The Second Sunday after Christmas

January 3, 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.

Almighty God, you have filled us with the new light of the Word who became flesh and lived among us.  Let the light of our faith shine in all that we do; 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 – Micah 5:2-5a (Sermon Text)

The eternal Shepherd, born in lowly circumstances in a small Judean town, provides protection and peace for His flock.

 But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.  Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor gives birth and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.  He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.  And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.  And he will be their peace.  (NIV1984)

 PSALM OF THE DAY – Psalm 148

 Praise the LORD from the heavens,

praise Him in the heights above.

Praise Him, all His angels,

praise Him, all His heavenly hosts.

Praise Him, sun and moon,

praise Him, all you shining stars.

Praise the LORD from the earth,

lightning and hail, stormy winds that do His bidding,

you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars,

wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds,

kings of the earth and all rulers on earth,

young men and maidens, old men and children.

Let them praise the name of the LORD,

for His splendor is above the earth and the heavens.

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 – Hebrews 2:10-18eba

As our Brother, Jesus shared in our humanity so that he might pay for the sins of the human race.  He understands and helps us.

 In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.  Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family.  So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.  He says,  “I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.”  And again, ”I will put my trust in him.”  And again he says, “Here am I, and the children God has given me.”  Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.  For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants.  For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.  Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.  (NIV1984)

 VERSE OF THE DAY

Alleluia.  All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.  Alleluia. (Psalm 98:3b)

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 – John 7:40-43

An encounter with Jesus demands a response.  Some respond in faith, others with skepticism.

On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.”  Others said, “He is the Christ.”  Still others asked, “How can the Christ come from Galilee?  Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David’s family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?  Thus the people were divided because of Jesus.  (NIV1984)

C:        Praise be to you, O Christ!

SERMON  Look to Little Bethlehem!

Dear fellow worshipers of the Child of Bethlehem,

All across our great nation there are thousands upon thousands of little towns dotting the countryside.  According to the 2010 Census some of the tiniest of these towns include:  Hobart Bay, Alaska; Willow Canyon, Arizona; and, Laurier, Washington.  Together they have a combined population of— three!  Yes, just one person lives in each of those towns.  Here in California the tiniest town is Little Grass Valley.  It has a population of— two!

Sometimes, however, even a little town gains a large reputation.  Such is the case of the little town of Longville, Minnesota.  According to the 2010 Census, Longville has a population of 156— not bad for a little town!  For decades Longville’s reputation has centered around one thing— tourism.  Because of all the people who own cabins on the many lakes in the area and because of the numerous resorts on those lakes, the population of Longville, Minnesota explodes— but only during the summer months.  And then, about 20 years ago something amazing happened to the little town of Longville.  A homegrown son by the name of Levi Lavalee became the first person to do a double backflip— on a snowmobile!  Levi is now a professional snowmobiler who competes— and wins— major snowmobile competitions.  Much to the delight of the town, Levi and his family still live in the little town of Longville.

While little towns like Longville, Minnesota relish the reputation that someone like Levi Lavallee brings home, that reputation pales in comparison to the little town that the prophet Micah heralds here in our text for today.  This morning we are going to study these familiar words under the theme:  Look to Little Bethlehem!  As we focus on the little town of Bethlehem this morning, we have two goals.  Our first goal is to marvel at the One who was born in Bethlehem to be our Savior.  Our second goal is to marvel at the many rich blessings the Child of Bethlehem gives to us.

The little town of Bethlehem was just that— a little town!  And yet, while the little town of Bethlehem never became as renown as Jerusalem or Bethel, Shiloh or Hebron, this little town held tremendous historical significance among God’s Chosen People.  The little town of Bethlehem was the place where Jacob’s wife Rachel died as she was giving birth to Benjamin.  (See Genesis 35:16ff)  The little town of Bethlehem was the place where Boaz fell in love with Ruth.  The little town of Bethlehem was the place where a shepherd-boy by the name of David was born and it was the place where the prophet Samuel anointed David to replace Saul as king over God’s people.  (See 1 Samuel 16)  While Bethlehem was indeed “small among the clans of Judah,” because of these words of the prophet Micah, Bethlehem became known as the place where the King of the Jews, the long-awaited Promised Messiah, would be born!  (See Matthew 2:1-6)

As we look at the little town of Bethlehem from our perspective as New Testament Christians, we do indeed marvel at what Micah reveals concerning the birth of the Savior.  Look at what God the Holy Spirit proclaims through His servant Micah, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”

The prophet Isaiah (who was a contemporary of Micah) described the divine and human nature of the Messiah when he said, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).  “Immanuel” means— “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).  The prophet Micah confirms the words of Isaiah when he reveals that the One who would be born in the little town of Bethlehem is One “whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”  Yes, the lineage of the Child of Bethlehem could be traced back through David to Abraham to Adam.  (See Mathew 1:1-16; Luke 3:23-38).  Yes, the Child of Bethlehem is the fulfillment of the first Gospel promise that the Lord God made in the Garden of Eden.  (Genesis 3:15).  But, as Micah points out, the Child of Bethlehem existed even before the Creation of the world, even before time began.  That’s why the Child of Bethlehem could rightfully say, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58).

That’s why we can’t help but marvel at the birth of our Savior, my friends.  When we look to the little town of Bethlehem with the eyes of faith, we see that the Child whom Mary is holding in her arms is both our Brother and our God.  As our true Brother He knows our weaknesses, He knows our fears, He knows our temptations.  Whatever you are facing in your own personal life, whatever “flaming arrows” (See Ephesians 6:16) Satan is using to try and destroy your faith, whatever “Siren Song” this world is using to try and lure you away from Him (Pointing to the cross), you can be confident that your Savior, the Child of Bethlehem, has not only faced it, but He has defeated it!  How can you be absolutely sure of this?  Because the Child who was born in the little town of Bethlehem is the One “whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”  The Child of Bethlehem is your God!

As we look to the little town of Bethlehem this morning, we not only marvel at the birth of our Savior, but we also marvel at the blessings He bestows upon us!  Micah describes the Child of Bethlehem as “one who will be ruler over Israel…He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.  And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.  And he will be their peace.”

Once again from our perspective as New Testament Christians, it is nothing short of miraculous how accurately these words of Micah describe the blessings that the Child of Bethlehem gives to us!  He is our “Ruler.”  He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  He is the One who personally fought our most powerful and most dangerous enemies (sin, death, and the devil)— and won!  He is the “Ruler” who guarantees to us that purely by grace through faith in what He has done for us (Pointing to the cross) His victory is our victory for all of eternity!  Is there anyone who can harm us?  Is there anything that can defeat us?  No!  The Child of Bethlehem gives us the confidence and the security to say along with the apostle Paul, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38, 39).  Don’t let one single day go by without thanking the Child of Bethlehem for being your “Ruler”— the One who holds you safely and securely in His nail-scarred hands!

The Child of Bethlehem is not only our “Ruler,” but the prophet Micah reminds us that the Child of Bethlehem is also our “Shepherd.”  We, of course, automatically connect the dots between these words of Micah and the words which the Child of Bethlehem speaks to us in John chapter ten.  The Child of Bethlehem is the Good Shepherd who “takes his stand” and shepherd’s His flock in “the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.”  Think about the blessings that brings to you!  The Child of Bethlehem is the Shepherd who uses His infinite majestic power to provide you with everything you need— “green pastures” and “quiet waters.”  The Child of Bethlehem is the Shepherd who loves you enough to lay down His life for you and powerful enough that He can take it up again.  (See John 10:11, 18)  The Child of Bethlehem is the Shepherd who gives us, His Sheep, the most glorious blessing of all:  “I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28).  Don’t let one single day go by, my friends, without thanking the Child of Bethlehem for being your Shepherd— your Shepherd who bestows on you many wonderful blessings!

There is just one more point that I want to highlight this morning.  As we look to the little town of Bethlehem, we stand in humble awe of the truth that God the Holy Spirit proclaims to us in the closing words of our text, “And he will be their peace.”  The Child of Bethlehem not only brings us “peace,” but He is our “peace.”  When by the grace of God we know that the Child of Bethlehem is the One whose “origins are from of old, from ancient times,” when by the grace of God we know that the Child of Bethlehem is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, the One who defeated all our enemies and has guaranteed our eternal victory, when by the grace of God we know that the Child of Bethlehem is our Shepherd who “takes His stand in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God” and showers us with blessing after blessing after blessing— then, my friends, by the grace of God we not only understand, but we rejoice in the fulfillment of Micah’s words, “And He is our peace”!

Many of us have probably driven through towns that are so little that if you blink they are already in your rearview mirror.  While I personally don’t have anything against little towns, more often than not their renown reaches about as far as you can throw an empty pop can.  Sometimes, however, a little town like Longville, Minnesota is blessed with a hometown boy who shines an unexpected yet extremely welcome spotlight on their little town.  The perfect example of that, the example that puts all others to shame, is seen when we look at the little town of Bethlehem.  While Bethlehem itself never became as important as Jerusalem or Bethel, Shiloh or Hebron when we look at the little town of Bethlehem, we can’t help but marvel!  When we look at the little town of Bethlehem, we marvel at the One who was born there to be our Savior.  When we look at the little town of Bethlehem, we marvel at the blessings that the Child of Bethlehem showers upon us.  When we look at the little town of Bethlehem, we can’t help but say:

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

Dear Lord God of heaven and earth, the God of our spiritual ancestors Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, when we look at the wonderful Messianic prophecies you gave to your children of old we marvel at your grace and your power.  In your grace you revealed more and more details concerning the Messiah— including the fact that He would be born in the little town of Bethlehem.  In your power you saw to it that each and every one of those prophecies were fulfilled.  Help us to apply the fulfillment of those prophecies to the fulfillment of the promises you have made to us.  In your grace and in your power you have promised to provide for us and to protect us.  In your grace and in your power you have promised to one day bring us Home to live with you forever in the glory and perfection of heaven.  Help us to trust in your promises as confidently as your children of old trusted in your prophecies.

O gracious God, as we enter into yet another new year, we turn to you as both our Source of comfort and our Source of hope.  You know how difficult the year 2020 was for us.  You know the pains we endured and the fears that we faced.  We humbly ask that in this new year you will not only continue to bless us with your forgiveness, but that you will also bless our country and our world with your grace and mercy.  We trust that you are the God who knows all things.  We trust that you are the God who makes all things work together for our eternal spiritual good.   Watch over us, ever guiding, guarding and keeping us.  Grant health to our bodies, and in your mercy may the new year be a time of healing for all who need it.

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.