Wednesday, November 26, 2014

December 2014

Behold, Your King is Coming to You

This is a portion of an Advent sermon by Pastor Aaron A. Koch of Mt. Zion Lutheran Church in Greenfield, Wisconsin, published the Christmas issue of  Gottesdienst 2007.

The world celebrates holidays all backwards.  Have you ever noticed that?  All of the celebrating is virtually done before the day ever arrives.  This is especially so with Christmas.  All the feasting, the decorating, the nostalgia are done up front.  You've got Christmas movies and Christmas music and Christmas parades not only before Advent but even sometimes before Thanksgiving!  By the time the actual holiday arrives, Christmas seems almost anti-climactic.  By December 25th, you're tired of the songs and the phony holiday cheer and you're ready to move on, especially if things didn't quite live up to expectations.

That's the way it is with the world because that's the way the world looks at life.  You live for a while, you have your fun, and then you die and it's all over.  So you better make your time now count.  First there's life and then there's death.  But with the church it's the other way around.  First there's death and then there's life, both with our Lord and with us.  Life really begins when we are freed from sin's curse and are with our Lord in the resurrection.  So our days in this world are lived differently, as preparation for that coming time when the celebration will really begin.

This faith is reflected in the way we observe Christmas.  The church doesn't celebrate a holy-day, a holiday until it actually arrives, and in the days following.  The 12 days of Christmas that you hear about in the carol are the days from Christmas to Epiphany on January 6th.  That's the real Christmas season.  What we're in now is the Advent season.  And Advent is a time of penitent and hope-filled preparation.  In the early church, Advent was a time for fasting, believe it or not.  This is a time not for mere sentimentality but to dwell more fervently on the Word of God to make ready the way of His coming to us–which is the reason for the additional midweek Advent services.  We eagerly anticipate Christmas, but now's not the time for the full celebration.  We don't sing the “Glory Be to God on High” yet in the liturgy.  That's the song of the angels that doesn't come till Christmas Eve.  Now's the time for waiting and discipline and focusing on the coming of our Lord in the flesh to save us.

That's why we have the Gospel that we do today.  The Lord's triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the donkey five days before Good Friday may seem out of place at first here in Advent, but in fact it dramatically emphasizes what this season is about.  Advent means “coming” or “arrival.”  This Gospel teaches how our Lord comes to us–humbly, whether on a beast of burden or in a lowly manger.  Jesus comes not simply to be born; He is born to humble Himself even to the point of death on a cross, to give His life as a ransom to rescue us from sin and death and the devil.  “Behold, your King is coming to you, lowly and sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.”  

New proposal for Epiphany Vespers: Monday evening, January 5th, then Epiphany Day of Reflection on Tuesday
Epiphany Vespers is moving to Monday night for the first time since it was offered, some nineteen years ago. This January our annual winter Vespers is scheduled Monday, January 5th, 2015, at 5:00 pm. This is the eve of Epiphany Day.  The size of our choir is rather depleted, so we do not know how much of a contribution it can make, if any. Perhaps holding the event on a Monday and Tuesday will generate interest among people who might have been unable to attend on a weekend. This change puts the Vespers not only on a Monday night, but also at a new time: 5 pm (rather than 7 pm), followed by our traditional wine-and-cheese reception, another annual tradition.  Our Epiphany Day of Theological Reflection, will be on Epiphany Day itself, Tuesday January 6th, beginning with Holy Mass at 9:00 and going until 3:00 in the afternoon.

The fifteenth retreat in the Theological Reflection series is entitled,


We have been considering this to some extent already in the Sunday classes this fall; at this retreat, a more in-depth study will take us into a careful consideration of this concept, its Christological meaning, and its restoration in us. This retreat on Tuesday, January 6th, will focus not only on the creation account, but on several passages throughout the Scriptures that deal with the image of God.

First Tuesday Meetings Dec. 2

On Tuesday, December 2nd, Altar Guild meets as usual at 6 pm, and Elders at 7:15 pm.  Between them we will hold vespers at 6:45 pm.  All members are invited to attend. 

Special Advent Masses on Wednesdays in December

During Advent, our Wednesday masses have appointed Gospels from the pre-nativity narratives in the first chapter of St. Luke’s Gospel.

On Wednesday, December 3rd, the Gospel is St. Luke 1:1-25, the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist.

On Wednesday, December 10th, the Gospel is St. Luke 1:26-35, the annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

On Wednesday, December 17th, the Gospel is St. Luke 1:39-56, Mary’s Magnificat.

Members are invited to make an extra effort to attend these services as part of your Advent preparation for the coming of Christmas.

December Birthdays
12/11 Chris Harden
12/13 Michael Eckardt
12/13 Lynn Woller
12/20 Peter Eckardt
12/20 Rachel Rowe
12/25 Robert Melchin

December Anniversaries None

December Ushers

Allan Kraklow, Steve Kraklow, Tom Wells.
Shut ins

Mary Hamilton at home; Anna Baker at home; Emmy Wear at Williamsfield Home in Williamsfield; Emilie Ricknell (temporarily) at home; Jean Russell (termporarily) at home.

In Our Prayers

In addition to our shut-ins, our current list of prayer intentions at mass includes the names on the lists here following.  Anyone wishing to update the lest by addition or subtraction, please inform the pastor.

Sick or infirm:
in our parish:
Jean Russell
Emilie Ricknell
John Ricknell
Linda Rowe
John Sovanski
Ann and Dale Baker

And also:
Anna Rutowicz [re Harrises]
Julie Ross [Svetlana Meaker’s daughter, cancer]
Caleb Cleaver [re Ricknells]
Madison Lindsay [re Andersons]
Jill Matchett [re Shrecks]
Barb Fornoff [re Russells]
Lorene Foglesong [re Kraklows]
Corbin Gonzales [re Russells]
David Wexell [re Verplaetses]
Cathy Van Wassenhove [re Verplaetses]
Carl Hepner [re Kraklow]
Duane Kraklow [brother of Allan]
Emily Corzine
Shelly DeBord [re Watsons]
Lois Hopkins [re Kemerlings]
Liam Hampton [re Murphys]
Anthony Strand [re Murphys]
Troy Kelly [re Murphys]
Cindy Davenport [re Kemerlings]
Carter Wills [re Thompsons]
Pastors  Don Chambers [Manito]
            Glenn Niemann [Pekin]
In the military:
John Eckardt
Donny Appleman [re Ricknell]
Thomas Kim [re Shreck]
Michael and Katherine Creech [re Murphy]
Richard Heiden [re Eckardt]
And Carter Wills

in trouble:
any unborn children in danger of abortion
Those suffering persecution in Egypt, Nigeria, Eritrea, Guinea, Khazakstan, Pakistan, Iran, Syria, China, the Philippines, Laos, Vietnam, North Korea, and elsewhere.

Remembering the Dead in Christ

On the last Sunday of the year we remember members who have fallen asleep in Christ during the year, with a tolling of the bell for each during mass.

This year we lost one member: Sara Bidni.

Altar Guild Notes

Advent begins November 30th. The four Advent Sundays’ color is violet.  If roses are obtained, they may be placed on the Third Sunday in Advent, December 14th.

For midweek masses, color remains violet (Third Class Feast).

The three Christ Masses will be held as usual, 7 pm Christmas Eve, 12 midnight, and 10 am Christmas Day.  Color is white for all three.

The Sunday after Christmas is Holy Innocents’ Day (December 28th). Color is red.

The Circumcision and Name of Jesus will be observed on New Year’s Eve, the 31st, at 7 pm. Color is White

Decorating During Advent

As is our custom, we decorate the church little by little during Advent, until finally all is complete for Christmas.  The day on which volunteers are needed help put up the tree is Saturday, December 6th, beginning at 9 am.  Please help!

Advent for the church is a time of penitential preparation for the coming of Christ (that’s why the color is violet).  It’s helpful to remember this as we also prepare our households for Christmas.  Unlike the commercial and secular world, the Church’s celebration of Christmas begins with Christmas, and runs the twelve days of Christmas, until Epiphany (note, for instance, that our Christmas Vespers is after Christmas).  The finest way to prepare for the coming of Christ is by contrition and confession.

The Magnificent Disguise of God

I am not ashamed of the Gospel, says St. Paul, for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes.  This begs a question: why must he say this?  Does it not mean that there must be many who are ashamed of the Gospel, many for whom the Gospel is a shameful thing?  But why would this be?  Why would anyone be ashamed of Christ?  The Apostle here provides an insight we should not miss here: he is not ashamed of the Gospel because of what he knows about it, namely that it is the power of God.  Conversely, others would be ashamed of it because they do not know this.
            And why would they not know?  Surely, because of the astounding disguise that it wears.  For this is the way of the Gospel: the majesty of God is hid therein, which no one would ever find who employs his own reason or strength to do look.  Reason would look elsewhere, certainly, where nature’s most beautiful sights are evident to behold, perhaps.  But God has confounded the wisdom and knowledge of men by means of his most magnificent disguise.  He veils his strength in deepest humility and simplicity.
            Certainly this is evident at Christmas, with its lowly cave, ox and ass, manger, and most dreadful conditions.  The glory of the Lord shone round about the shepherds, to be sure, but it did not shine round about the creche.  This sign unto them was not the reappearance of any heavenly host, but the swaddling clothes and manger.  Consider the sign: it betokens dearth, not majesty.  It is meager, not mighty.  It is all disguise, marvelous disguise.
So also is it fitting that the Christ Mass should be surrounded by the days of martyrs: in Advent, St. Andrew and St. Thomas, and during Yuletide, St. Stephen and the Holy Innocents.  For the majesty of God is also hidden in the suffering of his saints: crucified, speared, stoned, and butchered.  Such shame! such glory!  Shameful to reason, glorious to faith.
            And so the Gospel itself, also like the nativity of the Christ it proclaims, is veiled in disguise: simple words from ordinary preachers.  Less than simple, really, for this preaching always creates enmity toward the preachers, enmity from the serpent’s seed (Genesis 3:15).  Thus are they hated by many for Christ’s sake, as He Himself said they would be, and counted shameful.  St. Paul certainly was so counted; thus it was right for him to declare that he is not ashamed of the Gospel.  Why not?  He knew the disguise well, and was not fooled by it.  He knew that hidden within the simple words that he preached was the power of God to heal the sick and raise the dead.
            So also let us make no mistake: the ordinariness of the Gospel, that it does not produce instant results splendid for the eye to behold, is nothing more than a magnificent disguise.  It is the power of God.  Behold: it will cause the dead to be raised incorruptible at the Last Day, when the trumpet shall sound.  For by it sins are forgiven and hells bars are torn down; by it the righteousness of God is revealed from heaven, revealed and given to those who believe it.  By it also the wrath of God is revealed against those who would reject it.  The simple shaking of the dust off the shoes of the Apostles against cities who rejected them will result in a fate worse than that which befell Sodom and Gomorrah.       There is no greater power on earth than the power of the Gospel.  All the nuclear warheads ever produced cannot rival this power, for it is the power of all life and death, the power of salvation to everyone who believes, the power of resurrection and the Last Day, the eternal power of almighty God. Harnessed and hid, disguised, ever so wonderfully, in the simple preaching of the Gospel on a Sunday morning by ordinary preachers on earth.  Astoundingly simple.  Wonderfully ordinary.


            The significance of St. Bonaventure, exactly contemporary with Thomas Aquinas (born three years apart, both died the same year, 1274), is usually eclipsed somewhat, by the eagerness of historians to chronicle the latter.  But this Augus­tinian, whom Luther preferred over Thomas, made some contri­butions indicative of a profound and far-reaching theology.  Not least among these is his prayer of humble access to the Sacra­ment:

            My Lord, who art Thou, and who am I, that I should presume to place Thee in the foul sewer of my body and my soul?  A thousand years of tears would not suffice for once worthily receiving so noble a Sacrament.  How much more am I unwor­thy, wretched man, who daily sin, continue without amend­ment, and approach in sin.  But Thy mercy is infinitely greater than my misery.  Therefore, trusting in Thy good­ness, I presume to approach.

            Note the contrast between “Thou” and “I,” evoking at once a deep reverence for the One whose name is holy and reverend.
            Next is the acute percep­tion of what the Sacrament is: “Thee”; thus implicitly su­perseding the sophistries upon which such Aris­totelians as Thomas were wont to embark.  Transub­stanti­a­tion, while certainly not incompatible, is deemed insuffi­cient: the Sacra­ment, since it is Christ's body and blood, is Christ Himself, in whom dwells bodily all the fulness of the Godhead; why dim the marvel of this by speak­ing of substance and acci­dents?
            Note also that Christ is received into “my body and my soul,” a concise confession of the partaking of Christ by mouth—this is called by Lutheran scholars the manducatio oralis—and rejec­tion of spiritualist reception.
            Then note the keen awareness of sinfulness, seen first in the confession of sinful being (the foul sewer; wretched man), leading to confession of sinful acts (who daily sin . . .).
            Next, mark the confession of continuing “without amendment.”  Absent is any notion of progressive sanctification here.  Even my approach is “in sin.”  Bonaventure sees nothing at all worthy of praise in himself, even in his approach to the Supper.
            But finally, note the contrast between mercy and misery, which words both arise from the same Latin root, a subtle remind­er that mercy is for the miserable.  So Bonaventure returns to the presumption he dares at the outset of the prayer.  He pre­sumes to approach indeed, but only because of mercy.  That, coming on the heels of such a profound confession of misery, becomes painfully evident.  No wonder Luther liked him better.  Here is a fitting prayer of humble access for any Lutheran.

St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church
   109 S. Elm Street
   Kewanee, IL 61443

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