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In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
14 Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. 15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.
Devotion (This is inspired and based on Dr. Martin Chemnitz’s The Two Natures of Christ)
Why do we celebrate the ascension of our Lord? The Creeds confess the ascension as a key event in our Lord’s saving work that will culminate in his return in glory on the Last Day. The ascension confirms what the resurrection evidences demonstrate: that Jesus is the one Lord and creator who rises from the dead and ascends to receive His kingdom. And it marks the completion of our Lord’s redemptive work.
Hebrews 1:3 says “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
We speak of the right hand of the divine majesty, or the right hand of His power or strength (Luke 22:69), at which Christ is described as sitting here in time. Elsewhere in Scripture the right hand of God does not signify a member or part of God, nor merely a place of quiet and bliss, but it indicates the power and activity of God by which He drives back His enemies.
He is present with His own, listens to you with His grace, His blessing, His help, His liberation, His defense, His preservation, His salvation, as shown in His miracles and all His glorious divine works.
Christ according to His divine nature is the very right hand of God, for the Father does all His works of divine majesty and power through the Son. Through His human nature He is working for you, and sits at the right hand of God, because it has been personally united with the divine nature of the Logos, which is the very right hand of God.
Now after He has laid aside His humiliation in the exaltation or glorification, it has been brought into the full and manifest use of the power of the right hand of God. He had hidden this majesty during His life on earth and did not make full use but only when He wished.
The expression “to sit” in this passage (Psalm 110:1; 1 Cor. 15:25) does not refer to the reclining position of the body or to the occupancy of a particular place, but to His power and to the glorious administration of His office of King, High Priest, and Messiah and to His dominion over all things.
Scripture speaks in this way of Christ’s session at the right hand of God so that it may show clearly that also with respect to His human nature, according to which, He was crucified, dead and raised again, Christ is placed at the right hand of the majesty and power of God.
The terms which are added in the description of this session, such as “in heaven,” “in the heavens,” “in the highest,” do not restrict the right hand of God to one place, nor do they imply that Christ according to His human nature is sitting at the right hand of God in only one place in heaven; but these expressions mean that the majesty and power are not created, earthly, or lowly, but rather that they are heavenly, lofty, and divine.
For it is said of God Himself, who is limited to no one place: “Our God is in heaven, He does all things which He wishes.” (Psalm 115:3) So, to say that Christ – as God and Man- is seated is to say that He is still acting on your behalf as your Prophet, Priest, and King.
Not the least part of the work of Christ as our Mediator and Savior is that as Head He is present with His members, gathering, ruling, defending, preserving, and saving His Church.
For in all your afflictions and temptations—in the depraved infirmity of your nature, among the various offenses and the many pitfalls under the powerful tyranny and the rage of Satan, the world, and all the enemies of the church— your greatest and only comfort is our knowledge that Christ is present as our King, our High Priest, our Head, and the pastor of us who are His sheep in the midst of ravening wolves.
He does not place the burdens of governing in His kingdom on the shoulders of others through delegated work, as the custom of our kings is, for the government is always on His shoulders (Is. 9:6), but when He Himself is present He cares for us, governs, defends, preserves, and saves us, as His peculiar people whom He has bought with His own blood.
We have, moreover, an express word and a specific promise instituted in a particular and definite way, ordained as a part of His will and testament by the Son of God Himself on the night in which He was betrayed, a promise which Christ ratified also after His ascension by sitting at the right hand of the Majesty in His glory in heaven, a promise which was repeated to Paul, a promise that He wills to be present with His body and blood in the observance of His Supper as it is celebrated in the gathering of the Church here on earth in accord with His institution.
The words state that Christ desires to be present in His Church with His Body and Blood, or according to His human nature, wherever His Supper is celebrated on earth. Through His assumed humanity, He wills to bestow His benefits on us, to confirm and seal them, and thus to accomplish in the Church His work of giving us life, according to each nature, through His life-giving flesh.
This is a doctrine which is so full of consolation, that is, that the Son of God, our Mediator and Savior, according to the words of His testament wills to be present with His Church here on earth, which is fighting under the banner of the cross and struggling in this vale of tears.
For He wishes to be present also in and with His assumed nature by which He is of the same substance with us, related to us, our Brother, our very flesh, according to which flesh He does not blush to call us His brothers and in which flesh He was tempted.
So that He can share in our sufferings, according to which flesh Christ is our Head and we His members. And just as no one hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, so also Christ does to His Church, since we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bone (Eph. 5:29).
For He now fills all things in heaven and on earth. He continues “to do and to teach” (Acts 1:1), preaching repentance and forgiveness of sins through those sent in His name (Mark 16:14–20; Luke 24:44–53), and giving you His true body and blood in the Supper.
He is Lord over all things for the sake of the Church. And He continually serves as your Prophet, Priest, and King.
He whom heaven cannot contain has raised your human nature to share fully in the glory of God. You who believe and are baptized into Christ’s body are already sitting in the heavenly places; for you are in Him who is at the Father’s right hand.
When He comes again in the clouds on the Last Day, you also will appear with Him in glory.
No matter what is going on this truth of what Christ’s Ascension means for us stands as our hope.
Almighty God, as Your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, ascended into the heavens, so may we also ascend in heart and mind and continually dwell there with Him, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Happy Annunciation Day!
Today is a wonderful day on the church's calendar. Today is the day that we celebrate The Feast of the Annunciation of Our Lord. It is the day that we celebrate the conception and incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ!
From the Treasury of Daily Prayer: The date of the Annunciation falls on March 25, because the Ancient Church believed the crucifixion occurred on that date. In antiquity, people linked the day of a person's conception with the day of his or her death. Thus, in the Annunciation, the Church joined together both the incarnation of Jesus and the atonement He accomplished.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
From Johann Gerhard's Sacred Meditations
THE MYSTERY OF THE INCARNATION
Christ’s Cradle glows with a Heavenly Light.
Let us for a little while withdraw our minds from temporal things, and contemplate the mystery of our Lord’s birth. The Son of God came down from heaven, that we might receive the adoption of sons (Gal. 4:5). God became man, that man might become a partaker of divine grace and of the divine nature (2 Pet 1:4). Christ chose to be born into the world in the evening of the world’s life, to signify that the benefits of His incarnation pertain not to this present life, but to eternal life. He chose to be born in the time of the peaceful Augustus, because He was the blessed peacemaker between man and God. He chose to be born in the time of Israel’s servitude, because He is the true liberator and defender of His people.
He chose to be born under the reign of a foreign prince, seeing that His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). He is born of a virgin to signify that He is born in the hearts of spiritual virgins only (2 Cor. 11:2), that is, in those who are not joined to the world or to the devil, but to God by one Spirit. He is born pure and holy, that He might sanctify our impure and defiled birth. He is born of a virgin espoused to a man, that He might set forth the honor of marriage as a divine institution. He was born in the darkness of the night, who came as the true light to illumine the darkness of the world.
He who is the true food of our souls is laid in a manger. He is born among the beasts of the stall, that He might restore to their former dignity and honor sinful men, who through their sins had made themselves little better than the beasts. He is born in Bethlehem, the house of bread, who brought with Himself from heaven the bread of life for our souls. He is the first and only-begotten of His mother here on earth, who according to His divine nature is the first and only-begotten of His Father in heaven.
He is born poor and needy (2 Cor. 8:9), that He might prepare the riches of heaven for us. He is born in a mean stable, that He might lead us back to the royal palace of His Father in heaven. He is sent from heaven as the messenger of redemptive grace, because no one on earth knew its exceeding greatness. It is with good reason that He, a heavenly messenger, should bring us the tidings of those heavenly blessings that are reserved for us at His right hand above. The angelic hosts rejoice at the birth of Christ because, through the incarnation of the Son of God, they can have us poor mortals as the companions of their blessedness.
This great wonder is first announced to shepherds, because as the true Shepherd of souls He had come at that time to bring back His lost sheep into His fold. The glad tidings of great joy are proclaimed to the despised and lowly, because no one can become a sharer of that joy, who is not lightly esteemed in his own eyes. The nativity is announced to those watching their flocks by night, because only those can become partakers of this great gift to man whose hearts are watchful toward God, and not those who are fast asleep in sin.
And now the multitude of the heavenly host, who had so sorely grieved over the sin of our first parent, shout aloud for joy. The splendor of our Lord and King appears in the heavens, whose lowliness upon the earth looked so mean in the eyes of men. The angel bids the shepherds “Fear not,” because of the birth of Him who should remove from us every cause of fear.
Good tidings of great joy are announced, because the author and giver of all joy was born into the world. They are bidden rejoice, because the enmity between God and man, the real cause of all our sorrow, was removed. “Glory to God in the highest,” they sang, because by the wilful transgression of His command our first parent sought to rob God of His glory. The birth of Christ brought true peace to men, who before this were the enemies of God, were at war with their own consciences, and at variance among themselves. True peace was thus restored to earth, because he was overcome who had led us captive at his will.
Let us now go with the shepherds to the manger of Christ, that is, His church, and as He lay in that manger in swaddling clothes, so in the sacred scriptures, we shall find our Savior. Let us also with a lively recollection of the words of this mystery, like Mary, the blessed mother of our Lord, keep pondering them continually in our hearts (Luke 2:19). Let us with glad voices join in the angels’ song, and render unto the Lord the thanks due unto His name for His marvelous benefits to us. Let us rejoice and shout for joy with the whole multitude of the heavenly host.
For if the angels rejoiced so greatly on our account, how much more ought we rejoice, to whom this Child is born, to whom this Son is given (Is. 9:6). If the Israelites lifted up their voices in jubilant shouts when the Ark of the Covenant was brought back to them (2 Sam. 6:16), which was a type and a shadow of the incarnation of our dear Lord, how much more ought we rejoice, since our Lord Himself hath come down to us, in the assumption of our human nature.
If Abraham rejoiced to see the day of the Lord (John 8:56), when the Lord assuming at that time bodily shape, appeared to him, what ought we to do, seeing that our Lord hath taken our nature into a perpetual and indissoluble union with Himself? O let us admire the marvelous goodness of our God, who, when we could not ascend to Him, hesitated not to descend to us. Let us stand in wonder at the marvelous power of our God, who was able to unite in one two natures so diverse as the divine and human, so that one and the same Person is now both God and man.
Let us admire the marvelous wisdom of our God, who could devise a scheme for our redemption, which neither angels nor men could have devised. Infinite good was offended; an infinite satisfaction was required. Man had offended God, from man the satisfaction for sin must be required. But finite man could not possibly render an infinite satisfaction, nor could divine justice be satisfied but on the payment of an infinite ransom. For this reason God became man that, for man who had sinned, He might render a perfect satisfaction for sin, and as God who was infinite He might pay an infinite price for our redemption.
Well may we wonder at this stupendous reconciliation of divine justice and mercy, which no one, before God was manifest in the flesh, could have devised, nor after He was so manifested, could fully comprehend. Let us stand in wonder at this mystery, but let us not too curiously pry into it. Let us desire reverently to study it, although we cannot fully understand it. Rather let us confess our ignorance than deny the power of God.
Gerhard, J. (1896). Gerhard’s Sacred Meditations. (C. W. Heisler, Trans.) (pp. 76–81). Philadelphia, PA: Lutheran Publication Society.
O Lord, as we have known the incarnation of Your Son, Jesus Christ, by the message of the angel to the virgin Mary, so by the message of His cross and passion bring us to the glory of His resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
For the Church, Christmas does not end on Christmas Day. Christmas Day is the beginning of 12 days of celebration and contemplation of what the birth of Christ means for us and our salvation. The Church calendar helps us with this: on the 26th we remember St. Stephen as the first martyr, on the 27th we remember the Apostle John, on the 28th we remember the Holy Innocents who were slaughtered as Herod sought the Christ Child, and on the first of January we celebrate the Festival of the Cicrumcision and Name of Jesus.
Christmastide does not end until January 5th and then on January 6th we celebrate the Epiphany of Our Lord. All of these feasts and commemorations give shape to and help us better understand what Christmas means for us. I pray that you will spend some time contemplating these things as well as joining us for corporate worship. Blessings on your Christmastide!
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