The Name of Jesus

And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb” (Luke 2:21).  So tomorrow, the 8th day after Christmas, which falls on New Year’s Day, the church year commemorates the Circumcision and Name of Jesus.

With the baby’s circumcision, He took upon Himself the burden of the Law, which He fulfilled on our behalf.  And with His naming, His identity and purpose are made clear.  “Jesus” means “Yahweh saves.”  God saves.  His very name proclaims His divinity and His saving work.

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What you do to your neighbor you do to Christ

Christian_Krohg_-_Mother_and_Child_-_Google_Art_ProjectIt still being Christmas–there are twelve days of it, remember–we can still contemplate the inexhaustible topic of God’s incarnation.  After the jump, read an excerpt from one of Luther’s Christmas sermons, which our pastor quoted in his Christmas Eve message.  The passage deals both with Christmas and vocation–that is, our calling to love and serve our neighbors in our various tasks and relationships.

To those who think that they would have shown kindness to the Christ child and His parents, unlike the residents of Bethlehem, Luther says, “Why don’t you do it now” by showing kindness to other needy children and their parents?

“What you do to your neighbor in need you do to the Lord Christ himself.”
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“The darkness didn’t comprehend it”

2125915359_911d1354bd_zI do not agree with N. T. Wright on “the new perspective on Paul,” but he has a published a fascinating reflection on John 1.  He particularly focuses on this theme:

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness didn’t comprehend it; the world was made through him and the world didn’t know him; he came to his own, and his own didn’t receive him.” (John 1:5, 10-11)

God gives His Word, but the world doesn’t understand it.  The Creator comes to the world that He made, but the world doesn’t recognize Him.  God comes to His people, but they reject Him.

In addition to reflecting on the paradoxes of unbelief, Wright gives some provocative thoughts about the Incarnation, culminating in an affirmation of the Lord’s Supper.

But notice his critique of liberal theology, relativism, and recent theological fads.  Notice too his shot against transgenderism!

After the jump, I get you started, but you have to follow the link to read it all, which is very much worth doing. [Read more…]

“The light shines in the darkness”

How fitting that we commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ around the time of the Winter Solstice, when the day is at its shortest and the night is at its longest.  At this darkest time of the year, we celebrate Christ’s coming.  Just as He comes at the darkest points of our lives.  (This is also why lights at night are key Christmas symbols.)  As St. John says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

After the jump, the Christmas story according to the Gospel of John.   Mark begins with the start of Christ’s ministry.  Matthew begins with His birth to Mary and Joseph.  Luke begins with His conception by the Virgin Mary.  John begins where Genesis begins, “In the beginning.”

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Theological music for Christmas

Ken Myers has written a wonderful post on Christmas music, emphasizing particularly how it is sung by choirs and its connection to worship in the liturgy.  He includes a fascinating discussion of how music can be a contemplation of divine mysteries, as in the harmonies of this piece, “Mirabile mysterium” to this text:

“A wondrous mystery is declared today, an innovation is made upon nature; God is made man; that which he was, he remains, and that which he was not, he takes on, suffering neither commixture nor division.”

The composer is Jacob Handl (sometimes called “Gallus”), not to be confused with George Friedrich Handel.  Read what Myers says about it after the jump.

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Mary and the divine inversion

256px-Fra_Angelico_046In discussing why the Virgin Birth of Christ is important, James A. Rogers (Texas A&M professor and LCMS member) cites Mary as an example of the “divine inversion.”  That is, the way God turns upside down what we would expect.  This theme, which Mary herself celebrates in the Magnificat, runs throughout the Bible, culminating in the Cross.  Here is how Prof. Rogers concludes his reflections:

The Virgin Birth, like the Cross itself, confounds what we think we know; it confounds our belief that power, whether human power or the brute force of nature, prevails in the world. . . .A virgin giving birth. A king—the King—lying in a manger. A dead God on a stick. These, along with the many other inversions in the Bible, both big and small, promise the possibility of a different world, a world in which God inverts the natural order of things, including the natural of the human world.

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