Advent

The Names of Jesus: Faithful and True

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. (Revelation 19:11)

Devotion

America has had its share of famous generals. Many of them are best known by their nicknames. Do you know the real names of these American generals: Old Blood and Guts, Stonewall, The Bear, Ike?

Here’s the name of another famous general: Faithful and True. Do you know his real name? It is Jesus Christ. Though we might not often picture Jesus Christ as a general, this is how he pictures himself in Revelation 19. The apostle John wrote, “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. . . . The armies of heaven were following him. . . . Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations.”

John pictures the Last Day when “Faithful and True” will come again “to judge the living and the dead.” What does General Jesus want us to know about him as we live in anticipation of his return? Jesus want us to know this: he is faithful and true to his Word, the “sharp sword” coming “out of his mouth.”

That should terrify us. For we have not always been faithful and true parents. Or faithful and true spouses. Or faithful and true friends and neighbors. Or faithful and true students. Or faithful and true employees. But Jesus is, and always has been, faithful and true to his Word. And Jesus did say, “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, . . . the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day” (John 12). General Jesus was not kidding either. Revelation 19 ends with the sentence, “The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.” Jesus’ name—Faithful and True—rightly terrifies unfaithful sinners.

But this same name of Jesus—Faithful and True—is also our greatest comfort as believers. For “if we are faithless, [Jesus] will remain faithful” (2 Timothy 3). True to his Word and faithful to his Father, Jesus took the place of unfaithful sinners under the law and lived perfectly as our substitute. He went to the cross and paid in full the debt we owed God because of our unfaithfulness. True to his Word and faithful to his Father, Jesus says, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” And so we pray during this Advent season, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.”

Prayer

Thank you, Jesus, for being perfectly faithful to the truth of your Word and saving me from the guilt of my sin. Help me be faithful and true to you and your Word until you come again to take me home to heaven. Amen.

Rev. James Danell serves Martin Luther College as a professor of German.


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“I Will Give You Rest”

December 5
Wednesday: 3:45 pm and 6:30 pm
Pastor Mike Schultz, Preacher

The Names of Jesus: Everlasting Father

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

Devotion

Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? Jesus taught his disciples something about prayer with these rhetorical questions recorded in Matthew 7:9-10. As Jesus’ disciples, we too hear his words of encouragement to go to our God in prayer in all circumstances. Ask. Seek. Find.

Jesus teaches us something about himself here too. What father wouldn’t want to give good gifts to his child? Through the inspiration of the prophet Isaiah, we see “Father” as one of the names of our Savior Jesus. It’s not often that we think about Jesus this way. After all, we confess with our mouths even as our human minds fail to fully grasp the complexity of how Jesus is distinct from the first person of the Trinity. Yet we still can call Jesus this powerful name: Everlasting Father.

Jesus has come to give you good things. He came to provide for you, his people, throughout eternity. But as an Everlasting Father he is much more. He is loving and tender, as a father should be. As Jesus walked this earth, he showed time after time his love and compassion for the lowly, the lost, the sick, and the destitute. He was a wise trainer of his people. When his disciples called him, “Rabbi,” it was a term of respect, whether they fully grasped how deeply he taught and trained them or not. Jesus acts in that same way for us. He guards his people from all attacks, having crushed the devil, sin, and death.

But Isaiah calls Jesus more than just “Father.” He is the Everlasting Father. This name is further proof that the child born in Bethlehem is nothing short of fully God. Only the divine is eternal. Before time even began, Jesus was there with the same characteristics that his name describes. And when his provision, his love, his protection, and his guidance are directed toward us, his people, as part of his name, we know those blessings are ours forever and ever.

This name of Jesus, Everlasting Father, is remarkable in what it describes about him. But it is even more powerful when we realize that Jesus was all of this and yet born in a stable in Bethlehem. Because to provide us with everything we need into eternity and to demonstrate his love in the most vivid way, he had to become like us. He took on human flesh so that he could provide for us—eternally.

Prayer

Dear Jesus, we thank and praise you for your guidance, protection, and provision. But most of all we thank you for descending to our world to save us and make us your own. Help us to treasure more dearly the gifts that you won for us with your life and death. And give us the confidence to know that the treasures you give us are ours into eternity. Amen.

Rev. Nicolas Schmoller serves Martin Luther College as a professor of theology and Greek.


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“I Will Give You Rest”

December 5
Wednesday: 3:45 pm and 6:30 pm
Pastor Mike Schultz, Preacher

The Names of Jesus: Chief Cornerstone

[You are] built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. (Ephesians 2:20)

Devotion

The cornerstone. The Ephesians had a significant understanding of what that word meant. Their city was home to one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World. The temple of Artemis in Ephesus was described as “surpassing all buildings among men.” Standing 60 feet high and with 127 columns, the building was a sight to behold. But sadly that building stood as a monument to an idol, a false god who was no more alive than the stones of the building itself.

So Paul directs their attention to a different stone, a living stone, the chief Cornerstone: Jesus Christ. The firm foundation of this living temple is the teaching of the apostles and prophets. The Old Testament prophets pointed to the coming of the Messiah, Christ. The New Testament apostles pointed back to the Savior, Jesus. Those messengers of God’s Word preached the same message of salvation. Salvation is found in Christ alone. Jesus is the Cornerstone.

As you prepare your heart this Advent season, you might find some other stones there. It’s hard not to get caught up in the busyness of this time of year. It’s maybe even harder not to swallow the poison of the “Christmas spirit” our society pushes. Christmas in America has become the most pagan of Christian festivals. Commercialism hides behind the spirit of charity, good cheer, love, and hope. These things don’t offer true rest on their own. Instead they only add burdens to this time of year. You have to find the perfect gift for each member of your family. Your Christmas dinner needs to be Instagram-worthy. You fret over keeping the peace at your family get-together. All these worries settle like stones in your heart.

Let the jackhammer of God’s Word smash those stones. Christmas isn’t about giving the best gift; God has already given you the perfect gift: his Son, Jesus Christ, and the life and forgiveness that come with him. Every communion Sunday you receive a meal with everlasting importance. The picture of Jesus’ body and blood given for you is more beautiful than any social media post. God adopts you into his family of believers. He designates you for an eternal inheritance. You are part of God’s living temple. He has placed you in alignment with the Cornerstone.

All that remains of the temple of Artemis is ruins. What once stood as a wonder


of the world is now crumbled and crushed. Paul pointed the Ephesians to an everlasting building with an eternal architect. Only Jesus will stand the test of time. Everything else will fade. Jesus provides true rest and strength for this season and every other one.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, crush the stones of idolatry that settle in my heart this time of year. Send your Holy Spirit to prepare my heart for Christ’s second coming, when everything in this world will perish. Help me to put my trust and faith in the eternal Cornerstone that is Jesus Christ. Amen.

Rev. David Starr serves Martin Luther College as an admissions counselor.


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“I Will Give You Rest”

December 5
Wednesday: 3:45 pm and 6:30 pm
Pastor Mike Schultz, Preacher

The Names of Jesus: Bright Morning Star

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.” (Numbers 24:17)

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches.
 I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” (Revelation 22:16)

Devotion

An angel or a star? When it comes to Christmas tree toppers, people often have strong opinions. Should the tree be crowned with an angel, reminding us of the role that angels played in the first Christmas? Or should a star have the honored place above all the other ornaments, as it reminds us of the star that led the Magi (or wise men, as they are often called) to baby Jesus? In my family’s collection of Christmas decorations, we have both. But over the years the star has become our favorite. No judgment from us if you choose an angel instead!

Although the Magi didn’t arrive in time for the first Christmas Eve, the star they followed still reminds us to go to Bethlehem to worship Jesus and offer him our best and most precious gifts.

But can we see a deeper message behind the stars we see each Christmas season? In addition to being a beacon of Jesus’ birth, the star reminds us of who Jesus is, what he has accomplished, and the promises he has made.

Recalling a prophecy given by a man famous for his talking donkey, Christmas stars can remind us that we are celebrating the birth of a great King: “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of

Israel” (Numbers 24:17). Balaam looked ahead through the spirit of prophecy and saw someone who was so awesome and glorious that he could be compared to a star!

In the New Testament the apostle Peter also took up the description of Jesus as a star. He wrote in 2 Peter 1:19, “We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” Clearly, Peter was referring to Jesus’ Second Advent. We also note how he too applied the “morning star” metaphor to Jesus. But the essential thought that Peter wanted to impress on us is that through God’s Word our faith is sustained and strengthened until we join Jesus in heaven and see his glory forever.

Throughout history the planet Venus has been called the morning star. Although modern astronomy has revealed that it is not a star, we know that it catches and reflects the sun’s rays just before dawn. Its light is a sure sign that night is almost over and a new day is about to dawn. Just as a star announced Jesus’ birth, Jesus the bright Morning Star announces that the night of sin’s power has been broken and will soon be over.

Prayer

Dear Jesus, may all the stars we see this Advent season encourage us to worship you with the Magi and to offer you gifts of our time, talents, and treasure. And may your name, “bright Morning Star,” remind us who you are, what you have done for us, and the future you have promised us. Amen.

Rev. Michael Otterstatter serves Martin Luther College as vice president for mission advancement.


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“The Gift of Hope”

December 1–3
Saturday: 5:30 pm / Sunday: 8:15 am and 10:45 am / Monday: 6:30 pm
Pastor Scott Oelhafen, Preacher

The Names of Jesus: Branch

“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.” (Jeremiah 23:5)

Devotion

Jeremiah lived through one of history’s darkest times: Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem. The walls and houses were demolished, Solomon’s temple was burned, and most survivors were deported to Babylon. Zedekiah, the king of God’s people, was blinded moments after witnessing the execution of his sons.

In the face of this mayhem and terror, the Lord offered a promise: “The days are coming . . . when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch” (Jeremiah 23:5). David’s celebrated family tree had been cut down. The greatness was gone. All that was left was what looked like a lifeless stump. And yet, from this lowly remnant, God pledges to provide a fresh Branch, a faultless Branch, a holy and everlasting king. Despite the devastation of Jeremiah’s era, God’s plan for salvation through his only Son could never be uprooted. Jesus, the perfect Branch, would sacrifice his life on another tree. His suffering of the punishment deserved by all sinners on the cross of Calvary opened heaven to believers.

In a time of seeming chaos and panic, our almighty Father remained in complete control. He directed everything for the good of his children, even though this plan included the sacrifice of his most precious treasure, his own innocent Son.

Since the Middle Ages, artists have made “Jesse Trees” to illustrate Jesus’ ancestry—the fulfillment of God’s vow in Jeremiah. The name comes from Isaiah 11:1: “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” This prophecy is the origin of a botanical metaphor to represent family. King David’s father, Jesse, is depicted beside a tree trunk at the bottom, with limbs ascending to fill the space with figures from the Savior’s lineage. The highest branch leads to Christ, the blossoming flower. In stained glass windows or illuminated manuscripts, these images offer a vivid reminder that human history is the story of God’s promises kept. This genealogy is a beautiful portrait of God’s faithfulness across 4,000 years.

Today, some Christians assemble Jesse Trees during Advent to ponder the thread of redemption woven through the Old Testament. Family devotions highlight Bible readings that trace the Messiah’s ancestry. A bare branch is decorated with a daily ornament, each offering a symbol related to the featured text.

When this practice began, the Jesse Tree was intended to share the story of salvation with illiterate people who were unable to comprehend the printed language of the Bible. To contemporary Christians, God’s guiding hand can seem similarly indecipherable in the unrest and turmoil of this sinful world. The narratives and visuals of the Jesse Tree offer blessed evidence that because of his great love for us, our Creator intervened to rescue his children.

Prayer

Dear Lord, when I am tempted to let the confusion of this broken Earth shift my focus from your cross, let worship and your Word remind me that your pledge of heaven through Christ remains forever steadfast. Amen.

Paul Grubbs serves Martin Luther College as a professor of English.


Next Worship Opportunity

“The Gift of Hope”

December 1–3
Saturday: 5:30 pm / Sunday: 8:15 am and 10:45 am / Monday: 6:30 pm
Pastor Scott Oelhafen, Preacher