David Kolander

Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols

by David Kolander on December 24th, 2022
Multiple

Three Devotional Thoughts

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Devotion 1

  • Genesis 3:8-15
  • Genesis 22:15-18
  • Isaiah 9:2,6-7
  • Isaiah 11:1-9

Our first devotional thought refers to the first four of our nine readings in this Service of Lessons and Carols.

Of Serpents and Lambs

I know that some people don’t mind snakes, but I think it’s safe to say that for most people snakes are not their favorite creatures. But whatever your attitude is toward snakes, there can be no one among us who in any way likes what the serpent did in the Garden of Eden, when it tempted – and led – Adam and Eve into the sin that has affected every single one of us in every single aspect of our lives ever since. That’s why on a quiet evening like this we thank God that he sent someone to crush the work of Satan so that the effect of sin in our lives can not only be dealt with, but also completely done away with, so that whatever happens in our lives that may make us wonder sometimes if God even loves us cannot change the fact that since God so loved the world, God so loves me.

That promise of God sending a serpent-crusher was the promise God gave first to Adam and Eve and then repeated in various ways to people like Abraham through prophets like Isaiah, both of whom we will hear about in our upcoming readings – promises which spoke of God’s Son coming for the benefit of everyone in the world, God’s Son bringing light to the darkness of this world, and God’s Son bringing peace to the chaos of this world.

That peace, the prophet Isaiah said, is like the wolf living with the lamb and a lion eating straw like the ox. That obviously is not normal, because wolves devour little lambs and lions do the same with livestock, just as we human beings so often do with one another. But that abnormal description of the peace brought by the long-promised Christ is what we ask God to make normal for us, because our dear God has given us the faith to believe – as did God’s people of old – that every wrong we have ever committed – every word we wish we could bring back – every thought we are ashamed to admit entered our heads – that every sin that has been part of our lives — has been paid for – totally paid for – wonderfully paid for — by the one who came to earth as the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, yes, the Prince of Peace.

And it is that peace brought by the Prince of Peace that has us looking forward in heaven to the restoration of the Garden of Eden to what it once was before the serpent did what God in his love has promised has been undone through the work the baby in the manger came to do as the Lamb of God, who has taken away the sin of the world — which means we little lambs of Jesus are forever loved and forever safe from anything Satan the serpent can try to do to take us away from the one who has crushed him.

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Devotion 2

  • Luke 1:26-35, 38
  • Luke 2:1-7
  • Luke 2:9-14
  • Luke 2:15-20

Our second devotional thought refers to the next four of our nine readings in this Service of Lessons and Carols.

Of Treasuring and Pondering

Aren’t there just sometimes you like to sit back and ponder – to ponder and reflect on things that have happened in your life or that you are praying someday will? Maybe it is taking time to look at the ornaments on the Christmas tree and reflecting on where they came from or who they remind you of. Maybe it is looking back at letters or emails you have received or written and wondering how you ever could have thought that way – or thanking God from the bottom of your heart that you did.

Now think of Mary, whom we are told “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” It is the understatement of all understatements to say she had a lot to look back on. “How will this be?” is the question God’s people have reflected on for centuries, ever since she asked that of the angel who had told her that she would give birth to a son, and Mary wondered how that could be since she had not known a man – with the angel Gabriel’s answer to that question being something God’s people have also marveled at and confessed ever since, when he said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, … so the holy one to be born of you will be called the Son of God”  — yes, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.

Don’t you have to just sit back and ponder how God carried out the miraculous-beyond-our-comprehension birth of our Savior in connection with ordinary real-life everyday events? An emperor wants to know how many people live in his kingdom. A long trip takes place to Bethlehem, with Mary’s devout betrothed Joseph leading the way to what must have seemed like a cruel joke, when the only place that could be found for her baby to be born was in a place where animals lay.

But what seemed to have been the worst of possible circumstances did not keep angels from singing “Glory to God” in the Bethlehem sky, nor did it keep shepherds in the Bethlehem fields from being the first missionaries after the birth of Christ to tell people all the things they had heard and seen about a Savior who had come so meek and so mild to make you God’s child through what he has allowed you to hear and see in his Holy Word.

That you and I know that – and believe that – and can share that – is something about which to praise and glorify God in the highest — and also to just sit back, to treasure in our hearts — and to ponder.

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Devotion 3

  • John 1:1-14

Our final devotional thought refers to the last of our nine readings in this Service of Lessons and Carols.

Of Tents and Eternity

“I just wish someone could understand what I’m going through.” How many times haven’t we perhaps cried that out ever so loudly in the quiet place of our heart, yearning to be able to talk to someone – to really talk to someone – who could relate to us – who could really relate to us. Sometimes there is a special someone who can relate to almost every emotion we express and who can give thoughts on almost every question we ask, but there really is a Someone who not only can do so perfectly every single time, but who also even hears the silent cries in our heart – and who yearns to help us from the bottom of his.

The apostle John tells us that “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” Our Lord Jesus – the one called the Word because he spoke the word at the beginning and brought all things into being – the one called the Word because every word he spoke he spoke for God the Father above, because he had been with God the Father above from all eternity. Our Lord Jesus – the almighty, eternal Word – made his dwelling among us when he came to earth at Christmas. That phrase “made his dwelling” has the picture or imagery of a Jesus being a tent – a picture that would have reminded God’s people of old of what was called the Tabernacle – the tent church – the place where God appeared to his people as for forty years they wandered in the wilderness and as for hundreds of years they offered there their sacrifices and their prayers, before King Solomon built the great temple of Jerusalem. When those people looked at that tabernacle, they were looking at the place where God dwelt among them, and where God showed his presence to them in a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire.

When Jesus came, there was no more need for a pillar of anything, because now we could see God standing tall in the flesh. Every time they looked at Jesus – every time you and I read about him in the Bible – they were looking at – and we are reading about the one who came as long-promised as the only one who could undo the work of the serpent in the Garden. Only the Son of God could be perfect in his life, and only God the Father would have the kind of love to say that he considers you and me to be perfect because of what his Son did. Only the Son of God could shed the kind of blood that would be holy, precious blood, and only God the Father would have the kind of love to say that he considers the payment of his Son’s holy blood to be the payment for every wrong you and I have done that caused him to shed it.

And that is why he can totally relate to us and do something about it. He knows our fears and our deepest worries, because he knows our sins and our deepest failures. But he also knows that what he says to us and what he has done for us gives us true Christmas peace in the midst of whatever chaos we may be going through and true Christmas light in whatever darkness we may so much want to get out of.

The Word became flesh on that silent, holy night. On this night we he have seen and sung his glory – and we will see and sing it again, not in the earthly tent of a tabernacle, but in the heavenly glory of a mansion… forever and forever more. Amen.

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