Rocklin, California

Tag: Christmas

I’ll Be Home for Christmas (Christmas Lessons and Carols 2012)

Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rocklin, California
Rev. Todd Peperkorn
Lessons and Carols (Dec. 24, 2012)

TITLE: “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”


Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Our text for today is from the Gospel just read from St. John chapter one.

There is something about the holiday season that evokes the homing beacon in all of us. We want to go home, quite simply put. Want want things to be as they once were. I don’t know about you, but I have a fairly clear picture in my head of what Christmas is supposed to be. I know what cookies we are supposed to have. I know how things should look and feel. I know what food to eat and which carols to sing. These memories are hard-wired into our minds from childhood and even before. There is always the elusive perfection out there. And the holiday season brings it out in all of us.

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But what is in my head and reality, well, they aren’t exactly alike, or even similar sometimes. Oh, there may be bits and pieces that fit the ideal, but something or someone is always missing. It may be something missing in my heart. It may be a song or a decoration. The wrong kind of tinsel or a missing ingredient in the holiday grog, or glug, or whatever your family calls that funny drink. It may be something bigger or more important than all of that. But as Thomas Wolfe once wrote, “you can’t go home again.”

We can’t go back in time. We can’t undo the present and transport back to that hidden perfection. We can’t go home. And truth be told, that perfection of home and hearth may have never been that perfect in the first place. As children we have a remarkable capacity for forgetting what we don’t want to remember and bringing to the front what suits our purposes. You can’t go home again.

If we understand that, we begin to understand Christmas from God’s perspective. You see, many years ago we left home. We left the Garden. And when we left in our rebellion and foolishness, God’s home, our home, was never the same again. There was a gap, a place missing that could only be filled with you. God’s heart was broken for us all.

God has called and called and continued to call us home again to him. His home just isn’t the same without you. For that is your true home, in fellowship with him. It is where you belong. All of your restlessness, all of your longing for that completion, it can only be filled in Him. We search and search and try to find meaning and purpose and make things just right, but it will never work without Him.

Because of that, and because we cannot find our own way home, our Lord left His heavenly dwelling and came down to earth. He has entered into our restless hearts. He has clothed Himself in our skin and bones, so that He may lead us home in Him.

This little babe so few days old is come to us even now to calm our fears, to show us God’s love for us, and most of all, to forgive our sins and draw us back into fellowship with Him. He comes even now as a little child, as if He is saying to you, “Don’t be afraid. I’m on your side. Come and take me into your heart, into your life. For in me you will find your place, that you maybe didn’t even know was missing.”

This night is the annual celebration of the power and grace of God’s love for you. The hymns, the carols, the lights, the readings, the symbols on the tree, all of these point to the one great light, the beacon that leads the way to God in this dark and fallen world.

God has visited His people. He has come to you this night. Come and adore Him. Thomas Wolfe was wrong. You can go home again, because He has come to bring you there. You are home for Christmas, for you are home in Him.

Merry Christmas in Jesus’ name. Amen.

His Flesh for You (Christmas Day 2012)

Holy Cross Lutheran Church

Rocklin, California

Rev. Todd Peperkorn

John 1:1-14

Christmas Day 2012

TITLE: “His Flesh for You”

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel lesson from St. John chapter one, particularly verse fourteen:

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

He has his mother’s eyes. How often have you heard that phrase, or one like it? Family resemblance can be striking. You don’t have to see a child’s parents sometimes to know them. You can see it in the young child’s eyes, or their nose, or the shape of their face. Family resemblance can even go beyond the little things. Big or small, weight, height, build, disposition, inclination toward music or math, or things mechanical, or whatever, all sorts of things are connected to family genes. You can tell so many things about a person by their family.

So what was Jesus’ family like? Our text proclaims a miracle: the Word, the almighty, eternal Word of God, became flesh. The creator of all things came into our flesh to be born of a virgin. He clothed Himself in our flesh, lived our life, died the death that should have been ours, and rose from the dead so that we, too, could live that new life of His. This is His life, and this is our life through baptism. As St. John says in verse 12 of our text, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” By baptism we have been adopted into this same Holy Family that had to flee to Egypt in the Judean night.

This miracle, called the Incarnation in the Church, is perhaps the greatest mystery of all time. How can eternity be contained in a little baby? How can the creator of the universe be wrapped in the clothes of a little Jewish baby in a cold, Judean night? This is one of the mysteries of the Church that we can only confess and give thanks to God for, but perhaps the greater mystery is why. Why would God deign to become man? Now there’s a question we can answer, because our Lord has told us why He came to earth. He came to earth because of His great love for us. Love so deep and rich and passionate that He could not, He would not let us die in the mire of our transgressions. He came into our flesh. This body, this flesh that God has given to each one of us, this is the flesh that we have torn and abused by sin and greed. This is the flesh that holds all of our filthy thoughts, and these are the arms and legs and eyes and mouth and ears that each one of you uses to deny and mock God, and to serve yourself rather than those in need around you. It is into this weak and sinful flesh that Christ our Lord came.

The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us. Our Lord did not come into the flesh to be an earthly ruler, or as some sort of superhuman. No, he came into our flesh, and He dwelt among us. He came and was in the midst of human life. Our hurts, our sorrows, our joys, our pain, He experienced all of it. That’s the sort of God we worship. Our Lord is not far and away off in heaven, looking downing with a disdainful eye on all of our misdeeds. No, He saw our sinful weakness and rebellion, came into our flesh and dwelt among us. The Son of God entered the world of His creation to redeem it, to buy it back from Satan and the world.

So where do we find this Son of God today? Did He go back into heaven after doing all of His work to save us? Is it back to business as usual? The world today has all sorts of places to go to find God. As are now in the new millennium, we see more and more bizarre cults and religious groups coming forth with the “truth” about God. But where to we find God? John answers the question for us: The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us. We know God by partaking of His flesh. We know God by knowing Jesus. Luther put it this way:

“The Son of God did not want to be seen and found in heaven. Therefore He descended from heaven into this lowliness, came to us in our flesh, laid Himself into the womb of His mother and into the manger and went to the cross. This ladder He placed on the earth so that we might ascend to God on it. This is the way you must take. If you forsake this way and try to speculate about the glory of the Divine Majesty without this ladder, you will invent marvelous matters, matters that are above your horizon; but you will do so to your very great harm.”

So where is the ladder to heaven and to God? The manger, the cross, and the empty tomb. It is only through Christ that we find God and ascend to heaven. Many people will want to speculate about God, and try to put the focus away from Christ and on to us. That is always the temptation, isn’t it? We so much want to get away from Christ and look elsewhere. A little baby in a manger is cute, but death on a cross? That’s morbid and depressing. But it is only through this cross that we can find God. Luther again put it this way, “We should hold of a certainty that when we look at Christ, hear Him, call upon Him, and worship Him, we are seeing, hearing, calling upon, and worshipping God the Father . . . For what you hear from Christ you hear from the eternal and invisible Father, because besides Christ there is no other God, nor are we to seek any other will of God. Those who indulge their own thoughts and speculate about God and His will without Christ lose God altogether.”

This is what it means to say that we behold His glory. Where is His glory? Is His glory in power, where He rules with an iron fist? Is His glory in success? As a preacher, Jesus was a failure by earthly standards. Who was left with Him when He suffered and died? No one. Does John call Him, “Behold the mighty lion who takes away the sin of the world”? No. He is the lamb, a meek and lowly creature that is easily taken and killed.

Here we get to the back to the mystery of Christmas. The angels and all the heavenly host sing of His glory, and we sing with them. “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on earth.” God’s glory, bound together in human flesh, dwelling among us as one of us. Born, circumcised, lived, suffered, died, and rose again. For you. Only for you. This is His glory, that He would live the perfect life we cannot live, and die our death, so that we can partake of His glory.

St. Paul once wrote, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” Your baptism bound you to Christ’s life. “In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.” “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.” When you were baptized, all of the fullness of His indestructible life became yours. You are bound to His flesh in your baptism. The fullness of His divine life is yours. Life, real life, is yours through this babe of Bethlehem.

Very soon we will dine at His table, and partake of His divine flesh and blood. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. He dwells with us today, and He gives us Himself for divine food and drink. Here, in this holy place, we partake of His divine nature, and all of the gifts that He would bring to you through His cross and resurrection are yours. Take, eat, take, drink. The Word became flesh.

So what was the family resemblance Jesus had with His mother? And what is the family resemblance you have with Jesus, your true Brother? You have the gift of eternal life, and the name of God is upon you. May this life be yours to all eternity, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

And now may the peace of God, which passes all human understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.

Knowing the Mind of God – Christmas Day 2011

Todd A. Peperkorn, STM Holy Cross Lutheran Church Christmas Day 2011 (rev. from 2008) John 1:1-14

TITLE: “Knowing the Mind of God”

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel lesson from St. John chapter one, particularly verse fourteen: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14 NKJV) This morning we will reflect in wonder upon the mystery that in Jesus Christ, God bares His soul to us and gives of Himself in a way that none of us can ever truly comprehend.

Every one of us has a sort of running conversation that goes on within us. You know what I mean. You talk to yourself. You talk to yourself about whether to get out of bed, what clothes to wear, how you feel, what you want to do, how much coffee to drink. You can have pretty extended conversations with yourself. Luther talks about this as follows:

Furthermore, we must realize that this Word in God is entirely different from my word or yours. For we, too, have a word, especially a “word of the heart,” as the holy fathers call it.4[1] When, for example, we think about something and diligently investigate it, we have words; we carry on a conversation with ourselves. Its content is unknown to all but ourselves until such Words of the heart are translated into oral words and speech, which we now utter after we have revolved them in our heart and have reflected on them for a long time. Not until then is our word heard and understood by others. St. Paul touches on this in First Corinthians (2:11): “No person knows a man’s thoughts except the spirit of the man which is in him.”

Can you imagine what it would be like to know another person like that, to peek in to their interior monologue? None of us ever knows another person that way. First of all, we would all be too afraid. Like Adam and Eve in the Garden, we would run and hide at the thought of another person truly knowing our thoughts. They are too close, too private, too personal. They are too full of sin and selfishness and heartache and sorrow and want and need and pain. None of us could bear that level of self-disclosure. None of us could handle being that exposed. Not to our children. Not even to our spouse. It would be the ultimate in too much information.

Yet that is exactly what God does in sending His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, into our flesh. The divine life of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, have existed in all eternity with that holy conversation going on. The Father showing His will to the Son. The Son receiving that will of the Father and returning it to Him, all happening in the Spirit.

But God, who is rich in mercy, did not wish to exist simply in Himself. He spoke the Word, and it went forth in creation, making a world out of nothing. God bared His soul to the world. But sin entered in, and the voice of God was not heard. We stopped up our ears to His voice. We refused to listen to all of the great and mighty things that He wanted to tell us. So He sent His prophets. Time and time again God sent them, so that His mind would be made known to us. But what did we do? We killed them. We threw them out of our cities. We were too busy, too bored, too uninterested in the things of God to care about such trifles.

God bared His soul to the world in a way that none of us could ever truly comprehend. He sent His Son, His Word made flesh. The author to the book of Hebrews put it this way:

“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son…” (Hebrews 1:1-2 NKJV)

God has bared His soul to you. He has opened His mind to you by sending His Word, His Son, His voice into your flesh and blood. It is unfathomable. It is mysterious and wonderful. It is the greatest gift that anyone has ever given, anywhere. And it is all for you. That river of God’s mercy which flows from Jesus’ birth now flows to you. For after all, remember the words from Isaiah:

Unto us a Child is born. Unto us a Son is given. His name shall be called wonderful counselor, the mighty God, The everlasting Father, the | Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

Our heavenly Father, you see, has no secrets from you, none that matter to us anyway. His bares His very soul to you in sending His Word into your flesh and blood. Trust Him now. Believe in Him, and live. Know that the God who would do such a great and mighty deed would never seek to hurt or harm you. He loves you, with every fiber of His being. Could there be any greater gift? No. That is the gift of Christmas. God becomes man so that we might become like unto God. He comes down, here and now, so that you might ascend to him. Another early pastor (St. Cyril of Alexandria) put it like this:

He found humanity reduced to the level of the beasts. Therefore he is placed like feed in a manger, that we, having left behind our carnal desires, might rise up to that degree of intelligence which befits human nature. Whereas we were brutish in soul, by now approaching the manger, yes, his table, we find no longer feed, but the bread from heaven, which is the body of life.[1][2]

So come, feast upon the Word made Flesh for you. Feast and rejoice, for God has drawn you up into Him! Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

And now may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.

 [1] 4Here Luther seems to be referring to a distinction which originated in Stoic thought and which appeared in Philo between the λόγος ἐδιάθετος (the Logos as He was in God) and the λόγος προφορικός (the Logos as He emanated from God). The first church father to employ the distinction appears to have been Theophilus, To Autolycus, II, ch. 10; II, ch. 22. Martin Luther, vol. 22, Luther’s Works, Vol. 22 : Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 1-4, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther’s Works (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1957), 22:8. [2] [1] COMMENTARY ON LUKE, HOMILY 1. Just, A. A. (2005). Vol. 3: Luke. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture NT 3. (39). Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

“Because” Christmas Children’s Evening Prayer – 2011

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

I’ve always loved that phrase at the end of Luther’s hymn, “While angels sing with pious mirth A glad new year to all the earth.” Pious mirth. It is easy in the hustle and bustle of our lives, to forget to laugh and have true joy. Truth be told, often laughter is pretty low on our “to do” list of things for the Christmas season.

But the angels have something to teach us about how we look at these things. The events themselves are pretty simple. We just heard the story from our children, and from Dr. Luther’s marvelous hymn. But simple does not mean unimportant. Mary and Joseph travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem. While they are there, Mary gives birth to her Son, Jesus Christ, the Lord.

That’s it. Oh, there are more details to be had, things to be said, and the like. But the bare facts of it are quite simple. Jesus is born. And with this event, everything changes for you and me, indeed for the entire world.

Because Jesus is born, the story, your story, now has an ending in joy, not sorrow.

Because Jesus is born, these children here have a future that is bright with the light of eternity.

Because Jesus is born, your griefs will come to an end.

Because Jesus is born, the road to the cross is set, and your salvation is at hand.

Because Jesus is born, your sins do not define you. They will be cast off with His death and resurrection.

Because Jesus is born, all of Satan’s plans have come unraveled like so many loose beads on a string.

Because Jesus is born, the gates of hell itself are shaken at the cry of this little babe.

Because Jesus is born, you can sing with the angels of God’s glory now come to earth.

Because Jesus is born, you can now depart in peace. Death is but a quiet slumber, the sleep of a child who will awaken at the call of their Father.

Because Jesus is born, no matter how dark the night is for you, the dawn of a new day in Christ is here.

Because Jesus is born, you can now laugh with the pious mirth of the angels, knowing that your champion is now at hand.

So this night, as we hear the story anew and learn from our children about the Christ child, laugh with the angels. A glad new year is here for all the earth. You are at peace. God loves you. He comes to you now in Word and Meal, ready ever to forgive and to draw you into that gracious embrace.

Believe it for Jesus’ sake, and Merry Christmas in Jesus’ name! Amen.