December 30, 2018

Rev. Bernt P. Tweit



Old Testament Lesson; Numbers 6:22-27

Gospel Lesson; Luke 2:21                            

Sermon Text; Philippians 2:9-13


The portion of God's Word we look at for this day, (as we close out the year 2018, and open a new year of God's grace) is taken from Philippians chapter two, looking at verses nine through thirteen.

This is God's Word in the name of Jesus.


Therefore God also highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in Heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

So then, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed, not only when I was with you, but also now much more in my absence, continue to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.  In fact, it is God who is working in you, both to will and to work, for the sake of His good pleasure.


This is God's Word.


The portion of scripture I just read to you, is the portion of scripture we look at every Palm Sunday.  It is always The Epistle Lesson for Palm Sunday.  So, you might be thinking to yourself, “Why in the world are we looking at this text for New Year's, then, if this is the text we look at for Palm Sunday?” 

There is a reason.  We now are about one week after Christmas.  It is good for us to focus on, (as we are now about one week after Christmas), what happened to Jesus about one week after He was born. 

Our Gospel Lesson for today tells us what happened to Jesus one week after He was born.  He received His name.  Names are significant.  Sometimes people receive names for a very specific reason.  For example, I am named after my great grandpa, and my dad.  My wife, Katie, is named after one of her grandmas.  My son, Benjamin, is named after his grandfathers.  My daughter is named after her aunt.  Maybe, as you think about your name, there is a significant reason why you received that name.

Well how about Jesus' name?  Consider the significance of His name.  You may remember Joseph wanted to divorce Mary, because she was pregnant.  But, it was an angel of the Lord who came to Joseph in a dream, and said to him, “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived inside of her is from the Holy Spirit”. 

Then, the angel told Joseph in a dream,

“You are to give Him the name Jesus”.

Our Gospel Lesson for today also tells us the significance of Jesus' name, when it says,

“On the eighth day He was named Jesus,

the name the angel had given to Him

before He had been conceived.”

Back for just a moment on why we use this text for Palm Sunday.  It focuses on Jesus' humiliation, and it focuses on Jesus' exaltation.  Palm Sunday is the very beginning of Holy Week.  We look at the depth to which Jesus went to win salvation for us, and then the height to which He climbed.  This is what the book of Philippians says right before our text for today, when it says this about Jesus. 

“He did not consider equality with God

something to be grasped,

but made Himself nothing

taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness. 

And being found in appearance as a Man,

He humbled Himself

and became obedient to death,

even death on a cross.”

And so, we see the point to which Jesus was willing to humble Himself. 

Just a week ago we celebrated the birth of Jesus.  That doesn't look like God, does it?  Jesus humbled Himself, as He was born as a baby.  A baby doesn’t look like God. But, following the on the heels of Jesus' humiliation, when He chose to hide the fact that He was God, now in His exaltation, He shows the fact that He is God.  He uses all of His divine powers in His human nature.  And so, Paul in our text for today says,

“God exalted Him to the highest place.”  

What is the highest place?  The highest place is the right hand of God.  There is no other higher place than that. 

And so, here is what the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus, about this position Jesus has now been raised to in His state of exaltation.  He put it this way. 

“God seated Jesus at his right hand

in the heavenly realm,

far above all rule and authority, all power and dominion,

and every title that can be given,

not only in the present age,

but also in the one to come.”

So, God has exalted Jesus.  Jesus is now

“the name that is above every name.” 

Just a couple weeks ago we had our day school Christmas service.  Leading up to the day school Christmas service, the classes were preparing their recitations.  They were preparing the portions that they were going to be singing, for those who came to that service.

As you know, some of our classes here at Holy Cross are displaced. (Because our school is growing, we needed two temporary classrooms, until our new 5 classroom addition is complete.) One of those classrooms happens to be in a teacher's workroom, right off of the pastors' offices.  And so, leading up to the service we got to hear the fifth graders practice their recitations, and we got to hear them practice their songs.  One of the songs they were practicing was Jesus, Name Above All Names.  It was a privilege to hear them practice that, because Jesus' name is above all names, just as our text for today is telling us. 

If you were to enter into a 'search engine' “the most influential people ever in the whole world”, do you know what you would come up with?  This last week I did check out some of those.  Whose name would be #1 on that list?  Or, maybe I should put it this way:  Whose name SHOULD be on #1 of that list?   Most often the name that was #1 on those lists was JESUS.  I was not surprised by that.  I was expecting that.  I was actually a little disappointed that Jesus was not at the top of every list.  But, Jesus' name was at the top of many of the lists, and there is a reason for that.  It is not just because He is the most influential Man, but He is the most influential God/Man. 

We see what it was our Savior, Jesus, came to do for us.  Not only in His humiliation, but now, what He has also won for us in His exaltation. 

In the early Christian church the Apostles were persecuted, because of the name of Jesus.  Sometimes they were thrown in prison, or they were flogged, or they were beaten.  One time, the Apostles were thrown in jail, and then an angel let them out of jail.  So they continued to proclaim the name of Jesus.  At the very end of that section of scripture it said,

“They rejoiced because they suffered disgrace,

they suffered dishonor for the name.” 

The name that is being referred to there, is the name of Jesus.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, the day is going to come when every knee is going to bow to Jesus.  Our text for today tells us

“every knee will bow, in Heaven and on earth,

and under the earth” to Jesus.  

Every knee in Heaven, right now, is already bowing down to Jesus.  Those are the angels.  They are bowing down to Jesus who created them.  On earth, though, not every knee bows to Jesus, because not everybody believes Jesus is the Savior.  But, the day is going to come, when every knee on earth will bow.  That will be Judgment Day, when everybody will have to bow, and confess who Jesus is. 

Currently, everybody who is in Hell right now (thinking of the devil, and all of the evil angels, all of the demons) they are bowing to Jesus on bended knee, because He has defeated not only sin and death, but He has also defeated them, as well.

“...every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.”

But, you know what?  Not everybody's knee wants to bow to Jesus, not everybody's tongue wants to confess that Jesus is Lord.  There are times in my life when I don't want to submit myself, and bow down to Jesus.  There are times when I may not want to confess the name of Jesus.  We understand and we realize our sinful human nature.

I told you about the day school Christmas service that happened just a few weeks ago.  During the course of that service I was kind of wandering in the back of the sanctuary, and the Narthex to make sure that everybody's needs were being taken care of.  Near the end of the service there were two parents who had two toddlers. They were between one and two years old.  The parents were talking to each other, and they wanted the kids to interact with each other.  There was one toy they had.  It was a little toy truck.  The parents set those two kids about two feet apart from each other, and they wanted the kids to just roll the toy truck between the two of them. 

Here is how it went.  The first kid was holding on to the truck, with a smile on their face.  The parent was encouraging the child to roll the truck to the other kid, sitting on the floor two feet away.  Through encouragement from the parent, the truck went to the other child. 

The first child started to throw a conniption.  They were so bummed they didn't have the toy in their hand, anymore.  But, the other kid was very happy that they had the toy, now. 

So, the other parent was encouraging their child to roll it back to the first child.  But, they didn't want to do it.  Through encouragement from the parent, they rolled it, and guess what happened.  Another meltdown happened, because the child wanted to hang on to that toy.

That is just a little picture of our sinful human nature.  We don't want to bow to Jesus.  We don't always want to confess to Jesus.  We don't always want to be humble toward Him.

But, consider the name of Jesus, and what the name of Jesus means.  The name of 'Jesus' simply is the New Testament Greek word for The Old Testament Hebrew word 'Joshua'.  The word 'Joshua' means, 'the Lord saves'.  That is what Jesus came to do. 

-Jesus came to be our Savior. 

-'Jesus' came to be 'the Lord saves'. 

-He came to save us from our sin. 

How did the name of Jesus do that?  Well, He did two things for us.  

1.  He lived a perfect life for us.  That is what our Gospel Lesson for today tells us.  Think of our Gospel Lesson. 

“On the eighth day,

when it was time to circumcise Him,

He was named Jesus...”

Even something as miniscule as that, Jesus fulfilled The Law for us in its fullest.  He was circumcised on the eighth day, in keeping with what The Ceremonial Law said. 

2.  But, along with that, Jesus also died, and He rose again. 

This last week, I was in the home of some of our shut in members, visiting them, (some before Christmas, and some after Christmas).  One of our shut in members that I went to visit, invited me into her apartment.  She and I were sitting at her kitchen table.  The door to her apartment was behind me. 

As we were visiting, she said she had taken one of her Christmas cards, cut out one of the sayings of that Christmas card, and had taped it to her door, so that every time she walked out of her apartment, she would see what that Christmas card said.

So, I turned around to see what it was she had taped on her door, as I was curious by what that Christmas card had said.  Here were the three simple phrases that were on the card.  It said,

“Christ has died. 

Christ is risen. 

Christ will come again.” 

It put a big smile on my face, because I told her that at our Christmas day service the pastor spoke those words.  Right after we confessed our sins, the pastor stood there, and said to everybody in The Absolution, or the forgiveness:  “Christ has died.  Christ is risen!  Christ will come again.” 

That was the phrase she now has posted on her door, as a reminder of what the name of Jesus has done for her, and what the name of Jesus has done for all of us.

So now what?  We know what the name of 'Jesus' means.  It means 'Savior'.  It means 'to save from sin'.  So, now what?  Paul tells us in our text for today,

“...as you have always obeyed,

not only when I was with you,

but also now much more in my absence.” 

What did he mean by that?  He is combining not only obeying, but he is including in their faith, as well.  As you have obeyed, and as you have also had faith.  The Greek verb there, 'hypekousate' has this imagery of the door bell ringing, and you are going to answer the door.  So, listening attentively, and obeying, 'as the doorbell rings', as you have always obeyed in your life of faith in the name of Jesus. 

You see, our life of faith is not just a short term thing.  Our life of faith is to be in it for the long haul.  There are many people who come to faith, quickly.  They are all excited about the name of Jesus, but there are also many people where the flame of faith dies away, just as quickly. 

That is kind of like what is happening with the advertizing you are all receiving right now.  I know you are.  It's in your mailbox, your email inbox, on the TV, on the radio, in the newspaper.  Everybody is being bombarded with memberships at the local gymnasium.  It always happens at this time of year. 

Do you know why?  It is because we have eaten too much for the holidays.  From Thanksgiving through New Year's we have eaten too much.  We have had too much sugar.  We have had too much food. And now, all of those gyms are coming to you, because they want your membership.  There are many people who have made New Year's Resolutions to lose weight, and to join a gym. 

But, you know what the regulars at those gyms know?  They know that by March those people who signed up on New Year's Day are not going to be there, anymore.  Because they made a goal, and they didn't achieve that goal, as quickly as they wanted.  Then, they got a little lazy.  That gym was just a little too far away.  And that membership they had gotten, they fall away from it.

God's Word for today is encouraging us to be in for the long haul.  Not just for the short term, but for a lifetime, and to work out our salvation with fear, and with trembling.  We understand it is the work of the Holy Spirit, bringing us to faith to believe in Jesus, as our Savior, and strengthening us in our faith in the name of Jesus, but, to work out our salvation, and to do it for the long haul.

I close with sharing this with you this morning.  There was once a little girl who lived in a big city.  She was so young she didn't even know the address of the residence where she lived.

One day she got lost.  She was frantically running everywhere she could, but she couldn't remember where it was she lived. 

A police officer saw her in her panic.  The police officer stopped, and put her in his car.  He slowly drove through the neighborhood, just to see if there was any 'ringing of a bell', as to where she might live.

She yelled out, “Stop!  That's my church, and I know how to find my way home from church!”

What she said there is not only interesting from a physical perspective, as she could find her way home from church, but it is a great thing to ponder, and consider from a spiritual perspective. 

What is it that we do at church?  We focus on the name of Jesus.  The name of Jesus is brought to us through Word and Sacrament.  The name of 'Jesus' means 'Savior', 'to save us from our sin'.  And, that is what our Savior, Jesus, has done for us.

From church we know our way home.  Our home is everlasting life in Heaven.