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Sunday, December 25, 2016

12252016 CHRISTmas Day - "A Partridge in a Pear Tree"

December 25, 2016
A Partridge in a Pear Tree
This morning we gather here in the church on the mountain top one could say of one of the two most important celebrations for the church.  Christmas is the opportunity for the church to firmly and faithfully declare the entrance of Jesus Christ with our celebration of His Birth.  It is a day that many families hold as sacred for gathering together to share a meal and enjoy one anothers company.  And clearly it is the pinnacle of the 12 Days of Christmas Song.
For today is in fact, the First Day of Christmas.  Hence, why today we end our series with “A Partridge in a Pear Tree”.  We have throughout the season of Advent learned of the connection with the Apostle’s Creed, the faithful disciples, the law given by Moses, the fruits of the Spirit, the blessed teachings of Jesus, the gifts of the Holy Spirit and our personal connection with the days of creation.  We have heard of the history of man’s fall from grace, God’s answer in the Gospels, the virtues of the Christian life and how the two testaments trace the history of the promise of a Savior.  And today we are not only at the foot of the Christmas Tree, but the pinnacle.  Today we hear and sing about Jesus Who is “A Partridge in a Pear Tree”.
Unlike most of the birds to be sung about during the next 12 Days of Christmas, “A Partridge in a Pear Tree” not only is about Jesus Christ, but specifically how Jesus Christ was willing to be hung from a tree.  This reference to “A Partridge in a Pear Tree” is of Jesus willingness to walk to the Cross of Calvary for me and for you.  Yet, today since we heard and sung about Jesus appearance in the manger, why do we jump 30+ years to Jesus death, by referencing the Cross.
There is a simple explanation, because today is the one day we need to understand that this Baby Who was foretold in sacred story, Who lies in the manger on the hay that was to feed the livestock.  This Child wrapped in swaddling clothes that came into this world in a stable because there was no room in the inn.  This Child “A Partridge in a Pear Tree”.  He is the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ.  He is the sacrificial lamb that comes in order that we might have eternal life.
Today we gather to celebrate the Greatest Gift of love, Jesus Christ, “A Partridge in a Pear Tree”.  Jesus Christ came to offer Himself out of His great love for each and every one of us.  For it is Jesus Christ Who gives of Himself willingly in order that we might have eternal life.  Hence why we have the greatest opportunity to remember for the next 12 Days the gifts God gives unto us, especially of His Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ.

May our celebration today not stop with our stockings hung by the chimney with care, nor on our porches for the goodies left by friends, nor even in our mailboxes as we exchange Christmas greetings.  May our celebration not end with the gifts under the tree, but may each and every one of our hearts find true celebration that represents the real reason for the season, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ “A Partridge in a Pear Tree”.  AMEN.

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12242016 Christmas Eve Late - "His Bed is Made - The Straw of the Manger"

December 24, 2016
His Bed is Made – The Straw of the Manger
Tonight we gather to celebrate Jesus Christ’s birth.  We gather around a simple manger to peer in on a small innocent child wrapped in swaddling clothes and laying in a makeshift bed because there is no room in the inn.  Tonight, Jesus Christ, Savior of the World is surrounded in a lowly manger by simple straw.
Some use straw as bedding, others use it to feed animals and still others only encounter it in the wind as they drive down the interstate and see a blade pass quickly by or when it is pulled out of the grill of their car or truck.  But the straw that cradles the Christ child isn’t ordinary straw.  It’s meaning can be found in the annals of Creation, the bins of combines, hay rakes and even some kids hair or clothes that have played on the round bails or from the hay lofts in many a barn.  But tonight the hay that cradles the Savior of the World is the only cushion Jesus knows in a lowly manger in a small inn on a back alley in the City of David, Bethlehem.
For tonight the question should be asked, how have we who gather here prepared our hearts as we come on bended knee to the manger?  What do we bring to the manger as our gift and simply is it enough?
Once a family had come on hard luck, the sole bread winner had been let go right before Thanksgiving.  The parents of three children were uncertain what the future held, but decided that for one Christmas, their family would break from their tradition of giving each other lavish Christmas gifts due to the present circumstances.  While sitting around the table deciding what to do, Ann the mother received an inspiration.  Why not this Christmas give each other the gift of love and service that would be represented by small bits of straw that would be laid in the family crèche that they used every year.
This year, their Baby Jesus would not be placed in the manger until Christmas Eve so for the entire season of Advent the family would anonymously perform acts of love and service to one another.  By lot every Sunday the family would pick a name for whom the acts of love and service would be rendered.  And with every deed a small blade of straw would be placed in the manger.
During these few short weeks the house was full of kindness and love like they had never experienced before.  The love shared and shown was clear, because there were fewer spats’ and squabbles and less shouting matches.  Weekly the increase in straw would be noticeable only to the most discerning eye.  And with one day left before Christmas Eve the family gathered to pick names for the last time.  John the oldest was last and in an instant, his face became a rush of emotions.  You see John unbeknownst to everyone had picked his younger sister Julie’s name each and every week.  Like most siblings John and Julie had a strained relationship.  But this was the last straw, John couldn’t take it or do it anymore.  He shot from the table with the words, “I can’t”.
John’s mother Ann let him alone for a few minutes and finally found out the truth of the last four weeks.  In desperation to keep her family together for this last Christmas before John joined the military, Ann suggested she and John switch names, with the understanding this would not be cheating.  John surrendered and finally agreed.
That night as Ann went to Julie’s room to anonymously turn down Julie’s bed for the night.  In utter shock she found that Julie’s bed was already prepared for her tonight.  Turning to leave Ann thought, John did have one final straw to place in the manger to make Jesus bed comfortable and complete.  
Tonight, our culture would ask, what final straw do we need to place in the manger?  But tonight, we need to understand that the final straw isn’t placed in the manger by us, but it is found in the sacrificial gift of the Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger named Jesus Christ. 

For the straw that Jesus places and finds the most comfortable in the manger is the gift He gives us with His entrance into the world to give us the gift of eternal life.  May the straw of the manger we find this night remind us of God’s gift of love in His Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ Who comes to seek and save all of mankind, but especially each and every one of us who understand the last straw is found in Jesus Christ gift of love for us of eternal life as He is placed in the manger on the bed of straw.  AMEN.

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12242016 Christmas Eve Early Service - "Are you ready for Christmas?"

December 24, 2016
Are you ready for Christmas?  Have you prepared your heart for the Greatest Gift?
Tonight we gather on the holiest of nights for the church to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  Our families have travelled for many miles to ‘come home’.  The house smells with all the preparations for the celebration of Christmas, with freshly baked cookies and pies, hot punch, hams and turkeys ready to be prepared and devoured with all the traditional trimmings.
The church has been decorated, the wreaths placed around the altar and here in the sanctuary.  The lights have been lit, in the window sills, on the altar and very soon in our very hands as we sing our traditional hymn of “Silent Night”.
For some tonight Wal-Mart is the last stop before heading home for the night, because there is one item needed for the feast or one last gift that needs to be bought and wrapped.  Yet, the question remains, “Are you ready for Christmas?” 
Once there was a child that grew up on the wrong side of the tracks.  He came from a family of hard coal mining workers, but the family barely scraped by.  One particular Christmas Eve the young boy had attended the early service at his church, since he only lived a few doors down from the church.  After the service, knowing he hadn’t placed anything in the plate when it was passed by, this young man so moved by the Christmas experience, returned to the open church with his beat up red wagon with his favorite nite-nite blanket.
Hours later, the Pastor returned and began to prepare for the late service.  To his great horror, he found that Baby Jesus had been stolen from the manger scene by the altar.  Thinking that one of the elders had placed Him in the choir loft in preparation for the procession, the pastor dashed and searched for the priceless piece of art.  As he on bended knee looked under every pew, he heard the thud of the heavy wooden doors and the squeak of a small figure with a little red wagon.
Frozen in time and space, unable to move, the Pastor on bended knee watched the small boy move quickly to the front of the church.  Unmistakably the small boy lifted out of the blanket the Baby Jesus and the Pastor heard this quick exchange.  “I’m sorry I couldn’t give any money this evening, but I hope you were warm enough when I took you out to see the stars.  I love you Baby Jesus.”  Quietly he kissed the figure and placed the wrapped Baby Jesus back in the manger and quickly left.
Still on his knees in awe, the Pastor understood that what he had just witnessed was the purest preparation for this Holy Night.  You see, tonight is not about gifts that will go under the tree, food that will be cooked in the oven, nor about the lights that our houses are decked with.  The question we need to ask ourselves, “Have you prepared your heart for the Greatest Gift?”  You see the greatest gift that we celebrate is the gift of Jesus Christ.  The preparation of our hearts isn’t about what is under the tree or in our ovens, but have we prepared our hearts for Jesus?
Jesus Christ Whom we find tonight in the manger is laid in the manger, because there was no room in the inn.  Jesus Christ, Who is laid in the manger freely walked on this earth to the Cross of Calvary in order to die.  Jesus Christ Who is laid in the manger took on Human form and willingly comes to offer us eternal life.  Jesus Christ, Who is laid in the manger tonight is clearly and unmistakably the Greatest Gift ever given.
Since Jesus Christ is the Greatest Gift, I return to the question, “Have you prepared your heart for the Greatest Gift?”  For the Greatest Gift has been prepared for you from the beginning of time, and no matter our home or personal preparation, it is not enough.  Simply, Jesus Christ came to offer us freely the Greatest Gift of eternal life.  Tonight, it is my prayer that we may receive the Greatest Gift Given in Jesus Christ and feel His Love, that we might receive the Forgiveness He clearly offers us with His presence in our lives, but especially in each and every one of our hearts.  For tonight we celebrate Jesus Christ entrance in a manger, but really tonight we receive the Greatest Gift with His entrance into each and every one of our hearts.  AMEN.

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

12222016 Funeral Sermon for Jessie Alice Jacobs Owens Enfield

December 22, 2016
Funeral for Jessie Alice Jacobs Owens Enfield
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer!!  AMEN!!

Let us pray!  Heavenly Redeemer, we gather today knowing that the veil of death has been drawn, and that as we mourn Jessie’s entrance into eternity, we believe Your Words of comfort and preparation for her and us today.  For the grace You offered Jessie in Holy Baptism has been fulfilled with her entrance into eternity.  Enable all of us who gather to hear and receive the truth of the Gospel to comfort and keep us and help us to not only hear, but heed the Gospel message You offer through Your Son Jesus Christ.  For this message is offered out of Your great love for us and found completion in Jesus Christ Who came in order to die so that we might have eternal life.  May this truth of the Gospel comfort us and enable us to trust in Your Son and Jessie’s Savior, Jesus Christ.  AMEN.

This morning as we gather, I cannot help but think about something that was shared as the family and I gathered to prepare for this morning.  The truth is, we are only two days until one of the biggest family holidays of the year of Christmas.  For Jessie, holiday’s were ‘big’ and no one could say ‘no’ to her, since she was the ‘hub’ that connected her family.  Jessie as a loving and devoted wife, mother of three children, would always be the hostess with an eye at serving her family and friends whether green beans, cookies to send home or always looking how she could serve others, even when others were trying to serve her.

Bud summed up the gift we knew in Jessie very clearly and very well in what he penned and passed to me while visiting at the funeral home.  Bud wrote, “What was Jessie really like?  She was thoughtful, kind and caring to all!”  Truer words could not be written.  Jessie’s love for others endeared her to so many people, family, friends and even those who had the privilege to be taught by her whether in Sunday School or in bible study. 

Martin Luther in his catechism wrote, “we are to teach our children.”  And Jesse exemplified this not only with her own children, but with countless others that she gave bibles to here at Emmanuel and taught the true meaning of the Gospel and what Jesus Christ had done on the Cross of Calvary for all of mankind.

This spirit of service and ‘unconditional love’, Jessie clearly and emphatically lived her entire life, even to the very end.  For Jessie blessed so many people that her path either intersected with locally or when she was serving in many different capacities in the church, that even included missions to the Indians.  Here at Emmanuel Jessie was instrumental in giving bibles to children and teaching them the stories of the Holy Scriptures and the love God had for her she shared with others as she was the hand crafted mirror to reflect God’s love into each and every one of their lives.  Jessie clearly demonstrated a life of love, service and faith instilled and given unto her by her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ when she was grafted into the tree of life through her baptism into Jesus Christ life, death, but especially His resurrection.

When the Water connected with the Word of God gave Jessie the gift of faith, this gift of grace was clearly manifest, lived and demonstrated not only in her ‘unconditional love’ of others, but her connection with more people than can be counted.  Yet, Jessie’s connection with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ in Holy Baptism was even more clear and present because if the doors of the church were open, she was here worshiping, serving and living out the calling of her faith in Jesus Christ.

It was clear to me as Pastor when I would visit Jessie and Bud in their home, ministry was not me to them, but it was going to be a mutual sharing of God’s unconditional love for each of us found in what Jesus Christ had accomplished on Calvary.  I knew I would be sitting at the feet of not only a person of faith, but a child of God who knew the Shepherd of her life, Jesus Christ.  And Jesus not only walked with Jessie, but guided her in the ‘paths of righteousness’ as David the Psalmist says.  And Jessie didn’t let her age nor her slowing down affect her, she was always giving, for she knew that Jesus was always with her each and every step of the way.  As David the Psalmist continues, “I will fear no evil: for thou art with me” and God never left Jessie’s side.  Even in the “valley of the shadow of death” when Warren entered eternal glory, Jessie insured that her family did not live without working multiple jobs, but still holding onto the Gospel message of Jesus Christ that was not only her comfort, but her passion. 

For God had a plan and God had prepared for what was fulfilled on Sunday.  You see, when John wrote our Gospel passage this morning, “I go to prepare a place for you,” God knew the day and the hour that Jessie would be brought home.  And God had prepared the mansion in heaven for Jessie’s arrival where God would “receive her unto Himself”.  For the truth is, the table was already prepared, Jessie’s head was already anointed by the Cross in her baptism and Jessie’s place at God’s table was ready for her entrance and now her being served.

You see, it was prepared for her by her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ Who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”.  And this is why Jessie clearly had and shared her personal relationship with Jesus Christ each and every day of her life.  Jessie wanted all people to know how much God loved them.  For Jesus Christ shined so brightly in Jessie’s life it was like the star spoken of that led the wise men to the Baby Jesus.  Jessie reflected the light of Christ into so many lives, because Jessie wanted to share with others the mansion prepared by Jesus Christ for everyone.
The last time I had the pleasure to bring Holy Communion to Jessie, we sat there in her room and I heard the sweetest prayer from her lips.  It was the Lord’s Prayer and how her faith continued to shine even with the darkness of her impending entrance into eternity.  From Jessie’s lips she not only laid claim to the faith given to her in Holy Baptism, but fulfilled for her and for each and every one of us on the Cross of Calvary.  For no truer proclamation could be proclaimed than the song we are about to sing.  You see, Jessie’s greatest friend was none other than Jesus Christ.  Not only has Jesus Christ prepared a mansion for Jessie and now we gather to celebrate her entrance into eternity.  Jessie’s belief in Jesus Christ was of Jesus Christ as not only her Lord and Savior, but her personal friend.

This morning, as we gather to say goodbye, Jesus Christ has fulfilled the final chapter of Jessie’s life and ushered her into eternity in His Holy Arms.  May we feel the comfort of God’s presence and peace and know that today, Jessie now rests from her labors and is now enfolded into and served by Her Lord and our Savior, Jesus Christ.  AMEN.

Now may the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding comfort us today as we celebrate Jessie, but especially Jesus offer of connection with each and every one of us.  AMEN.

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12212016 - Wednesday of Fourth Sunday in Advent - "3 French Hens AND 2 Turtle Doves"

December 21, 2016
3 French Hens AND 2 Turtle Doves
Tonight we are only three days away from Christmas Eve.  And tonight we are in the home stretch of our 12 Days of Christmas Song series.  This evening we encounter the “3 French Hens AND 2 Turtle Doves”.  The “3 French Hens AND 2 Turtle Doves” are the closest to the beginning and have great meaning and value not only for the song, but what and how we can connect them to our daily lives.
Simply the “3 French Hens” refers to three ‘theological virtues’ that we should live by.  They are ‘Faith, Hope and Charity’.  We are a people of faith, because we believe that in our baptism we have been given our faith.  Our faith is like a muscle given in Holy Baptism and we use it daily.  From faith that we will have enough air to breath, to faith that God daily watches over us and even faith that the seeds we plant in our fields or gardens will come up and give us flowers or a crop of wheat or corn.  We live by faith daily which leads us naturally into having ‘hope’.
When I am at someone’s bedside as I was this past Sunday morning who is nearing entrance into eternity, I remind them and their family of the hope that God promises us through Jesus Christ.  For the famous hymn I sing for them begins, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus Blood and Righteousness”.  This is the hope that we have in Jesus Christ and need to lay claim to each and every day of our lives, especially when we encounter situations that place us so close to eternity.
As we use our muscles of faith and have hope in Jesus Christ, we are empowered to use the final virtue of the “3 French Hens” from God of charity.  Charity isn’t a virtue that we use all that often.  We live in a world that wants cold hard facts and want what we want when we want it.  But the reality the final of the “3 French Hens” of Charity is meant for us to use generously each and every day with everybody.  We are to be charitable with our time, talents and even our treasure.  For in our using our charity, we then come closer to God like in the 12 Days of Christmas Song.  And in our coming closer, by using daily the “3 French Hens” of faith, hope and charity, we are given the greater gift of Jesus Christ.
Hence finally we are led to the “2 turtle doves”.  In the “2 turtle doves” their meaning is found in none other than the greatest love letter ever written.  The author is none other than God.  These “2 turtle doves” are the two testaments of Holy Scripture, the Old and New Testament.  Contained in these 66 books are 1189 chapters and 31,102 verses.  Each verse, chapter and book is unique, but the entire Bible is God’s love letter to us pointing to His Son Jesus Christ coming into the world in order to save us and take us to be with Him in His kingdom.  And the message told by the “2 turtle doves” is one of love of God for each and every one of us.
This is why the 12 Days of Christmas Song is not only the perfect metaphor, it is the clear message and messenger of God for us, crafted perfectly to introduce others to God and what He was willing to do in order bring us into His Kingdom.  And we know this, because it all is accomplished in Jesus Christ Who is the Gospel of our salvation.  For without Jesus Christ coming and being born in a stable, the stories recorded in the “2 turtle doves” and perfectly lived out by Jesus Christ in the virtues of perfect faith, hope and charity of the “3 French Hens”, eternity would be vastly different for each of us.

May we as we venture to the stable on Christmas Eve, understand, Jesus Christ entrance in the manger that has been foretold in sacred story, offers us the greatest gift we could ask for or tell others about of the Gospel.  For the 12 Days of Christmas are about upon us and we now not only remember how Jesus lived out the “3 French Hens”, but how recorded for mankind in the love letter they point to God’s gift in the manger we find in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior in the love letter of the “2 turtle doves”.  AMEN.
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Monday, December 19, 2016

12182016 - Fourth Sunday in Advent - "4 Calling Birds"

December 18, 2016
4 Calling Birds
As a child growing up, our dining room was not a ‘formal’ room only used for special occasions.  This was our daily gathering place when the weather was to cold to eat on our enclosed porch.  In one of the drawers that held the special silverware used only for Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas or a special occasion was a special piece of wood.  As a young child we were not allowed to play with it, because like most toys it would probably have been busted.  Yet, as a teenager, I finally found out what it actually was.
Simply it was a bird call.  Not like the one’s from Duck Dynasty fame, but an antique bird call that my Dad had used when he went hunting when he grew up in Iowa.  That little device had the power to call those birds in and subsequently would provide my Dad’s family with a life sustaining meal.
This morning, seven days before we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, we are on the home stretch with our delving into the 12 Days of Christmas.  Today we learn about the 4 Calling Birds”.  These birds are not like the ‘hunted ones’ used with the ‘bird call’, but refer simply to the first 4 books of the Bible in the New Testament that specifically tell about Jesus, the Gospels.  The Evangelists or “4 Calling Birds” weave the story of salvation by divine inspiration giving their individual viewpoints of Jesus life and His ministry of proclamation, but especially healing.  These “4 Calling Birds” wrote a melodious story like an intricately woven tapestry that tells about the life, death and especially the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Just as each ‘bird call’ is unique to the bird it is imitating, the “4 Calling Birds” of the Gospels reveal for all of mankind the true story about our Savior Jesus Christ.  For the “4 Calling Birds” have a two-fold purpose with their calling in their writing.  First, the “4 Calling Birds” want to tell about Jesus.  Like birds on a wire, the evangelists tell the story of Jesus Christ from His birth all the way to His resurrection and ascension into Heaven.  Their accounts, though seemingly different, each tell the story of Jesus with different and unique depths and hues that provide a vibrant illustration of what Jesus Christ did, how He ministered and especially how He loved the people He personally encountered as divinely inspired and recorded by the “4 Calling Birds”.
Second, the “4 Calling Birds” are God’s chosen instrument.  The “4 Calling Birds” are the perfect vehicle to help spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  These “4 Calling Birds” each uniquely gifted by the Holy Spirit, recorded the personal encounters of the people with the Savior and how Jesus Christ individually ministered unto their every need.  Yet each Gospel account also calls out to we the people who gather here today to share what the “4 Calling Birds” share with us today.
For the “4 Calling Birds” mission was to by divine inspiration provide us with the tools we need to tell others about Jesus Christ.  Since we are all unique some of the “4 Calling Birds” draw us into their narrative and inspire us to share the main message.  You see the main message of the “4 Calling Birds” is of salvation and that Jesus Christ came in order to offer us eternal life.  Those who hear that message and believe Jesus own words and His action on the Cross do this as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit and the “4 Calling Birds”.

We who gather here today are the fruit of the Holy Spirit and the work of the “4 Calling Birds”.  Yet, we can ask ourselves, what will we do with this message we have received?  This is where the 12 Days of Christmas Song has greater potential and application.  We can be inspired by these “4 Calling Birds” to tell others what Jesus Christ has done.  We can use the unique voice each of us has been given, like the duck call I found when I was a child and spread the message of the Gospel by pointing them to what the individual and unique voices of the “4 Calling Birds” say about Jesus.  We who gather here today can invite our neighbors, friends, family and other people to encounter Jesus Christ through this simple song of the 12 Days of Christmas.  We who gather today can impact another generation with the message of Jesus Christ like has been done for us by the “4 Calling Birds”.  AMEN.
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Friday, December 16, 2016

12142016 - Wednesday of Third Sunday in Advent - "5 Golden Rings"

December 14, 2016
5 Golden Rings
In the opening scene of “13 Hours” the contractor that is arriving in country via plane wakes from a nap and pulls out and opens an Altoid container.  He carefully and methodically pulls off the one remnant that is his connecting point with the outside world and his beloved family, his golden wedding ring.  Quickly he slips the ring in and closes the container and places it inside his shirt pocket.
So often in our Western culture in order to ‘show our love’ there are large sums of money that change hands in order for a couple to declare their love with a gift that symbolizes their love for one another.  Both for the engagement ring as well as the wedding bands used in the ceremony.  Tonight we come to a point in learning about the 12 Days of Christmas where God declared His love for all of mankind.
In our series we have connected the Apostle’s Creed, the Apostles, the Commandments, the Fruits of the Spirit and the Beatitutdes.  Sunday we heard about the gifts of the Holy Spirit and how God created the universe in 6 Days, but tonight we come to “5 Golden Rings”.  Unlike the multi-colored rings of the Olympics that have instant recognition of what is occurring, the “5 Golden Rings” in the 12 Days of Christmas Song are not just a symbol, but a clear declaration of love from God for all of mankind.
The “5 Golden Rings” when sung are the ‘poignant pause’ that occurs like when we confess our sin on Sunday mornings.  In the confession of sin, I say, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  But”  At this point I purposefully pause during our confession, because what is said next is clearly a truth and declaration from God to and for all of us who are gathered of Who forgives us our sins.  It is God Who forgives us.
Tonight the “5 Golden Rings” point to and demonstrate God’s unending love for His children in the first 5 books of the Old Testament.  These books are known as the Pentateuch and are the books of Moses that chronicle creation, the fall of man, the promise of the coming of the Savior and how the children of Israel continuously turn away from God and would then return back to God.  These “5 Golden Rings” are not ‘nose ring’s’ but a clear demonstration of how God’s love never ends, even when His chosen people turned away from Him.  For God’s love recorded in Scripture is the reminder we daily need of God’s love for us no matter the circumstance, no matter how we have turned away from God.  Like a ring, the “5 Golden Rings” are to be a reminder of God’s love for each and every one of us that never ends.
Yet, why should this be important for us tonight?  Simply it is because like the “5 Golden Rings” God’s love never does end no matter what we have done.  God forgives us, picks us up, dusts us off and loves us unconditionally.  How does God show us this?  Plainly and painfully by His Son Jesus Christ death on Calvary.  For it was Jesus willingness to die in order that we will be given eternal life.  And like no beginning and no end of a ring, the “5 Golden Rings” are symbols of God’s unending and unconditional love not only for the Israelite people, but for each and every one of us gathered here tonight.

May we tonight, not only hear of God’s love for us, but be willing to share it in our singing the 12 Days of Christmas Song.  For when we share God’s love for us and joyfully share the meaning and application of the “5 Golden Rings”, God will with a poignant pause, not hide the ring from others, but He will place His never ending Golden ring of love for us on our fingers with our baptism.  And He will clearly embrace us as His own.  This occurs, because God’s love does not end and we find the perfection of His love in His Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ Who was promised to the Israelite people in the Pentateuch and we believe in His love for us when we sing about the “5 Golden Rings”.  AMEN.

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Monday, December 12, 2016

12112016 - Third Sunday in Advent - "7 Swans a Swimming AND 6 Geese a Laying"

December 11, 2016
7 Swans a Swimming AND 6 Geese a Laying
Today we reach the mid-point of our journey of exploration of the 12 Days of Christmas that are meant to be celebrated after December 24th.  We have heard about the drummers, pipers, lords a leaping, ladies dancing and the maids a milking, now we encounter the “7 Swans a Swimming AND 6 Geese a Laying”.  Clearly there is an importance of the “7 Swans a Swimming AND 6 Geese a Laying”, but believe it or not the importance clearly applies to each and every one of us today through a gift of the Holy Spirt and how our universe was created by God for us.
We have heard before about the 9 Ladies Dancing referring to the fruits of the Holy Spirit that are to be manifest in each of our lives.  Well, the “7 Swans a Swimming” alludes to the gifts of the Holy Spirit given unto each of us.  Some among us doubt we have any gifts from the Holy Spirit, but the reality is they are like some of the muscles in our body, we don’t know we have them.  Does this mean we have an equal share of each gift?  By no means, we are as unique as our fingerprints and our DNA and these 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit have one purpose, they are to be used for God’s Glory here in our world.  Listen to these gifts and see which ones resonate with your own life. 
The gifts given by God are “wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord”.  With each gift comes great responsibility.  And Christians are not required by any law, but encouraged to discern if we have ‘wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord’.  For when we seek and ask God for each gift, we like Solomon, will have more of each given unto us by God.  And these “7 Swans a Swimming”, these gifts are not only given so that grace may abound, but in order for others to hear what Jesus Christ did on Calvary for all of mankind.
The “7 Swans a Swimming” are the Gifts of the Holy Spirit that are given for the express purpose of their use by us in God’s Creation.  When we use them for God’s Glory and with a healthy fear of the Lord, bow before Him seeking knowledge, wisdom, counsel and understanding from Him, God will give it.  For in our using the fortitude like the farmers of old to carve out a homestead here on the plains, but in true piety reading their bible and trusting God for not only a harvest, but their existence, God will provide as He did for them, but also and especially for each and every one of us today.  This is why the 12 Days of Christmas song not only can inspire us to share the Gospel, but use our muscle of faith and the “7 Swans a Swimming” to help others trust in God more fully.
Our trust of God not only can and should be for the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in the “7 Swans a Swimming”, but also the “6 Geese a Laying”.  For the “6 Geese a Laying” connects us to the world we live in and which was created by God in 6 Days.  These “6 Geese a Laying” represent the days of Creation and how each day was not only unique in what was accomplished, but a clear demonstration of the wisdom, forethought, knowledge and understanding of God with each Word spoken that brought into existence this world in the created elements we at times take for granted.  From the wind that at times dries the ground to driving the rain or snow.  To the ground that yields the fruits of corn, wheat and milo.  The grass that feeds the cows that we barbeque.  The air that with every breath we take not only provides our bodies with energy to move, but in a perfect cycle provides the plants the needed carbon dioxide to grow and make oxygen from the sunlight.
The “6 Geese a Laying” the 6 days of Creation were perfectly crafted and fit together in logical order by God, not only for the creative order of what needed to be done first, but the gift looked for and found in Jesus Christ.  For the “6 Geese a Laying” understood clearly how and what God would accomplish through the 6 Days that saw the creation of the world we live and work in today.
Yet, how are the “6 Geese a Laying” and the “7 Swans a Swimming” connected with us today who come to prepare our hearts for the celebration of Jesus Christ coming?  Simply this song opens a door for unbelievers.  Those who have not heard the Gospel message and have not encountered the gift of eternal life given through Jesus Christ.  The “6 Geese a Laying” and the “7 Swans a Swimming” are the opportunity for us to proclaim the wonders of God, not only of God’s Creation that we live in, but the gifts given unto us by the Holy Spirit.
Yesterday was one opportunity to do exactly that, share and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to and for the people not only in our community, but as a message of hope for our world.  When we gathered together and went and sang the songs of Advent and Christmas in our community at individuals homes and at Wheat Ridge and Good Samaritan, we not only serenaded the people, but clearly, emphatically and boldly used the “7 Swans a Swimming” gifts of the Holy Spirit and spoke of the beauty of where our Savior Jesus Christ would be born in this world that came when referred to the “6 Geese a Laying”.

It is my prayer, that we may continue as we learn more about the 12 Days of Christmas understand that each stanza of the 12 Days of Christmas points to and leads us up to the greatest gift given unto mankind in Jesus Christ.  For not only are the “6 Geese a Laying” and the “7 Swans a Swimming” instrumental in salvation history, they reveal the connection we each have of the Spiritual gifts we have been given and that we can daily use in the created world.  For it is clear, the gifts we have been given by God are meant not to be hid under a bushel basket, but daily shared and used for the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ even with the simple words of the “7 Swans a Swimming AND 6 Geese a Laying”.  AMEN.
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12072016 - Wednesday of Second Sunday in Advent - "9 Ladies Dancing AND 8 Maids A-milking"

December 7, 2016
9 Ladies Dancing AND 8 Maids A-milking
When a child first enters kindergarten, they are required to go through a Pre-School screening.  Here at Emmanuel, we have even hosted these events in the past.  Clearly there is lots of energy with excited children and frazzled parents when that day arrives.  Yet what is interesting is that this ‘snap shot’ of a child’s development and abilities enables the staff to clearly understand the strengths and weaknesses of the student and how to help the student succeed in the near future.
Just as the ‘pre-school’ screening is a tool, our delving into the 12 Days of Christmas Song enables us to learn more about the song and how we can use it as a tool for the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  So far we have heard about the 12 Drummers Drumming, the 11 Pipers Piping and the 10 Lord’s a Leaping.  Tonight we get a double shot where we can connect and fully understand the “9 Ladies Dancing” and the “8 Maids A Milking”.
Please understand we are not a Vaudeville show tonight with the ladies dancing, but in the 12 Days of Christmas Song the “9 Ladies Dancing” is a reference to our reading from tonight of the 9 Fruits of the Holy Spirit.  These 9 fruits are clearly and specifically from God and are to be shared with one another.  As we heard they are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”.  These are fruits, what are to be a result from our daily lives.  At times we have these fruits clearly in our lives and at other times we do not.  Yet, the “9 Ladies Dancing” and these 9 fruits are meant to be shown daily in our lives and in we the members of the church for the spread of the Gospel message.
We are called to ‘love unconditionally’ no matter the person, ‘share the joy of our hearts’ daily, ‘live in peace’ with one another, ‘have patience’ no matter the circumstance, ‘show kindness not just during the holidays’ and ‘share the goodness of Christ with others’.  We as well are to daily ‘demonstrate our faithfulness’ to Christ’s teachings and gladly hear and learn it.  ‘Share the gentleness with those in need’ and ‘have self-control’ in all things.  Are we perfect at this, by no means, this is why they are ‘fruits’.  For the church is a hospital for the sick, a place to refuel to go out into the world.  We come to have the salve of the Gospel of Jesus Christ shared and to share with one another the fruits we have been given with the balm of the Gospel message of what Jesus Christ did for all of mankind.
Yet, we might ask, how can we share these “9 Ladies Dancing”, these 9 Fruits of the Spirit, because the “9 Ladies Dancing” like a mortice joint fit together so well with the “8 Maids A Milking”.  The “8 Maids A Milking” are Jesus own teaching that are best known as the Beatitudes.  The 8 Beatitudes spoken by Jesus are honored in this way by the “8 Maids A Milking” and are meant to open up to us a clear personal opportunity for the application of the ‘fruits of the spirit’.  For the “8 Maids A Milking” provide such spiritual sustenance that point to what God has done in each of us and how God clearly blesses us daily.
For God’s blessing found with each of the “8 Maids A Milking” finds perfect application of, for and with the “9 Ladies Dancing” and perfectly blesses not only those who receive, but also the giver as well.  The blessings received by both parties’ changes the attitude for everyone involved.  Even Scripture not just alludes to this, but in Acts (20:35) says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive”.  And what better gift to give one another than the truth found in the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
When we daily couple and apply to one another the fruits made allusion to with the “9 Ladies Dancing” and the truths of the “8 Maids A Milking” and apply them in our lives the opportunity we have is for a greater impact of the Gospel message.  It is the Gospel message and potential of an eternal impact we can have upon others when we use God’s fruits of the Spirit already given to us and apply these truths sung about in the 12 Days of Christmas for others.  So when we sing of the “9 Ladies Dancing” and the “8 Maids A Milking” we then can use this powerful song in the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  For no more powerful connection can be made than with song.

Sunday in our Films of Faith Series, we again watched “Silent Night”.  So compelling a story was the writing of “Silent Night” that when on Christmas Eve we hear and sing the simple song, the Gospel message comes alive.  This is the power that even the “9 Ladies Dancing” and the “8 Maids A Milking” can have in sharing what Jesus Christ has done on Calvary for each and every one of us.  May we during the coming weeks not only continue to understand our faith in a deeper and more profound way, but believe that the Fruits of the Spirit and the Beatitudes not only are a gift from God for us, but with the aid of the 12 Days of Christmas Song we can share it with others and point to the love of Christ for all mankind.  For it is Jesus Christ in each of our hearts that enables us to share Jesus with others as we sing about “9 Ladies Dancing” and the “8 Maids A Milking”.  AMEN.

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Monday, December 5, 2016

12042016 - Second Sunday in Advent - "10 Lord's a Leaping"

December 4, 2016
10 Lord’s a Leaping
Clearly anyone, including myself do not like when we are driving to see in our rear view mirror the blue and red lights of either a highway patrolman or a county sheriff.  But, these dedicated professionals have been given the responsibility to keep our highways and byways safe.  In fact, they are an extension of and a current expression of God’s gift to the Israelite people that are even connected to the 12 Day’s of Christmas Song.  For these servants who wear the uniform enforce the ‘law’ of the land.
Since we began Advent we have heard about the 12 Drummers, 11 Pipers and today we join and sing about the “10 Lord’s a Leaping”.  The “10 Lord’s a Leaping” connects the Children of Israel, with us today, because the “10 Lord’s a Leaping” refers to the ‘law’ found in the 10 Commandments.  Some people see the 10 Commandments as the ‘rule book’ for life.  The 10 Commandments are not just ‘law’ or what we are not ‘to do’.  But as Luther would say, the 10 Commandments are a guide for our lives.  What is more interesting is that the 12 Day’s of Christmas song clearly places a different understanding on the 10 Commandments than we are used to with the phrase the “10 Lord’s a Leaping”.
We naturally think of the Law as detrimental and holding it over others heads, whether those who work on the farm, in the stores or even here in the church.  This clearly is a mentality of ownership, domination and being the boss or the owner.  Yet, Jesus Christ died for all and set us free from this ‘ownership’ and even the song the 12 Days of Christmas reorients our understanding of the Law to a way that isn’t legalistic, but coaxes and even encourages us to change our mentality and our actions to a positive way.
You see, the “10 Lord’s a Leaping” keeps the perspective of the importance of the 10 individual Commandments, but notice the action associated with those ‘Lord’s’.  The Lord’s are ‘leaping’.  Think of it this way, when do you see children leaping, when they are happy.  So to the “10 Lord’s a Leaping” is a radical shift that the ‘Lord’s’ are happy.  The ‘Lord’s’ are thankful for the gift given from God to help steer, direct and guide their lives and especially the lives of the Israelite people.  So clear is this joy of the “10 Lord’s a Leaping” that in their leaping, it is because of the clear demonstration of God to give the gift that is found in the 10 Commandments that are fully and perfectly fulfilled by Jesus Christ.
We normally don’t think of the 10 Commandments in a joyful way or joyful tone or even as a gift.  And this is one reason why the 12 Days of Christmas Song can reorient our understanding of the 10 Commandments and introduce others to Jesus Christ.  For the 12 Days of Christmas Song and specifically the “10 Lord’s a Leaping” can help others to understand and believe and live the grace filled side rather than the legalistic side or dictatorial side.  For the “10 Lord’s a Leaping” can inspire us to look not with ‘legalistic’ fervor, but with the joy of a child for the gift that God has given us in the 10 Commandments.
For God’s gift of the 10 Commandments was out of His great love for each and every one of us.  God wanted us to understand that these Commandments were not to be the ‘albatross’ around our necks, but for us to reorient our understanding and celebrate their gift to us from God with joy.  You see the “10 Lord’s a Leaping” see, understand and have as a goal and the result our entrance into the Kingdom of God.  Not ‘Lording’ it over anyone, but insuring all of mankind not only hears the Gospel message of what Jesus Christ did, but to help us understand fully that Jesus Christ came and fulfilled the 10 Commandments in His perfectly following each and every commandment.  In Jesus Christ death on Calvary for all of mankind.  And finally with Jesus Christ resurrection on the Third Day.  And with Jesus Christ fulfilling the 10 Commandments, we can be like the “10 Lord’s a Leaping” and know we are not only included, but welcomed into the Kingdom of God, because of what Jesus Christ did on Calvary for all of mankind.
Jesus Christ willingly went to Calvary out of His great love for all of mankind.  So clearly we can be like the “10 Lord’s a Leaping” and ‘leap in joy’ and celebrate what Jesus Christ was willing to give to us, eternal life.  This is why the 12 Days of Christmas Song, not only is a beautiful song and melody, but a great tool for an introduction to the Gospel message, and how it can model for us what a life of gratitude and joy we can have for God’s gift to us.

During this Advent season let’s resolve to change, reorient our lives and actions, like Thom Rainer’s book, “I Will” inspired us to do and celebrate the greatest gift of mankind, found in Jesus Christ becoming flesh and dwelling among us.  For what the “10 Lord’s a Leaping” celebrate by their leaping and joy doesn’t stop with the connection with the 10 Commandments, but follows through to the birth of Jesus Christ.  And this is why the “10 Lord’s are a Leaping” as we sing the 12 Days of Christmas that connect us with an unmistakable truth.  The truth that Jesus Christ came to offer us eternal life.  And the “10 Lord’s a Leaping” not only inspire us like cheerleaders in this the journey of life, but help us to understand our active role celebrating with them of what Jesus Christ overcame for each and every one of us.  Let’s join together and let this be a season of joy and celebration and inspire others with the Gospel of Jesus Christ with our singing the 12 Days of Christmas song in joyful celebration with the “10 Lord’s a Leaping”.  AMEN.

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Thursday, December 1, 2016

11302016 - Wednesday of the First Sunday in Advent - "11 Pipers Piping"

November 30, 2016
11 Pipers Piping
Living in Virginia, we lived only 3 hours from Colonial Williamsburg.  We as a family and in public school made many field trips to see the historic sites, smell the distinct aromas and hear especially the sounds that clearly began the independence of our nation.  Daily in Williamsburg there would be a parade down the wide Colonial Avenue that not only would have the historic militia marching down the main street, but out in front would be the drummer keeping the men in step with the beat of the drum.  Just as Sunday we heard about the 12 drummers drumming, out front with the drummers would be a piper piping as part of the corp that were marching.  So distinct and clear was the sound of the piper it would carry down Colonial avenue and command attention for what was coming.
In our series of the 12 Days of Christmas song, there are not only 12 Drummers Drumming the faith that we confess in the Apostle’s Creed, but also like in the corp in Colonial Williamsburg, there are  “11 Pipers Piping”.  The “11 Pipers Piping” that we celebrate during the 12 Days of Christmas are connected to 11 men, who walked with Jesus, talked with Jesus, ate meals with and saw Jesus not only perform miracles, but were called by Him to be His disciples.
Accurately, you could say, “I thought there were 12” and that would be correct.  But after Jesus resurrection on Easter morning, only 11 Disciples remained.  Sadly, Judas had played his part in the plan of salvation by betraying Jesus in order for Jesus to die in order that we might have eternal life.
These 11 Men on the other hand, the “11 Pipers Piping” would after Jesus resurrection up until His ascension 40 days after Easter, continue to listen, learn and begin to fully comprehend and understand the plan of salvation.  Not only had they experienced Jesus for the three years prior when Jesus walked throughout Israel, fished the waters with them and shared His ministry and life with them.  These 11 Disciples, these men would become associated and known in their connection to the 12 Days of Christmas Song as the “11 Pipers Piping”.
The role they play in the plan of salvation is minimal at first.  However, after Jesus had been nailed to the Cross, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, their role changed.  When they gathered together 50 Days after Easter, they previously had been minor players in the larger drama of the life of Jesus.  For it was only then on the Day of Pentecost that the “11 Pipers Piping” would come into their own and then proclaim the message that had been passed down to them by their Lord and our Savior, Jesus Christ.
You see, the “11 Pipers Piping” are the reason we are here today.  If the message of Jesus had died when He ascended into heaven, we would not be gathered here this First Wednesday of Advent here at Emmanuel in Goodland.  Without the “11 Pipers Piping” and preaching and proclaiming the message of what Jesus Christ did, the church would not exist.  For without the “11 Pipers Piping” making sure the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was preached, proclaimed and passionately and purposefully spread throughout the world, the sweet Gospel that proclaims salvation and eternal life would not be heard here at Emmanuel.  Without the “11 Pipers Piping” Martin Luther would have not been a Christian, but a Jew.  Without the “11 Pipers Piping” we would not be celebrating Advent.  Without the “11 Pipers Piping” the message of the Gospel would not have spread and we would not have the 12 Days of Christmas Song.
The “11 Pipers Piping” play the pivotal role in the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  From those 11 men, they like Jesus Christ had done with them, discipled others and introduced others to the sweetness of the Gospel of salvation message.  Without the “11 Pipers Piping” our understanding and way of life and belief would not have spread.  Without the gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, Who is the wind beneath their wings, but also the breath to make the sweet sound of the Gospel the message of salvation would not have the fullest impact.  Without these “11 Pipers Piping” the world would not know, nor understand the beauty of the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So key and pivotal is the role of the “11 Pipers Piping” that without their drive and intentionality not only as disciples, but as believers, Christianity would have ceased to exist.  We who gather here tonight are a direct result of the “11 Pipers Piping”.  The song the 12 Days of Christmas tells a beautiful story.  We are the “11 Pipers Piping” spiritual descendants.  The question we need to ask ourselves is, will we only sing this song, because it’s a Christmas favorite, or are we ready to join the “11 Pipers Piping”?  The decision is ours.  For it is very clear the “11 Pipers Piping” were responsible for our hearing the message of the Gospel.  Let’s intentionally, purposefully and joyfully use the 12 Days of Christmas Song and be responsible for the spread of the Gospel to and for another generation as we join “11 Pipers Piping”.  AMEN.

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