Saturday, December 24, 2011

My Favorite Christmas Hymn Is . . .

"What Child Is This" (LSB 370), because I love the tune, but moreso because it contains the best, most awesomest hymn stanza ever, which gets at the heart of the real meaning of Christmas:

Why lies He in such mean estate
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear; for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you;
Hail, hail, the Word made flesh,
The babe, the Son of Mary!

Beauitful Video!

Pr. Rick Sawyer and the children at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church and School in Brandon, MS made this excellent video a few years back. Wow! Simply sublime. "We know how to give good gifts to our children. So does God." God delivers His Gifts to us via His Holy Word and Sacraments, through which we receive Jesus Christ and the forgiveness, life, and salvation He won for us. And, this Promise if FOR YOU and FOR YOUR CHILDREN. I love how the video shows the kids running to the Christmas tree to get their presents in the beginning, and then shows them running to the altar to get their Gift of Jesus toward the end. They rush to the Christmas tree to get gifts, but then they rush to the Tree of Life to get the greatest Gift of all - the very Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, given and shed for us on the Tree of the Cross. Beautiful!

God will be delivering His Good and Divine Gifts to His children all over the world tonight and tomorrow. Rush to the true Christmas Tree - the Tree of the Cross - and receive the Christmas Present He has for you - His Son and the salvation He won for you. For in every Church around the world where the Holy Eucharist is celebrated according to Christ's institution, there is Bethlehem, the House of Bread, for there is where the Bread of Life, Jesus, is mangered upon the altar, wrapped in the swaddling cloths of bread and wine, for you.

Bethlehem will be found at Peace Lutheran Church in Alma, MI tonight at 7:00 p.m. (Service of Lessons and Carols) and 11:30 p.m. (Midnight Mass), and again tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. (Divine Service). O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant! O come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem; Come and behold Him born the King of angels: O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!

A Fisky Friday

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Divine Humility and Love

Not a palace, but a stable.  Not a cushioned crib, but a feeding trough for animals (a manger).  Not in a rich powerful city, but in lowly Bethlehem.  Not to rich, powerful, royal, and influential parents, but to a simple carpenter and lowly maiden.  Not with great fanfare, pomp, and circumstance, but while the world slept unaware—the only announcement made by the angels to shepherds in the fields.  This is how the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity made His entrance into our flesh in order to bear our sins and be our Savior.  It is nothing short of amazing!  Hearing the remarkable details of our Lord’s birth never gets old, which is why the Church continues to sing, “Marvel now, O heav’n and earth, that the Lord chose such a birth” (“Savior of the Nations, Come” - LSB 332, st. 1).

Marvel, indeed!  God is born a baby!  The Eternal Word of the Father, the very Creator of all things, the One who spoke creation into existence, descends from heaven to be born into His creation.  In Mary’s arms, nursing from her breasts, is God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God.  He humbles Himself to assume our human flesh and become dependent upon the milk of His mother and the care of his earthly father, even while He continues to hold the entire universe in His tiny little hands.  If this does not cause you to marvel, nothing will! 

The Divine Humility of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ, is truly a marvelous thing to behold.  The holy angels are taken aback by it and long to delve into what they perceive to be the mystery of mysteries.  They have seen the One who lies seemingly helpless in a manger in all His glory.  They know Who this Baby named Jesus really is, and it amazes them to see Him in this manner.  Not only that, but they know the reason God takes on human flesh and is born into this dead and dying world, namely to save sinful humanity, and they cannot help but sing His praises.  As they gaze upon Almighty God, their Lord and Master, wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a dirty, feeding trough, they marvel not only at His Divine Humility, but at His Divine Love for sinful mankind, for it is that Divine Love which moved Him to subject Himself to such humility. 

The Divine Humility and Love we see on display in Bethlehem on that Holy Night long ago continued to be exemplified in our Lord Jesus throughout His salvific pilgrimage to our sinful world.  He did not come seeking honor and fame, but to serve and love God and neighbor completely and perfectly in our place.  He did not come to conquer the world and establish a mighty earthly empire, but to do battle with, and defeat, sin, death, and the devil on our behalf.  He did not come to be served, but to serve.  The One who chose to be born in such low estate lived in poverty throughout His time here, relying upon His Father to provide for His every need.  He had no place to lay His head.  He had no accumulation of material possessions.  There was nothing about His appearance that would draw people to Him.  In short, the Divine Humility we witness at His birth continued throughout His earthly life.

Of course, the ultimate picture of our Lord’s Divine Humility and Love is seen in Jerusalem thirty-some years after His ignoble birth.  We see it when He washes the feet of His disciples.  We see it when He sweats blood while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, submitting to His Father’s will.  We see it when He submits to being arrested.  We see it when He is spit upon, beaten, mocked, and severely flogged.  We see it in His silence before Caiaphas and Pilate.  We see it when He carries His own cross to Golgotha outside the city gates.  We see it when He allows Simon of Cyrene to assist Him in carrying His cross.  We see it when the nails are driven through His hands and feet.  We see it when He hangs on that cruel instrument of torture, gasping for air.  We hear it in the Words He utters from the cross, and we see it when He takes His last breath and dies. 

And it’s all amazing; it’s all something to most definitely marvel over, for this is God Himself, Incarnate in human flesh, Who is born in such low estate, lives in such poverty, and dies such a heinous death.  It becomes all the more amazing (if it’s possible to ponder anything more amazing than God living and dying as a Man) when we consider that He did it all for us—for you, for me.  He humbled Himself and assumed human flesh to live as your substitute; to hunger and thirst as you hunger and thirst; to be tempted as you are tempted; to experience pain and suffering as you experience pain and suffering; to be mocked and suffer injustice as you are mocked and suffer injustice; to even suffer death as you suffer death.  All of it because He loves you with a Divine Love beyond our human comprehension.  All of it to rescue you from the eternity you deserve because of your sins.  All of it to win for you forgiveness, life, and salvation.  All of it because He desires that you spend eternity with Him in perfect peace, comfort, and joy. 

Dearly beloved, as we make our way to Bethlehem to celebrate our Savior’s birth, let us take our cue from the holy angels and ponder the mystery of our Lord’s Incarnation.  Let us follow the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary and treasure this mystery in our hearts, pondering with great wonder and joy the reason our God humbled Himself to be born into this sinful world in our human flesh.  He came to live and die for you, dear friends, each and every one of you.  In Divine Humility and Love, He came to save you by living the life you fail to live and by dying the death you deserve to die for your sins.  This is the true “reason for the season,” the true meaning of Christmas.

But, let us not stop at pondering and treasuring up in our hearts this great mystery, as if this was all just some bygone story to be cherished, remembered, and passed on to others.  This is no legend or fairy tale or epic saga to warm our hearts and lift our spirits as we roast chestnuts around the fire.  This is no “Hallmark Special” to talk about as we sip our eggnog and open presents.  Our Lord lives!  His Divine Humility and Love is still on full display and still as active today as it was two millennia ago, for the same God who assumed human flesh and was born of the Virgin Mary, the same God who lived to serve and love God and neighbor, the same God who allowed Himself to be treated shamefully and put to death, continues to come to us in Divine Humility and Love as we gather in His Name for Divine Service.  It should not surprise us that He makes no flashy appearance in our midst, but instead comes among us humbly and hiddenly, wrapped in the swaddling cloths of His Holy Word and Sacraments.  That’s His way.  And He comes to us in Divine Humility and Love to deliver the forgiveness, life, and salvation He accomplished for us.  This, too, is the meaning of Christmas.

“Marvel now, O heav’n and earth, that the Lord chose such a birth.”  Yes, marvel away at that!  But, marvel, too, that our Lord chooses to continue to meet us in His Church in Divine Humility and Love to deliver to us His Divine Gifts.  Marvel and come, at His gracious invitation, to receive His Gifts and to be filled with His Divine Humility and Love! 

A Holy, Blessed, and Merry Christmas to you all! 

Sacred Music for the Christmas Season

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Children's Christmas Program

We held our Children's Christmas Program this evening and all the kids did a fabulous job sharing the story of our salvation with us.  Special thanks to our Sunday School teachers, Carol, Sharyn, and Annie, for getting them prepared.  Some pics:

Greek Tuesday on the Holy Gospel for Christmas Day - John 1:1-18

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1). Not, ". . . and the Word was a god," but, ". . . and the Word was God." Jesus is the Eternal Word of the Father, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God. He is of one substance with the Father. God is born on Christmas Day. God. Not a god. Not a created being. God. God lives in our human flesh. God lives as a perfect human being, fulfilling all the demands of the Law in our place. God bears our sins and is our Savior, taking our sins upon Himself and putting them to death by dying on a Cross. God dies. God is placed in a tomb. God rises from the tomb on the third day and appears to His disciples multiple times over the course of forty days. God ascends into heaven in human flesh, bearing the scars of our salvation, to rule over all things. God will come again in great glory on the Last Day.

That's the Gospel. Jesus, the Son of God and Mary's Son, is the "I AM" who spoke to Moses, the Word through Whom all things were made in the beginning, despite the protestations of both ancient and modern Arians. The context in John 1 makes this clear. The rules of grammar make it clear in that section, as Pr. Fisk points out. And, Scripture makes this clear time and time again throughout. Today is the Feast Day of St. Thomas, Apostle. St. Thomas, upon seeing and touching our Resurrected Lord, declares, "My Lord and My God" (John 20:28). St. Paul refers to Jesus as "our great God and Savior" (Titus 2:13). St. Peter does the same (2 Peter 1:1). And, Jesus identifies Himself as God time and time again in the Holy Gospels. The Jews in His day knew exactly what He was saying of Himself. One of the reasons they wanted to kill Him is precisely because they knew that He was claiming to be Yahweh in the flesh, God Incarnate. You can't miss this. It's all over the place.

The irony is that heretics of old and present try to use the first verse of the Holy Gospel according to St. John to assert that Jesus isn't God, but a god, when the very purpose of that verse and all that follows it in that Gospel is to make vividly clear that Jesus is God. Already in St. John's day, there were heretics harassing the Church, claiming that Jesus wasn't God. St. John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, sets them straight. He is very clear. Jesus Is God. It is nothing short of amazing that anyone would try to deny that this is what St. John testifies. But, you know, heretics gonna heretic. That will never change until our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, returns in great glory on the Last Day and the Truth is revealed to all.

Until then, may those of us who have been gifted with the faith to confess the truth about Jesus give thanks, rejoice, and cling to Him as our only source of rescue from sin, death, and the devil. May we ponder in our hearts, with Blessed St Mary, the Great and Mighty Wonder of God being born in our human flesh to bear our sins and be our Savior. May we, with the holy angels, marvel at this glorious mystery. May we, with St. Thomas, declare about Jesus, especially as we receive Him in the Holy Supper, "my Lord and my God!" Amen.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Better Late than Never . . .

It is still Advent, after all . . .

Also, if you have not done so yet, give Pres. Harrison's article in the December issue of The Lutheran Witness a read.

The Evidence Strikes Back

Great video by Pr. Fisk. I've been reminded lately, in various ways, how hypocritical are many who simply dismiss the Bible and the Christian faith without examining the evidence. They are quick to point out how ignorant Christians must be to believe what the Bible says and confess the tenets of the Christian faith. They see this as akin to believing in myths and fairy tales, deriding Christians for being superstitious fools. But, in so doing, they put their own ignorance on full display, for they have not even given the evidence a passing glance and have no clue what they're saying. In reality, then, they are guilty of their own accusations against Christians, for they have blindly put their faith in the myths and fairy tales of men, who foolishly approach the Bible and the Christian faith with a whole boat-load of self-designated presuppositions and draw conclusions upon those presuppositions, which are in no way, shape, or form rooted in reality. Oh well. Such is life in this dead and dying world.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Just returned last night from a week in the woods . . . and what a week it was!  My dad and I were the only ones in camp for the first few days, as my Uncle Art had to work and didn't arrive until Thursday afternoon, and Aaron (my son) had basketball tryouts all week.  So, it was just the two of us heading out to our blinds Opening Morning, and neither of us ever dreamed we would have the success we had that morning.

Around 7:20 a.m., I had a pretty good size buck stroll into my area.  He was behind my tree stand and to my right.  I could see his rack and was hoping that he'd keep coming down the runway that I've nicknamed "Suicide Lane."  But, he didn't.  He turned south and headed down toward the swamp, never giving me a shot (way too thick back there).  A little early Opening Morning excitement, but nothing more.  I thought for sure I had missed the one chance I'd have that day to bag a buck.  I was wrong.

An hour later - about 8:20 a.m. - another buck came strolling into my area almost exactly where the first buck had been.  But, unlike the first buck, this guy didn't turn and head toward the swamp, but kept coming down "Suicide Lane."  When I spotted him behind me and to my right, I stood up in my stand, using the tree as cover, and readied myself for a shot (as I had done just an hour earlier with that first elusive buck).  When I saw that he was going to come down "Suicide Lane," I picked the second shooting lane and waited for him to walk right into my cross-hairs, and when he did, I fired and hit him good.  He bolted toward the swamp, but only made it about 40 yards before I heard him go down.  There are few feelings that compare to the feeling of knowing that you just bagged a good buck!

I waited until 8:45 a.m. before getting down out of my tree stand to go find the buck.  My plan was to go find him, field dress him, drag him over to my stand, and get back up there and hunt the rest of the morning.  But, just as I stood up to hook my rifle up to the rope and let it down, I spotted a huge deer on the hill out in front of me.  So, I slowly sat back down and grabbed my rifle.  I couldn't see the deer clearly through the bright sunshine and dense fog that had just rolled in.  I was pretty sure it was a big buck, but couldn't be positive.  I had the deer in my scope for a good couple of minutes and could have easily shot it several times, but not knowing for sure what it was, I let it go.  It mosied down into the swamp, heading right toward where the buck I had shot had fallen.  So, I waited for about 15 minutes and got down out of my stand and headed over to where I had shot the buck:

He wasn't a very big buck - probably only 2 or 3 years old, but he had a nice, symmetrical rack, and had a little drop-tine starting, which is rare, and which made him a 9-pointer, not an 8-pointer, as I had originally thought.  But, what was so exciting about this buck for me was that this was my FIRST buck ever!  I hunted a few times with my dad and uncle when I was a teenager, but didn't start doing it consistently until my early twenties.  This was the 11th deer I've killed (actually, 12th - I killed a buck a few years ago at my uncle's place, but we never found him), but the first buck (actually, second buck - I killed a button buck a few years back, who was on a dead sprint through my area and I thought he was a doe, but that doesn't really count) I've successfully bagged.  Pretty cool, to say the least.  I've had opportunities to go and hunt on private land, where I'm sure I could have bagged a buck a long time before now, but I've always wanted to get my first buck on the state land we've been hunting now for about 15 years.  I've had a few chances to do so in years past, but never succeeded until this year.  Very exciting!

Anyway, back to our unbelievable Opening Morning story . . .  

So, I found my buck and just began field dressing him when I heard my dad shoot.  What the heck?  Could it be?  Could he have just shot a buck, too?  No.  That could never happen.  But, then again, my dad never fires his rifle unless he's shooting at a big buck.  So, I figured he had taken a shot at a buck and probably had one down - unless there was someone else hunting real close to him, which is always a possibility when you're hunting on state land.  So, I went back to field dressing my buck, knowing that he would call me if he had one down.  And, sure enough, a few minutes later, my cell phone rang.  My dad had a big buck down.  Wow!  Who woulda thunk it?  Both of us with bucks down on the same Opening Morning - unbelievable!

I finished field dressing my buck, dragged him over to my tree stand, and headed over to my dad's blind.  I couldn't believe what a monster he had taken down.  Huge!  Big Bad Swamp Buck!  He said that he first saw a doe coming down a runway to the left of him, toward the swamp.  Then, he caught a glimpse of this monster out of the corner of his eye a few minutes later, coming down a runway in the same direction as the doe had been traveling, only nearer to his blind.  My dad kept perfectly still until the big guy passed his blind to his left, only 20 yards or so away.  The buck stopped and did that majestic pose big bucks do, looking up what we call "8-Point Hill."  My dad said the big fella looked a little nervous and he was worried that maybe he had sensed him.  But, when the buck stopped posing, he turned his head to the left, looking down toward the doe that was still hanging around, and my dad, a lefty, brought his rifle up quickly and shot the monster right-handed, and he dropped right there.  This was the second monster buck my dad killed in the last five years - with a nice 8-pointer in between - and so we have given him the nickname, "The Most Interesting Deer Hunter in the World," to go along with his other nickname, "The Man Who Slew Brutus."   

So, we had two good bucks down before 9:15 a.m. on Opening Morning.  As I said above, we would never have believed it possible to have such success.  But, now we had to get these bucks out of the woods - and so, the work began.  We left the game cart back at the cottage and there was no way we were going to drag both of these guys out by the horns.  So, we decided that we would go drag my buck out, load it up in the truck, and then I would go back to the cottage, get the cart, and drive my truck back to meet my dad, who would stay behind with his buck.

When I finally made it back to my dad's blind, he told me that he had just seen an even bigger buck walk through his area while he was lounging in his blind waiting on me.  So, that made five bucks the two of us saw that morning.  For one of us to see a single buck in a morning is rare; to see five in the same morning is simply unbelievable.

We eventually got both bucks back to the cottage and hung.  We were exhausted.  Dragging my buck out without the cart was quite the chore, and even though we had the cart to get his monster out, it was still pretty tiring.  By the time we got everything done (bucks hung and cleaned out, everything washed up, the tenderloins, hearts, and livers all sliced up and ready to cook, and showered and cleaned up ourselves), it was nearly 4:00 p.m.  Needless to say, we skipped the afternoon hunt that day. :)

As you can see from the pictures above, the buck my dad bagged made my buck look like a baby.  I joked with him when I first saw the monster he bagged that we should just throw mine back. :)  But, really, my buck was an average sized buck; it just looks small next to the monster my dad killed.  Anyway, after getting all cleaned up, the hearts and livers all sliced up and bagged in milk to soak a couple of days, we feasted that evening on fresh tenderloins - simply delicious!

Dad and I decided to skip the second day of the hunt, too.  We had two bucks hanging and the second day is notoriously slow, so we slept in, lazed around most of the morning, went into Greenville to do a little grocery shopping, then vegged out the rest of the day and evening, watching old movies and such - pretty relaxing day.

We skipped the next morning hunt as well and waited to go out in the afternoon with Art, who arrived at camp at around 1:00 p.m. that day.  We probably should have just stayed in, as it was very cold and windy, and none of us saw a thing that afternoon.

The next morning was a lot nicer, weather-wise, and filled with tons of action, at least for me.  I had a mama and two youngins (a little doe and a button buck) come in about 7:45 a.m.  The button buck almost walked right under my tree stand, and mama and little girl came within 10 yards before mama noticed me.  You can't see it in the video very well, but mama starts stomping her front hoof to let junior (button buck) know to come back to her, so that they could get out of Dodge.  Junior was totally oblivious to the danger mama sensed and just pranced around like he owned the woods.  Lots of fun watching these three.  Video is a little shaky - was holding my iphone 4 in one hand and turning to watch the button buck.  Wasn't trying to be very still; just enjoying the action. :)

Then, about a half hour later, I had another mama and two babies come out of the swamp to my right.  I wasn't sure what they were at first, so I got on them with my scope.  When I realized that there were no antlers on any of them, and that none of them were all that big, I picked up my camera to try to get some video, but all I got was their tails heading into the thickets behind me.

45 minutes later, I had two does run right down the runway I call "Suicide Alley" (not to be confused with "Suicide Lane") to the left of me.  But, neither of them were very big and I decided to let them go.  Didn't get video because I was enjoying a nice cup of hot cocoa and didn't feel like putting it down. :)

So, that's 8 deer I saw (at least 6 of which I could have easily shot), and all before 9:30 a.m.  Then, just before 10:00 a.m., I spotted a huge deer coming down off of the hill in front of me, moving pretty rapidly.  I decided right away that if this deer gave me a shot, I would take it.  Couldn't tell if it was a buck or a doe at first, but it was huge.  It came down to my left, a couple of runways further out than "Suicide Alley," and when it hit what I thought to be an opening, I took a shot and the deer dropped dead in its tracks.  I was pretty amazed that it dropped - she was on a dead run and it was a 70-yard shot with my grandpa's shotgun I had never hunted with before.  I literally had about 5 seconds to take aim and shoot.  Here's a pic of me standing where I shot her and looking at my tree stand:

While the pics don't do it justice, trust me when I say that this was one huge doe (bigger than the 9-pointer I shot Opening Morning).  When I took her to the Amish gentleman who does all of our processing, she was bigger than most of the bucks he had in his barn.  Of course, my dad's monster was by far the biggest deer of all.

My dad and I stayed in that afternoon, while Art headed out to hunt in my tree stand, since that's where all the action had been that day.  Unfortunately, he didn't see anything that evening.  I told him to give my stand another try in the morning, since we were all sure that he would at least be able to bag a doe there and get some meat for the freezer.   

Aaron joined us that night, but he wanted to sleep in on Saturday morning.  Plus, we wanted Art to hunt in our tree stand that morning.  So, Aaron and I stayed in.  He slept in, while I got up with dad and Art and got some work done as they headed out for the morning hunt.  

About 11:00 a.m., I texted Art to see what was going on, but didn't get a response.  I tried calling him, too, but he didn't answer.  So, I called my dad to let him know that I couldn't get in touch with Art, and he said that he would go over to my tree stand to see what was going on.  He called me a while later to let me know that he was at my stand and that Art's stuff was there, but there was no sign of Art.  He said he was going to get up in my stand and wait for Art to return.  A while later, Art finally called me back and told me that he had gotten down about 10:30 a.m. to take a walk and do some stalking, and that he ended up getting a little turned around.  He knew he wasn't far from Stanton Road, so I told him to make it there and that I would call dad and have him go pick him up.  But, when I called dad, he didn't answer.  I tried calling him a few times, but no answer.  Ten minutes later, he called me back and told me that he couldn't answer the phone because he was watching a big buck travel out of the swamp and right behind my tree stand.  He took a picture of the fella, but his head was right behind a tree, and you can't see his rack.  He tried taking a video, too, but accidentally hit the record button twice, so while he thought he was getting great video, his camera was actually on Standby. :)  Anyway, Art was kicking himself for getting down, since he could have easily bagged this big buck had he just stayed put in my tree stand.  My dad couldn't shoot him, because he had only purchased a regular firearms license and had already filled that tag.  In fact, he hunted the rest of the week without a rifle, but with only his camera.

Aaron and I headed out to my stand for the evening hunt, while Art headed to his stand in the swamp, and dad went exploring.  Aaron was going to be the shooter if we saw a buck.  He had my grandpa's 30-06 and had practiced shooting with it earlier that day, and, amazingly, the kid put two in the bullseye from about 50 yards (that's my boy! :).

But, unfortunately, none of us saw a thing that evening.  Sunday and Monday were the same.  No action.  No deer seen by anyone.  But, given that we had bagged two nice bucks and a huge doe during the week, it was a GREAT hunt, to be sure.  And, we have been blessed for many years in a row now to be able to enjoy a delicious heart and liver dinner while at hunting camp. 

So, the 2011 hunt is one for the record books for the Messer Camp.  Two Opening Morning bucks is something we've never been blessed to accomplish, nor something we ever expected to accomplish.  Already looking forward to the 2012 hunt!  Hopefully, Art will have better luck, and maybe next year will be the year Aaron is able to bag his first deer.  Whatever the case, we have another year's worth of cherished memories to go along with all those stored up from the past.  Man, I love spending time with my loved ones in the woods each year - doesn't get much better than that!