Word for Today Archive

Pastoral Commentary for Luke 2
Author: Pastor Zach

Earlier this month, I endured another birthday. I say I endured another birthday because my birthday is not a favorite day of mine. Indeed, I much prefer a low-key and reflective day rather than a celebratory and boisterous one.

In preparation for my birthday, my wife Melody asked me what I wanted as gifts. I answered as I always do: "Books!" I have an acute case of "bookophilia," as anyone who has visited my office knows. I love to read theological tomes. I even keep a wish list on amazon.com so that Melody can buy me exactly what I want for special occasions. Not a lot of creativity is needed when choosing a gift for me. Simply select a book from my wish list.

Over the years, it seems that gift giving has gone from being creative to calculated. People are no longer happy with just any gift; rather, they want a specific gift. And if they do not receive that specific gift, they return their unwanted gift to the store. In fact, I stumbled across a website the other day called yourchristmaslist.com. It allows you to, with great specificity, identify what gifts you would like to see under your softly lit Christmas tree on the morning of December 25. Its home page boasts: "Tired of standing in long lines, exchanging all of your unwanted Christmas gifts? Here's your chance to get what you want this year! Sign up now for a Christmas Gift List!" Clearly, we have become hopelessly particular when it comes to our gifts.

Our attitude toward the gifts of this world has sadly spilled over into the gifts of God's Spirit. There are some Christians who, with great definitiveness and earnestness, demand that God give them one spiritual gift or another. This is especially true with the so-called "spectacular gifts," such as the gift of tongues or the gift of healing. But unlike the wish lists we create for our birthdays and Christmas, we can place no such specific demands on the Holy Spirit. Rather, the Spirit passes out his gifts when and where he pleases.

In our reading for today from Acts 2, we read of an outpouring of God's Spirit that is truly remarkable in the history of the church: the outpouring of God's Spirit on Pentecost. In this particular instance, God's Spirit enables Jesus' disciples to speak in languages they have not learned to spread the message of Jesus. As verse 4 says, "All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them." I like the old King James Version of this verse because it more closely corresponds to the Greek: "And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." Did you catch that? The Spirit gave the disciples the ability to speak in tongues. It was a gift. That means they couldn't coerce or demand their sudden linguistic proficiency. It was a gift given by the Spirit when and where he pleased.

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul speaks of the Spirit's gifts thusly:

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:4, 8-9)

Paul is abundantly clear: Not every person receives every one of the Spirit's gifts. To one the Spirit gives a certain gift. To another the Spirit gives a different gift. Different gifts for different people. And yet, there is only one Spirit. For it is the "same Spirit" who doles out gifts of wisdom, knowledge, healing, and even tongues. As Christians, we may have different gifts, but we all have the same Spirit. This is why, after Peter receives the spiritual gift of tongues and begins to preach, he finishes his sermon with this invitation: "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (verse 38). The gift of God's Spirit is for every one of us.

Blessedly, Jesus' disciples received just the right gift for just the right moment on that Pentecost day. For because they could share the gospel in many languages, "three thousand were added to their number that day" (verse 41). The Spirit's gift was right on target for the gospel's cause that day. And the promise is that the Spirit continues to give out gifts to his people that are right on target for the gospel's cause in our day. So whatever your spiritual gift may be, know that it is just the right gift for you and, perhaps more importantly, it is just the right gift for the cause of God's kingdom. No spiritual gift wish list needed.

Pastoral Commentary for Luke 2
Author: Pastor Josh

"Can God relate to what I'm going through?" "Does God understand my perspective?" Have you ever asked these questions, even if only thinking them?

If you have... the answer is a reassuring, "Yes". God understands. God can relate. In addition to being God's one and only Son (John 3:16), Jesus was also as human as you or I - simply without sin.

"And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him." (vs. 40)

"And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." (vs. 52)

As a human being, Jesus grew physically and mentally. From other places of Scripture we can learn more about Jesus as a man. He:

- Comes from the house of David (vs. 4)

- Was Born of a human mother (vs. 6-7)

- Has a body consisting of flesh, blood and bones (Luke 24:39)

- Knew temptation (Luke 4:1-13; Hebrews 4:15)

- Had emotions (John 11:33, 35)

- Had a will (Luke 22:42)

- Was hungry and thirsty (Matthew 4:2; Matthew 11:19; John 19:28)

- Slept (Mark 4:38)

- Suffered and died (Matthew 20:18-19; John 19:30)

Colossians 2:9 describes this human and divine union well by saying, "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form."

If Christ did not take on the full human nature, then the full human nature could not have been saved. That would spell disaster for us, and all of creation. 1 Corinthians 15:14, 19 says, "And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith... And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins."

Because there was an actual bodily resurrection of Jesus, we have a hope and assurance and forgiveness that can be found no where else.

Today... find encouragement in that Jesus walked the same earth you and I walk today. He can sympathize with all you are facing, and because Jesus is also God... He can help you overcome and conquer through your faith in Him.

Pastoral Commentary for Luke 2
Author: Pastor Zach

In 1993, F.H. Rauscher, G.L. Shaw, and K.N. Ky, three researchers from the University of California, published an article in Nature magazine titled "Music and Spatial Task Performance." In it, these researchers found that children who listened to a sonata by Mozart had significantly increased spatial intelligence scores. That is, they were better able visualize spatial patterns and mentally manipulate them to solve problems.

In their experiment, Rauscher and his colleagues administered one of three standardized tests to children after they had listened to a sonata by Mozart, a piece of repetitive relaxation music, and a time of simple silence. The researchers found that the participants scored 8 to 9 IQ points higher after listening to Mozart over and against the relaxation music or the silence. The results of this study popularly became known as "the Mozart effect" and claims like, "Mozart makes you smarter" and, "Mozart helps your kids grow" spread like wildfire.

Although the findings and significance of this study have been severely misrepresented and overblown, I can't help but think that maybe John the Baptist and Jesus listened to some really good music growing up after reading Luke 2.

Our reading for today is one of the most beloved in all Scriptures. An inn, a manger, shepherds, and angels mean that we can be nowhere else but Christmas. And yet, as charming as the story of Jesus' birth may be, it's the story of Jesus' growth that really captivated me when I read this familiar chapter once again.

Luke 1 ends with these words concerning Jesus' cousin John the Baptist: "And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel" (Luke 1:80). Interestingly, John's growth spurt comes on the heels of a song sung to him by his father Zechariah:

You, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace. (Luke 1:76-79)

Then, with a masterful parallelism only Luke can muster, we read these words in Luke 2 concerning John the Baptist's cousin Jesus: "The child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him" (verse 40). When does Jesus experience his growth spurt? After a good song, of course. When Jesus is at the temple to be dedicated to the Lord according to the Old Testament law, a man named Simeon sings these words to him:

Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel. (verse 29-32)

Both John and Jesus, it seems, experienced the Mozart effect before there was even a Mozart. Music inaugurates their ministries.

The Christian church has long celebrated the value of a good song. Not so much because we believe it carries some mystical power in and of itself to make us grow smarter, but because a good song with good lyrics about Jesus can help us grow in our faith. Words like "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound" and "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty" and, in a nod to our reading from Luke 2, "Silent night, holy night" buoy our trust in God like few other things can. They help us grow and become strong in our faith. So today, sing a song to Jesus. It doesn't even have to be a piece by Mozart. After all, when it comes to strengthening our faith in Jesus, any faithful song is a marvelous choice.

Read Today's Scripture and Commentary on the Concordia website.

2019-11-22 12:11:39