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Virtual Advent by Candlelight 2020

Advent by Candlelight worship service – Prepare my heard, Lord Jesus!

Join our Facebook Group! – If you are on Facebook, join our group, Women of Peace – Advent by Candlelight. We plan on leading a virtual devotional series all through Advent. Check in for discussions, videos, and that fellowship that we all need to encourage us throughout the Advent Season.

Please feel free to share our service with other women, family and friends who may not have an Advent by Candlelight service this year. Or, as you feel comfortable, consider inviting a small group of family or friends to view the service together with you in your home. Also, check out our table in the Gathering Space, for printed service materials to use, as you view the service online and for daily devotions.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Julie Ehlers at juliebehlers@gmail.com or 262-223-8040. If you are unable to view the service and devotions virtually, please contact the church office 262-673-5610 for help.

 

Branches Band – Lead Us to Your Light

Wednesday, December 2nd

at 6:30 & 8:00 PM

 

Mark your calendars for a special evening worship   opportunity to celebrate our hope during the Advent season.  Special guests, the Branches Band (branchesband.com), will use their gifts to accompany two services on December 2, at 6:30 pm and 8:00 pm.  We hope you will be able to join us for this meditative and comforting combination of Word and song as you prepare this Advent season for the coming of our Savior–both as the baby boy born in Bethlehem and the Judge who will bring us to our eternal home!   CLICK HERE to sign up!

Our Pastoral staff is working on virtual options to replace our midweek Advent worship services. More information to come.

 

God Is With Us

Are You Qualified for this Job?

Be Warned

Remember to Love

Pastor Jeremy Husby delivers a sermon entitled “Remember to Love” based on Luke 1:39-55 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, December 23, 2018

Pregnancy can be an emotional time.  That has been true ever since Eve, just outside the Garden of Eden, and continues for just about every woman who has ever been with child.  There are hormonal balances that become unbalanced.  There are physical changes to a woman’s body during those 40 weeks that can make favorite outfits unable to be worn and, therefore, can make a woman feel uncomfortable even in her own skin.

But, it’s not just the chemicals inside or her outward appearance that can make for an emotional roller coaster ride.  The simple idea of another human being growing inside of you has its own ups and downs.

Like many other women, both before and after, Mary must have had her fair share of feelings about the embryo inside her own womb.  Some of her thoughts were surely the same as what might run through your own mind if you were in the same situation.

Fear definitely has its place.  She was carrying another human inside her; a human completely and utterly dependent on her for life – for protection, for nutrition, and even to supply oxygen for lungs that hadn’t fully developed yet.  Every move and every decision would have its implications on her child.  There is a healthy amount of fear involved in that responsibility.

That fear, though, is, at times, displaced when the joys of life are considered.  What a gift God gives to allow women, with a little help from their male companions, to create and sustain life inside themselves!  A sense of holy pride, not like the kind in the bible that makes you bad, can send women’s hearts swimming in a sea of accomplishment while carrying their children those nine months.

Fear and joy, godly pride and helplessness, happiness and anxiety.  All those emotions are normal.  But, as you well know, Mary’s situation can confidently also be called atypical and abnormal and not simply because she lived in a different culture than you and me.

Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!  But why am I so favored that the mother of my Lord should come to me…from now on all generations will call me blessed.

Elizabeth, Mary’s relative, confessed the truth of the mystery of this pregnancy and Mary concurred.  The conception itself was outside of the norm, but the result of that conception was even more important and impressive.  Both women knew, by divine intervention, that the child inside of Mary’s bourgeoning belly was the Lord promised to Adam and Eve, to Abraham, and to all his descendants, forever.

Now, because it was God, himself, inside her womb, he could have cared for himself and been an independent infant.  He could have, in miraculous fashion, provided for his own protection and provisions.  Yet, instead, he chose to rely on Mary.  He chose to be born in a natural way.  He chose make himself like you and me in every way, in human flesh.  Why?  Why would God do such a thing?

He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.

In her famous song, the Magnificat, Mary sang the motivation behind the Lord’s choices.  He remembered his mercy.

Though the world may claim otherwise, particularly in times of trouble, natural disasters, and the horrors of human existence, your God did not remember because he forgot the people in this world which he created.  Rather, this word, translated into English as remembering, has much more to do with bringing things to the forefront of your mind at an appointed time.

Do you remember how to cook a steak?  How about the directions to your parents’ house?  Do you remember how to turn off your alarm in the morning or how to turn off the Christmas lights when you go to bed for the night?

You probably never forgot those things.  They were always in your mind and they are always important, but there are times when you turn your attention to other things that lead up to them.  You focus on starting the grill, packing up the car, getting your good night’s sleep, or simply enjoying the seasonal glow inside your house.  Then, when the appointed time comes, you remember to carry out your next action.

God’s focus, even since before the creation of the world, has been on sending his Son to live and die for you.  And, when the appointed time came for Jesus to take on flesh inside the womb of Mary, he called it to the forefront of his mind.  All of the promises and prophecies and provisions he made for his people had been laid in place.  Now was the time to use what he never forgot and was always the focus of his plan.

And, in sending Jesus to do what mankind could not and to correct the wrongs that all of humanity has wrought, God accomplished all that Mary sang about in her song—bestowing his blessings upon the humble, the hungry, and the helpless.  In short, he chose to be merciful.

Those who are humble, hungry, and helpless know that they cannot gain anything for themselves in God’s eyes and that, in contrast, the only thing they have earned from their God, based on their own thoughts, words, and actions, is his divine and deserved wrath for all of eternity.

 

But, friends, that’s the very definition of God’s mercy.  He called to mind and remembered his plan not to give his people, Abraham and all his descendants, including you and me, what they rightly deserved.  Because Jesus lived in Mary’s womb, was born, lived a perfect life in your place, and sacrificed that life to pay the redemption price for sin, God chose to be merciful to them and to you.  And, as motivation to act this way, God used the only emotion that would cause him to remember his mercy—his great love for you.

He made the decision to love you whether you deserve it or not and did not let anything stand in his way.  He worked behind the scenes of all of history to put Mary where she needed to be and carry out his plans for her and for the benefit of each and every one of you.

And, because God, in love, remembered his mercy, all of the emotions and circumstances that surrounded Mary’s pregnancy caused her to remember to show love as well.  She showed love for God, and for all Abraham’s descendants as well, by carrying out her calling from God.  With all of the hormonal and physical changes and the emotions that affected her every action, you would be hard pressed to say that she ever forgot that she was carrying Immanuel everywhere she went.

And yet, when the appointed time came, she remembered to love that child and all people when she delivered him to them and to you and to me.

Whether you are pregnant or not, whether you have ever been or won’t ever be, you surely have your own share of emotions that affect your own thoughts, words, and actions.  Fear and joy, godly pride and helplessness, happiness and anxiety aren’t only reserved for those who are with child.

The world you live in can cause any number of setbacks as well as reasons for celebration and, as you endure your own roller coaster ride of emotions, it would be easy to allow those things to distract you and cause you to forget your own calling from your God.

Especially over the next few days, you, too, are carrying the mystery of the Christ-child within you—not in your womb, but in your faith-filled heart.  And, whether it is during your Christmas celebration or in the weeks that follow, the time appointed for you to deliver him for the benefit of others will also come.

As you wait for that appointed time, motivated by God remembering his mercy to you, remember to love.  Call that message of free forgiveness for all to mind, glorify the Lord, rejoice in God your Savior, and sing the song of your salvation.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus Brings Joy Against Any Backdrop

Pastor Aaron Steinbrenner delivers a sermon entitled “Jesus Brings Joy Against Any Backdrop” based on Philippians 4:4-7 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, December 16, 2018

For a lot of different reasons, the professional photography field has really changed.  But back in 1989, when me and my classmates were getting our senior pictures taken, we went to a studio.  There the photographer set up his lights and cameras.  And he had backdrops.  You could pick from a brick wall background or a rustic wooden wall or maybe even train tracks and trees.  One moment you could be standing at the bright sunny beach and, a few seconds later, a new background would appear and you’d be in the dark of night, surrounded by skyscrapers and city lights.  It’s still you, just standing there, but the background can keep changing.  Isn’t that a little like life?  It’s you…you’re just standing there, living your life, but the backdrops keep changing…the circumstances in life keep changing.  Sometimes peaceful and calm and relaxed.  Sometimes manageable, but a little draining.  Sometimes hectic and out of control and even scary.  At the studio, you can choose the background you want; not in life – circumstances change, without checking with you first.

That can lead to stress.  Anxiety.  Yet, Paul says, relax.  Not just relax, rejoice.  Oh yeah, easy for him to say.  He’s the apostle Paul.  He met Jesus personally on the Road to Damascus.  He’s like a super-Christian.  Everything was probably easy and smooth for him.  Not quite.  In fact, I’d be willing to bet Paul’s difficult and stressful backgrounds were much more numerous and extreme than any of ours:

  • Flogged 5 times
  • Beaten with rods 3 times
  • Shipwrecked 3 times
  • Stoned once
  • And even now, as he writes this letter, he’s not on a beach or a quaint bed and breakfast…he’s in prison, under house arrest…not sure if he’ll get released or sentenced to more prison or worse.

Yet he says, rejoice.  In fact, as a point of emphasis he says, “I will say it again, rejoice.”

  • Rejoice because it’s Christmas time and you can almost feel the positive spirit in the air and all the family will be all together and there will be fires in the fireplace and presents under the tree?
    • But also rejoice if you’re going home to an empty house this Christmas or maybe these special holiday-cheer days heighten your recent loss or if your near-empty wallet means few, if any presents under the tree.
  • Rejoice because we just celebrated our wedding anniversary and things couldn’t be going better?
    • But also rejoice even though your marriage may be going through a rocky spell.
  • Rejoice because everybody’s health is good?
    • But rejoice even though you’re taking five different medications and that dull pain makes it impossible to get a good night’s sleep.

In other words, Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always.”  You see, even the godless…the hardened atheist can look at his clean bill of health and his full cupboards of food and his garage with the nice car and his job promotion and feel happy about his good fortune.  But Paul suggests we can have a deeper joy…a joy that goes beyond having nice stuff and having nice things happen to us.  A joy that is ever-present.  A joy that dwells in our heart even though it might have to share space with other emotions like sadness and loneliness and heart-break…joy is still there.  Because this joy is rooted not in the ever-changing backdrops and circumstances of life but in Jesus.  Rejoice in the Lord always. 

Here’s one reason why:  The Lord is near, Paul says.  Some translations say, the Lord is at hand.  He is close.  Always right there.  One form of the word actually means guarantor.  A guarantor is the person who backs you up when you take out a loan.  He’s close.  He’s right by your side.  If you can’t pay your loan, he pays it for you.  So, rejoice….

  • There was a very special time in history when the Lord came near…took on flesh…was born in a manger.
  • There was a very special time in history when the Lord came near…took the debt you could not satisfy, and he paid it.
  • But that’s not all. The Lord still is near…he is close at hand to his believers.  So every moment of every day the Lord is near to you.  You may not feel it.  Life circumstances may try to convince you otherwise.  The devil will be sure to chime in, hoping you’ll see your problems as overwhelming and God as distant and disinterested.  But that’s not the reality.  Here’s what’s real: “This is what the LORD says…he who created you…he who formed you…fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine…when you pass through the waters…I will be with you” (Isaiah 43:1-3).

For this reason, since the Lord is near, there’s no need for you and me to be anxious or to worry. Plus, worrying doesn’t help.  Remember what Jesus said, Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  Well, then, what are we supposed to do?  It’s hard to just sit still.  I want to be active and do something that can help and be productive.  Awesome.  Then Paul has just the thing.  Instead of being anxious…instead of worrying…in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God.  For there is nothing too great for his power to handle and there is nothing too small for his Fatherly care and concern.

Does the name Corrie Ten Boom mean anything to you?  She was a Dutch Christian woman – she and her father hid Jews in their home so they could escape the Nazi holocaust during WWII.  She was caught and sent to a concentration camp.  There was a particularly down moment she had when she and her friend, Betsie, were jammed into an over-crowded living quarters.  It smelled horrible.  And it was infested with fleas.  It took some convincing, but Betsie urged Corrie to pray and to rejoice and to give thanks.  Afterall,

  • We are in the camp together – so we have each other. Let’s give thanks for that!
  • We have pages of a smuggled Bible – so we can read God’s Word every day.
  • It’s crowded in here…cramped – but see how many other people we can touch with God’s Word!
  • And even the fleas…these horrible fleas – the fleas are keeping the Nazi guards from carefully inspecting our barracks…and so we can read our Bibles ad even have quiet worship services.
  • And so they prayed…with thanksgiving…they even rejoiced. They weren’t magically transported away from that concentration camp, but they knew the Lord Jesus was near.  And so they had a joy, so deeply rooted in Jesus, that fleas and Nazi soldiers could not extinguish.

For Paul, floggings and shipwrecks and a stoning could not remove his joy in Jesus.  You also have a joy that cannot be extinguished no matter what your backdrop is right now or what any of your circumstances in life have ever been.  Nothing in your life…

  • can go back in history and keep Jesus the Son of God from being born in Bethlehem.
  • can undo or erase what Christ accomplished on Calvary’s cross.
  • Can plunge into the depths of the sea and retrieve your sins which have been buried there.
  • Nothing in your life can keep Jesus in the tomb or keep him from declaring, “Because I live, you too shall live” or keep him from returning on the Last Day to gather his sheep in his arms.
  • No backdrop can remove Jesus…for the Lord is near.   Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prepare to Be Purified

Pastor Jeremy Husby delivers a sermon entitled “Prepare to be Purified” based on Malachi 3:1-4 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, December 9, 2018

Advent can be a difficult season of the Church Year to celebrate.  You may have your Christmas tree already up.  The stores have been advertising their Christmas specials for weeks already.  The music you listen to, whether in the car on the way to work or at home as you decorate for the season and wrap gifts, is all about the baby boy born in Bethlehem.  For much of this season, you find yourself looking forward to celebrating something that already happened two thousand years ago.  That paradox, in and of itself, can make this season somewhat confusing to celebrate.  But it even goes deeper than that, doesn’t it?

It can be a healthy, faith-focused journey to the Christ’ cradle when you put yourself in the sandals of God’s Old Testament people.  It can be soul-searching to discover the hope and anticipation that those people experienced when they considered and prayed about the coming Messiah. But, ultimately, your journey is different.  You already know that he did come, when he came, and what he did when he came.  It’s like watching a movie to which you already know the ending.  It can be good and worthwhile, but it is different and, therefore, a little difficult.

See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me.  Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come, says the LORD Almighty.

With the eyes of faith, and two thousand years of history, it is clear to see that the promised messenger, who would prepare the way before God, is John the Baptist.  No need to look any further than the Gospel appointed for today.  He is the voice calling in the desert, who prepared the way.

And then, of course, it isn’t surprising to discover that the messenger of the covenant, the Lord they were seeking, who came so suddenly after John the Baptist, is the Messiah, himself, Jesus Christ.

God’s Old Testament people were waiting for those two men to arrive.  It consumed their thoughts and prayers.  The simple idea and promise of their impending arrival gave comfort to their sorrows and peace to their troubled hearts.  And, yet, their arrival didn’t actually happen for another four centuries after these words were written.

It may not have been lesson one in Peace through Jesus or your Sunday School lessons, but you didn’t have to wait years, let alone centuries, to have Jesus and John the Baptist revealed to you.

So, in this Advent season, how do you celebrate a prophecy like this?  How are you, in the words of the prophet, prepared for John and Jesus’ arrival?

To be sure, it is good and beneficial to study again and remind yourself of just how John and Jesus fulfilled these prophecies.  It’s good because, well, sometimes you just forget.  But, it’s also good because whenever you spend time in God’s Word, meditating and searching and growing in your spiritual knowledge, it will strengthen your faith.

It is good to be reminded that Jesus is indeed the messenger of the covenant.  He came not only to tell you of the deal and agreement that your God has made with his people, but to be the basis of it.  Rather than simply blessing the people who do good, in and because of Jesus’ perfect life and sacrificial death of substitution, God gives you everything that is his without expecting anything from you.

It is good to remember that Jesus accomplished that covenant by refining and purifying you, again, without any action from you.  He took on himself the impurities of your sin, removing them from you, and experienced, in his suffering and death, the pain and price for them that you deserved.

But, brothers and sisters, as you look at that analogy, that metaphorical explanation of how Jesus washed and cleansed you, do you see how it limps a little?

When silver is refined and clothes are laundered, does the refiner or the launderer feel any pain?  Not if they are doing their job properly!  The silver and the soiled linens, if they had feelings, would most assuredly feel the pain of the fire and the lye.  They are what get burned.  They are on the receiving end of the chemical reaction.  And, yet, when Jesus is described as refining and purifying you, he is not only the refiner and the purifier, who should feel no pain, but the fire and the soap, himself, as well and, therefore, should be the one inflicting the pain, not experiencing it.

Yes, taking this illustration in that way does indeed remind you of what the baby boy born in Bethlehem came here on earth to do for you.  That is good and beneficial for you as you prepare to celebrate Christmas.

But here, friends, is the beauty of the Advent season.  You are not only looking forward to the cradle of Christ, but, also, to when he arrives on the earth again.  And, in clear prophecy, Malachi portrays what needs to be done to prepare you for that coming, as well.

You are purified.  You are washed and cleansed by the blood of Jesus and you are going to heaven.  And, yet, like a three year old who sees a puddle, the temptations of this world continue to seem so alluring and, so often, the robe of righteousness that you wear is covered again and again with the filth offered by the Devil, this world, and your own sinful nature and you need to be kept clean.

That is why Advent can be not just a difficult, but even a painful, season of the Church Year to celebrate.  Advent reminds you that, like the silver and the soiled linens, you have, indeed, felt the fire in your life.

What has been burned off of you?  What stain, that was so deeply rooted in your fibers, has been scrubbed away from you?

Was it that job that you thought you would not be able to survive without?  Was it a relationship in which you found so much fulfillment?  Did you lose that loved one that was your rock?  Did your lungs, your heart, or your central nervous system; those basic fundamental functioning facets of your life fail you?

Your God, through the prophet, is not minimalizing the pain you experienced in losing those things.  In fact, for many reasons, those may have even been beneficial for you in your life and blessings bestowed upon you by your God.  But, in all truth, you did not and you do not need them.

In working what is best for you and keeping you and your faith pure and primarily focused on him, your God has allowed the fire and the lye to burn, but, as in all things, he did so for your good.

And, almost as if to put salt in your wound, the prophet explains how you are to react to that pain of purifying preparation that you experience.  After you see it, recognize it, and remember it, you ought to offer him a sacrifice because of it.

You may be familiar with some of the offerings that were to be sacrificed in the Old Testament.  The Passover Lamb, slaughtered and eaten.  The beasts of burden that were butchered.  The goats and lambs whose blood was sprinkled in the holy of holies and showered over the people with the hyssop plant.  Those sacrifices, in many ways, were sacrifices of substitution.  Their death was to remind God’s people of the death they deserved because of their sin.

However, that is not the type of offering that the prophet is preaching about in these verses.  Rather, looking at the purification you have gone through; what has been done to you and what has been removed from you, you then ought to offer sacrifices of thanksgiving.  A joyful response, coming from a happy heart, because of that purification.

That happiness and joy in this Advent season comes not because you are a masochist who enjoys the pain, but because you know from where and why that pain has come.  Your God loves you and wants you to be with him, forever.  He wants you to be refined, pure, clean, and holy.  Celebrate this Advent season by preparing for Jesus’ arrival.  Prepare yourselves, then, to be purified and offer your sacrificial hymns and prayers in thanksgiving because of it.  Amen.