Firmly rooted

Epiphany 6 – Jeremiah 17:5-8

Trees belong in a category unto themselves when it comes to plant life.  There is perhaps no living plant based organism that is harder to sustain through the early years of its life, but at the same time, once established, no living plant based organism that is more resilient through the harsh realities of life.

A perfect example of this was seen while driving to a meeting this past week.  For while driving along the highway, we drove over a valley; and at the lowest point, there was a puddle of water, the result of all the snow and ice that has come through this winter.  And in the middle of that puddle, in the lowest point of the valley, were two trees, growing in a place that they otherwise had no business growing in.

Everything that was elevated on the plain, was as flat and as barren as outsiders imagine western Kansas to be; but in that valley, where there was a source of water, there were two trees, firmly rooted, and freely soaring.

What happened to the other trees, the ones up above that should be visible on the flat plains?  Surely some squirrel would have planted a nut that could have grown into a tree over time.  Surely some bird would have dropped a seed out of its beak that could have given birth to a new tree.  Surely the wind, surely the wind, could have blown in some fresh twigs that could have taken root and sprung to new life.

And the truth is all of those things probably did happen at one point or another.

But without the water source, without being able to place down deep, solid roots; whatever sprang up, quickly died when the winds blew long and hard; or when the sun burned hot; or even when the rains came and washed away everything not nailed down.

Which tree are you?

Are you the tree that finds the water source and sends out its roots, yielding long life?  Or are you the tree that thinks it can make it on its own, only to find the realities of life a bit too much to endure, so that you wither and die?

Well, surely no one wants to be the foolish tree that withers and dies; and so no doubt, you stand here today and confess that you will be the tree that stays near the water source that yields eternal life.

But here is the thing, sometimes water is not always in the most attractive place.  The valley looks wonderful when you are standing on top and looking out over it; but in the midst of the valley, suddenly life is not nearly so appealing, surrounded by walls on every side, with no view, and where no one can see you.

Life in the valley does not always allow one to see the bright lights of the world; life in the valley is safe and secure, but that means that the excitement of life is rare, if not totally absent.  Life in the valley can in fact be bland and boring most days.

But life on top is so much more alluring.  The bright lights, the noise, the excitement, the fun and games.  Life away from the water source is where life seems so much more worth living.

Again, you say not I; as one could easily expect you to say on a Sunday morning, where you have forsaken all the other possibilities with which one could spend their time, in order that you might come here and hear the words of an Old Testament prophet.

But what about the other six days?  What about the rest of your life?

Here is in fact where roots are firmly planted; in the church, at the font and the altar.

Notice that the tree can go a long time, but it still needs the basics to survive.  How long can you go without word and sacrament?  We’re here every week.  But that seems excessive to many; can you go without food and drink for more than a week?  A month?  Longer?  How long before your roots attach themselves to something else, anything else, because they need to be sustained, even if it is by the poison of the world?

And if your roots are not being fed here; then how often is a church, with font and altar, sought after when deciding where to go to college?  This is your forsaking the bland and vanilla, with the opportunity to go anywhere to learn; and yet, what about your roots in the faith?  Will that faith be fed and nourished?

And then you come home, to wherever you have decided to make home, what now?  Where will those roots be planted now?  Will they seek out a font and altar?  Or will they sustain themselves solely on the junk food diet of work and pleasure?

And what happens when you take a spouse and you yield forth new seedlings of your own, where will they be rooted?

Suddenly you see why there are so few trees in the valley; the appeal is never in the valley; it is always elsewhere, even when elsewhere is not near the source of Word and sacrament.

And when you look elsewhere, what do you see?  You see a flat plane that stretches forth for miles, because the trees that tried to take root there, had nothing to sustain them when the realities of life struck.

Where were the baptismal waters when the fires of temptation burned hot?  Where was the nourishment of Christ’s body and blood when you needed some assurance that you were not alone?  Where was the absolution, when you noticed how deep you had strayed from the truth of God’s Word?

If you are not near the source, then when you need what the source offers, you will never find it.

The world is the barren wilderness that Jeremiah describes this morning.  You can lurch out into it; you can look around; but you will soon find yourself far away from the water source that offers life and salvation, and without that water source, you will soon die, alone, and apart from Christ forever.

Jeremiah describes the one who strays from the water source as cursed; and indeed, cursed are those who reject the things that lead to eternal life.  Cursed are those who turn their backs on the very thing that can save them.  Cursed are those who do not have roots firmly planted near a source that can continuously refresh them and sustain them in the parched wilderness of this world.

But Jeremiah does not just describe the one who is cursed, but also the one who is blessed.  Blessed is the one who sets their roots out near the streams of water that give life for eternity.  Blessed is the one who is regularly refreshed here at font and altar where the Lord comes to us Himself and offers His life giving, life sustaining gifts that offer not just the needed refreshment to survive in this world, but that which is needed to live forever in the world to come.

Now one may hear these words and think that the church is a ball and chain, which one can only travel and live within a reasonable driving distance from, for if one strays too far, they will go from being among the blessed to among the cursed.

There is in fact much to be said for that; that whenever one makes a decision in life, whether it be work or education or even an extended vacation, the question should always be asked: where will I be sustained?  Where will my roots stretch out to?

But instead of looking at the church as a chain that only allows you to travel the radius of one hour, instead, look again at the tree.

Trees start out as all plants do, as seeds, some almost microscopic.  And yet, what happens to the tree?  What starts out so small, when it takes root, will soar high above all else; lifting up, out of the valley, and into the heavens.

That is what strong, deep roots do.  They take hold, firmly clinging to that source of life, and then they can reach up into the heavens, far above all else, dwarfing all those whose roots are connected to the poison of this world.

Let your roots reach out to the source of eternal life; let your roots cling to this font and this altar all the days of your life; let your roots find themselves deeply wrapped in the words of Jesus; let your roots be planted deep in the Father’s love, so that you may soar to the heavens and live with your Father for eternity.

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What am I learning?

Image result for man in thought statue

First Lutheran Church  Plainville, Kansas

Peace Lutheran Church  Natoma, Kansas

February, 2019

Around the first of each month, church newsletters hit the mailbox and the internet.  To be honest, reading who the greeters are or whose birthday it is in another church is not that exciting to me; but what I do find interesting is reading the pastor’s article.  Now pastor’s articles in the church newsletter will always fall into one of two categories: either an overview of upcoming events in the congregation, or a devotion or mini-sermon.  To each his own.

It was in reading one of these letters that I noticed that one pastor includes each month a section on what he is learning.  Sometimes it is academic, other times it is behavioral; sometimes it is about himself, other times it is about others.

This is a proper reflection on the life of the pastor, as it is one of constant learning, which is one of the reasons that a pastor does not have an ‘office’ but a ‘study,’ though the two may look identical.

With that in mind, here is a picture of what I am currently learning.

To start off with the obvious: I am learning about the book of Samuel.  We are currently studying 1 Samuel in Bible Study; and as a history buff myself, I have always liked the easy reading of Samuel marching from one historical event to the next, not to mention all of the action that goes on in many and various battles, and some memorable Biblical accounts, like the call of Samuel, and David and Goliath.

I’m also in the process of reading a book called With My Own Eyes by Bo Giertz, which is a narrative re-telling of the Gospels written after a trip to the Holy Land; the intricate detail included in each account, such as the activities surrounding the sun rising and setting on the Sabbath Day, helps one view the life of Christ in a whole new way.

The next book on the list to read is Law & Gospel by CFW Walther.  In an ongoing, and never-ending quest, to improve my own preaching, I have been thinking a lot lately about the way in which the preaching task is taught at the Seminaries, and how it is refined and honed over the years in the congregation.  Law & Gospel is the foundation for all preaching, and reading it again, I hope to gain new insights.

In the pro-life arena, I am focusing my attention on the discussion of demographics and how they will play a role in the growing issue of euthanasia.  The population is nearing the breaking point, and the Church needs to be ready when the question shifts to what to do with the aged and infirmed, who are still valuable in the eyes of God, but who in the eyes of the state are becoming increasingly expensive to care for.

And of course, I am learning about you, both as a congregation and as individuals.  As I approach 12 years here in Kansas, I have seen a lot of changes in these communities and in how it impacts the daily lives of those who live in them.  I’ve seen growth and change in both congregations (as I’m sure you have also seen change in me), and that impacts what we do not only each Sunday, but also throughout the week and into the future.

Additional learning always occurs at conferences, both out of the area and locally at our monthly Winkels.  Even scanning through Facebook can cause the mind to ponder

Oh, do I do anything for fun?  Well, for fun, I’m reading the book Mary Poppins, which the movie was based off; and if nothing else, I keep up on the baseball hot stove, counting the days until Spring Training, or kick back on the couch and watch some college basketball.

What are you learning?

God Bless!   Pastor Schmidt

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The work never stops

First Lutheran Church  Plainville, Kansas

Peace Lutheran Church  Natoma, Kansas

January, 2019

This month, there will be another march in Washington DC, this time on January 18th.  It will be the annual March For Life held every year, on or about the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision commonly known as Roe v. Wade.

There will be a lot of people attending this march, including a good number of LCMS Lutherans.  They will march, with banners and signs, proclaiming the value of every life in the womb, no matter race, gender, creed, nationality or viability.

The march, and accompanying LCMS Life Conference that will be held at the same time were mentioned at the National Lutherans For Life conference I attended in October, encouraging those who were able to attend.

I would like to attend one day, but then I also pray that abortion would end one day, and that this march would be retired before I can get there.  At one point in fact, I believe I heard that should Roe v. Wade be overturned, the march would be held one more year, and then retired.

That is probably true with a lot of groups that are centered around pro-life and the issue of abortion.  Once a court case is overturned; once a piece of legislation passes, a lot of them would presumably fade into the background, because the mission would have been completed.  A celebration would take place, those who were so needlessly slaughtered would be mourned, and the movement would fade with the words spoken: well done, good and faithful servant.

And yet, in October, at the National Lutherans For Life conference, it occurred to me that regardless of what all the other groups did, Lutherans For Life would continue on.  For while indeed, a 1973 court decision was the call to action, the ongoing work is far from complete, and is in fact not limited just to those in the womb.

Lutherans For Life is also about protecting life when that life is bogged down with sickness and disease and age.  Indeed, while abortion numbers are down, look for assisted suicide numbers to increase in the coming years with the combination of demographic challenges decreasing the tax base, with increasing costs paid by fewer and fewer people, for that will indeed be the next challenge in the ongoing life movement.

And so the work continues until the time when Christ should see fit to come in glory; because Lutherans For Life is not politically driven.  Lutherans For Life is not based on legislation passing or on judges being appointed or even on elections being won or lost; although to be sure, all of those are on our hearts and in our prayers daily.  The work of Lutherans For Life is based on the word of God.  God says that life is precious, whether that life is just forming in the womb, or that life is living life to the fullest, or even if that life struggles to take its final breath.  God says defending all life is important, and if it is important to God, than it is important to us.

It is as we have said many times: Life Sunday is not the third Sunday in January; Life Sunday is every Sunday, because every Sunday we gather around the Lord’s altar to hear His word and receive His gifts, given to poor miserable sinners like you and me, because God, in His grace and mercy has declared that your life is valuable, so much so that He sent His one and only Son into the world so that you might live and reign with Him for eternity.

If you would like more information about Lutherans For Life, please speak to me, or feel free to join us at one of our meetings. We meet bi-monthly for study and discussion on life issues and plan how to promote life in the congregation and in the surrounding area.

God Bless!

Pastor Schmidt

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Your Savior is here

Christmas Day – St. John 1:1-14

Do you want a Savior?

That has been the question for our consideration this past Adventide.  For in the lead up to Christmas that is the question is all other areas: What do you want?  Do you want this gizmo or that gadget?  And so the natural question would likewise be: Do you want a Savior?

The initial answer is quite obvious: yes, you do want a Savior.  Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden were asked this very question: Do you want a Savior?  And they said yes!  And who wouldn’t have said yes, especially when you consider the alternative: which is instant death.  Your sins rightly deserve death and hell; and just as the lightning bolt is about to strike you, just as the earth is about to swallow you whole, here is your lifeline: a Savior.  Do you want a Savior?  Who wouldn’t want a Savior when the alternative is death?

Of course, if only it were that easy.

Which is why sometimes you actually say no to a Savior.  Oh don’t get me wrong, you like the idea of a Savior coming to rescue you, what you don’t like is the idea of giving up all of your favorite sins.  You like your sins after all, if you didn’t like them, you wouldn’t do them.  And so when the rubber hits the road, you actually do say no to a Savior, not because you want to burn in hell for eternity, but because you want to hang onto your sins for as long as you possibly can.

But you would never admit that, would you?

And so when the question is asked: do you want a Savior, your answer is maybe.  Maybe yes, maybe no, but let’s hear all the requirements and stipulations first.  Let’s hear what living a holy and God pleasing life actually means before jumping in with both feet.  Let’s read all of the fine print, before scrolling to the bottom of the page and clicking the button that says I agree.

Do you want a Savior?  Never has such simple question been so difficult to answer.  Granted, you know what the answer should be; but you also know what the answer you would like to give is; and yet so often you find yourself lost in the confusion of what to do.

And so tomorrow, when the presents have all been opened, when the living room has been restored to some sense of normalcy, when you are counting up the gift cards and the money received, and looking for receipts for needed returns to the store, what will you do with this gift of a Savior?  Will you keep Him, or will you return Him?  Will you hold onto Him for a time and then put Him out on the spring yard sale?  Or will you re-gift Him to someone else, who seems to need Him more than you?

But here is the thing about this gift of a Savior: He’s a gift; and He is for you.

Whether you want Him or not, He’s a gift for you.

Whether you think He fits into your life right now or not, He’s a gift for you.

Whether you think you need Him or not, He’s a gift for you.

Whether you asked for Him or not, He’s a gift for you.

Whether you keep Him or put Him out on the curb, He’s a gift for you.

Christ Jesus is here, for you.  God the Father looked at your life; looked at your situation; looked at whatever you were dealing with; looked at the future you faced, and decided that this is the gift that you need, this is what you want, this is what will bring about your everlasting salvation.

And so here is your gift: laying in a manger, wrapped in swaddling cloths, seemingly oblivious to all else, this is your gift: Christ, the Son of God, born of Mary, in the flesh, so that you might have forgiveness, life and salvation.

Is this what you asked for?  Not hardly, you had no idea that this was how God would save His fallen creation.

Is this what you always wanted?  Nope; you wanted sin, you wanted chaos, you wanted what made you happy.

Is this exactly what you needed?  Try again; you were convinced that your own good works would save you.

No, this Christ child, who now lays in the manger and who will one day go the cross of Calvary, is exactly what God knew you needed; exactly what God wanted for your salvation; exactly what was intended all along.

No returns allowed; no refunds given; no re-gifting, only passing along the faith to the next generation.

And that is what makes the gift of Jesus the very best gift.  The gifts that Jesus brings are always there when you need them.  There is no waiting until December 25 next year for the gift of Christ, He is here every Lord’s day.  If you don’t want this gift today, have no fear, because it will be here next Sunday, and every Sunday after that.  And it will be here all week long.  In fact, this gift will follow you home, follow you to work and school, follow you wherever you go.  Because that is what Christ does.  He does not go into the closet, or in a box in the basement, Christ is with you all day every day, bringing you His gifts whenever you need them.

Do you want a Savior?  Turns out that’s been the wrong question the whole time.  Because you don’t get to choose; you don’t get to say yes or no or even maybe.  In fact, there was no question at all; because Christmas is not a question, but a statement, a declarative fact.

Christmas is God, coming into your presence with a present of His own, and saying to you, and to all people: Here is your Savior.

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Christmas Eve 2018

Christmas Eve – St. Luke 2:4

O little town of Bethlehem, How still we see thee lie.

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep The silent stars go by.

Yet in thy dark streets shineth The everlasting light.

The hopes and fears of all the years, are met in thee tonight.

 

To sing those words, one would almost be led to believe that the town of Bethlehem was straight out of a Hallmark movie.

And yet, the truth is that it is a rough time of year to be in Bethlehem.  A census has taken this laid back little town and flooded it with people from far off places all over the kingdom.  All these people are from here, but they have also all left here; after all, there is not much to keep you in a town like Bethlehem.  And well do you know that when you put a whole bunch of people in a cramped little town, things are going to get a little uneasy.

And where there are people, there are going to be tax collectors collecting taxes on anything and everything.  Rome wants its share first to be sure; but anything over the baseline is pure profit in the pockets of the tax collectors.  That’s not going to help the reputation of Bethlehem if you have to take out a small loan just to go there.

Of course that is life under occupation.  Rome occupies the land of Israel; certainly not the worst of the nations that will rule over God’s chosen people; but anytime Israel is not free, anytime Israel is subject to a foreign pagan government, it is the wrong time to be around.

Of all things, Bethlehem makes things even worse, for coming to Bethlehem reminds every one of the good old days, though granted, they were a millennium ago.  Back then, this was David’s home town.  Back then, Israel was a force to be reckoned with, both militarily and economically.

Today?  Israel is an old penny, that has long since lost its shine.

It’s a rough time to be in Bethlehem some 2000 years ago; but how does your visit to Bethlehem today look?

No doubt you will find yourself part of a gathering; your home flooded with people, some from far off places.  It’s a little late to ask, but are you ready?  Everything is seemingly closed tomorrow, and all you will have is each other’s company; will your home be a rough place to visit?

Holidays can be a rough time of year; the movies rarely show that.

Bethlehem isn’t the only rough place to visit right now.  The economy is all over the place, and any discussion on politics should include a trigger warning to proceed with extreme caution.  Does everyone coming home just make things worse, when the games on television are over, the food eaten, and the present opened, and someone tries to ask about how things are going in this part of the world?

Like Bethlehem, the holidays can be a rough time on all involved; making one wish that it were any other time of year right now.

And yet, in the midst of Bethlehem and all its chaos; in the midst of your home and all its trigger warnings, today is the right time for the light of Christ to shine into your lives.

We are always looking for that perfect time for everything to be just right before the company comes over, before the holidays arrive, before we are willing to present ourselves in public for all to see.

And yet, what do we see in St. Luke 2?  It was far from the perfect time in Bethlehem, in fact it was the worst possible time for a Savior to come.  And yet, He came, not because it was the perfect time in our minds, but because it was the perfect time in His time.

Who should be the light that shines forth and lights up this little sleepy town, but the long promised Messiah, the one whom David himself foretold would one day come.

If there were a perfect time in our lives for Christ to come, there would be no need for Christ to come.  Yet instead, Christ comes into our world that is marred by chaos and stress and conflict, and He announces peace and forgiveness, life and salvation.

Bethlehem is far from perfect; far from that picturesque town that is on so many Christmas cards and depicted in so many movies.  Bethlehem is the home of chaos, and the perfect picture of how messed up life is in Israel right now.  And you know who comes down into the midst of the chaos of Bethlehem and the messed up lives of the people who live there and the lives of those who are just passing through?

It is Christ, the same one who comes into the midst of the chaos of this world and your own messed up lives, and announce that He is here, to bring order, to bring light, to bring salvation to all those who hear and believe on His name.

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Do you want a Savior? Maybe

Midweek Advent 3 – St. Luke 1:5-25

Gift giving can be complicated at times.  Not for family, at least not usually.  Over the years you kind of establish a pattern and history for what each family member gets and what the general budget is for each member, only occasionally going above and beyond for special occasions.

But those are hardly the only gifts you exchange.  What about co-workers and neighbors, and even close friends?  What about random gift exchanges?  How do you determine how much to spend?  How do you determine how many gifts to purchase?  How do you know when to even open the gifts you receive?  And whatever you do this year, what about next year?

Gifts are meant to be just that, a freely given item with no strings attached; and yet, as you soon discover, there are always strings attached to gifts.

And so when someone comes up to you and asks Do you want a gift?  Your response is maybe; but let me hear all the conditions first.

You even say when you are offered a Savior.

No, you say?  Look at the Lord’s Supper.  The Words of Institution could not be any clearer that the body and blood of Christ are a gift, given for you, shed for you, with no expectation of return; and yet, how many are looking for the catch?  How many are looking for what happens next, where is the bill, where is the demand for follow up?

And so the question is asked again: Do you want a Savior?

Everyone in Israel would have shouted yes, yes, yes at the top of their lungs; because they thought they knew what a Savior would be; a conquering hero who would bring back the good old days of King David.  And of course, as we saw last week, yes can quickly become no, no, no once you find out that the Savior is not an army general, and that you will have to give up your favorite sins and live a life more pleasing to God.

And yet, for many life is not lived in the extremes of yes, and no, but in the middle, in the maybe.  Do you want a Savior?  Maybe, but let me hear all the stipulations and read all the fine print first.

Is that not what Zechariah says in the temple?  The angel appears and says you are going to have a son who will prepare the way for the long promised Messiah, and all Zechariah can do is come up with excuses and reasons as to why it cannot be; why all these things are working against it happening.

Zechariah says maybe, because he doesn’t know what will be required of him, or how much will need to be done on his part for all of these things to happen.

Is that not the middle road so many try to take?  Is that not the middle road you yourselves wish you could take?

Do you want a Savior?  Maybe.  You truly do want a Savior, because you know what the consequences of your sins truly are; you know that you deserve death and hell.  But at the same time, you don’t really want a Savior because you really like your sins, even if they mean bad things in the end for you; you don’t really want a Savior who forces you to amend your life.

And so the answer is maybe.  Yes you do want the gift; but you want to hear all the requirements and make sure you read all the fine print first before you click the button that says ‘I agree’.

And yet what does the Lord say in Revelation about all those who answer maybe?  You are neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm, and so the Lord spits you out of His mouth.

The Lord hears the word maybe come forth from Zechariah, and He silences him for nine months.  He silences him because there is no room in the Lord’s Church for those who would question the intentions and desires of the Lord.

For the gift of a Savior is a true gift in every sense of the word.  There are no strings attached, no stipulations, no fine print.  The Savior comes out of the Father’s great love for His fallen creation.  The Savior comes as the long promised Messiah.  The Savior comes to bring healing and life to all those hurt by the effects of sin in this world.

The Savior comes as a free gift to those who believe.  Just as in the Lord’s Supper, where we receive the free gift of Jesus body and blood for forgiveness, life and salvation, without any bill or any fine print included, so does the Savior come in the Bethlehem manger; there is no bill and there is no fine print.  He simply comes so that you may have life, and that you may have it abundantly.

That is the gift of Christmas, there is no expectation for you to make a gift in exchange for the gift that is found in the manger, or for the gifts given in Baptism or in Lord’s Supper or in the absolution.  These are simply free gifts given out of the Savior’s great love for you.

And so we do not approach the manger in fear and trepidation; rather in confidence.  Here is your gift, here is your Savior, here is your Lord who comes with no maybes about Him.

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Do you want a Savior? No

Midweek Advent 2 – Isaiah 7:10-17

Have you ever gotten a Christmas gift, and been absolutely horrified by it?  I have; I was in high school, and for Christmas one year one of my aunts got me a pair of light blue denim jeans, with a matching light blue denim jacket.  The minute I pulled it out of the box I was revolted by the sight of it.  I had no idea what would have ever possessed her to get it, or my parents to approve it as something I would want.  I smiled politely, thanked her, and pushed it off to the side and never took it out of the box again.

There are gifts like that; not every year, but every so often, someone just completely misses the mark on what to get you.  And it takes great restraint not to throw the gift in the trash the minute you first see it.

Obviously, if you had been in the store with them when they first saw it and thought of you, you would have screamed at the top of your lungs: no!  Do not under any circumstances purchase this; save your money; if you really want to give me something, just give me whatever money you would have spent; hey, I’ll even give you a Sabbath Christmas instead of buying me a gift if all you can find is this abomination.

But only the bravest among us would say such a thing; most are like myself on that Christmas many years ago; we nod and say thanks, and never mention the gift again.

Have you ever felt that way about the gift of a Savior?

Last week you were only too happy about the gift of a Savior.  Salvation from death and hell?  Someone else to bear the burden of your sins?  Someone else who can crush the head of the serpent?  Someone else who is willing to absorb the full brunt of God’s wrath?

Last week, faced with the option of immediate death or a Savior, you chose the Savior; you chose the option that spared your life; you chose the option that all the good baptized children of God choose.  You chose the Savior, because the Savior is what you so desperately needed in that moment.

But that was last week; when you were in big trouble because of your sins.

Now you have the gift in front of you; now you have what you were long promised: a gift, a Savior.

What do you think now?

Because what happens a week or so after you receive the gift you thought you wanted so badly?  Chances are, you wonder why you wanted this in the first place.

Because there is a dark secret about your sins, though one that you would never actually want to admit: you like your sins.  You like doing what you are forbidden from doing.  You like the way it feels; you like the way others look at you; you like the rush of energy and the swelling of confidence and the sense of power it gives you.

That’s why you keep returning to your sins: you like them!  If you didn’t like them, you wouldn’t do them.  That’s the allure of sin, it makes you feel good, at least for a while.  Sin is so appealing because of the thrill, the rush, the sense of control that it gives.

And why would you want to give that up?

Why would anyone want to give that up?

And so when the offer is made, that here is your Savior, here is what you were promised, here is what you said you wanted; you suddenly shrivel up, because while you certainly do not like the eternal damnation that your sins warrant, you do actually like your sins in the moment, and would like to hold onto them for just a little bit longer.

And yet, whereas you can always return those gifts you really don’t want; or sell them on eBay or at your spring yard sale; or even just throw it out after a sufficient period of time, the gift of a Savior is quite different.

You can certainly reject the Savior of the world, and indeed many do, but that doesn’t make the Savior go away.  Christ Jesus came for the whole world, not just those who want Him, not even just for those who emphatically welcome Him with open arms.  The Savior of the world, the true gift of Christmas, is here for all people.

For His death and resurrection is not just for sins up to a certain point in time; rather His death and resurrection is for the sins of all people of all times and all places.  His death and resurrection is for all sins, past, present and future.  There is no sin that is not covered by the blood of Jesus shed on the cross of Calvary.

The death and resurrection of Jesus is even for those sins that you still cling too, even after He has come and announced to you that your sins are forgiven.

Here is your Savior, and He is here for you whether you want Him or not.

Now don’t get me wrong, if you reject Him to your dying day, than you will receive the punishment that you deserve.  But if you make the confession that Jesus Christ is Lord, if you turn from your sins and acknowledge your need for a Savior, than you will know the peace that He alone can bring.

Here is your Savior; no returns accepted; no refunds offered; no shoving Him to the back of the closet or putting Him out on the yard sale, or on the curb with the trash.  Your Savior is the gift that constantly comes to you, and that the Church on earth prays would find a welcome spot in your heart and in your home.

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