The First Sunday after Epiphany

January 10, 2021

 

SERVICE OF THE WORD

This service offers the congregation a form of worship that focuses on the proclamation of God’s Word.  Believers respond to this divine gift with prayer, praise, and thanksgiving.  The service begins on page 38 in the front of the hymnal.

M:       We worship today in the name of our Triune God— God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

C:        Amen

Confession of Sins

M:       We have come into the presence of God, who created us to love and serve Him as His dear children.  But we have disobeyed Him and deserve only His wrath and punishment.  Therefore, let us confess our sins to Him and plead for His mercy.

C:        Merciful Father in heaven, I am altogether sinful from birth.  In countless ways I have sinned against you and do not deserve to be called your child.  But trusting in Jesus, my Savior, I pray:  Have mercy on me according to your unfailing love.  Cleanse me from my sin, and take away my guilt.

M:       God, our heavenly Father has forgiven all your sins.  By the perfect life and innocent death of our Lord Jesus Christ, He has removed your guilt forever.  You are His own dear child.  May God give you strength to live according to His will.

C:        Amen.

Prayer and Praise

M:       In the peace of forgiveness, let us praise the Lord.

C:        Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.  Blessed are they who take refuge in Him.  Your Word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.  Your faithfulness continues forever.  Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.  Blessed are they who take refuge in Him.

PRAYER OF THE DAY

M:       Let us pray.

Father in heaven, at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan you proclaimed Him your beloved Son and anointed Him with the Holy Spirit.  Keep us who are baptized into Christ faithful in our calling as your children and make us heirs with Him of everlasting life; we ask this through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C:     Amen

The Word

FIRST LESSON – Isaiah 49:1-6

In one of Isaiah’s servant songs, the Servant of the Lord describes His calling and His work:  “to restore the tribes of Jacob” and to be “a light for the Gentiles.”

Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations:  Before I was born the LORD called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name.  He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver.  He said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.”  But I said, “I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing.  Yet what is due me is in the LORD’s hand, and my reward is with my God.”  And now the LORD says—he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself, for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD and my God has been my strength—he says:  “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept.  I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”   (NIV1984)

PSALM OF THE DAY – Psalm 2

Why do the nations conspire

and the peoples plot in vain?

The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD

and against His Anointed One.

The One enthroned in heaven laughs;

The LORD scoffs at them.

Then He rebukes them in His anger and terrifies them in His wrath, saying,

“I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.”

I will proclaim the decree of the LORD:

He said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.”

Glory be to the Father and to the Son

                        and to the Holy Spirit,

            as it was in the beginning,

                        is now, and will be forever.  Amen

 

SECOND LESSON – Acts 16:25-34 (Sermon Text)

The jailer at Philippi poses a crucial question:  “What must I do to be saved?”  Paul and Silas point not to deeds but to faith.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.  Suddenly there was such a violet earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken.  At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose.  The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped.  But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself!  We are all here!”  The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas.  He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”  Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house.  At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized.  The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family.  (NIV1984)

 VERSE OF THE DAY

Alleluia.  You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.  Alleluia. (Mark 1:11b)

CAlleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  These words are written that we may believe that Jesus is

       the Christ, the Son of God.  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!

GOSPEL LESSON – Mark 1:4-11

The first part of this reading shows us John the Baptist, and then it goes on to tell us of a baptism like no one ever saw or will ever see again:  the heavens were “torn open,” and the Spirit descended like a dove on Jesus.  The Father gave His Son His full testimony in a voice thundering from heaven.

 And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him.  Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.  John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.  And this was his message:  “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.  I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”  At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven:  “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”  (NIV1984)

 C:        Praise be to you, O Christ!

 SERMON  The Joy of Christmas Continues!

Dear fellow worshipers of the Child of Bethlehem,

For weeks you and I spent a great deal of time, a great deal of energy and a great deal of money getting ready for Christmas.  There were presents to buy and presents to wrap.  There were cookies to bake and cookies to be sampled.  There were decorations for the house and there were decorations for the Christmas tree.  There was memory work that needed to be learned and readings that needed to be practiced.  All of that preparation reached its goal on Christmas Eve.  We enjoyed a wonderful Christmas Eve worship service.  Many of us opened our presents on Christmas Eve and rejoiced at what our loved ones had given to us.  On Christmas Day we enjoyed a delicious meal and maybe watched some football.  And then?  Well, and then there was not much, was there.  We cleaned up the house.  We filled the blue recycling bin with cardboard boxes and shredded wrapping paper.  We put all the presents away.  After a week or so we took down all the decorations, all the lights and of course, we took down the Christmas tree.  When we look around now, it almost looks like we never even celebrated Christmas!

We, of course, know that Christmas is so much more than lights and decorations and presents.  We, of course, know that since Christmas is the celebration of the birth of our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the joy of Christmas continues all year long— right here in our hearts!

That is the truth that I want us to focus on today as we enter into the Season of Epiphany.  The Season of Epiphany gives us the opportunity to rejoice in the truth that the Son of God came into this world to be the Savior of all people.  Since our text for today is a beautiful example of that truth, let’s study these words under the theme:  The Joy of Christmas Continues!  There are two things we want to see today.  First, let’s see that the joy of Christmas continues as God’s people continue to faithfully proclaim God’s Word.  Second, let’s see that the joy of Christmas continues as God’s people continue to faithfully administer the Sacrament of Holy Baptism.

Our text begins with Paul and Silas praying and singing hymns— in prison!  How did they end up in prison?  While Paul was on his second missionary journey, he had a vision of a man from Macedonia begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (Acts 16:9).  So, Paul and his companions went to the city of Philippi— an important Roman colony in the region of Macedonia.  As Paul faithfully proclaimed God’s Word in Philippi, God the Holy Spirit brought a number of people to faith in Jesus as their Savior.  Sadly, there was a young slave girl in Philippi who was possessed by an evil spirit that enabled her to tell the future.  For days this young girl followed Paul and Silas shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved” (Acts 16:17).  Luke tells us that Paul became so “troubled” by this slave girl, that he cast the evil spirit out of her.  When the owners of the slave girl realized that they had now lost a good source of income, they dragged Paul and Silas before the local authorities who ordered Paul and Silas to be “severely flogged” and thrown into prison.  That background is why Luke says in the opening portion of our text, “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.  Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken.  At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose.”

Think this through, my friends.  Paul and Silas had just been “severely flogged,” thrown into an inner cell of a prison, and had their feet placed in stocks.  And what were they doing?  They were “praying and singing hymns to God”!  What a wonderful example for all of God’s people— including us!  Even in the most painful and most difficult circumstances we encounter in our life we always have reasons to “pray and sing hymns to God”!  How is that possible?  Because in our hearts we know that the joy of Christmas continues!

The past ten months may have left us feeling as though we have been in a “pandemic prison.”  The “Stay-at-home” orders, the “Don’t gather with anyone outside your household” orders, the strong encouragement not to travel orders, the quarantine requirements if you do travel orders— all of it could easily make a person feel “confined” to say the least!  And yet, instead of moaning and complaining and giving up hope, the joy of Christmas continues to give us many wonderful opportunities to “pray and sing hymns to God”!  Nothing in this world can offset or deprive us of the joy that comes from knowing that the Lord has come to save us from our sins!  So, if the circumstances you find yourselves in, my friends, begin to feel overwhelming and oppressive, follow the example of Paul and Silas!  Let the joy of Christmas lead you to “pray and sing hymns to God”!

Here in our text we see that the Lord also saw to it that the beating and the imprisonment of Paul and Silas, coupled together with a “violent earthquake,” “opened the door” for the joy of Christmas to come to others as well.  Luke continues, “The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped.  But Paul shouted, ‘Don’t harm yourself!  We are all here!’  The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas.  He then brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’  They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved— you and your household.  Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house.”

“Don’t harm yourself!  We are all here!”  Why didn’t the other prisoners even try to escape?   All the prison doors were open.  Everybody’s chains came loose.  Personally I think the reason none of the prisoners tried to make a run for it is found in Luke’s words, “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.”  These prisoners had probably never seen or heard anything like this before.  Men who had just been “severely flogged” and chained up in the inner cell of the prison were praying and singing!  I cannot help but conclude that the words that Paul and Silas were praying and the hymns that Paul and Silas were singing proclaimed God’s glory and God’s grace so clearly that the Holy Spirit used those words and those hymns to work in the hearts of the other prisoners!  And so instead of running away and costing the jailer his life, the other prisoners simply stayed where they were.

I also believe that the same truth applies to the jailer at Philippi.  Clearly the prayers and the hymns were clear enough and powerful enough to lead the jailer to ask Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  Note very carefully that neither Paul nor Silas pointed this man to anything that he had to do!  They faithfully shared with the jailer the pure, sweet, simple message of the Gospel:  “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved— you and your household.”

God’s Word works!  We don’t put conditions on God’s free gift of salvation.  We don’t point sinners to what they must do or to what they can do in order to be saved.  We simply and faithfully point sinners to the cross on Calvary’s hill (Pointing to the cross) and assure them, “Believe in the Lord Jesus,” trust in what the Son of God has done for you and “you will be saved— you and your household”!  Take note of how God the Holy Spirit includes the words, “you and your household.”  We’ll come back to those words later.

After faithfully sharing the Word of God with the jailer and with “all the others in his house,” Luke tells us, “At that hour of the night the jailor took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized.  The jailor brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy (Very literally the Greek here says, “He was extremely joyful) because he had come to believe in God— he and his whole family.”

The joy of Christmas had now come to the jailer and “his whole family”!  We could even say that this night, the night the jailer and “his whole family” were baptized was for them their Christmas Eve.  They now had the joy of knowing the Child of Bethlehem as their only Savior from sin.

This is how the joy of Christmas continues from one generation to the next.  As God’s people faithfully share God’s Word with others, the Holy Spirit brings the joy of Christmas into their hearts and into their lives.  Plus, the fact that God the Holy Spirit led Luke to highlight the words, “…you and your household…to all the others in his house…he and all his family were baptized…he had come to believe in God— he and his whole family,” this is a testimony to the Scriptural truth that as God’s people faithfully administer the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, God the Holy Spirit brings the joy of Christmas into the hearts of children— even tiny little babies!  That’s why we are singing the hymn “Joy to the World” this morning.  Every time you see a child being baptized in the Name of the Triune God, remember the hymn “Joy to the World.”  For that child the day of their baptism is like their Christmas Eve.  It is the day that God the Holy Spirit fills their heart with the joy of knowing that the Child of Bethlehem is their Savior too!  It is the day that you can say, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come to adopt this child to be His very own!”

While the Christmas lights and the Christmas decorations may be packed away until next year, while the Christmas presents will gradually become old, for us, God’s people, Christmas is never “over”!  Not only has the Child of Bethlehem promised to be with us always, even to the very end of the age, but the joy of Christmas continues as we, God’s people, faithfully share God’s Word with others and as we, God’s people, faithfully administer the Sacrament of Holy Baptism.

Joy to the world!

To God be the glory!

Amen

 

APOSTLES’ CREED

I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.  He descended into hell.  The third day He rose again from the dead.  He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.  From there He will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.

 OFFERING

During this time of uncertainty we still want to bring our thank offerings to our dear Lord and Savior.  We ask that you continue to set your offerings aside so that when we are able to come together again in God’s House we will be able to place our offerings on His altar.

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH

Joy to the world, the Lord has come!  Those glorious words continue to bring the joy of Christmas into our hearts and into our lives all year long— all because you, O Lord, have used the power of your holy Word and the power of your Holy Sacrament of Baptism to create the gift of saving faith in our heart.  That faith empowers us to know that the Child of Bethlehem is our Savior from sin.  That faith empowers us to share the joyful message of Christmas with others.

Dear Lord, we humbly ask that you inspire our minds and our hearts with our Savior’s love, and so fill us with your grace that we have both the desire and the ability to share the sweet simple message of the Gospel with others.  Grant repentance and faith to those to whom we witness Christ.  Always keep us mindful of what a privilege it is to announce to repentant sinners the Christmas joy of knowing that through faith in the Child of Bethlehem their sins are forgiven and that the Kingdom of Heaven is your free gift to them!

All of this we ask in the Name of Jesus our Lord, who taught us to pray:

C:        Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever.  Amen.

M:       O Lord God, our heavenly Father, pour out the Holy Spirit on your faithful people.  Keep us strong in your grace and truth, protect and comfort us in all temptation, and bestow on us your saving peace, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C:        Amen.

M:       Brothers and sisters, go in peace.  Live in harmony with one another.  Serve the Lord with gladness.

The Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you.  The Lord look on you with favor and give you peace.

C:        Amen.