Christmas 1 – John, Apostle & Evangelist December 27, 2020
Text: John 3:16; 1 John 4:9-11,19 20:2232
Theme: At Christmas John Teaches Us a Love that Is Real
Can you tell the difference between a real $100 bill and a counterfeit one? Most people probably can’t.
Not too long ago I was standing in line at a store when two customers who were ahead of me at the checkout counter paid with cash, each of them using a $100 bill. When the cashier received the bill, she marked it with a special pen and held it up to the light. She was testing it to see if it was real or fake. I suppose that clerks are trained to spot counterfeit bills, but I would guess that most people couldn’t tell a phony dollar bill from a real one.
In our world today, something similar happens with the emotion we call “love.” Aided by television, movies, and the media, which often describe love in terms of indiscriminate sex and pleasure upon demand, our world has opted for the counterfeit. For so many, love means getting instead of giving.
How different is the love that God displays and asks us to imitate. Real love is a giving love, like God’s who gave us the Savior at Christmas. John, the apostle and evangelist, reminds us this Sunday after Christmas About Love that Is Real. (text)
I. Christ’s love for us.
Jesus had carefully and lovingly shaped this apostle, molding his faith. In the bedroom of Jairus’ house, John watched Jesus impossibly conquer death. On the Mount of Transfiguration, John saw a taste of Jesus’ heavenly glory. In the Garden of Gethsemane, John witnessed a Savior’s willing agony for His people. And at the foot of the cross John heard words of loving forgiveness fall from Jesus’ lips. The results of such shaping by his Master showed in John’s life as He put Jesus at the center of everything.
Why? What brought this about? John himself gives the answer in his writings as he points to the Savior and never to himself. Not once in his Gospel or Epistles did he ever list himself by name. Five times he refers to himself as the “disciple whom Jesus loved,” three times as “that other” or “another disciple,” but never as John. In his writings his own person falls into the background. Always he points to Jesus. Someone commented that in the Gospel according to John, John is never visible and Jesus is never invisible. And
when John points to Jesus, so often he points to Jesus’ great love.
It’s as though John were saying, “Do you want to know how I became Jesus’ disciple? How come I never left Him? How He’s my greatest treasure? How come I stood beneath His cross and will stand by His throne in heaven? Then don’t look at me. It had nothing to do with me. It was all about Jesus and His love. In love He chose me; laid down His life for me; kept me close to Him. Yes, in love He gives Himself to me.”
In love Jesus gives Himself to us. Thank God for that. And Christ’s love for us is a no-strings attached love. It is not one conditioned on what we are or what He could get from us. If it were, just think how He would have to tell us, “I want nothing to do with you,” because so often in our lives we are like phony dollar bills. In our sin we are often counterfeit and our love is not always the real thing. But John writes, “God so loved us.” And again, “This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” Now that’s a love that is real, a love concerned about giving, not getting.
The story is told that during the time of the Middle Ages, one Christmas Eve night, a popular pastor announced that he would preach a sermon on God’s love. Quietly the people sat for some time in the darkened church. Minutes passed. They began to wonder, “When will the service start and we get to hear that sermon on God’s love?” Finally, when the great church was entirely dark, the pastor lit one candle, walked to the life-sized crucifix behind the altar, and held the candle to each of the pierced hands, spiked feet, wounded side, and thorn-crowned head. Quietly the congregation rose to its feet that Christmas Eve, not at the sight of the manger, but at the cross that stood behind the manger and cast its shadow over it.
That was the sermon on the love of God, a love that’s real, a love for us. It is to the One who gave His all for us upon the cross, to whom John points: “He loved us.” (hymn: Of the Father’s Love)
II. Our love for Christ.
Those who have felt the golden sunshine of divine love reflect it.
“We love Him,” John wrote, “because He first loved us.”
It was Christ’s love for him that moved John to stand beneath his Savior’s cross while others fled. It was Christ’s love for him that moved John, when the Sanhedrin ordered him to stop preaching in Jesus’ name, to say: “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts.4:18f). Even when the consequences meant being exiled to the deserted island of Patmos, John’s love for the Savior who loved him would not let him be silent. To serve Christ in love was John’s purpose in life and the Holy Spirit used him to bring us 5 books of the New Testament. In each one, John testifies clearly and sweetly about the Savior who first loved us.
Like an eagle (which has become his symbol within the church), John soars to greater heights than any other in speaking of God’s love. But he also comes very much back to earth to remind us that disciples are to reflect God’s love in what they are and do here. And he reminds us that the best way to show love to God, not just at Christmas time but always…the best way to show love to God is to show it to those whom God has placed around us. John writes, “Anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen” (1Jn.4:20). “Dear friends,” he urges us again and again, “love one another” (1Jn.4:7).
Our love for God means putting his commands first in our lives. Loving God means giving Him first place in our hearts and living it with our priorities in life. Loving God means realizing that He is not just someone from whom we get so much but someone to whom we want to give our all. Loving God means loving those whom He has placed around us, showing concern not for what we can get from them but for what we can give to them – not for what they can do for us but for what we can do for them.
Difficult? Of course it can be for us. It’s hard in a world where counterfeit love reigns supreme. Our world teaches us phony love and that can affect us, even at Christmas, until we take the candle of faith and hold it up to the pierced hands, feet, and side of the Savior who first loved us. We see not just the tiny hands and feet that are in the manger, but we see the pierced hands and feet on the cross and respond. Christ’s love for us moves us to live our love for Him. God grant it to us this season and always for Jesus’ sake. Amen. (hymn: Your Little Ones; To Thee My Heart I Offer)
Christmas 1 – St. John, Apostle & Evangelist December 27, 2020
Welcome in the name of the newborn Savior. Although for many people Christmas has now passed, its glow has only just begun to shine with splendor in the hearts of God’s people. It shines with the blessings of love, joy, peace, and hope which God gives to us in the Christ-child. The Son of God did not come to earth just to begin a festival; He came to save us for His heavenly kingdom.
This work of His saving love began at His lowly birth in a cattle stall. It continued throughout His life as He became our substitute to live our sorrows, to atone for our sin, and to be our comfort, strength, and guide. He did all in love, even as His Father loved us by giving us His Son.
As the Church considers these glorious truths right after Christmas, may we learn to follow Him in faith and love to the eternal blessings He bestows.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
For God So Loved the World
(The service this morning is a song service that follows the liturgical outline of the Common Service.
Appropriate hymns of the season are substituted for the various parts of the liturgy.)
The Preparation for Worship
The Entrance Hymn: “Come, Your Hearts and Voices Raising” 42
The Confession of Sins: “Let the Earth Now Praise the Lord” 28
The Absolution and Gloria in Excelsis: “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” 61
Prayer of the Day
The Ministry of the Word
The Old Testament Lesson: Genesis 1:1-5,26-31 – At creation God made light shine.
The Hymn: “Brightest and Best of the Stars of the Morning” 92
The Epistle Lesson: 1 John 1:1-2:2 – The Word of Life is made known.
The Hymn: “O Little Town of Bethlehem” 65
The Sermon Text: John 3:16 & 1 John 4:9-11,19
At Christmas John Teaches Us a Love That Is Real
Part I: “Christ’s Love for Us.”
The Hymn: “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” 35
Part II: “Our Love for Christ.”
Our Response to the Word
The Offertory Hymn: “Your Little One, Dear Lord, Are We” 46
P: Oh gracious and almighty Father, we praise You that You kept Your ancient promises by sending Your everlasting Son in human flesh.
C: In this holy season night, receive our thanks and devotion, our songs and prayers.
P: You sent Jesus as a lowly child to demonstrate Your love for all, the weak and lonely, the troubled and frightened, the timid and helpless. No one is overlooked by Your ever-seeking eyes. No one is excluded from Your upholding arms. No one is denied the comfort and help of Your outstretched hand.
C: Bless us with childlike faith in the divine assurance that You love and care for us always.
P: You sent Jesus as the Savior of the world to deliver all from the curse of sin, the power of death, and the torment of hell. He took our place. He was born under the law to set us free. He became the innocent lamb of sacrifice. He came to die and rise again in order that we might live eternally. Firmly implant this good news in our hearts, and fill us with an eager desire to spread the Word concerning what we have seen and heard.
C: May all who hear the message, in every nation under heaven, be amazed and believe what is told them about this Child.
P: You sent Jesus as the Light of the world to drive out all darkness that would rob us of the full life that You intend for us. May the “joy that will be for all people” be our joy. May the “peace on earth to all on whom his favor rests” be our peace. May the treasure that Mary pondered in her heart be our treasure.
C: For in the town of David, a Savior has been born to us. He is Christ, the Lord.
The Lord’s Prayer
The Lord Blesses Us
The Closing Hymn: “Let Us All with Gladsome Voice” 64
Christmas 1 – St. John, Apostle & Evangelist
Old Testament Lesson: Genesis 1:1-5,26-31 – And There Was Light.
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and He called the darkness “night.” Evening came and then morning: the first day. 26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female. 28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.” 29 God also said, “Look, I have given you every seed-bearing plant on the surface of the entire earth and every tree whose fruit contains seed. This food will be for you, 30 for all the wildlife of the earth, for every bird of the sky, and for every creature that crawls on the earth—everything having the breath of life in it. ⌊I have given⌋ every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. Evening came and then morning: the sixth day.
Epistle Lesson: 1 John 1:1-2:2 – In Him Was Life
1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have observed and have touched with our hands, concerning the Word of life— 2 that life was revealed, and we have seen it and we testify and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us — 3 what we have seen and heard we also declare to you, so that you may have fellowship along with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. 5 Now this is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in Him. 6 If we say, “We have fellowship with Him,” yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say, “We don’t have any sin,” we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. 2:1 My little children, I am writing you these things so that you may not sin. If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ the Righteous One. 2 He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world.
Gospel Lesson: John 3:16 – God Loved the World.
16 “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. In our desire to focus on Christ and His saving work, we have stepped away from observing the days of the saints and other festivals. Yet, next to Easter, Pentecost, and Christmas, some of these minor festivals were the oldest fixed dates in the calendar and liturgy of the Church.
The early Church understood the close connection between the manger and the cross of Christ and the lives of the saints in Christ. Martin Luther wrote, “For, in the lives of the saints one is greatly pleased to find how they sincerely believed God’s Word, confessed it with their lips, praised it by their living, and honored and confirmed it by their suffering and dying.” Reflecting on what Scripture says about the saints is seeing revealed in bold detail the greatness of God’s amazing grace in Christ Jesus.
One such saint is the Apostle John, whose life and writings of the Christ is observed on December 27th. How much do you know of him and the purpose of this minor festival?
Persecution sent St. John to Ephesus in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). From there he was banished by the Emperor Domitian to Patmos, a lonely island in the Greek archipelago, where he worked among the criminals in the mines. After the assassination of Domitian, his successor, the Emperor Nerva, allowed St. John to return to Ephesus where he died, according to tradition, at the age of 94, probably the only disciple to die a natural death.
His Gospel supplements the writings of the Synoptists (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), and vigorously proclaims the divinity of Christ in opposition to the heresies of the false teachers of the time. Many church throughout the world bear his name. Christian iconography (the use of symbols and images) represents him as an eagle because the writing ascribed to him soar to sublime heights as he describes the person and work of Christ, our Savior.
Such saints were believers who by God’s grace fixed their eyes on Jesus from the time He entered our world in the manger at Christmas until the time He returns as King and Judge over all. By God’s grace they knew and followed Jesus, listening to, loving, and living out His Word. They did and dared for Jesus to the point of laying down their lives for their Savior.
May the God of all grace fix our eyes on Jesus, whose birth we celebrate. As He continues to the cross and the empty tomb, may we praise Him as the loving gift of God who brings the blessings of salvation to all who believe.
Calendar & Announcements for Zion Lutheran Church
December 27, 2020 – January 3, 2021
Divine Worship Service
No Bible Study today
|No Midweek Bible Class of Confirmation Class will be held this week.
|New Year’s Day
The Naming of Jesus
Divine Worship Service with Holy Communion
Bible Study for all ages
Those We Remember In Our Prayers: Dea Windsor; Clyde & Sharon Johnson; Dave Ballou; Greg Miller; Lou Schulz; Felicia Nichols’ family; Bill Buchanan; Norine Richardson; Barbara Long; Jodi Milam; Laurie Moon’s husband. William; Jodi’s brother and sister-in-law sick for 2 months with COVID 19; Pastor James Witt, St. Louis; Lois Wiese, at home recovering from surgery.
Regarding New Year’s Eve With the pandemic situation this year, we will not be holding our normal New Year’s Eve Service of Holy Communion. However, we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper in our first service of the New Year next Sunday.
Offering Envelopes for the upcoming year are in the mail boxes in the narthex. If for some reason you did not receive a set, please see Jim Wiese.
Thank You very much for your kind holiday greetings and gifts by which you have remembered our family again this Christmas. Your words of Christmas greetings and expressions of thoughtfulness and care throughout the year are greatly appreciated. May the Lord bless you and your families with a rich measure of His grace in the days that lie ahead. A blessed New Year to you in Christ! Pastor, Elizabeth and family.
Next Sunday’s Lessons:
2nd Sunday of Christmas: Micah 5:2-5; Hebrews 2:10-18; John 7:40-43
Point to Ponder “Why is Christmas a day of such unmixed joy? The love of God, which sent a divine Redeemer to rescue a doomed humanity, is the source of our unbounded gladness this season. For us who in hyumble faith accept the Christ Child as our Savior and Redeemer, Christmas spells the difference between an eternity in the company of the prinace of dairness and a glorious eternity before the throne of God in heaven – in the company of Him who loved us and gave His only-begotten Son for us that we might be His own forevermore. What a glorious festival, this Christmas is! What a glorious message this Gospel is! And what a glorious Savior, this Christ is!” — Herman Gockel on For God So Loved the World