TITLE: When Life Just Plain Stinks:
DATE: December 16, 2018
TEXT: Matthew 4:16 - the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned."
Some events are so unimaginable, so unexpected, or so unthinkable, that they shake the world.
That was certainly the way it was for the people of the 5th century when they received the news that Rome had fallen. The symptoms of the great city’s illness were numerous. No longer was there dignity in the home. Increasingly, taxes were being designated for entertainment of the masses and the bureaucratic social welfare system. Individuals were involved in a mad chase after pleasures which were becoming more brutal. The military was built up and financed to fight against enemies from across the border, while the real enemy was the degradation and decadence of the people. Of course, there was the decay of religion, which came when faith faded into formality.
Still, Rome had survived so many attacks that when the end finally came, people were shocked, feeling that they were living in a land of darkness and under the shadow of death.
No doubt, many of the readers of this devotion have felt that way.
People often talk about where they were when they heard of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the assassination of John Kennedy, or when those jets plowed into New York’s Twin Towers. It doesn’t take a great deal of thought to recall those events which have shaken our world. You don’t have to work for GM to be hurt by the decision to close five plants and lay off 14,000 workers in the days immediately before Christmas.
Since the world is so confused and conflicted, we need to be turned to Him Who alone can provide comfort and peace. Jesus is the Light who illuminates this dark and sinful world. His birth in Bethlehem, and His resurrection 33 years later, is the One, unchanging, irrevocable event which continues to give hope and happiness.
How can this be? Let me give you an example.
We have all seen the wildfires of California this year. We have watched as homes and businesses went up in a terrible puff of smoke. One of those houses destroyed was the Lord’s House, that is Our Savior Lutheran Church in Paradise. A photograph provided by the LCMS shows the church’s cross still standing while the church burns down in the background.
Pastor Brandon Merrick says, “I both love and hate that picture…I hate what the fire destroyed, but I love what has been saved from that (fire), and that is the cross.…The fact that the cross stands is what I think is truly important about that picture…That's the Gospel.”
Speaking for Christians in every age who have seen bad times; who have endured terrible calamities; who have survived the most tragic of catastrophes, Pastor Merrick said, "These are the times when faith really steps up and calls us to not just endure, not just to survive, but to find joy in the little things in life."
Peter understood. That’s why, on Pentecost he quoted King David who wrote, “Acts 2:25b-26 (ESV) “‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; 26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope.”
Hope, joy, peace. All this comes from the Babe of Bethlehem, the Christ of the empty tomb.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, may all who are hurting; all who are in harm; all who deal with the horrors created by this sinful world be turned to you. Let them place their hurting hearts into Your ever-caring hands. Grant me the peace which passes all understanding, light in my moments of darkness. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Today’s devotion was inspired by various articles, amongst which is the one written by Jerry Olenyn on November 26, 2018 for KRXR-TV on . Those who wish may check out this link which was, at the time of writing, fully active: https://krcrtv.com/news/butte-county/paradise-cross?fbclid=IwAR2T9TD1Yn2spZ5c2oXz4GNcrl_u8WWrnigfwFiw6Gjb9uB4m8oDXg_-wnY
The music which introduces and concludes our devotions was written by Guy Baumann, one of my long-ago confirmands. He is singing with three brothers. This song comes from the album: The Baumann Brothers which may be ordered here: http://thebaumannbrothers.com/index.html