January 15, 2011
Text: John 1:29-42;
Jesus Is the Lamb of God


Have you ever noticed that when you are very knowledgeable about a subject, it can be pretty difficult to explain that subject to someone who knows nothing or next to nothing about it?

Doctors and lawyers are put into this position all the time. They deal in fields that are very complex and technical and are regularly put into the position of having to explain the intricacies of medicine or law to patients and clients.

Another example is the IT guy at your office. All you want to know is how to get your document to print, but he’s got to go on about routers and servers and networks, all important stuff, but which can come across to you as gobbledygook, if you’re not as well versed in the field.

I was reading a new book this week called, Even a Geek Can Speak. It’s a book to help people who are experts in complicated disciplines explain complex ideas to the average person or the non-specialist.

Every field has its own special vocabulary and its own jargon. Whether you are a mechanic, an engineer, a salesman, a musician or a brain surgeon, you converse daily in your own language.

Another area is sports. If you are not a sports aficionado, it can be confusing to listen to people talking about blitzes, offsides, pinch hitters, stolen bases and strike zones.

January 9, 2011
Text: Matthew 3:13-17
Title: Know God by Knowing Jesus


In May 2010, there was a research experiment performed at Erasmus University in the Netherlands, where they hooked up the brains of 23 Dutch women to magnetic resonance imaging machines (MRIs) to study the neuroscience of advertising.

The scientists wanted to find out if using famous celebrities in advertising is truly an effective marketing strategy. So they took photographs of popular celebrities wearing and promoting a certain brand of footwear. They showed the test subjects photos of the shoes with non-famous models, showed them photos of the celebrities with the shoes, and then showed them pictures of the shoes by themselves. All the while, they have their brains hooked up to complex computerized machines that show brain activity. The researchers made a point of making sure the non-famous models were of comparable beauty as the celebrities to make sure the test subjects weren’t responding just to physical attractiveness.

What they discovered is that when they saw photographs that included the popular celebrities, there was correspondent brain activity that showed that the test subjects were more pleased and were feeling more positive emotions than when they saw pictures of the shoes with non-famous shoe models. And then later, when they saw the pictures of the shoes that had been previously shown with the celebrities, those same positive feelings appeared. So in other words, the positive emotions they had for the celebrities was actually transferred to the products themselves.

The researches concluded that using famous and well-liked people in advertising is effective. So let’s say you are a huge fan of Englebert Humperdinck. And then someone uses Engelbert Humperdinck to advertise a new weed-wacker. According to this study, your positive feelings about your weekend in Atlantic City will now be subconsciously transferred to the lawn appliance. That’s the power of getting the right endorsement.

I’m going to be bold and tell you that the Gospel reading for today is one of the most important stories in the life of Christ. Obviously, all of the Bible is God’s Word and is important. I’m not denying that. There are the four canonical Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. We have four reliable eyewitness-based accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry. Some of the stories you know about Jesus are found in Matthew, some in Mark, some in Luke and some in John. Some stories are found in only one Gospel. Other stories are recorded in two or even three of the Gospels. But did you realize that very few events in the life of Christ are recorded in all four Gospels? That’s true. Only two of them, Matthew and Luke, for instance, record His birth, which we made such a big deal out of around here just a couple of weeks ago. All four of them describe His crucifixion and all four tell about His resurrection from the dead. Other than the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, the only event that appears in all four Gospels is His baptism in the Jordan River.

January 2, 2011
Text: Luke 2:40-52

In today’s Gospel lesson from Luke chapter two, we hear a story from the childhood of Jesus. The Bible tells us very little about the life of Jesus prior to the beginning of His ministry at age thirty. Curiosity has led many people to concoct various tales and legends about His early years, but the Scripture only give us a few glimpses and today is one of them, when Jesus was twelve years old.

It was customary for pious Jewish families to celebrate Passover in the city of Jerusalem and to offer animal sacrifices at the Temple. Jesus and Mary and Joseph lived up in the town of Nazareth, about 65 miles north of Jerusalem as the crow flies. The average person walks about 3 miles an hour, so that would be 30 to 40 miles a day. You could walk from Jerusalem to Nazareth in 2 or 3 days, depending on the terrain and how many times you stopped along the way.

The Scripture says that Mary and Joseph travelled for about a day before they noticed that Jesus was not among their company. And immediately they became alarmed and hurried back to Jerusalem. They retraced their steps wondering where he might be. It would be terrifying for any parent to lose a child like this, but especially if your child is the foretold Messiah and you and your spouse had be specially selected by God to protect him and raise him to become the Savior of the world.

“After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.”

January 6, 2011
Text: Matthew 2:1-12


Tonight is the last time we will enjoy these festive Christmas decorations together. The twelfth day of Christmas was yesterday and today is Epiphany, the start of something new. The season of Epiphany begins on January 6th and goes until Ash Wednesday, or the beginning of Lent, which is in early March this year.

Take a moment and look below the tree at the Nativity Scene. I’m sure many of you had similar Nativity Scenes in your homes.

When I was a pastor at my former congregation in Pittsburgh, PA, we did a live nativity scene every year. Our church property was on a busy road. We built a little structure to represent a stable. Members of the congregation dressed up as Mary and Joseph, an angel and some shepherds. We built wooden animals and set them up. One year, we rented some sheep. We have costumes and props and special lighting. And when passersby would stop to view the scene or take a photograph, or maybe to pet the sheep, we would invite them inside the church to sit and listen to Christmas music and share some cookies and hot chocolate with us.

In addition to the Holy Family and the angels and the shepherds, we also had the three wise men. The Bible actually does not tell us very much about these Wise Men, who they were and where they came from. All it says is that they were from the East. Many scholars believe they may have been from Babylon, which is modern day Iraq. Even though traditionally, we talk about the three Wise Men, the Bible doesn’t tell us how many of them there were. All it mentions is that they brought three gifts and that’s why we generally think of there being three of them. They brought Jesus gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

And even though we typically put the Wise Men out with the Nativity Scene with Mary and Joseph and the shepherds, it appears from reading the Gospel of Matthew that they were not actually there on the night of Jesus’ birth, but arrived some time later. It says in Matthew’s Gospel that Mary and Jesus were living in a house by the time the Wise Men arrived.

The Circumcision and Naming of Jesus, observed
Text: Luke 2:21

21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.

A couple of years ago, Dr. Gene Edward Veith wrote a commentary for WORLD Magazine on contemporary trends in naming children. And he offers some interesting insights.

Back in the olden days, people used to give their children names that meant something. Moses’ name means “draw up” and he was called that because he was found by Pharaoh’s daughter in the Nile River and she drew him up out of it. The biblical name Isaac means laughter and he was named that because his mother laughed when she heard she would have a baby.

Some cultures give names to their children that express some feature or characteristic they hope to see in their child. The American Puritans, for instance, started the practice of naming their children after biblical virtues such as Faith or Hope or Charity. The hippie generation chose dreamy nature names such as River or Autumn.

Redeemer Mission

Proclaiming to our community in word and deed the empowering love of God as demonstrated in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Redeemer Lutheran Church

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