Order of Service Printed in Today’s Bulletin
When God first made the promise, to human ears it must have sounded crazy: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son…” (Isaiah 7:14). The virgin will conceive? That just doesn’t happen!
But it did happen. It happened to Mary, as the Holy Spirit miraculously caused her to become pregnant with Jesus. And so we confess in the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in Jesus Christ…who was conceived by the Holy Spirit.” It sounds crazy, but God made it happen.
And so God the Holy Spirit has the power to make all sorts of other crazy-sounding promises come true too. He promises that in Baptism he will wash your sins away; he does it. He promises that the gospel is God’s power for salvation; it is. He promises that in the Lord’s Supper he’ll give us Jesus’ true body and blood; he does. He promises to make all things work for your good; he has, and he’ll continue to do so. He promises that by faith in Jesus he’ll take you to heaven someday; he will.
For, you see, ultimately it doesn’t matter how “crazy” God’s promises may sound to our ears. What matters is the power behind those promises. And just who is the power behind those promises? The power behind those promises is the Almighty Holy Spirit! So, just as God’s “crazy” promise that a virgin would conceive came true, so God the Holy Spirit will fulfill all his promises. That’s crazy all right – crazy good!
Prayer: O Holy Spirit, assure me that you have the power to fulfill all your promises. Amen.
“Hey, Don’t I Know You?” “I’m sorry, I thought you were someone else.” It is a mistake and an apology made by many people. Usually the only lasting consequence from a case of mistaken identity is embarrassment. Not so when it happens with Jesus.
There were many people who knew Jesus from young on and concluded he was Joseph’s son. They believed what their eyes told them. This case of mistaken identity continued throughout Jesus’ ministry. Some did acknowledge he could have been a prophet or possibly a teacher, but even this conclusion was eventually limited by what they saw.
There are many people today who still suffer from a case of mistaken identity. They believe Jesus is a good man. They believe he offers some great lessons for life. They even believe he could be a prophet of sorts. But the Son of God? This would be too much to accept.
As I live in a skeptical world, I need to have the right answer to the question, who is Jesus? Do I see him as a role model? Do I see him as an engaging teacher? Do I see him as a life coach? If this is all I believe Jesus is, I too have been confused by a case of mistaken identity. Unfortunately, this case doesn’t end in embarrassment, it ends in eternal separation from God.
I must have a clear understanding of who Jesus is and what he did. For this I must rely on what God has recorded in the Bible. In the Old Testament prophecies, as well as in the New Testament fulfillment of the same, Jesus is clearly revealed as the Son of God and Son of Man. He is also clearly revealed as the Savior God provided.
Through faith in God’s faithful testimony I will be spared from a case of mistaken identity regarding Jesus. As a result, I will see him as my Savior and my way to heaven. I will also see him as the source of my joy and my peace with God.
Prayer: O precious Savior, through faith in your holy Word, let me see you as you are and trust in all you have done for me. Amen.
Want in on a little secret? Here it is. I like to hold a grudge. I like to hold a grudge because it feels good. You see, when I hold a grudge, the other person is the bad guy, and I’m the victim. When I hold a grudge, I can play the part of the tragic hero and bask in my righteous indignation. Best of all, when I hold a grudge, my life is simple. I’m right. They’re wrong. And unless they come back and grovel to my satisfaction, I don’t have to strain my mind about anything.
But there’s a downside to holding a grudge. Playing the victim seems like an easy pass for a while. But over time it leaves a sense of helplessness that’s bitter and dark. Righteous indignation may taste sweet for a moment, but eventually it sours the soul. And when I hold a grudge in front of my eyes, I am blinding myself to all the ways I have failed others, all the ways I have disappointed others, and all the ways I have given others good reason to hold a grudge against me.
Maybe you struggle with the same problem.
But here’s the real tragedy. You and I are naturals when it comes to holding grudges. We’re good at it. So good that, as sinners, we’re trapped. Trapped in cycles of bitterness and resentment. Trapped with no peaceful place to go.
Which is exactly why Jesus came to invade our time and space. He took upon himself the weight of our every sin, our every failure, our every wrong. He went to the cross. He paid for them in full. Because he did, the Lord has forgiven us. It’s a forgiveness that’s complete. It’s a forgiveness that’s free.
That forgiveness is something else, too. God’s Word tells us that that forgiveness is also what gives us the power to forgive others, to release old grudges, to dismiss old grievances that have been darkening our lives far too long.
This year, throw the old grudges away. Forgive. Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, forgive me for the grudges I have held. Empower me to forgive. Amen.