What do we do we do now that Christmas is over? It really isn’t—today is only the Fifth Day of Christmas—but the world has ended its Christmas, and our lives so easily fall into the world’s cycles and trends. Maybe a better question is, what do we do now that December 25th has passed, that the tree’s days are numbered, the presents have been unwrapped and put away or returned, and the time of Advent preparation and anticipation is behind us? At least liturgically, Advent and its looking forward dominated our lives. What’s the point now that the anticipated event has come and gone?
Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” This is part of Elizabeth’s conversation with Mary just a few months before Christmas, as Mary visits her relative ahead of the birth of John the Baptist. What Elizabeth is saying is that God always keeps His promises. He has never let His people down. What He says, He does. He may not fulfill His promises immediately, but when the time is right, He does.
If you wanted a Sunday that captures all the Church Year, look no further than this Sunday after the Nativity of Our Lord. The Church, in her Propers for this day, has given us everything from Christmas to Holy Week, to Easter and the season after Trinity. Today gives us Crib, Cross, and Altar.
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.