Herrenhuter readings for Friday, the 26th December 2014 (2nd Christmas Day: Holiday of St. Stephens)

saintstephenCome, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters.” (Isaiah 55,1) and He who was seated on the throne said: “To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.” (Revelation 21:5-6) 

More than anything else God’s holy Word gives us his most precious promises and gifts. Just like at Christmas when those shepherds are invited to behold the glad tidings of the saviours birth and to go and find him  by following the signs highlighted by the angelic preacher. They go and they see, that all they heard is true and that God is faithful and keeps all his promises. Or just like with St.Stephen, the Churches first martyr, who is today commemorated on this 2nd Holiday of Christmas. He had heard and even proclaimed that the Lord Jesus Christ was more than the holy temple in Jerusalem. The Jesus Christ, who was innocently crucified by malicious rebells against God, was living and actually standing at the right  hand of God (Acts 7:56) with all authority in heaven and on earth, revealed himself to his faithful servant so that he saw, that all these Christian promises, proclamations and confessions concerning Christ and his works of salvation for us and all the world were true, steadfast and trustworthy. So when St.Stephen died there on the outskirts of the holy city Jerusalem it was not the catastrophe for the Christian Church, but rather his triumphant and victorious entry into the heavenly realms and into the visible and enduring presence of the highest good Jesus Christ in the company of the Father and the Holy Spirit. So much so, that he – just like his Lord and master Jesus Christ on the cross – prayed for his enemies: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (Acts 7:60) and committed his all into the good, gracious and caring hands of his Lord. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. Not in vain, but bearing fruit, which lasts forever. St. Stephen was granted the heavenly vision to share with us, who are so blind that we can’t see. He was allowed to perceive the Lord Jesus Christ in his glory to comfort him and enable his good confession, but also to strengthen and encourage us to not give up under pressure, tribulation and even the bitter pangs of death. Rather we should wait and endure patiently until we finally are also brought there, where we’ll behold, what we have here believed. Now we focus on the promises in the sure confidence that he, who has promised them is faithful and will finish the good work he has begun.

Behold, there are many who are thirsty in this world. Thirsty for life and eternity, for healing and comfort, for friendship and forgiveness, for a wholesome relation with God and fellowmen. That was like that in the times of the great prophet of the Lord Isaiah and in God’s name, in his stead and by his command he is authorised to preach and promise free waters to those, who thirst. He promises the coming saviour, who will provide this salvation and gift of eternal life. When our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns in eternity, he, who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, when he came incarnate to dwell amongst us as our brother, he fulfilled this promise here and there in exemplary fashion. He literally quenched the thirst of that Samaritan women at the well, but also satisfied that thirst of so many others – granting more than was promised with his godly abundance and power in that he even changed plain water into the most delightful wine at that festive wedding  in Kana. That’s typical of our Lord. He does more and far better even than we’d expect and could ever hope for. Just think of the wonderful gift of his final testament – the Lord’s supper of his most holy body and blood. That’s the divine feast for us poor souls and beggars – quenching our thirst for life in the most fundamental and lasting way. Granting forgiveness, peace and healing now and forever – so that having him, we don’t ask for heaven nor earth any more, but are content, grateful and heartily joyful and full of praises. He is the very spring, source and goal of life +

Now, we should remember that this very Lord, who is so good to us, suffered the most terrible thirst, tribulation and even death for us. He, who offers free drinks of pure life and salvation, himself cries out: “I am thirsty!” Suffering, what no man can imagine here – hellish fire and pain like the rich man crying out to Abraham: “I am in anguish in this flame” (Lk.17,24) But Abraham responds that there is no way from hell to heaven – and once those heavenly doors are shut, there is no way to enter anymore. There is a too late! Our Lord went through this. He was victorious in overcoming this hellish fire and desperate separation from God. He endured and overcame hell, death and devil through his victorious resurrection. That’s how he showed himself as the truth, the way and the life. He did that for us and our salvation. So that we would not succumb in the throws of death, but rather like himself and by his grace and power overcome too. That’s what was granted to St.Stephen. That’s what we hope and trust for in our final hour too.

Therefore hear the promise of our Lord Jesus Christ today as he invites you to come and drink at his living fountains of still waters of life. Listen to his friendly promises and taste, how friendly he is to you – not wanting anybody to be lost, but rather that everybody is helped, saved and comes to his blessed truth. He is the door to life, the very truth and the only way to the Father. So, come to him and drink – its for free. He has purchased it costly with his own precious blood shed for you there under Pilate and on Golgotha. Not with gold or silver – those are but passing treasures – but rather with his very own life – godly, holy and priceless – given for you into death, so that you may be rescued from sin, death and all evil and come to everlasting life and salvation by his grace, mercy and unremitting favour.  Our Lord is faithful and keeps his promises. Trust him. He’ll never fail you. Amen.

Let us sing with the wonderful confession of Timothy Dwight (1752-1817): “I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord”

1. I love Thy kingdom, Lord,
The house of Thine abode,
The Church our blest Redeemer saved
With His own precious blood.

2. I love Thy Church, O God,
Her walls before Thee stand,
Dear as the apple of Thine eye
And graven on Thy hand.

3. Should I with scoffers join
Her altars to abuse?
No! Better far my tongue were dumb,
My hand its skill should lose.

4. For her my tears shall fall,
For her my prayers ascend,
To her my cares and toils be given
Till toils and cares shall end.

5. Beyond my highest joy
I prize her heavenly ways
Her sweet communion, solemn vows,
Her hymns of love and praise.

6. Jesus, Thou Friend Divine,
Our Savior and our King,
Thy hand from every snare and foe
Shall great deliverance bring.

7. Sure as Thy truth shall last,
To Zion shall be given
The brightest glories earth can yield
And brighter bliss of heaven.

Hymn #462 The Lutheran Hymnal Text: Ps.137
Author: Timothy Dwight, 1800, ab., alt. Composer: Aaron Williams, 1770

About Wilhelm Weber jr

Rector of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Tshwane
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