A beautiful, perfect place—paradise! God created the heavens and the earth. God created all living creatures that crawl on the ground, that swim in the waters, and that fly in the air. God created man; in His own image He created them, male and female He created them. And it was good! Very good. It was perfect. He placed man, the crown of His creation, in a beautiful garden called Eden. Indeed, it was beautiful because it was perfect. There was no need to labor and till the ground because it produced all that man needed in abundance. There was no need to worry about the weather because the world was perfect and danger did not exist. There was no need to worry about anything because everything was exactly right, exactly perfect, and exactly how God intended for it to be.
Mark gives the temptation of Jesus only a few short sentences in his Gospel: “The Spirit immediately sent Jesus out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels were serving him.” It goes by so quickly in Mark, you almost miss it.
Between my sophomore and junior years in college, I spent the summer working in Yakima, Washington. I stayed with Joe Johnson, a college classmate and a native of Yakima.
One weekend, Joe and I decided to climb one of the smaller mountains in the Mount Rainer National Park. It took us several hours to reach the top of the mountain. It was a hard, sweaty, worthwhile climb. However, we had misjudged how long it would take us to get to the pinnacle of that mountain. So, we only had a few hours to get back down before nightfall.
Last Sunday, I heard audible gasps when we prayed for the family and congregation of Pastor Jim Weiland. Pastor Weiland served at First Evan from 1985-1995. Since then, he had been serving the congregation of Christ Lutheran Church in Merrill, WI.
On January 10, Pastor Weiland was struck by a semi-truck on Highway 8 in Oneida County. He suffered severe head trauma.
In the 1950s, when Christian Herter was governor of Massachusetts, he was running hard for a second term in office. One day, after a busy morning chasing votes (and no lunch) he arrived at a church barbecue. It was late afternoon and Herter was famished. As Herter moved down the serving line, he held out his plate to the woman serving chicken. She put a piece on his plate and turned to the next person in line.
I am very grateful to all of you for your Pastor Appreciation and Christmas gifts. I used the monetary gifts to order a new alb for myself. The alb is the white robe that I wear for worship. The reason I needed a new alb is because this one is getting old, dingy and frayed. Most of all, though, is because there is a burn mark on the left sleeve.
St. Mark is a man of few words. He wrote the shortest of the Gospels. He must have used a very short scroll. He doesn’t mention the birth of Jesus like St. Luke or the visit of the Magi like St. Matthew or the incarnation of the Son of God taking on human flesh like St. John. Mark begins his Gospel with Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River. Mark is short and to the point. Jesus in the water. The Savior in the Sacrament.
There is a great deal of excitement this morning. Today is a bit different as we are celebrating the Eve of Christ’s birth in the morning. The children are excited to speak their memorized Bible verses and hymns. Parents are excited to see their children in the front of church sharing the Savior’s story.
Tonight at 8:00 pm on TBS begins 24 hours of “A Christmas Story.” Millions of viewers will sit down in front of their TVs to watch one of the most beloved Christmas movies of all time.
“A Christmas Story” is set in the 1940’s, and it centers on a nine-year old boy named Ralphie. Ralphie’s dream is to receive a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Or, in Ralphie’s words, “A Red Ryder carbine action two-hundred shot range model air rifle.” When he tells that to Santa, the man in the big red suit replies, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.” Then, Santa pushes Ralphie down the chute with his boot.
How many of you have not seen the new Star Wars movie? There are some big questions to be answered in this movie. Who is Snoke? Who are Ren’s parents? Why has Luke been hiding in a cave? Will Kylo Ren be redeemed from the dark side? Don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil the movie for you. Shelley and I have our tickets to go see the movie tomorrow. So, don’t spoil it for me!