of the unbeliever today. They walk this earth as “spiritual lepers”; “unclean” and without God; their consciences constantly convicting them.

     The ten men in our text today begged for mercy. They depended on Jesus for healing and salvation. They trusted Him. We are not sure how they heard of Him, although at this point in history, it is not difficult to imagine the different avenues of “news”. For four years Jesus had traveled that area; hassling the Church leaders, intriguing the Roman leaders, healing the dying, curing the sick and raising the dead! Good news, even back then, got around fast! And somehow....the ten lepers believed.  Jesus “got to them”.

     How did Jesus get to us? We have had, what some may call, “minor healings”; like colds, the flu, chicken pox, etc.. But God also had “mercy” on us in our Baptism and through His Word of forgiveness. Are we, truly, thankful for that, too?

     Most importantly, God cleansed us spiritually; we who were “lepers”(so to speak); making us whole in His eyes through the blood of His Son. Our spiritual hearts were miraculously changed as the water and the Word of grace swept into our souls; making us new creations. “Oh give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good. And His mercy endures forever.” Amen, indeed!

     We, too, can identify with the feelings of the lepers in our text! Christ has shown us His pity and mercy.

     But the ten lepers were not healed right away! Our text says, “So when (Jesus) saw them, He said to t hem, ‘God, show yourselves to the priests.’ And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. So Jesus answered and said, ‘Where there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?’”! Something had moved the  hearts and minds of the former lepers to go to the Temple as Jesus had commanded. The question, “Hey, why should we ‘go to the priests at the Temple?’”,never came up! There was absolutely no reason whatsoever for them to go to the Temple priests but they found themselves going anyway....in faith; trusting the Word of Jesus.

     Why have we been so blessed? The majority of the people in this world have no car, do not own a home and have no idea what it means to have a “bank account”! The majority of the people of this world go to bed in terror; hoping to see the light of the next day for fear of God. But we, praise the Lord, not only are blessed with earthly things, we go to bed knowing that God has forgiven us all our sins. We rest in the wounds of Jesus, Who awaits us in Paradise. Many of us pray just before falling asleep, “....and if I die before I wake, I pray Thee Lord, my soul to take. And this I ask for Jesus’ sake. Amen.” What blessed peace and comfort are ours in Christ. What a joy it is to trust in Jesus’ Word; just like the lepers.

     The lepers found themselves cleansed as they walked and we, too, have found ourselves “cleansed” by the blood of Christ as our parents walked away with us from the Baptismal font. Also, as our hearts heard the message of salvation for the first time, we, too, found ourselves walking as those cleansed; “whiter than snow” through Him Who purified us. Are we thankful? Amen!  J

     But...in our text, only one of the ten who were cleansed came back to thank the Lord. Notice that it does not say that the nine fell away from the Lord. Perhaps they did or maybe their immature faith did not allow them to do what the Spirit of the Lord was prompting them to do; “Give thanks”.

     Whether they had fallen into unbelief or permitted their love for their families and friends to overwhelm their new-found faith, we don’t know. But only one out of ten came back to thank the Lord for cleansing them; physically and spiritually.

     Imagine their hearts now! “I can see my wife and kids again! I can go to the different shops and talk to my friends and smell the good smells of the bakery again! .....I can go to worship and hear God’s great love for me.” Perhaps, eventually, they “came to their senses” and gave thanks. I like to think so.

     The Samaritan came back and, with his new “loud voice glorified God.” The Holy Spirit, working within him, moved him to thanks and praise.

     But Jesus was sad and disappointed. He asks, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?”  God expects our entire lives to be a thank-offering to Him Who is the source of all good things; whether that be grades at school, a raise, a new car, good health, etc.. “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.”

     How blessed we have been. At work the Lord looks after us; preventing tragedy after tragedy. At school, we are blessed with teachers who bestow upon us needed knowledge. The hands of our physicians and nurses are guided by an unseen Source and, best of all, we have the Word of the Gospel given to us; at home, at worship and wherever we read It. Tremendous blessings!

     In our text, Jesus praises the “foreigner” (the Samaritan) for coming back and giving Him thanks. Jesus said, “’Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?’ And He said to him, ‘Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.’”We who were spiritual “foreigners” and who are now God’s children shall hear the Lord’s praise on the Last Day. God Himself shall announce to all people who ever existed, both believers and unbelievers, all the wonderful things He did through us; His children.  You see, every “good work” done, is the action of the Holy Spirit living inside us! As Paul says in Philippians, “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” God “works” in us who believe.  Isn’t it interesting to note that the word Jesus uses in our text, in saying, “Your faith has made you well.”, can also be translated, “Your faith has made you saved.” !? Using the same word that is used in our text, Saint Paul again says, in Ephesians, “By grace are you SAVED/healed, through faith, not by works. It is the gift of God”. Saint Peter, too, uses the same word, saying, “Baptism now SAVES/heals you.”! You see, God, Who gave us saving faith in our baptism and through His Word, sent the Holy Spirit into our souls, and has “healed” (or “saved”) us eternally; the best kind of healing! J Amen? And the Lord will say, on the Last Day, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.” So, while multitudes in our country only take one day a year to thank their Creator, let us DAILY give praise and thanks to Him Who provides our tables, our bank accounts, our bodies, etc., with many blessings. And best of all, let us give thanks to Him Who “healed” us from our spiritual “leprosy” of sin; bringing new life and salvation to our souls. “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.” As the old hymn says, “It is well with my soul.” Thank God in Heaven! In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

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