Christmas 1 Sermon, 2017
Luke 2:(22-32)33-40
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

Merry Christmas!

Have you noticed that we, as a nation, a community, and even in our own families, are very good at preparing for and counting down to Christmas Day?

For many families, watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade conclude with Jolly Old St. Nick—whether you do Santa or not—is a way to officially begin the annual Christmas count down.

We listen to the same five songs sung a thousand different ways. We “get out the Christmas decorations,” and that could mean either one box or fifty.

We send Christmas cards. We sing Christmas hymns (even when it’s still Advent!). And we wait with eager expectation Christmas Day, when we can open presents, relax, and go to church.

We’re good at counting down to Christmas Day.

But Christmas, the season, is more than one day.

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Christmas Day, 2016
John 1:1-14
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:1-5).

Prior to the Incarnation—which occurred at the Annunciation, nine months before Jesus’ birth—prior to that, this is how we spoke of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity:

We refer to Jesus as the Divine Word. The Pre-Incarnate Christ. The logos.

This is how we flesh out, no pun intended, the various places in the Old Testament where there is a strange, Christ-like figure.

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Christmas Eve Sermon, 2016
Luke 2:8-14
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:8-14).

That said, Jesus is not the reason for the season. You are.

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Advent 4 Midweek Sermon, 2016
Luke 24; Hosea 6:1-3
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

In Acts 17 and 18, we read the Paul and Apollos proved that the Christ was Jesus (cf. Acts 17:2-3; 18:28). To do so, it says that they used the Scriptures.

Of Paul, it says, “He reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead” (Acts 17:2-3).

Of Apollos, it says, “He powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus” (Acts 18:28).

We need to remember that the only Scriptures they had are what we refer to as the Old Testament.

So, what Old Testament Scriptures prove Jesus to be the Christ? What can we point to?

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Advent 4 Sermon, 2016
John 1:19-28
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

Feet are important.

So important, that the concept of feet stands for many different things in many different places.

If you’ve read The Good Earth, you’ve come across two different schools of thought regarding the feet of women: either they should not be bound, so they can work, get pregnant, give birth in the rice field, and go back to work. Or, you should bind a woman’s feet, break the bones, bind them up, and make it so that her feet are forever tiny, all so she can’t walk, can’t work, and must be tended to for her entire life.

Culturally, a wife with bound feet was greatly prized, because it meant the husband was successful enough to afford such a thing. Every working mother wanted her daughter to grow up with bound feet to save her from the shame of being poor. Feet are important.

Modern foot binding, if I may be so bold to say so, is not that dissimilar. Ladies, be honest, how many of you have ever worn shoes that were needlessly uncomfortable only because they looked good.

If feet are important, so are shoes, right?

Scripture speaks to this as well—not to foot binding—but to the importance of feet and even shoes.

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Advent Midweek 3, 2016
Genesis 22; Hebrews 11; Psalm 117
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

Continuing with the theme of the Resurrection, especially in the Old Testament, we heard from Moses in Genesis regarding Abraham and Isaac.

If you’re like me, you noticed that the readings this evening were longer ones, except for the Psalm.

And, if you’re like me, at times, the readings are too  long for our attention spans to bear. Sometimes the prayers drone on, what with the Lord-in-your-mercy’s and the Let-us-pray-to-the-Lord’s.

But what should we leave out?

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Advent 3 Sermon, 2016
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt
Matthew 11:2-10

We all have our heroes.

Whether it’s a movie star, a musician, an author, or an athlete, there’s someone out there you’d like to meet, just to say thanks.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve met your heroes, but it’s always sad to read about a celebrity dashing the hopes of a fan with rude behavior.

Regis Philbin, as I understand it, once crushed the hopes and dreams of an eight year old girl at Disney World by refusing to give his autograph.

“Excuse me, Mr. Regis, can I have your autograph” were the little girl’s words.

And he replied: “Scram kid, I’m having my coffee.”

It has to be said that that story could be false. I read it on the Internet. But can you imagine watching Regis on tv for years and learning that he could be so petulant.

Hero-worship has always been a problem, and, in a way, that’s what’s going on in today’s gospel lesson. (more…)

Advent 2 Midweek Sermon, 2016
Job 19:23-27a; Psalm 103; Job 1:1-5; Job 42:10-17
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

In the Lutheran Church, we say that Justification is the article on which the church stands or falls, meaning, if you get Justification right, you’ll get everything else right, and if you get Justification wrong, you’ll get everything else wrong.

That God justified, reconciled, and forgave the entire world in the crucifixion of Jesus is the most important confession that we can make.

As God created our bodies, He redeemed them in Christ. But it doesn’t stop there.

It is also necessary in the Christian church to confess that God, who created our bodies and redeemed them, will also raise them up on the last day.

So, we confess the Resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.

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Advent 2 Sermon, 2016
Luke 21:25-36
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

How do you know the end of something is coming?

If you like to watch movies, you know when a movie’s about to end. The tone changes, the music changes, everything is preparing you for the end.

Forrest Gump is a classic example of this. At the beginning of Forrest Gump, a single feather floats gently down, a beautiful musical score accentuates the feather’s every turn, and for two minutes you’re staring at a computer-generated feather—until—it lands softly at Forrest’s feet, his running shoes covered in mud.

Then, he picks the feather up, moves his box of chocolates, opens his suitcase, and with all the memorabilia of his life, he places it in his favorite book, Curious George. If you know what to look out for, the first three minutes of Forrest Gump tell you the entire story.

So the end, then, can’t possibly be a surprise.

The same book, the same feather, the same musical score, and…roll credits. The End.

There are so many differences from beginning and end, but there are also so many similarities.

In movies, this doesn’t surprise us. We’ve grown kind of used to it.

But what signs accompany the end times? What signs tell us that the end is near? How will you know?

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