Advent III: Gaudete
Isaiah 40:1-11 | 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 | Matthew 11:2-11
The voice of the Baptizer cried out in the wilderness: "Prepare the way of the Lord . . ." (Isa. 40:1). John called the people to be made ready for the Messiah's coming through repentance, for "all flesh is grass" (Isa. 40:6). Now He asks from prison, "Are you the one who is to come . . .?" (Matt. 11:2). Jesus' works bear witness that He is. The sick are made well; the dead are raised, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them. Their iniquity is pardoned; they have received from the Lord's hand double forgiveness for all their sins. The "stewards of the mysteries of God" (1 Cor. 4:1) still deliver Christ's overflowing forgiveness to the poor in spirit, comforting God's people with the word of the Gospel which stands forever. This Gospel produces rejoicing among all those who believe.
Advent IV: Rorate Coeli
Deuteronomy 18:15-19 | Philippians 4:4-7 | John 1:19-28
The coming of God in all His unveiled power at Mount Sinai was terrifying to the people of Israel. The thundering voice of the Lord puts sinners in fear of death (Deut. 18:15–19). God, therefore, raised up a prophet like Moses—the Messiah, the Christ. God came to His people veiled in human flesh. The skies poured down the Righteous One from heaven; the earth opened her womb and brought forth Salvation (Introit) through the blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of the Lord. The fruit of her womb is the very Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, the One whose sandal strap John was not worthy to loose (John 1:19–28). In Jesus we are delivered from fear and anxiety. In Him alone we have the peace of God which surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:4–7).
Advent II: Populus Zion
Malachi 4:1-6 | Romans 15:4-13 | Luke 21:25-36
The day on which our Lord returns will be a "great and awesome day" (Mal. 4:5). For He will come in a cloud with great power and glory. To the wicked and the proud, it will be a Day of judgment that will "set them ablaze" (Mal. 4:1). The signs preceding this Day will bring them fear and fainting. But to those who believe, who fear the name of the Lord, this Day is one to look forward to and rejoice in: ". . . straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near" (Luke 21:28). Christ our Redeemer is coming; the Sun of Righteousness will bring healing in His wings. Let us, then, give attention to the words of the Lord, which do not pass away. Let us "through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures" (Rom. 15:4) be strengthened in our hope by the Holy Spirit and watch diligently for Jesus' coming. Then, by God's grace, we shall escape all these things that will come to pass and stand before the Son of Man.
Advent I: Ad Te Levavi
Jeremiah 23:5-8 | Romans 13:8-14 | Matthew 21:1-9
"Behold, your King comes to you!" While the world busies itself with the "Christmas season," we Christians observe an altogether different season - a time of repentance, waiting, expectation, and quiet prayer. Advent begins by hearing about Jesus' humble entrance into Jerusalem, on a donkey. We will spend the next month praying fervently for His return!
Trinity 27: The Last Sunday of the Church Year
Isaiah 65:17-25 | 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 | Matthew 25:1-13
“The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:1–11). The arrival of the bridegroom will be sudden and unexpected. Therefore you are to be watchful and ready like the five wise virgins. “For you know neither the day nor the hour” when the Son of Man is to return. (Matt. 25:1–13). The lamps are the Word of Christ. The oil in the lamps is the Holy Spirit, who works through the Word to create and sustain the flame of faith in Christ. The foolish are those who do not give proper attention to the working of the Holy Spirit in baptism, preaching, and the supper, and so their faith does not endure. The wise, however, are those who diligently attend to these gifts of the Spirit, and who therefore have an abundance of oil. The flame of faith endures to the end. By God’s grace they are received into the eternal wedding feast of the Lamb in His kingdom, the new heavens and the new earth created by the Lord for the joy of His people (Is. 65:17–25).
Job 14:1-6 | 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 | Matthew 24:15-28
The last three Sundays of the church year (Trinity 25-27) emphasize the coming judgment. Today, Jesus warns us not to believe false teachers, even if they draw large followings or seem to do great miracles: "For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect." In a day when many are deceived by new forms of worship and abandoning the Bible's teaching, we are called to remain faithful.
Isaiah 5:9-16 | Colossians 1:9-14 | Matthew 9:18-26
A shroud of darkness engulfs us. Sin, death, and disease threaten to sever us from life's fullest measure. Without new life in Christ Jesus, there would be no light to dissipate, dispel, or curb grief and sadness. But Jesus has qualified us “to share in the inheritance of the saints of light” delivering us from the dark domain (Col. 1:9–14). “I have put my words in your mouth and covered you in the shadow of my hand,…You are my people” (Is. 51:9–16). The presence of Christ, in word, wine, bread, and water, confronts our sinful nature with forgiveness. In the sacraments, God claims us to be His very own children, creating, and sustaining our faith. So in Christ, we humbly receive the words, “your faith has made you well” (Matt. 9:18–26). On the last day God will surely awaken us also from slumber in resurrection glory.
All Saints' Day
Revelation 7:9-17 | 1 John 3:1-3 | Matthew 5:1-12
As more people became martyrs for the faith, the days to remember the martyrs grew and it became impossible to remember them all. In order to have a day to remember the martyrs who would otherwise be forgotten, the Church began celebrating All Saints Day. A more recent custom has been commemorating the dead on this day, particularly those who have fallen asleep in Christ since the last All Saints Day. This is a conflation of the old Nov. 2 observance of "All Souls Day," also called the "Commemoration of the Faithful Departed." The German custom was to observe the last Sunday of the church year as a Totenfest (festival commemorating the dead). All of that is conflated into the contemporary customs surrounding All Saints Day, which we generally observe on the first Sunday of November at Immanuel.
Revelation 14:6-7 | Romans 3:19-28 | Matthew 11:12-19
In commemoration of Luther's restoration of the Mass (Divine Service) to the language of the people, we use an English version of Luther's Deutsche Messe ("German Mass"), which put the parts of the Mass into rhyming vernacular hymns. The Reformation is celebrated among us not as a revolt against the Catholic Church, or a breaking away from her, but a continual process of cleansing the church and restoring her to the only foundation that the true church is built upon: Jesus Christ and Him Crucified.
Genesis 1:1-2:3 | Ephesians 6:10-17 | John 4:46-54
On this Sunday the Church remembers Jesus' healing of the nobleman's son (Jn. 4.46-54). The nobleman showed great faith by returning home without seeing the miracle: "So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way." Having heard the Word, we pray for grace to depart the Divine Service, and this life, with the same trust in Jesus' Word.
Isaiah 55:1-9 | Ephesians 5:15-21 | Matthew 22:1-14
"The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son." So begins the Gospel for this day (Mt. 22.1-14). God the Father is the King, and He throws a marriage feast for His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. One of the guests, however, defies and insults the King. As the church year draws closer to its conclusion, the LORD gives us warnings about the coming judgment, lest we be "cast into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."