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  • Writer's pictureRev. Gerald (Jerry) Reiter, Emeritus

PRAISE GOD FOR HIS BLESSINGS

Second Sunday After Christmas


Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will - to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment - to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.


In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 1:3-14



This morning you may have been thinking, “Well, we’ve made it through another holiday season. All the hustle and bustle is over, the relatives have gone home, and the parties and open houses are over – now I can put my feet up by a warm fire and take a well-deserved rest.” Or maybe you’ve been relaxing over the holidays, and you hate to think that Christmas is over already because now you have to forget about it and get back to work.


Whether you’re kind of glad it’s over so you can rest a little, or you’re kind of sorry it’s over because now you have to get back into your regular routine, I’ve got news for you: it isn’t over!! Remember the Partridge in a Pear Tree? Well, today is the Tenth Day of Christmas! For us, the celebration still goes on.


This is the time of year when we focus our attention on the wonderful blessings God has given us in the “Christmas Event.” God’s own Son has come in the flesh! Christmas may have faded from the television, the radio, and the shopping malls, but it’s still very much a part of our religious life. When you dismantle your manger scene, and put the figure of the Christ Child in a box to be stored away, out of sight and out of mind until next Christmas, be sure you don’t also do that with Christ Himself! Rather, we need to pay attention to the words of today’s Epistle lesson, and praise God for His blessings.


Blessed With Every Spiritual Blessing


St. Paul reminds us that we can praise God because we are blessed with “every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Have you noticed in the Bible’s Christmas accounts that every person who encounters the Christ Child responds in joy and praise to God?


John the Baptist “leaped for joy” while he was still in his mother’s womb, when Mary went to visit his mother, Elizabeth. Mary responded by saying, “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” After visiting the baby, we read that “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen.” Later, when the Magi, or Wise Men, were bringing their gifts, the star they had seen in the East led them to the Christ Child, and we read, “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.”


During this Christmas season we have gone again to Bethlehem in spirit, and have knelt in adoration at the manger of Jesus, our Savior and King. And we, too, have sung praises to our God and gone to our homes rejoicing. We have been blessed beyond all expectations, for God has chosen us in Christ “before the creation of the world!” That’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? It’s impossible to fully understand it too!


But that’s what God’s Word says: “He chose us in Him before the creation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight.” One of the greatest blessings for which we praise God is our being chosen by Him. Today most people think they’re insignificant. We hear them say, “I’m only a number in a world full of numbers.” Our society has become so sophisticated, and complex, and computerized, that it’s depersonalized us into thinking that we’re of no consequence. And when we contemplate the vastness of the universe, and think of the nearly 8 billion people living today on this planet, we can be tempted to doubt that God could really care about us as individuals.


But He does! God is so interested in us that he personally chose us to be His own before He ever made the world. He cared so much for us that He chose us individually to be His own, “to be holy and blameless in His sight.” Our God isn’t some abstract deity, off somewhere in space! He’s personally interested in you and in me – in our abilities, our gifts, and our talents; our problems and our cares and our sorrows; our thoughts and our ideas.


In and through His Son Jesus Christ, God has chosen us to be holy and blameless. Maybe you don’t think of yourself as holy and blameless. Well, you’re not in the world’s eyes, but you are in God’s eyes!


Our salvation is indeed a miracle of love and grace. It’s also a personal miracle. In His wisdom, God arranged it so that you and I might hear the Good News of His plan of salvation through Christ. Maybe He used a Christian mother or father, a friend or relative, a spouse or co-worker or fellow student to tell us about God’s love. Or maybe He used a pastor to explain the wonderful truths of the Bible. Whatever means He used, he accomplished our personal salvation. Because of His activity, we came to realize that without His gift of salvation, we would be lost and condemned creatures. But trusting in Him, and His work of salvation, we know that our sins are forgiven, and we have been made “holy and blameless in God’s sight.” Don’t ever forget that! Praise God for this today and every day!


And there’s even more to praise God for! In His love for us, He not only chose us to be His own, but He was also determined to restore us to the position of His children, a position that was lost with the fall of Adam. And so we read that He adopted us as His children through Jesus Christ.


We are important to God. We are valuable and significant to Him. And the real message of this Christmas season is that God “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” And He gives His children – you and me – the job of sharing the blessings of salvation with others. His gift of salvation has been procured for all. Jesus Christ shed His blood on the cross for the whole world. God wants to save all people, but those who reject His offer or never hear about it will be lost! Praise God for His blessings! And share those blessings with others!


Continued Blessings For Growth


Chosen by God, and adopted as His sons and daughters. What more could anyone ask for? And yet St. Paul prays for even more blessings for us. “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ,” he writes, “may give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better.”


You see, God wants to have an intimate relationship with His children. Isn’t that what you want with your children? Well, communication is the cement that holds a relationship together. If you find a relationship that’s in trouble, I’ll bet you’ll find a communication breakdown. Either the failure to communicate helped cause the problem, or it’s preventing the relationship from being healed. Or both!


And the same thing is true with our relationship with Jesus Christ. How do we get to know another person better? By spending time talking to that person. How much time do we spend talking to God in prayer? How much time do we spend listening to God in Bible study?


The answers to these questions will give us insight into our relationship with God. Is it a casual relationship in which we spend only a few seconds or minutes each day in prayer, and maybe no time at all in Bible study? Then I’d have to say our relationship would be pretty weak. Paul’s prayer for us today in this new year is that God would “give us the spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that we may know Him better.”


As we spend more time in personal Bible reading and prayer, our relationship with God will be strengthened, and we will know Him better. And we’ll become wiser, able to distinguish good from evil, and to know what paths to take in our lives. God has chosen to communicate his will for us through His Word. The better we know that Word, the better we’ll know Him, and His will for us.


As we grow in our relationship with God, and know Him better, we’ll also receive Paul’s second prayer request: “That we may know the hope to which He’s called us, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints.”


That’s what God’s gift of salvation is all about – an inheritance. An inheritance of eternal life with God in Heaven. A gift from God made possible by the death of Jesus Christ. This is God’s ultimate blessing, and all who believe in Christ receive it. Again, we need to praise God for His blessings.


Putting it all into perspective, we see that our salvation – from its beginning to the glories of Heaven – is a blessing of God. He chose us before time to be His own. In love, He adopted us as His children – in time, and for eternity. All of this is freely given by His grace through Jesus Christ.


Praise be to God the Father, who loved us with an everlasting love.


Praise be to God the Son, who gave himself on the cross in payment for our sins.


Praise be to God the Holy Spirit, who brought us to faith in Jesus Christ.


Praise God for all His blessings!


Amen

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