2nd Sunday after Christmas

January 3, 2016

Summary

Living in a Real World

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-6 ESV)

Do you sit in the pew tired after a busy week? It is a lot having Christmas and New Year so close together. Christmas rush, new year celebrations; a good news whisper in a bad news world; new year’s resolutions broken so early. People will have enjoyed the presents, eaten their food, and started fixing broken Christmas toys. The ‘peace and good will to all people’ will have worn a little thin in some places and our relationships are already needing mending. The run of public holidays is coming to an end for a week or two – back to the real world.

And that’s what’s important isn’t it? – living in the real world. Paying our way. Getting things done. Being realistic, independent, self sufficient, doing our own thing. 2016 is now with us and our children are learning how to live ‘in the real world’ environmentally, socially, politically, morally, media-wise, and so on. After all, we’ve got to live, eat, and pay our bills in the real world. And in the ‘real world’ the Christian Church and individual Christians must be careful that their proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not just a salve to ease the burden of modern living or a pick-me-up tonic to keep people going day after day in the same routine or an opiate for the masses. The real world is what we can see and hear, here and now, but it is also always more than the here and now.

The real world involves God. It always has and it always will. And it is this God’s will and pleasure that you be a part of his world, a member of his family, and a holy person in a close and living relationship with a holy God. To this end God has been working even before the creation of our world so that his will is accomplished. The focus of God’s working always remains Jesus – his birth, life, death, and resurrection. It is through Christ that people receive blessing. It is through Christ that people are blameless before God because of Jesus’ sacrificial death. It is through Christ that people are saints (not a moral term or qualification for a Nobel peace prize but a description of a new person in Christ). It is through Christ that we are known personally by God because Jesus is not afraid or ashamed to come close to us.

Christmas is not an accident. Easter is not a rescue plan gone wrong with the hero getting it at the end. Baptism is not a ritual to soothe parents’ consciences about the welfare of their baby. Holy Communion is not a miserly cafeteria at which people receive a spiritual fast food fix. Worship is not weak people creating God in their image to help them get through the big bad world.

Through these apparently weak and unspectacular means the one and only awesome God comes close to people personally. God has chosen our salvation through Jesus as he has chosen his contact with his people through the Word and the Sacraments. None of this is by chance or the arbitrary whim of human beings but part of the design of God so that people – you and I – could live with him forever.

As God in Christ calls us, speaks to us, listens to us, feeds us, guides us, and blesses us we are living our life with God through faith. It has its moments of experience, high points, special times but often life is just very ordinary and anything but spiritual. This Christian life is lived in a world that thinks that only what is seen and proven is real, so we can long for certainty. And God provides it by assuring us that we are chosen by him to be with him. This message – personal, specific – comes to each believer. Jesus once said, “You did not choose me. I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit …” (John 15:16a). Each encounter with the God in a manger, the crucified God, the God who speaks and comes in water, bread and wine is a promise that God has chosen us, is for us, and is with us all the time.

Our life in the real world as God’s people means receiving regular (or irregular) doses of Jesus to keep us going for today, this week, this year and finally, for the world to come. Christmas calls out to us that God is here. Worship proclaims that God will be with us in 2016. Our Christian response as a congregation and as individuals is one of praise and love.

Praise often scares Lutherans because it is thought by some to be too emotional and unrealistic. Praise is not a plastic smile but a living response to God’s goodness in life or in death. It may involve songs, horrays, tears, hugs, hymns, choirs, and above all words which direct the hearer ultimately to Jesus. Praise is a living response to our gracious Father, loving Son, and comforting Spirit who gives us life.

Praise takes us out of ourselves and into our relationship with God. When we praise we focus on God’s goodness and grace. However we praise God we proclaim to ourselves and to those around us the Gospel of Jesus – life is not the gloom-and-doom-you’re-on-your-own stuff of newspapers, TV, and bank statements – but an adventure with God. Praise also strengthens our faith as we join together to enjoy God. Christians are to be a praising people.
Love is the Christian lifestyle as we interact with others. God is love. We know in Christ just how much he loves us. Christians, as God’s people, seek to live out that same love. None of us do it perfectly but that doesn’t stop us each day starting afresh and loving those around us as Jesus loves them. The mark of such love is seen in service to others.

God’s plan for a holy people means that Christmas and Easter are not accidents. As believers, you have not by your cleverness chosen God and accepted Christ rather he has chosen you to be one of his holy nation and to receive his blessings. Christians know that the real world is not the 2016 calendar with all its ‘To Do’ lists but a relationship with the Triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – which is marked by praise and love. This God personally cares for YOU.

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Bible References

  • Ephesians 1:3 - 6
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