The birth of a certain child two thousand years ago in Bethlehem prompted a poet in the nineteenth century to ask a very uncommon question in a hymn: “What Child Is This?” It was an uncommon question because it asked about the birth of a very uncommon child.
What Child Is This? The angel who announced this child’s birth on Christmas Eve answered the question this way: “a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” The hymnwriter answered it this way: “This, this is Christ the king.” They both want to make known the identity of this child.
The goal of this year’s Advent series is set before the hearer the unmatched blessing of the Lord’s incarnation. Our hymn helps us in this regard by making connections that we might not otherwise make. The sermon series draws upon the themes of Holy Scripture and teaches us to appreciate the full range of blessings that are ours through faith in the child who is God from before the foundations of the world, and who was born of the Virgin Mary. Confronted and comforted by this reality, with penitent and hope-filled hearts, we join to sing: Haste, haste to bring Him laud,” “Hail, hail the Word made flesh,” and “Joy, joy, for Christ is born, the son of Mary!”
Our first Midweek Advent service will be Wednesday December 5th. We will begin each week at 6:30pm with a meal, followed by our service at 7:15pm. Our text will be Luke 1:5-25 and our theme will be “The Child Who Is Zechariah’s Hope”. Our second Midweek Advent services will be December 12th. Our text will be Luke 1:26-38, “The Child Who Is a Virgin’s Great Son”. We will conclude our Advent services on December 19th with Luke 1:39-45, “The Child Who Is John’s Joy”.
You are invited to join us Christmas Eve December 24th at 6:00pm for our Children’s Christmas Eve program followed by a time of fellowship and snacks. Then our Christmas Eve Candlelight Service begins at 7:15pm concluding our Advent Series with Luke 2:1-14 “The Child Who Is the Lord”.
Please join us as we reflect on the Scriptures and the beloved hymn to proclaim the story of the little human Child who is also fully God, who took on human flesh so that “Nails, spears shall pierce Him through, the cross be borne for me, for you”. He is the Lord in human flesh, our Savior, the joyous answers to the question, “What Child is This”?
At 10:00am Christmas morning we pull out all the stops for our Christmas Day celebration. God’s blessings this Advent season and may you have Merry Christmas!
Pastor Jonathan Bontke
Every Divine Service begins with the prepositional phrase, “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” We can’t hear these words spoken by the pastor and not remember that they were the same words spoken over us at our baptism. Jesus said in Matthew 28:18-20 "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." So what do these words mean? And why do we begin each worship service by the pastor speaking them and us saying our Amen to them?
First of all these words teach us that God is one and there is no other. Jesus didn’t say baptize in the “names” of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He said “name” singular. There is one God who reveals himself in three distinct persons. The Father who protects and preserves us from all the dangers and evils of this sinful world. The Son who redeemed us, paid the price for our sins with his own innocent suffering and death. And, the Holy Spirit who creates saving faith in our hearts covers us with the holiness of Christ and keeps us in the one true faith.
It is upon this one name and this one Triune God that we call as we come into his house and seek to have communion, fellowship with him, and receive his gifts. It is the Name he put on us in the water of holy baptism when those words were first spoken over us. The Lord attaches this beautiful promise to his name, 1 Kings 9:3 “I have consecrated this house that you have built, by putting my name there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time.” The Lord promises that where his name is there his eyes and heart will always be to watch over and care for us. Jesus himself says, Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
So our service begins where it all began for us. It begins remembering that God put his name on us and declared us to be his own children forever, warts, sins, sickness and all. We fill in the first words of the sentence with the only words that assure us we are worthy to stand before our almighty God and call upon him for grace and mercy – the words, “I am baptized”, and the pastor finishes the sentence, “in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Together we say, “Amen.”, which means “Yes, Yes, Let it be so.”
“I am baptized”, are words that don’t need to be spoken aloud. They are the words faithful hearts speak continually without end, pointing us again and again day after day to the one sided covenant God made with us, “I am your God and you are my child.” We can doubt our faith is strong enough, and we can certainly know our righteousness is not enough to make us worthy of God’s presence and blessings, but there is no room for uncertainty when we remember our baptism and the promise God made when he put his name on us. “You are mine. Welcome to my House. Enjoy my blessings.”
What Child is This?
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit?
A Thought for October
We recognize that someone is not alive when she or he stops breathing. One of the first things done in an emergency is to give cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, to ensure that cells, brain, and body do not die from lack of oxygen. Adam was but a lump of clay before God breathed life into him. It wasn’t until God “ breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” ( Genesis 2:7) that Adam became a living creature, Without that breath, none of us would be.
Like the breath in our bodies. God’s Word is needed in order for us to live. Paul writes that all Scripture is breathed out by God ( Timothy 3:16). By hearing God’ Word, we gain faith, and through that faith, we believe in everasting life through Jesus Christ. We celebrate the Reformation today, thankful for the Gospel that was restored once more to its rightful place in the church.
As children of God, baptized in His holy name, we are not mere lumps of clay. We are living, breathing examples of the love He has for us. That love is peppered throughout Scripture, A whole book detailing how God loved the world so much that He went to great lengths to save it. Grace alone, faith alone, and Scripture alone, we are saved.
Pastor Jonathan Bontke
A FEW GOOD WORDS