Herrenhuter readings for the 28th December 2014, 1st Sunday after Christmas and the Holiday of the holy Innocents

Bamberger_Apokalypse-_Book_with_Seven_Seals_-_The_Woman_and_the_Dragon“Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear.” (Ecclesiastes 5:1) Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:21) 

That’s a good encouragement on the morning of the first Sunday after Christmas, but probably most appropriate on most days of the year: Being more than ready to hear! Hear, what the Lord has done for us and our salvation. Hear, what the Lord wants. Hear, what the Lord has in store for us today, tomorrow and in eternity. The little baby Jesus is not all and his story does not finish with those shepherds going back home. No, this is only the beginning of his way here on earth, revealing to us the words and ways of the heavenly Father. And we should be more than willing to hear more about and from him as the day, week and year progresses. We’ll never finishing hearing from him, because of the unfathomable profundity of his knowledge, wisdom, grace, hope and mercy, which he is so willing to share and grant to us even. A life long under his care and gracious giving does not suffice to absorb and receive all he has to give – for he is rich and abundantly wealthy in resources and divine treasures. Even after an entire and extremely gifted life, we can only confess, that we are beggars and only reflect a fraction of God’s possibilities and divers options. It remains true from beginning to end – he is the creator and giving, sharing God, whereas we are but the creatures and always receiving beneficiaries. Therefore keep thy foot in the door of the heavenly realms, go to church where you can hear his holy Word preached purely, truthfully and faithfully and be most willing to hear, learn and obey his divine revelation of his will and promises. It’s your life that’s at stake.

The other side of the coin is to lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, which tends to entice and entangle us so easily. The best medicine and help against this is God’s holy Word itself. That is able to teach, admonish, reprimand, guide and protect us. And  – and that’s it’s true benefit and most precious aid and efficacious gift – it is able to save you, your soul and all and everything. God’s word is powerful to do this. In all its clarity and sufficiency it is able to work our salvation, save, forgive and grant life everlasting – just as it has the power and might to accuse, condemn and damn eternally. Therefore we should deal most carefully, diligently and faithfully with it – not letting one word drop down inattentively, but rather giving it all our attention, hearing, meditating, learning it by heart and keeping it in our heart like the blessed virgin Mary and mother of God did with those words, that the angel had said to her – and also the shepherds – and the wise men from the east. So initially we too hear and learn some key watchwords – only to extend and widen our scope and focus more and more to grasp the apostolic and prophetic words more and more, tapping forgiveness, life and salvation from them more and more and getting to know, trust and hope more and more on all that God has done for us and our salvation – then and now, here and in the world to come.

So today, we go to Church once again to hear what the Lord did to save his only begotten son from the fierce dragon, that was just so eager to crush, destroy and even devour the little saviour and his holy mother Mary (Revelation 12,1-6) and we’ll hear how in his ferocity he brutally slaughtered those holy innocents in his vain attempt to get to the one, who was to save Israel and the world, destroy the evil works of the devil and his ilk and bring the kingdom of God to those, who were in darkness and shadow of death – without hope and utterly lost. We’ll hear how, God fled to Egypt and sought shelter in Africa from persecution and found temporary refuge and sanctuary there. From the very start and beginning it all seemed like a somewhat doomed endeavour.  The dragon was just so fierce. The evil just so overwhelming and powerful. The child so fragile and helpless. However God is in control and does not grant the evil own respite or decisive victory either. Rather he flees and escapes into peace – just in the arms of his mothers and under the care of St. Joseph. What is that against the armies of Herod? Well, it was quite enough. He was in safety. He was not caught before his time and he would do and accomplish all that he was sent to do. Doing the will of the Father perfectly and while it was day. Fulfilling all that was demanded by the most holy law and divine precepts – until finally he breathed his last and said: “It is done. Into your hands o Father I commit my spirit.” We hear this, We believe and confess it. For the gospel of Jesus Christ is the power to save all that believe in it – Jews and gentiles. Thank God for it now and always.

So – let’s get ready and off to church – listening, hearing, learning, taking to heart, trusting and enjoying all that he has done for us and our salvation. Amen.

“Hark! What Mean Those Holy Voices” by John Cawood, 1775-1852

1. Hark! what mean those holy voices
Sweetly sounding through the skies?
Lo, the angelic host rejoices,
Heavenly hallelujahs rise.

2. Listen to the wondrous story
Which they chant in hymns of joy,
Glory in the highest, glory!
Glory be to God most high!

3. Peace on earth, good will from heaven,
Reaching far as man is found;
Souls redeemed and sins forgiven!
Loud our golden harps shall sound.

4. Christ is born, the great Anointed;
Heaven and earth, His praises sing!
Oh, receive whom God appointed
For your Prophet, Priest, and King.

5. Hasten, mortals, to adore Him,
Learn His name and taste His joy,
Till in heaven ye sing before Him,
“Glory be to God most high!”

6. Let us learn the wondrous story
Of our great Redeemer’s birth;
Spread the brightness of His glory
Till it cover all the earth.

The Lutheran Hymnal Hymn #83  Text: Luke 2:14
Author: John Cawood, 1819, alt. Tune: “Stuttgart”
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About Wilhelm Weber jr

Rector of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Tshwane
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