Greg’s Posts

Christmas Appearances

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14

Stories abound about apparitions – that is, an instance of something’s appearing. One of the more famous apparitions is commonly referred to as, “Our Lady of Lourdes.” A young 14-year-old girl, Bernadette Soubirous, reported that she spoke to a woman in a cave near her hometown of Lourdes, France. After her first encounter with the lady in February 1858, she had 17 more meetings with her that year.

Unlike Bernadette’s mysterious encounters, pastors regularly and most predictably experience apparitions during Christmas. They have numerous encounters with parishioners who appear at the celebration of our Savior’s birth, not to be seen for another year with possible exceptions at Easter. They come to hear, once again, the preacher in the pulpit share the story about baby Jesus.

Christmas, although filled with excitement and anticipation of celebrating the Messiah’s birth, can become a litany of appearances. Christians are crushed by shopping sprees, mandatory social gatherings and endless parties. Before they know it, Christmas fatigue sets in — often by the third Sunday in Advent. Divine worship becomes another “event” for them to attend. They make their appearances and subtly grow indifferent about the birth of Jesus.

By now, they wonder what more can be said about Christmas, and there are12 days of Christmas ahead of them! What more can be said about the birth of the Savior? For sinners there is much to share. The law has enslaved humanity under its curse. Redemption is hopeless without God’s intervention and God makes his remarkable appearance at Bethlehem; redemption has come. He came in the flesh and lived among us full of grace and truth. He is man born of woman.

God’s redemption has come for all humanity to see, touch and hear. It is no illusion conjured in the hearts and minds of men. God has come in the flesh. Simeon says it so beautifully as he takes the Savior in his arms and says,

“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples,a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel.”

May the grace and peace of God manifest among us in the Savior sustain us always in the one true hope that endures for all eternity. Amen.

Rev. Gregory Williamson
Chief Mission Officer
The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod

KINGDOM OF GOD, REFUGE OF HOPE

What is the Kingdom of God? Answer: Simply what we learned in the Creed, namely, that God sent his Son, Christ our Lord, into the world to redeem and deliver us from the power of the devil and to bring us to himself and rule us as a king of righteousness, life, and salvation against sin, death, and an evil conscience. To this end he also gave his Holy Spirit to teach us this through his holy Word and to enlighten and strengthen us in faith by his power. The Second Petition, Large Catechism

Another senseless tragedy. Americans awakened to another horrible outbreak of murders on Monday morning. Men and women went to the Navy Yard in Washington, DC to begin another work week, but instead, a lone gunman attacked and murdered them without an apparent motive. Law enforcement officers engaged the assailant, Aaron Alexis, in order to protect those under attack. Mr. Alexis was killed—either by law enforcement officers or by his own hand.

Over the next weeks, government agencies will sort through the events and produce a comprehensive report. The report, no doubt, will include the timeline of events, the murderer’s personal and professional histories, the security measures that are in place to prevent such attacks, and recommendations to improve personnel screening and methods to increase security. Lawmakers will conduct hearings and government executives will respond to questions and render their professional assessments.

Will such senseless attacks ever stop? Will men, women, and children no longer be safe in their schools, churches, work places, entertainment venues, and their own homes? People from across our nation are pondering such questions . . . again.

What can anyone do? Is it hopeless? Within the arsenal of governmental capabilities nothing exists to address the hopelessness of humanity’s condition. As Jesus said to His disciples,

With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Yet, there is hope.

The nature of humanity is desperately evil and inclined to selfishness, indifference, and pride. Laws and ordinances do suppress evil acts; yet, they do not resolve the core problem. God addresses this matter, human depravity, through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ.

God’s intervention in and through the person and work of Jesus Christ addressed sin and gave humanity the only way of hope. St. Paul wrote to the Romans of humanity’s condition and the only hope of humanity. That way is the way of Jesus Christ. As St. Paul says,

But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

St. Paul continues,

For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.”

This hope the world will never understand. Only by the preaching of Christ will mankind receive hope to endure. Nations have ascended to unparalleled heights and sunk to great depths, but the Kingdom of God remains forever. This eternal Kingdom of God is the gift of hope for sinners through the grace of God in Christ. Be assured that no man can wrest it away from the baptized in Christ, be it in life or in death. Amen.

 

Rev. Gregory K. Williamson
Chief Mission Officer