“Everybody Counts” — Luke 2: 1-5 (12-25-14, 9am Service)

Dec. 25, 2014 – Christmas Text: Luke 2:1-5

Dear Friends in Christ,

The great census in those days of Caesar Augustus that, humanly speaking, set in motion the Christmas story is plenty familiar to us today in the United States and Canada. Every ten years in the U.S. or five years in Canada, the government sends out forms in the mail and then follows them up with energetic, real-live human census takers – 585,000 of them in the last U.S. census. As with that famous Roman census, the goal was that “all the world would be registered,” that not a single soul would be missed. A census taker today could in one day knock on the doors of million-dollar houses and run-down apartments. Every person, literally, counted.
The Roman census was so that Caesar could extract taxes from every citizen. He wanted no one missed so that not a denarius would be missed for the imperial treasury. There was to be an accounting from every person. Our census is actually for a different purpose: so that no one citizen misses out on the benefits of citizenship. Every district is to be fairly represented in Congress, and every qualifying resident is to be noted for government programs. Every body counts.
Today is Christmas and we are so blessed with the coming of a Savior. Because of what that baby would someday do on a Calvary hill, we can exclaim with the angels and the whole host of heaven . . .
“EVERY BODY COUNTS”
Christmas reminds us that every single person, every soul, counts before God. Every single human being in this sanctuary right now – and every other human being who’s ever lived or ever will – will one day be called to give an account. God’s registration misses no one. Everyone will one day stand before God for final judgment. But God, in fact, set in motion the events of the first Christmas not to tax us, but to see that no one be missed with the blessings of citizenship in his kingdom. God knows each of us, each of you, by name. He calls you again this Christmas to himself. You count. Every body counts.
The census of Caesar Augustus counted millions. The census today counts hundreds of millions. But it really is the One that counts. Yes, it’s the One that counts, because God sees every single one of us through that One, the One who was first counted in that first census, a poor and easily overlooked baby boy just born in the little town of Bethlehem. He is the One for whose sake we count with God.
When Paul in Romans talks about Abraham believing in God “and it was counted to him as righteousness,” we are part of that. We too have been counted righteous. Scripture also says, “blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” (Rom. 4:8)
Whoever you are, therefore, and whatever your circumstance in life, this gift of the Savior is “for you.” You count. It has your name on it. Whether you are rich or poor, Jesus is your true treasure. Whether you’re young or old, he is the only one whose days are without number. Whether you are overwhelmed by loneliness or caught up in the crowd, He is the One who is your true friend and companion. You could not be any more important to Him.

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be take of the entire world…So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David…I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people (see every body counts). Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:1,4,10a,11)
Amen.

“Adopted Into God’s Family” — Galatians 4: 4-7 (12-28-14, 1030am Service)

December 28, 2014 Text: Galatians 4:4-7

Dear Friends in Christ,

“You can pick your friends but you are stuck with your family.” An appropriate quote don’t you think right after Christmas? We are born into families. We don’t pick our parents or other relatives. We’re stuck in that family. While many happy family moments occur, we also can be hurt in families. Dysfunctional families can damage the members within them in ways that are not pretty.
But let’s think bigger than our immediate families. We are all born into the human race. We are stuck with the human family. It is a dysfunctional family and does things to us that are not pretty. Let’s look at Paul’s list of the works of the flesh: “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealously, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.” (Gal. 5:19-21) We will focus on three from that list.
First – sexuality. God’s gift of sexuality is to be celebrated in the husband/wife relationship. But we misuse the gift by not having sexual relations as husband/wife or by going outside the husband/wife relationship. It can be misused in the family. It is also abused in the human family with the things in the media, prostitution, homosexuality, sex-slave trafficking. “This is the family we are stuck with.”
Second – anger, enmity, and divisions. Anger from hitting four red lights in a row, using words on social media when impatient or not thinking clearly that damage relationships. Then we have school shootings, domestic violence, terrorism, and war. “This is the family we are stuck with.”
Third – drunkenness. One in six Americans has a drinking problem. The rates are even worse among the poor. Seventy percent of children in foster care show the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure.
This is the family we are born into. We are stuck in this family. But, it is not the only family. Jesus opens the door to a different family home.
“ADOPTED INTO GOD’S FAMILY”
In God’s time, he decided when the time had come to fulfill his promises in Genesis 3 and Isaiah 9. Jesus is born of a woman. He is born one of us. In that manger was a human being with arms, legs, fingers, toes, and baby fat! Joseph and Mary could caress his cheek and hold him close. But, he is born into the human family.
Under the law. The law accuses and punishes. The death declared in the Garden of Eden is physical and spiritual. But, Jesus in unique. The law can’t convict him. No punishment is due him. Remember the words of God the Father to His Son at the Transfiguration: “with him I am well pleased.” This shows that Jesus had done nothing wrong.
To redeem us. Jesus, now with grown-up hands and feet is hung on a cross. He takes the punishment for us. He goes through the punishment of separation from his Father, a spiritual death, with “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” It’s the same for his physical death. His heart stops beating; his arms and legs go limp. He is buried. He takes the condemnation of the law we were under onto himself so that we could be adopted into a new family. It is the greatest Christmas present ever.
We are adopted. Remember the quote at the beginning “you can pick your friends.” God has chosen us. He has chosen you and you and you and you. I can say confidently to all of us, “We may be born into the human family, but because of Jesus we are adopted into God’s family.”
It is Christmas every day because the Holy Spirit has been sent into our hearts. He leads us to say, “Abba Father.” Think of what it is like to be in God’s family with the gift of the Holy Spirit present in the life of the church. Think of just one example: how the Lord’s Prayer ties us all together. Pray it with your family. Pray it with strangers at a nursing home. Pray it with tribes in the far reaches of our world.
I know of a Pastor who is adopting two children from overseas. The family has to live for six weeks in that country to complete the adoptions. The congregation where the Pastor has been for one year has been very supportive. They have given him time away and helped with fundraisers. The Pastor and his wife and their two children have flown overseas to adopt the children. The children to be adopted were at an orphanage. One has scoliosis and is in a wheelchair. Within a couple of visits that child was starting to say “papa.” And, where is the adoption taking place? Ukraine. In the midst of the anger and violence are compassion, kindness, and patience. This is what the family of God looks like when adopted by our Abba Father because of the Christmas gift named Jesus, and the Holy Spirit forming his fruit in us brothers and sisters.
We may be born into the human family, but when you are adopted into God’s family, it’s Christmas every day. Amen.

“Rejoice Always” — 1 Thessalonians 5:16 (12-24-2014, 6pm)

Dec. 24 – Christmas Eve Text: 1 Thessalonians 5:16

Dear Friends in Christ,
Charles Dickens’s novel A Christmas Carol is about Ebenezer Scrooge and how his heart was changed one Christmas. It’s a feel good story because they all lived happily ever after. But lines from another Dickens novel more accurately describes the way Christmas feels for most. He begins A Tale Of Two Cities with these words:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom; it was the age of foolishness. It was the epoch of belief; it was the epoch of incredulity. It was the season of Light; it was the season of Darkness. It was the spring of hope; it was the winter of despair. We had everything before us, we had nothing before us.”
Christmas is a time of contrasts. Prosperity and poverty. Good will and ugly greed. Family togetherness and excruciating loneliness. Light and darkness. Spring of hope and winter of acute despair.
We all want Christmas to be the best of times. It is the reason we do all the things we do – decorate, send cards, shop, bake, attend parties. Sometimes though it can be the worst of times because of the expectation of a holly, jolly Christmas.
Some of you may have spent too much again this year. Maybe it is your health or the health of loved one on your mind tonight. Do you have old hurts that won’t heal? New wounds that won’t go away?
That is why our text from 1 Thessalonians seems so strange, so out of place, so artificial.
“REJOICE ALWAYS”
Really now Paul, what is there to rejoice about? Isn’t Christmas just a fantasy season of sugar plum fairies and old St. Nick?
And if Christmas is real, it is real for other people. I’ve got problems no one can relate to. My parents passed all there hang-ups to me. My siblings? We don’t get along. My job is a hassle. The marriage has lost its excitement. It’s too late to do anything with this mess I call my life. How dare Paul say, “Rejoice always.” How could he write this candy cane coated concoction?
I’ll tell you why. Paul knew the angelic announcement, “I bring you good news of great joy.” (Luke 2:10) Not for some people. Not for good people. Not for religious people. This is good news for everyone. Joy is the gift Christ gives to everyone. He gives it especially to you.
Please hear this. There is a difference between happiness and joy. External gifts like health and wealth and children are great blessings from God. They make us happy. But they are not essential for joy. Why? Because happiness is determined by what is going on around me. I can’t control that. Joy is determined by what is going on inside of me. And God has taken control of that. He sent Jesus.
Jesus didn’t have a lot of reasons for earthly happiness. Born in a trough to a blue-collar father and teenage mother. As an adult he had no home. Jesus was an itinerant preacher and washed feet. Not the path to making it big.
And then this, “Being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross!” (Phil. 2:8) Death on a cross was reserved for the lowest of the low. They ripped his skin, burst his arteries and severed his nerves. It brought unimaginable pain.
In spite of it all, though, Jesus, exuded joy. Poverty and disappointment and rejection couldn’t take it away. Even death on a cross couldn’t take away the joy. Hebrews 12:2 says as much, “…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising its shame.”
What does it all mean? No matter where your life is right now, this truth makes it worthwhile: Jesus Christ was born to die for you. From his cross He gives unlimited joy. It is for you. “I bring good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
Jesus once said, “No one will take your joy from you.” (John 16:22) Why is that? Remember? Happiness is determined by what is going on around me. I can’t control that. Joy is determined by what is going on inside of me. And God has taken control of that by sending Jesus who is the doorway to deliverance, the pathway to peace, and the gateway to glory. His goodness is limitless. His loves never changes. His grace is sufficient. His Word is enough. No one will take this joy from you.
Joy stems the tide of gloom and despair. It brings confidence in the midst of confusion. Hope when there is uncertainty. Calm in the midst of life’s storms.
Please don’t confuse happiness and joy. They are not the same thing. There are happy Christmases and there are sad Christmases. It all depends on what is happening around us.
Joy, on the other hand, is dependent upon what is happening in us. And the birth of Jesus is God’s commitment to send the Holy Spirit who comes inside to heal our hurts, forgive our filth and redeem our wretchedness.
Whether tonight is for you the best of times or the worst of times, the birth of Jesus – announced by the angels, witnessed by the shepherds and marveled at by the magi – leaves us finally with only one response. And what would that be? Paul wrote it. They are the words of our text. 1 Thessalonians 5:16. “Rejoice always!”
Amen.

Bulletin Announcements Dec 21, 2014

WELCOME TO ALL OUR VISITORS:  We are glad you could join us for worship today.  If you are a first-time visitor, please sign our guestbook and pick up a Church Handbook.  If you desire more information about Good Shepherd, please note it on the pew sheet.  May the Lord bless you this day and in Christ’s name we invite you to return.

WE BELIEVE CHILDREN BELONG IN WORSHIP:  However, if you or your child needs a break, we have a staffed Nursery at all our services.  Please see an Usher who can direct you to it.

THE ADULT BIBLE CLASS, led by Pastor Lueck, is studying “Luther’s Small Catechism”.  The class meets in the basement at 9:15 a.m.

TODAY IN SUNDAY SCHOOL:  The birth of Jesus serves as the focus of the Sunday School lesson for today.  The Son of God became what we are, human, to make us what He is, a Child of the heavenly Father.  Consider discussing, “Why is it important that Jesus became a human like you and I?  Why is it important that Jesus was both God and man?”

THOUGHTS ON STEWARDSHIP:  2 Samuel 7:4:  “But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan. . .”  Nathan thought David’s idea was great, so he blessed it with the Lord’s name.  But later that night, the Word of the Lord set him straight.  The Word of the Lord must be the basis for what we think, say, and do in God’s Kingdom: not our own desires or whims.

WORSHIP SCHEDULE:  With this being the week of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day we thought it a good idea to have worship.  Christmas Eve Candlelight Worship with Holy Communion will commence at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, December 24th.  The day of our dear Savior’s birth, the worship service will begin at 9:00 a.m. with Holy Communion celebrated.  O Come, All Ye Faithful!

THE EPIPHANY OF OUR LORD:  Two weeks from today (January 4, 2015) we will celebrate the Epiphany of Our Lord.  On that date we will have the Installation of Officers, those duly elected to serve in 2015, in both worship services.  Come be installed, we promise it is painless!

IN OUR PRAYERS:  Dave Orr continues his rehabilitation in Chicago.  His liver transplant has been pushed back to the end of January if he recovers and is ready.  If you would like to send a card to Dave and Pat here is the address:  Dave & Pat Orr, c/o Lindsey Orr, 940 N Damen #2F, Chicago IL 60622.  We continue our prayers for all of them.

PORTALS OF PRAYER:  The January – March 2015 Portals of Prayer are available on the book rack in the narthex.  Please pick up your free copy today.  Large print also available.

THE LWML would like to thank everyone in the church who either purchased supplies or helped put together the quilts and health kits this year.  We sent 37 quilts and 65 health kits.  Thanks again!

FROM THE OFFICE:  Good Shepherd has received a recent correspondence from both the Suggitt Family (at the Seminary in Ft. Wayne) and the Hilbert Family (LBT Missionaries).  These have been posted on the bulletin board outside the church office.

FELLOWSHIP HOSTS:  The sign-up for help with coffee/doughnuts is posted on the wall by the north stairwell.  We need an individual/family to sign-up each week to pick up the donuts and make the coffee.  If no one is signed up by Friday of each week, the order will be cancelled.  We thank everybody who continues to help with this part of our church fellowship.

ANNUAL TRIP TO FORT WAYNE, IN:  John & Paula Hardy will be making their annual trip to Fort Wayne, IN.  Please bring to the church any slightly used adult and/or children’s clothing and any household items such as small appliances, kitchen items, etc. and place in the box located in the narthex.  The trip date has yet to be finalized but will take place in either January or February.  Please see or call (309) 310-7917 John or Paula if you have any questions.  Thank you.

THE LUTHERAN HOUR:  “Monsters In Our Tomorrows” is the topic for next Sunday.  The sermon text will be from Romans 8:37-39.  Unknown monsters lurk in the shadows of the New Year but Christ will carry us through.  The speaker will be Reverend Ken Klaus.  Hear this Sunday’s message on the Lutheran Hour on WGN (720) at 6:00 a.m.; WJWR (104.7 FM) and WJWR (90.3 FM) both on Sunday at 3:00 p.m.  Also, if you can receive Lincoln, IL radio station WLLM (1370 AM) the program is broadcast two times on Sunday at 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.  Tune in!  You can also listen to The Lutheran Hour on your personal computer at RealAudio, www.lhm.org.

INFORMATION REQUESTED:  Please notify the church office if someone in the congregation or any family or friends are ill or hospitalized.

FROM THE CHURCH OFFICE:  If you miss church, please be reminded that copies of the previous week’s sermon are available on the table in the narthex.  Also, the sermon will be available on our web site at www.goodshepherdblm.org.  Thank you.

 + GOOD SHEPHERD SCHEDULE AND FUTURE DATES +

 Today:       Dec. 21              8:00 a.m.      Worship with Holy Communion

9:15 a.m.      Adult Bible Study and Sunday School

10:30 a.m.      Worship, non-Communion

5:00 p.m.      Small Group Bible Study Christmas Party @ the Lueck’s

Tues:         Dec. 23               LWML – No Meeting

Wed:          Dec. 24              6:00 p.m.      Christmas Eve Worship Service w/HC  (Office Closed)

Thurs:        Dec. 25              9:00 a.m.      Christmas Day Worship Service w/HC  (Office Closed)

Sun:           Dec. 28              8:00 a.m.      Worship, non-Communion

9:15 a.m.      Adult Bible Study and Sunday School

10:30 a.m.      Worship with Holy Communion

Wed:          Dec. 31              7:00 p.m.      New Year’s Eve Worship Service w/HC

Thurs:        Jan. 1               Happy New Year!  (Office Closed)

Fri:             Jan. 2                7-8:00 p.m.      Prayer Time

Sun:           Jan. 4                8:00 a.m.      Worship with Holy Communion  Epiphany of Our Lord

9:15 a.m.      Adult Bible Study and Sunday School

10:30 a.m.      Worship, non-Communion

Installation of Officers; both worship services

Tues:         Jan. 6                 7:00 p.m.      20th Church Anniversary Committee Meeting

+ + + + + + + + + + + +

+  ASSISTING TODAY +

Preacher:……………………………………………………………..Reverend Chad D. Lueck

Elder:………………………………………………………………………………….Paul Gerike

Ushers:…………………….8:00 a.m., Steve Davis, Mike Field, John Hardy, Joshua Parry

10:30 a.m., Holden Lueck, Bryan Reichert

Organist:…………………………………………………………………….Mary Anne Kirchner

Soloist:……………………………………………………………………………….Curt Kessler

Acolytes:………………………………………8:00 a.m., J.T. Piper; 10:30 a.m., Pastor/Elder

Nursery Staff:……………………………….8:00 a.m., Toni Lueck; 10:30 a.m., Ruth Gerike

Fellowship Hosts:……………………………………………………….John & Angelina Isaac

 

THE CHURCH OFFICE HOURS

The Office Hours for Janet and Sandy are as follows:  Janet:  Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. and others times by request/appointment.  Sandy’s hours are Mondays, 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.; Thursdays, 8:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.; and Fridays, 8:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

VISITORS

We are happy to have you worship with us.  Please sign the Guest Register on the table in the back of the church.  Also, please list your name and other information on the Friendship Form in the WELCOME binder, found on each row.  If you have a young child we have available “Busy Bags” on the table in the church entryway for them to use during worship.  We hope you enjoyed your visit and welcome you to return.

FOR OUR GUESTS AND VISITORS:

By way of explanation, here at Good Shepherd, our Offerings are not collected during the worship service. Instead, upon entering or leaving, we place them in the Offering boxes found hanging on the last pews in the Sanctuary.

CONVENIENCE ENVELOPES:

Did you accidentally leave your offering envelope at home?  Do you need a back up?  If so, these envelopes are for you.  Located in the pews and on the table in the narthex, these envelopes are here for the convenience of all our members.  We hope you will feel free to use them whenever a need arises. Thank you.

PRAYER CHAIN:  If you have a prayer request please submit them by email to Mary Anne Kirchner at makirchner@yahoo.com or you may phone a Prayer Request to Mary Anne; her home # is (309) 661-6522; her cell phone# is (309) 532-2582.  The Prayer Request box is on the table in the narthex for any written requests.

 

Finding GOOD SHEPHERD ONLINE

Good Shepherd Home Page:…………………………………………………………….www.goodshepherdblm.org

Good Shepherd e-mail:……………………………………………………………goodshepherdblm@frontier.com

Good Shepherd Facebook Page:……………………………………………………..www.facebook.com/gslcblmil

Pastor Chad Lueck:…………………………………………………………………………..….revbci@yahoo.com