Wait on the LORD: be of good courage,
and he shall strengthen thine heart;
wait, I say, on the LORD.
- Psalm 27:14
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Unto You 12/25/2011
Merry Christmas to all!

Today is Christmas Day and on a Sunday! Wow! Our day of joy is here again, one that we have been looking forward to all during the Advent time during December. As we revisit the familiar Christmas story which Doctor Luke describes from various vantage points, may our hearts be lifted up in praise and adoration for that which has come to pass in the "fullness of time." May the clouds of darkness be moved away on this day of celebration of the birth of the One who made all things and the One who came in flesh so that He might reconcile all things unto Himself through His life, death and resurrection.

Ever since I can remember it has been a tradition for my family to read Luke's account of the journey to Bethlehem to where Jesus was born. Even though I have gained knowledge of Christ through the years, nevertheless this account stills enthralls my soul in the way that it did when I was a young boy listening to a member of my birth family read it. It is a story that never grows old, for each year it seems as if the Lord is gracious to me in revealing more of His saving grace to me through this particular Word.

For example, this year it was made new to me again how God fulfills His plans just as He said He would and He does it according to His own timetable. Not ours, but His! He moves people to bring about His purposes as if they had strings on them and they were puppets. It was not different in this case, for Caesar Augustus decided have people pay a tax and in order to do it, they would have to travel to their own country. In Joseph case, he traveled to Bethlehem, since he was of the house and lineage of David, taking his engaged to him wife along with him.

As they got to the city that was bustling with other people coming to pay their tax, they had trouble finding a place for the night and ended up sleeping in a barn or a stable like place and that is where Mary gave birth to God. Wow, that is weird, that the God who made all things would be born in such conditions. We wonder how many people were there to see God come to earth?? We wonder how many people were aware of this amazing event??

In verse 8 of Luke 2, we see who God showed this too initially and of how He broke the Good News to the world. We find shepherds doing their jobs as they were out in the field during the night, perhaps sitting around the fire talking and looking at the stars. It was perhaps a night like any other night, but which soon became a night like no other previous night! Suddenly in the darkness of that night, the angel of the Lord came upon them and the glory of the Lord shone around about them! They feared, for they had never seen anything like this before! The Holy light was everywhere!

As they shook in fear and wonderment, the angel spoke to them, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."

The angels told them that there is nothing to fear, for behold....When the angel said behold the shepherds understood that what was going to be said was mighty important, for that word means "listen up," "this is super important, "do not miss this." The angel went on to bring the good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. And what were these good tiding of great joy? Amazing words now came out of the angel's mouth, which God had sent the angel to say:

"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."

"Unto you" Not unto someone else, but unto you and unto me is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord!!! Those words should excite our hearts with joy and gladness anew this morning, in that the Saviour Jesus the Christ is born unto me and unto you!! Martin Luther wrote that there were to two most important words of Christmas: "Unto you!" He understood the signficance of humanity's need to recognize that this God who became as one of us in the flesh came "unto us," "unto you," "unto me." He is a person God who came because He loves us and wanted to restore us unto Himself.

Most of us at the hearing of such marvelous news would perhaps begin to wonder where we can get such blessing from heaven. Perhaps the shepherds wondered about that too, and while they were in their transfixed state, the angel told them that the sign of this happening would be found in a stable a short distance away from them, where a baby had been born and was lying in a stable. They would not find Him by staring into the heavens, but they would find Him in the manger.

After this fabulous proclamation, another amazing thing happened. The angelic choir of the heavens broke through in praise and adoration of its Creator with these words, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." Wow! That must have been something to hear those voices perfectly sychronized in their song of praise!

Soon the scene dissipated, the sounds of praise grew quiet and it grew dark again. Perhaps we could relate to the scene in a small in the events of our July 4th celebrations. In the fireworks displays we look forward to the grand finale, a time in which a host of fireworks are exploded simultaneously. The great noise and smoke fill the air, but soon the noise disappears into the distance and the smoke dissipates into the night. Perhaps in a small way we can relate to what the shepherds experienced, but of course they experienced something of much much more significance than a fireworks display.

The shepherds in the dark, "said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. They reocognized that it was God speaking through His messengers. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

They talked it over, decided to go to Bethlehem and they did not drag their feet as they went. There they found Mary and Joseph and the babe lying in a manger. What they saw had such an impact on them that they told others about the saying which was told concerning Jesus. What they told other people caused a lot of thinking and pondering, for the people marveled at such a happening.

Mary, who was anywhere between 12 to 18 years old, had been visited by the angel Gabriel who had told her of her favor before the Lord, had struggled with how to tell her future husband of her pregnancy which was by the Holy Spirit, had given birth just as the angel had told her she would, continued to think on all the things that had been told to her and of her recent experiences. As she mixed all these together, she kept them to herself.

Lastly, the shepherds returned to their fields, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them!

They returned to their regular job, but they returned different men, for as they considered all the things that they heard and seen from God, they glorified and praised their God who had come to them. They had no need to stay there at the manger, but they returned to their place of employment with glad hearts, knowing that the God who they had worshipped for years in shadows and types had now come "unto them!"

Let us this Christmas Day ponder, ie.put together all the things that we have heard and seen during this Advent and Christmas season concerning God's coming "unto us!"

"And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."

In the joy of Christmas, I leave you.

Pastor Orval Wirkkala

Posted on 25 Dec 2011 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala
For Us, With Us, In Us

Luke 1:26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.

On this the fourth and last Sunday in Advent, our text of meditation today centers on the beginning of the earthly life of Jesus, God in the flesh, through the eyes of Mary, His mother. As we look at the biblical record may we listen to and think upon this portion of God's plan of redeeming us as fallen and lost sinners. We begin with the visit of the messenger from God's throne, the angel Gabriel who visits a young Jewish maiden who is identified as Mary and of whom it is said that she has not had sexual intercourse with a male. She was engaged to Joseph, her future husband, but was living in the time of engagement during which preparations were being made for the marriage and they were not to come together in the physical act of love which was to be consummated after the wedding. It is unknown as to the age of Mary, but it has been thought to be somewhere between 12 to 18.

28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail,(Rejoice) thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

Mary is told to rejoice. In our familiar King James English, we use the word, "Hail", which to us can sound something like, "Howdy" or "Hello". That does not give us the sense of the meaning that the angel Gabriel is bringing forth, for he is not coming to her with just any kind of ordinary information, but he comes with an announcement that is super extraordinary! He tells her to "Rejoice!" for she is highly favored, the Lord is with her and that she is highly favored among woman. She is being told that God is gracious to her and that she is a recipient of God's favor, and not necessarily a dispenser of God's favor. Even though through her womb, God was born into this world, nevertheless it must be made clear that from the biblical record she was a woman like any other woman and she was the means by which God chose to bring Himself into this world to be born in the likeness of humans.

Naturally at this news, Mary was troubled, for 29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind (reasoned, wondered) what manner of salutation this should be, to which Gabriel responded to her with this assurance:

30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

She was told not to fear, for God has found favour with her. In other words, God decided to act graciously toward her, not because anything she was or had done, but because that is what He wanted to do. Mary, having been told that she had found grace/favor in the sight of the Lord, now was told some astounding news: She would become pregnant, would have a son and she would name Him Jesus. (Jehovah is salvation) While she pondered that, the angel went onto say that He will be great and will be called the son of the Most High: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David! Furthermore, she was told that he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

The angel, having opened the extraordinary meeting with a greeting of "rejoice," and relaying the message that she is favored/chosen of God for His use, now refers back to the Scriptures as they had them at that time. There is a clear reference to 2 Samuel 7

KJV 2 Samuel 7:11 And as since the time that I commanded judges to be over my people Israel, and have caused thee to rest from all thine enemies. Also the LORD telleth thee that he will make thee an house. 12 And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.

The kingdom of David was a golden age for the people of God around 1000 years before Jesus was born, but it had diminished since that time, but nevertheless David's kingdom was a shadow of the Coming Kingdom of the Messiah. We do not know how much Mary understood of this prophecy, but from the sayings and references of Jesus in the New Testament we know that when He was referred to as the son of David that there was an understanding that this was a reference to the Promised Messiah. That we see in the very first verse of the Gospel of Matthew.

KJV Matthew 1:1 The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

KJV Matthew 21:9 And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.

KJV Matthew 22:42 Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David.

KJV Mark 10:47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me.

Mary then asked the obvious question and is given the answer.
34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

We can wonder that at this time did a previous situation run through Mary's mind, of other women in God's plan who had been used by Him to bring forth this day. Did she remember the of another angels visit to Sarah, the wife of Abraham?

Genesis 18:10 And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him.
11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.
12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?
13 And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old?
14 Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.

That we do not know, but we do know that the angel did give her the knowledge of how God had brought about the pregnancy of her cousin Elizabeth, who was the mother of John the Baptizer:

36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.

Mary was presented with the experience of her cousin who was a woman past child bearing age, even as Sarah had been. As we think on what she must have thought at this astounding news that her barren cousin was pregnant, and not having any way of knowing the hows of the pregnancy, she was then told in statement form

37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.

Mary responded in faith, saying in so many words, "Lord, I accept this favor that you are showing me, I understand that it is solely because you wanted to use me for your gracious purposes that I have been chosen, so therefore I am your servant, do what you want with me."

38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

The bibical account of the conception of Jesus is straight forward and clear. God chose to bring Himself into this world through Mary's womb without the help of any human father. We confess that truth when we recite the Apostles Creed together each time we prepare to eat of the Body and drink of His Blood in His Supper. We believe that to be true, we teach it as truth and we live in the reality of that truth. Mary's response of faith is an example to all of us here today, in that when God, speaking through the angel Gabriel, told her that with Him nothing will be impossible, she believed that which had been spoken of her. Did she at the moment conceive when she said those words? What do you think?

Let us consider this teaching today as to how it may relate to us in our lives. The two main points I would think would be about sticking with the biblical record concerning the virgin birth of Jesus and of the necessity of faith to believe this which God has through the Holy Spirit moved men to write. In this we would be warned against being influenced by either ignorance of the Scriptures or of using extra biblical sources/traditions in order to form our convictions of who God is, what God does and what God will do. By faith we consider what God says in His written Word, therefore we believe that He is for us, He is with Us and He is in us. He comes to us through the Sacrament of His Supper. In that sense we experience His Presence through the knowledge that He is for us, He is with us and He is in us. Not just in me, but in us. Consider the following:

God has always been for us, and He came to us so that He could join Himself unto human as the last Adam. In the Lord's Supper, we experience this union in a physical manner as we kneel together, but not only in that manner. For we are united with Him and in Him each time we partake of His Body and Blood also through faith. We are not going up the the Communion rail as individuals, but as the Body of Christ and as we physically partake of Him, we are encouraged and strengthened in this knowledge. We are reminded the Body of Jesus Christ is one, and that it is made up of all those who are by faith united into this Body of Jesus. Whether one is yet living here on earth or has been translated to the final kingdom in heaven, does not affect the reality that when the Lord communes with us we are also communing with those who are now absent from the body and present with the Lord. So for Doris whose husband died physically last week, we are able to understand that even though there is no visible or physical presence of Kenny, yet because Kenny lives in the presence of Christ, we along with Doris have the understanding that we are yet in Holy Communion in the Body of Jesus Christ, which includes all those who have been received into heaven. There is never a separation in the spiritual sense, but at the time of our coming together at the Lord's Table, we experience a closer intimacy with all those within the Body of Jesus Christ.

As we move from the Word to Sacrament today, before we do I want to share a recent experience that I had concerning the meaning and power of the Sacrament, the Lord's Supper. Over the years the Lord has opened up to me more of the meaning and of the power of eating and drinking of the Body and Blood of the Lord. As I have listened to people talk of their experience, I have kind of gathered that many share my thoughts in that they long for a deeper understanding as well as experience concerning the Lord's Supper. In light of this, I have chosen to share my recent experience, but with the caution that I realize that this is my experience alone and in sharing it I do not wish to give the impression that this is some kind of a pattern for others to follow. Please understand that as you read the following accounts.

Recently on Sunday morning as I struggled in the hospital with the waiting and the uncertainty of recovery/surgery, I found out that there was a chapel service in the hospital. At this time, I just wanted to go to be near the Word of the Lord, hoping for some encouragement from Him. I asked the nurse if it would be okay if I went there and she said, yes, and so she made the provisions for me I drug my iv holder with me and went into the balcony of the chapel where one could look down upon the chapel service. Even though I should have known it, I was surprised to see the beautiful altar with all its symbolism and quickly realized that I was attending a Catholic Mass. I was all right with that and found myself enjoying the Word as it was presented in song and in Word in mostly a liturgical fashion.
As I stumbled around their worship book to keep up with the different liturgies and responses, I soon lost my place and chose to merely listen and observe. Soon the service began to change to the Eucharist (Thanksgiving) part of the service and I watched in wonder at all the preparations that were made for the dispensing of the body and blood of our Lord and Savior. I soon found myself forgetting about everything else which I was seeing done in preparation for the Eucharist, being drawn into the mystery of how Jesus was going to be present in the elements and would be given to all who would receive. Never being in a Eucharist service before, I was torn between staying and partaking of the mystery and leaving, and soon I found myself shuffling out into the hallway to go back to my room. But I did not get very far and Martin Luther's words came back to me that it is not the server that affects the efficacy of the Sacrament, for it is the Body and Blood of Christ and stands that way inspite of and without human hands!! Period.
Even yet struggling with the Roman view of Transubstantiation, I hesitated, but then turned and went back into the balcony which was now deserted except for the hospital chaplain who asked me if I wished to receive the Sacrament of our Lord. I said, yes, I do, for I need the help of the Lord. She called for a person to come up to the balcony who served me, and as he did, a great sense of joy of the Presence of Christ filled my soul to joy and rejoicing that I will not soon forget. I cannot describe it very well, but it was not like a shot of happiness, instead it was a deep sense of gratitude for His suffering and death in my place and in coming to me at that moment, He communicated to me that He shares both His death and life with me now and forever! And the part that really opened up to me at that time was that He did it joyfully! I wept much at that revelation and His strength began to be my strength that time on.

So that is what I wanted to share. He is so good to us, to come to join Himself to us so that we might be partakers of His joy!!

May the joy of the Lord be your strength today in Christ Jesus!

Pastor Orval Wirkkala
Posted on 18 Dec 2011 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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Unto You 12/25/2011
- Posted by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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Carol Fischer and her family as they grieve the loss of Bob