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

What comes to mind if I ask you to think of a song?

What comes to mind if I ask you to think of a blessing?

The first album I ever owned was Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms. It came out the year I was born. No matter my musical tastes over the years, that album will always come to mind when I think of music and songs, because it was my very first album.

When I think of blessings, I think of specific things, and specifically good things: my wife, my children, our home.

The songs and blessings that come to mind are specific things. They’re good things.

We remember them and think of them often.

For example, we’re quite familiar with Simeon’s song. (more…)

Lessons and Carols Sermon, 2017
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).

There is light.

There is darkness.

The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not—it cannot—overcome it.

Perhaps you’ve recently come across the phrase hocus pocus.

Perhaps you’ve known the phrase for some time, that it has connotations of things magical.

I don’t know the local, young atheist who put up the red sign on the square in Virden.

If I did, I’d invite him to church so he could learn a thing or two about God, religion, and truth.

Regardless, his sign implores us, this “holiday” to give up the hocus pocus. (more…)

Christmas Eve Sermon, 2017
Matthew 1:18-25
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

When it comes to the birth of a child, we all know that mom does all the work.

She carries the child for nine months, which is as fun as it looks, and deals with all the changes to her body that no one’s allowed to talk about.

Then, after nine months, the break’s over, and the real work begins: either labor or surgery, both requiring a time for healing and recovery.

 Yet, all that said, mom has absolutely no role in determining the gender of the child she carries.

As we now know, every egg created by mom carries an X chromosome. It’s dad who contributes either an X or a Y chromosome. (more…)

Advent 3 Sermon, 2017
Matthew 11:2-11
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

I’d like to begin with a True/False question, and I want you to think about it before you answer.

“A Christian must—above all else—emphasize works.”

Think about it…

True or False?

The immediate, good, Lutheran-sounding answer is, of course, False! Right?

In a way, it’s good to answer “False,” because when we hear the word “works,” we think of our works.

And the church is quite good at teaching that even our good works are like filthy and polluted garments (cf. Is. 64:6).

We certainly don’t need to emphasize those.

We know that.

But in response to the question—to Jesus—asked by John’s disciples, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3), what is it that Jesus emphasizes? He emphasizes the works of the Christ. (more…)

Advent 2 Sermon (Populus Zion), 2017
Luke 21:25-36
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

Knowing that something has an end makes that thing easier to endure.

If you hate basketball—if you know nothing about basketball—and if you find yourself at a basketball game—halftime will be wonderful thing for you, because—if nothing else—you’ll learn that that thing is halfway over.

That makes the second half easier, because you know exactly what to expect.

I remember going to a symphonic concert in St. Louis at the Fox Theater when I was in Junior High.

To this day, that was the most boring thing I’ve ever done. (more…)

Ad Te Levavi (Advent 1) Sermon, 2017
Matthew 21:1-9
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

It’s not Christmas yet, but how many of you have been listening to Christmas music?

Do you have any favorites? I most certainly do—I sing them all the time. As soon as I hear someone else singing Christmas music, as soon as I hear it on the radio, I’ll sing it for months.

But it’s not Christmas. Not yet. It’s Advent.

And Advent means coming.

So, as the last few weeks of the Church year warn us to be prepared for Christ’s return and judgment, Advent announces His coming. (more…)

Last Sunday of the Church Year, 2017
Matthew 25:1-13
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

When driving, if you hear, “In one mile, turn left,” what does that mean? Slow down. Turn’s coming.

Pretty simple, right?

Well, en route to the Circuit Reformation service a few weeks ago, I was informed, very politely, “In one mile, turn left.” And I did what?

I knew I needed to listen.

I wanted to listen. I wanted to do as I knew I should.

But—when the cry went up, “Turn left,” it was too late. Like so many, I had received the warning, but I didn’t heed it carefully. (more…)

Trinity 23 Sermon, 2017
Matthew 22:15-22
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

Jesus says, “Render to God the things that are God’s” (cf. Matthew 22:21). It’s as simple as it is impossible.

Everything belongs to God, so return to Him everything.

Everything is His. Give Him everything.

Compare yourself to this command: Have you given everything to God? Observe your reflection. Balance your accounts, if you can.

It’s not pretty. (more…)

Trinity 22 Sermon, 2017
Matthew 18:21-35
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

Ten thousand talents is an absurd debt.

For one person to owe this much is not practically possible. One person, working five days a week at ten dollars an hour, would have to work for 200,000 years to earn that much money. It’s inconceivable that someone could rack up that much debt without being caught or killed first.

But we have such a skewed view of money and debt that absurd but real debts don’t really phase us.

Maybe not as individuals, but certainly as a nation, debt doesn’t really phase us.

For example, the national debt is over twenty trillion dollars. Do you know, off hand, how many zeroes are in a trillion?

It’s a real debt, but we can’t visualize it? If I say “$50,” you think of Five-Zero or a fifty dollar bill. We don’t have an anchor for trillions of dollars; there’s no immediate comparison. (more…)