The theme for the Third Sunday after the Epiphany is our response to God’s gracious invitation to believe in Jesus as our Savior. All believers are called to follow Jesus with a willingness to abandon everything if that should be required. But even if we are not required to go that far, we should have minds that have already forsaken everything in the world for Jesus.
The revealing of Jesus continues on the Second Sunday of the Epiphany season. All three readings for the day discuss the presence of God.
This Sunday we will have a guest preacher at King of Grace. Karim Yaghleji is a student at our seminary in Mankato and a native of Aleppo, Syria.
Epiphany is the second oldest festival of the Christian church year. Only the Easter season is older. The Festival of Epiphany is always January 6th and marks the start of the next church year season (thus the 12 days of the Christmas season end on 1/5). Yet the Epiphany season is an extension of the Christmas season.
This Sunday we are celebrating the Festival of Epiphany. The word ‘epiphany’ means ‘manifestation’ or ‘revelation.’ Epiphany is a season of light and an extension of Christmas—the Christ Child who came to earth is shown as Savior to the whole world, just as he was originally revealed to the wise men from the East.
For some of us, the Holy Spirit has been a bit of a background character to the Father and the Son in church. During December, our small Bible study groups thought more deeply about the Holy Spirit and his work. We explored the biblical language, the activities of the Spirit, and how those activities happen in our lives today.
Christmas is coming—but it’s not here yet! What’s the best way to prepare for the coming of Jesus? It’s not with frantic doing. It’s not with a focus on what we have done or promise to do. It’s not with how we will pay back what Jesus comes to bring. The best preparation for Christmas is a readiness to receive.
There is a wide gulf between God in his holiness and us in our sinfulness. We put on clean clothes in the morning to come to church, but more importantly we need a clean heart in the presence of the Lord. So at the very beginning of our worship services, we need to lay our sins on Jesus and be assured that God does not condemn us for our sins, but forgives and forgets. We need to “lay down our burdens at the doorway before entering upon the praises of God.”
The Third Sunday in Advent has traditionally been called by the Latin word, Gaudete, meaning “Rejoice!” For as we are called to repentance, so also we are urged to rejoice in the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Sad repentance and joyful anticipation can coexist.
The Advent Wreath is more than a pretty decoration. It is a trigger during the four weeks of the Advent season to turn our thoughts and heart toward Jesus.
Many different meanings have been given to the four candles and the other parts of the wreath. None are right or wrong. Here is one common interpretation of the meaning of the various parts of the Advent wreath.
God sent prophets like St. John the Baptist to prepare the people for the coming of his Son into the world. John preached that we repent of our sins and see our need for a Savior. Jesus then came in grace to win the forgiveness of those sins through his life, death, and resurrection.
Since that time God has sent more messengers—apostles, evangelists, pastors, and teachers—to help us make preparations for Jesus to come again. God’s patience still gives people time to repent. Jesus’ first coming in grace makes it possible for us to be saved at his second coming for judgment.
Happy New Church Year!
We live in a time when we follow an annual calendar based on the orbit of the planet Earth around the sun. New Year’s day on that calendar is January 1st. The Christian church also follows a calendar, but based on the orbit of the Christian life around the Son of God.
This coming Sunday is the First Sunday of Advent, as we prepare for the coming of our Savior into the manger of Bethlehem. We will turn our attention to the Christmas story soon, but for this Sunday we focus on Christ’s *second* coming at the end of time rather than his first coming 2,000 year ago. How shall we prepare? Thinking about Jesus’ second coming in judgment puts us into a frame of mind to appreciate his first coming in grace.
Hymn #466 in the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary (“We Praise Thee, O God, Our Redeemer”) was originally written as a prayer of thanksgiving in the Netherlands after the English defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588.
This coming Sunday is the last Sunday of the Christian church year, called “Christ the King” Sunday. This festival was first introduced in 1925 to emphasize the supreme authority of Christ and his church against the increasing atheism and secularism of society.
There are different styles of worship services in American churches today. None are divinely inspired. None are the only right way to worship God. But there are good reasons we worship the way we do at King of Grace. Occasionally on the blog I’ll explain one or another element of our worship service liturgy.