Sermon Notes, First Sunday after Christmas 30 December 2018 Anno Domini (2nd Part)
Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
The First Sunday after Christmas
ALMIGHTY God, who hast given us thy only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and as at this time to be born of a pure virgin; Grant that we being regenerate, and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit; through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.
“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. 2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. 8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. 18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.”(Luke 2:1-20)
Today we shall observe three occasions in the Church Calendar – the continuing Christmastide, the Holy Innocents, and the coming New Year on Tuesday.
If we read the Bible as a strictly edifying historical work, we will miss the entire message of the Gospel, for the Bible is a Living Text that bears the same application to our lives today as to those of whom it has given account between its inspired and infallible covers.
During this Christmastide, we celebrate the coming of Light and Wonder into a dark world, and we do so both figuratively and formally; however, it would be wrong to believe that the Coming of Christ ended on Christmas morning. Christ is forever coming into our hearts if we have hearts that are open to His knocking. You will not find Him in churches that are not faithful to the Gospel, for He “stands at the door (without) and knocks.” If the door to your heart has grown callous with rusty from years of hard living, and is not open to Christ, you will not even find Him in a Church strong in its Gospel message. But no thing is beyond the arm of the Lord to traverse, and He may haply force open the corroded and barred door of the most egregious sinner in His time, and cause a joyful welcome to be proclaimed from lips that only spoke vulgarity in times past. If you wake up on the morning of July 4th with a prayer for Christ to live in your heart that day, even July 4th becomes Christmas to you. Do you get it? Is there some cruel irony in singing “O Come all ye Faithful” in summer? Not at all. We grow too rigid in our hymn-singing at times. Christ seldom observed a strict formality, but behaved in ways that set the teeth of the Jewish rulers on edge. Naturally, we must be reverent and orderly in worship, but not so staid that we condemn even Christ for healing of the Sabbath Day!
God is all powerful and able to work in the hearts of even evil men to accomplish His purpose. Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth, yet the prophecies proclaim that Christ should be born there. (see Micah 5:2) The foreshadowing of Bethlehem as the place of Christ birth is even alluded to in 1 Samuel 16:1 – And the LORD said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons. Jesse is the father of David and, so, Bethlehem is called the City of David.
These opening passages of Luke 2 are magically wonderful to my ears, for they were first repeated to m by my mother and, even then, they carried a charm and mystery to my young mind. I wonder how many young children in America today have been blessed by that experience? How nonchalantly does Luke refer to the occasion of Christ’s birth: “And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.” And so it was? Yes, it certainly was so, and could have been no otherwise! God brought the power of Caesar into play to bring about this Holy event. To all the world Jesus came as a Stranger and left as Redeemer. He was a Stranger to the woman at Jacob’s Well at the noonday hour, but that woman left having found a Friend that loves her beyond all human measure. Have you met that Stranger of Galilee?
We often place our clergy on a pedestal and believe that they somehow stand in greater grace than we. A minister is simply a fellow who, hopefully, by the grace of God has been called and responded to the call of God to preach. A minister can be, and often is, fallible just as you or I can be fallible – and often are! You will note that The Holy Angels did not proclaim the great news of Christ’s birth in the halls of government in Jerusalem, or even to “men of the cloth.” He proclaimed this wonderful news to men whose ears were open to hear it – common shepherds of the field. These men had no other distraction than to gaze upon the endless beauties of God’s star-studded heavens night after night. They understood, unlike most theologians, that there can exist mysteries in the Word of God which no competent theologian can define. They knew nothing of the conflicting teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees, or the subjects taught in the rabbinical schools by men such as Gamaliel, but they did know that God sat upon the heavens and created every bright point of light visible to them in that purple dawn canopy above them. So God chose the least among men to honor MOST with His Gospel News!
Perhaps, if you have not met God, it may be because you are too lifted up in pride and arrogance., If so, God can lower you until you arrive at a level at which you can be taught of Him. There could be no greater blessing for such a one.
The coming of Christ into your life does not signal an end to trial and hardship. Au contraire, it may be just the beginning. It was the beginning of sorrows for many mothers in Bethlehem. It was the beginning of sorrows for Mary, the mother of Jesus. She failed, seemingly, to profit from His teaching until after the resurrection, but a sword pierced her heart at the foot of that crude cross at Calvary.
The recent tragic events at a school in Connecticut are heart-breaking, as well. What can be more tragic? There is something that is far more tragic! It would be that so many lives went into the darkness of eternity without the Light of Christ. What happened in Newtown is not related to the right to bear arms – every man has the right of self-protection. The tragedy of Newtown is the moral depravity into which America has sunk over the last several decades. When the Supreme Court made a law against school prayer, in contravention of the First amendment to the US Constitution, and continued to trample the religious liberty rights of the American people by outlawing Bibles in schools, Nativity scenes in public places, and legalized (immorally) the murder of millions and millions of little children – an event that dwarfs Herod’s action against the children of Bethlehem – our religious leaders were eerily silent. When Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (a 1967 West Point graduate) had the courage to display the Ten Commandments in the Supreme Court building (much like that of the US Supreme court), his greatest opponents were the Southern Baptist Conference of Alabama. America rejected God, and in so doing, reject His Providential protection of our country. He may give us over to delusion and reprobacy. We have come to calling that which God calls ‘good,’ evil; and that which God has called ‘evil,’ good. Majority opinions do not matter with God. God has only truth – NOT opinion!
So we see, on the Day of Holy Innocents, the intentional murder of small children by the sword. At least, their murder was most likely more abrupt than the burning death oif little babies in their mother’s womb by a “process of murder” we call abortion.
18 And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin. Gen 35:18 (KJV) (Son of my Sorrow) Rachel died that her child should live. 19 And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. Gen 35:19 (KJV) The City of David where Christ was born also. A sword would also pierce Mary’s heart. 35 (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. Luke 2:35 (KJV) 18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. Matt 2:18 (KJV) 15 Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not. Jer 31:15 (KJV)
Do we not hear those mother’s voices still crying out in the streets of Newtown. When evil rules the land, even the innocent suffer. As we embark on a so-called NEW YEAR, let us be mindful that swords, guns, and bombs have no conscience. They can neither be righteous or wicked. It is the heart of the man holding the weapon that is guilty of sins committed by any device of killing. Were we to remove every knife, every sword, every gun from the hands of man, do you believe we would have seen the end of mass murder? Historically, how have states behaved who have wielded the only means of force and violence? How did Hitler’s Germany behave, or Caesar’s Rome?
New Years Day is not a Christian holiday, but a secular one. The only New Year we can truly enjoy is that New Day, New Year, and New Life in Christ. Heed, America, the counsel of Isaiah if you wish for the comfort and peace of a Holy people: When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him. 20 And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD. 21 As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever. Isaiah 59:19-21 (KJV)
Men, called of God: Have you lifted up the Standard? Have you received the Word of God – not of man – into your mouth to proclaim? Have we taught our seed to know and follow that Light which came at Christmas 2000 years ago? If not, then Stand To, and do your duty now as a good soldier of the Cross.
“Prenez en Gré”
In Christ Alone
in CHRISTMAS SEASON
† Jerry L. Ogles , D.D.
Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide & Chancellor, Faith Theological Seminary
“Metus improbo compescit, non clementia.” – Syrus, MAXIMS: Fear, not kindness, restrains the wicked!
Archbishop Thomas Cranmer – HOLY SCRIPTURE:
“If there were any word of God beside the Scripture, we could never be certain of God’s Word; and if we be uncertain of God’s Word, the devil might bring in among us a new word, a new doctrine, a new faith, a new church, a new god, yea himself to be a god. If the Church and the Christian faith did not stay itself upon the Word of God certain, as upon a sure and strong foundation, no man could know whether he had a right faith, and whether he were in the true Church of Christ, or a synagogue of Satan.”