Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve 2008 Homily

Christmas/12.24.08/Fort Q & IH/Luke 2:8-14

· Christmas is all about gifts
o It really is
§ Oh sure, we teach our kids that Christmas is about something deeper and more meaningful than gifts
· Oh sure, we say that it is about more than gifts and it is more about getting together with family and friends and spending quality time together
o And no doubt this is true
§ But let us not kid ourselves
· Christmas is about gifts

· We spend hours shopping for gifts and often looking for that perfect gift for that special someone
o We go tooth and nail into the Wal-Mart to get that special doll or video game or iPod or whatnot for our kids
§ Ebay and online shopping has brought an entirely new dimension of craziness to the Seasonal shopping
· And once we have completed and conquered our Christmas shopping we bring our trophies home we wrap them and decorate them and place them under the tree
o Then we look at them, we shake them, we weigh them, we ponder them
§ Christmas is about gifts

· A gift is something that is given with no strings attached
o If it is given because of what someone has done it is not a gift but a reward or payment
§ If it is given in hopes of motivating someone to do something then it is not a gift but a bribe
· A gift is given because the giver wants the receiver to have it – that’s it.

· How many of the gifts that sit under your tree this evening would fall into that category?
o Or, to put it another way, how many of those gifts under the tree that have your name on them would you say you truly deserve?
§ That you could say honestly that you deserve those gifts because you have fulfilled perfectly what you should have as a husband, wife, father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, employee, employer, neighbour, citizen, Christian?
· Have you measured up to perfection in 2008?
o Have you even come close?
§ No. You have not. In fact you have fallen short.
· I don’t know the details. I don’t need to. You know it is true. I know it is true. Scripture in fact declares clearly
o Romans 3:23 – all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
§ We all have fallen short. We all have not measured up.

· And let’s not kid ourselves. We aren’t fooling anyone.
o Those around us see our shortcomings.
§ Those around us know we have not lived up to our responsibilities and callings as husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, employees and employers, neighbours, citizens, and Christians
· We may try and keep up appearances, and for the most part we do pretty well at it
o But those who are closest to us, they know
§ And you know.
· Scripture is true. We know it in our hearts even if we have never put words to it.
o Romans 3:23 – all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

· That’s why I think we all have an understanding of grace even if we have never given it any real thought
o We know we are not perfect. We know that others around us are not perfect. We may not call it sin… but we know what I am talking about.
§ And yet how many of you expect to find a lump of coal in your stocking tomorrow morning?
· How many of you decided that someone was rather too naughty and gave them a lump of coal?
o I doubt very much anyone here will receive a lump of coal or has given someone else one
§ But who here can honestly say they don’t deserve one?

· Christmas is about gifts.
o Our gift giving, and even our grace to others and the grace we receive from others, is a picture of a greater gift
§ The gift we have been singing about and hearing about in the Scripture readings today
· The gift that was announced to the Shepherds so long ago
o And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.
§ On that first Christmas God gave the most glorious and most undeserved gift to the world
· His Son Jesus

· 2000 years ago Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary
o Jesus, truly man, truly God, at the same time
§ God became man, took on flesh and blood, in the mystery of the Incarnation
· Of this event Christians have not stopped singing and pondering, marvelling and rejoicing
o You all know the carols, even, if you were like me and didn’t grow up in the Church, you didn’t know what they meant - but you know them
§ They are about Jesus
· They are about this glorious event that God became man
o This miraculous birth, this impossible thing that God has made possible because with God all things are possible
§ that God has become man - Christmas is about gifts

· All the gifts under your tree – they are to point you to Jesus
o All the Christmas gifts are to remind us of the greatest gift – Jesus
§ No, just as the rest of the gifts under the tree, we don’t deserve the gift of God’s Son
· We are sinners, we have fallen short
o However, God so loved the world, He so loved you, that He sent to you this gift, wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in a manger
§ The grace we might show to one another stems from this grace, the grace of God, sending us the gift of Jesus
· That He might take on flesh and live a perfect life in our place, that in that flesh He would suffer for our sins on the cross, and in that flesh rise again that first Easter and defeat death
o Jesus, the true Christmas gift, has in the flesh defeated sin, death, and the devil
§ He has done it for you
§ He gives it to you. As a free gift.
§ You receive it by grace through faith.

· I don’t know how this Christmas Season finds you.
o Perhaps you are surrounded with friends and family and joy
§ Perhaps you look at an empty chair and weep this Christmas
· Perhaps you look forward to 2009 with some fear and trepidation not knowing what it brings to you and yours
o Perhaps you walk with a great burden of guilt upon your shoulders for the sins of the past
§ Perhaps you feel shame and sorrow not knowing where you fit in or where you will be accepted
· Perhaps even being in this building this evening, the House of God, makes you feel uncomfortable, all these church people, and so on
o But hear this, and hear it well,
§ “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.

· Jesus, His love, forgiveness, mercy and grace
o He is truly the only free gift you will ever receive
§ He comes to you and for you each and every time we gather as His people for Services
· Don’t believe the nonsense that you can worship Him at home, or on the golf course, or on the lake while fishing
o That’s not true and you know it – don’t kid yourself
§ He is not there for you in the same way He has promised to come to you in His Church wrapped in His Words of forgiveness, baptismal water, and in Holy Communion under the bread and wine

· This gift of Jesus is for you, it is for all
o No, if you go to Bethlehem today you will not find Him in the manger for you
§ But He comes to you now in the manger of His Word and Sacraments
· Wrapped not in swaddling cloths, but in Words, in water, in bread and wine, in His Church
o He is here for you, that is His promise
§ This gift of God, THE Christmas gift, Jesus, is for you
· Receive Him
o Marvel at Him
§ Rejoice in His grace and forgiveness
§ For it is because of Him, this wonderful Christmas gift Jesus, that we can sing Joy to the World!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Fantasy Football Report

The Fantasy Football Season is over for another year. This year I migrated over to Yahoo! Fantasy Sports for the first time after several years at The Sporting News. I had three teams this year each with slightly different rules.

In the first league I finished the regular season in first place but in the playoffs lost and finished in 3rd.

In the second league I finished the regular season in 7th place but had a good playoffs and ended up in 5th place.

In the third league I finished the regular season in first place and finished THE LEAGUE CHAMPION!!!!!

In all three leagues I was the only Canadian. I had to represent!

I have three Fantasy Hockey teams. So far I am in 1st, 3rd, and 7th.

What I can't understand is why the Canadian Football League has not started up a Fantasy Football league?

You Know You are Canadian When...

You are in the middle of a cold snap in December and you and your wife decide it is a good time to BBQ burgers for supper.

You are standing on the deck with boots and parka on while flipping burgers in -29 degree weather and you think to yourself -- Hmmmmm, it really is not that bad when you are out of the wind.

Friday, December 19, 2008

More Snow

More snow, more snow, more snow. A white Christmas indeed around here. I took these pics out the front door of the church on my phone this morning.

Isaiah 1:18
"Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool."
This gives us a good picture of what the prophet was talking about. The white snow covers all it falls upon. This particular snow today is very fine because of the cold weather we have been having. It covers everything. Our Lord's life, death, and resurrection covers over all our sin. A day like today is a good reminder of this wonderful passage from Scripture and a good reminder of our Lord's grace and mercy.
Even New Orleans got snow this year! Check Father Hollywood's blog out to see!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Brief Thought on an Advent Hymn

LSB #347 Comfort, Comfort Ye My People

Verse 3
Hark, the herald’s voice is crying
In the desert far and near,
Calling sinners to repentance,
Since the Kingdom now is here.
O that warning cry obey!
Now prepare for God a way;
Let the valleys rise to meet Him
And the hills bow down to greet Him.

I just love the poetry in this hymn and especially in this verse.

Let the valleys rise to meet Him
And the hills bow down to greet Him

What a beautiful picture in words! Nothing impeding our Lord's coming. When our Lord returns all impediments will be removed.

What about now? The impediment we all have is a sinful heart - which leads to lack of faith and trust. However, our Lord comes - He comes to us through His Word and Sacraments. Even now, the Holy Spirit works to raise the valleys and bow the hills of your heart. Even now the Lord comes to you. He speaks, "Comfort, Comfort!"

Saturday, December 13, 2008


I am Canadian. However, I cannot help comment on the "Big 3" automaker bailout. It does effect us Canadians as well.

So, if I understand correctly, if the US government gives any money to the "Big 3" automakers they will also set up an advisor board and a so called "Czar." So, let me get this straight. The US government wants to set up an oversight board to help guide and instruct the automakers how to make vehicles? The US government wants to set up some bureaucracy to help the automakers make better cars? Can they be serious? Setting up another level of bureaucracy - and a governmental one at that - will help the automakers become more efficient? Want to bet? The "Big 3" automakers need oversight? They need Mom and Dad watching over them to make sure they make good vehicles? Then they should not be in business. If they can't figure out how to make decent vehicles on their own - since that is their business - should the US government be holding their hand? And, really, is adding the government into the mix really going to help? Refer to the poster...

Friday, December 5, 2008

On Tasers

So, here is something I have been thinking about for a while. It is not theological. I claim no expertise in the area. But, here are my thoughts on tasers.
There has been much concern lately in press reports regarding the use of taser guns by police (and in particular among the Royal Canadian Mounted Police). The claim is that taser guns are dangerous and potentially harmful and in a few cases even lethal. All of those concerns are valid I am sure. I have no doubt that a taser gun can be dangerous, harmful, and even lethal.
But here is the thing: If you don't want to be hit with a taser gun - follow the police officer's orders! The RCMP don't wander around town randomly firing their taser gun at people going about their shopping or picking up their mail. A taser gun is employed to bring a non-compliant person into compliance. A taser gun is employed if a person is not obeying the police officer's commands and is potentially seen as a threat to himself or others.
Police officers want to get home to their families safely. If they are dealing with a person who chooses not to obey their orders they are a threat. There are various ways in which that threat may be reduced or eliminated. You could physically restrain them using various methods of force (punch, club, etc) which puts the officer directly in harms way. You could shoot them - which increases the potential of fatality or serious injury to the person. Or you could use a taser gun. Yes, the potential for injury and harm is there - but less so than being shot. Also, the taser gun significantly reduces the risk for the police officer as he does not need to go into physical combat. The taser gun protects the police officer - and let's not forget why we have to discuss this to begin with - the person is not obeying the police officer's commands!
Everyone is concerned about the risk that the taser gun represents to the person being hit with it. I have not heard many people comment on the risk a non-compliant person poses to the police officer. So from what I can see a taser gun is a reasonable weapon for a police officer. If you choose to disobey a police officer's commands you will suffer the consequences - and you ought to! When you disobey the officer's commands you put him at risk. The taser gun reduces that risk. Seems fair to me.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


I saw this somewhere....

Monday, December 1, 2008

What I Love About Advent

I love the Season of Advent because of the Scripture readings and themes and hymns heard in Divine Service. Those elements heard on Sundays and during midweek Services provide the theme for each day leading up to Christmas. As a preacher I love the texts for Advent and the hymns that accompany them.

I think it is important to observe Advent and not Christmas until it is Christmas. I think it is healthy so that Christians would celebrate Christmas during the twelve Days of Christmas and focus on that period of time rather than the period of time October - December 25. Though, I am not quite as concerned about it as I once was. During Divine Service I observe it rather strictly but outside of the Divine Service I am not too worried.

The Season of Advent has a penitential aspect. Quite different than the festive atmosphere that often accompanies much of December with office parties, school parties, etc. the Church observes a period of repentance and reflection. Preparing for our Lord's return is a theme that runs throughout all of Advent. How does one prepare for His return? Our Lord prepares us through bringing us to repentance. What a contrast to much of what happens in December.

Advent is a season of anticipation. It is a longing for our Lord Jesus. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.