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“A Season of Love”
Matthew 1:18-25


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Advent Service III—December 15, 2010

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Two weeks from tonight, Terry and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary.  This evening’s Gospel Reading is also about a wedding, the marriage of Joseph and Mary.  A few moments ago we spoke responsively the famous “Love Chapter” of the Apostle Paul, which is often read at weddings, including our wedding 20 years ago, 1st Corinthians, chapter 13: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.  And now these three abide, faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.”

This evening we conclude our Advent sermon series, “A Season of Faith,” “A Season of Hope,” “A Season of Love.” 

The night before he was put to death, Jesus said to his disciples at the Last Supper, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”  “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear.”  What a friend you have in Jesus.  For he bore all your sins, in his body on the cross.  He loved you and gave himself up for you, as an offering and sacrifice to God.  As Paul says in Romans, “God demonstrates his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Christ died for you, and because of his atoning sacrifice for your sins, you are forgiven.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

The Apostle John explains the impact God’s love for you will have on your relationships with others: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love comes from God. . .  This is how God showed his love for us: He sent his only-begotten Son into the world that we might live through him. . . .  he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

At Christmastime we celebrate God’s gift of love to us in birth of his Son.  And, in response to God’s love toward you, you will show God’s love toward others in your life.  “If God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

The place to start showing God’s love toward others is first of all in your marriage and family, to your spouse, parents, children, and brothers and sisters.  I heard on the news recently a prediction that family troubles in our nation will increase if we continue to have an economic downturn, because of the stresses tough economic times puts on families.  That is probably true, but think of the stress on the Holy Family, the circumstances into which our Lord himself was born and grew up.  In modern terms: an unwed mother; a step-family; a stepfather considering divorce even before he is born; a homeless family, so that he is actually born in a stable; refugees fleeing persecution.

Like the Holy Family, what are the stresses you are experiencing in your home and family and marriage?  Like Joseph and Mary, the glue that will hold you together is God’s love.

We see the great love Joseph had for Mary and her Son in this evening’s reading.  Joseph suspected Mary had been unfaithful.  But, instead of anger and demanding she be punished, in love he shows forgiveness.  “Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.  But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins’ . . .  When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.”

“[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” The love of God that brought the Holy Family through its tough times of terrible stress will bring your family through its troubles too.  “And now these three abide, faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.”

Amen.

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