First Sunday in Advent
Isaiah 2:1–5; Ps. 122; Romans 13:8–14; Matthew 21:1–11 or Matthew 24:36–44
The Lord Comes in Meekness and Humility to Save Us Now
The Lord Jesus enters Jerusalem “humble, and mounted on a donkey,” riding on “a beast of burden” (Matt. 21:5), as He Himself bears the sins of the world in His body. Now He comes by the Ministry of the Gospel to save us from sin, death, the devil, and hell. Therefore, we sing, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matt. 21:9). For we are called “to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob,” His holy Church, “that He may teach us His ways and that we may walk in His paths” (Is. 2:3). By His Word, we “walk in the light of the Lord” (Is. 2:5). That is to live in love, which “does no wrong to a neighbor” (Rom. 13:10). We “cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light,” for “salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (Rom. 13:11, 12). Hence, the entire Christian life is a time to wake and watch, “for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming” (Matt. 24:42).
Second Sunday in Advent
Isaiah 11:1–10; Ps. 72:1-7; Romans 15:4–13; Matthew 3:1–12
By the Preaching of Repentance, We Are Prepared for the Coming of the Lord
“John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, ‘Repent’” (Matt. 3:1–2). His preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of sins prepared people for the coming of Christ into the world. St. John’s work was historically complete with the incarnate Advent of Jesus; but his vital ministry continues in preaching Law and Gospel. The Son of God has come in the flesh, “a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots” (Is. 11:1), and continues to bear the fruits of righteousness. His good tree of the cross is “a signal for the peoples” (Is. 11:10), by which He calls the nations to repentance. “With the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips” (Is. 11:4), He slays the wicked and brings the dead to life, making sons of Abraham out of lifeless stones. So also the “root of Jesse” comes to us, “even he who arises to rule the Gentiles” (Rom. 15:12), that “we might have hope” and be filled “with all joy and peace in believing” (Rom. 15:4, 13).
Third Sunday in Advent
Isaiah 35:1–10; Ps. 146; James 5:7–11; Matthew 11:2–15
The Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ Brings True Rejoicing, Even under the Cross
Sometimes life requires the astonishing patience of Job. Like him, we are to rejoice in the midst of affliction, be grounded in repentance under the cross of Christ, hope relentlessly in His resurrection, that we might see “the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (James 5:11). In the promise of the Gospel, therefore, “be patient” and “establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:7, 8). Like St. John, the Baptist, whatever your own kind of prison or suffering may be, call upon Jesus and receive the strength of His Word from those He sends to you. For as “the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up,” so is the good news of Jesus preached to you, also (Matt. 11:5). He comes and restores the fortunes of Zion, His holy Church, so that “sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Is. 35:10).
Fourth Sunday in Advent
Isaiah 7:10–17; Ps. 24; Romans 1:1–7; Matthew 1:18–25
God’s Word Is Fulfilled for Us in the Flesh and Blood of Christ Jesus, the Son of Mary
The Fourth Sunday in Advent turns our attention toward the Nativity of Our Lord. With the Blessed Virgin Mary we await the coming of the Christ, her Son, conceived in her womb by the Word and Spirit of God. This fulfillment of the sign once given to the House of David, that “the virgin shall conceive and bear a son” (Is. 7:14), is now given to us in the Gospel. It declares that salvation is by His grace alone, entirely His work and a free gift. It is also the way and means by which the Lord our God is “Immanuel,” God-with-us. The almighty and eternal Son of God is conceived and born of St. Mary, and is thus “descended from David according to the flesh” (Rom. 1:3–4). He comes in this way to save us with His own flesh and blood; wherefore He is called “Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). As St. Joseph received this sign in faith and immediately “did as the angel of the Lord commanded him” (Matt. 1:24), we also live by faith in this Holy Gospel.
Isaiah 7:10–14; Ps. 110:1-4; 1 John 4:7–16; Matthew 1:18–25
The Word of the Lord Is Fulfilled in the Flesh of Jesus
Though Ahaz would not ask, the Lord gives a sign to the House of David, that “the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Is. 7:14). With this promise He signifies that salvation is by His grace alone; it is no work or achievement of man, but the Lord’s own work and His free gift. The promise is fulfilled as the Son of God is conceived and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the sign is received in faith by the House of David in the person of Joseph (Matt. 1:20–24). “Incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary” (Nicene Creed), God is with us (Immanuel) in the flesh of Jesus, Mary’s Son. Joseph believes that Word of God and so demonstrates a marvelous example in his immediate and quiet obedience, taking Mary to be his wife and caring for her in faith and love. He loves her because the love of God is manifest in this, that “the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world,” “to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9–12).
Isaiah 9:2–7; Titus 2:11–14; Luke 2:1–14, 15–20
The Light of Christ Shines Forth in the Darkness
Heaven and earth rejoice on this night, because the glory of the Holy Trinity is manifested in the human birth of “our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13), through whom the Father’s grace and mercy permeate the world. Death’s silence is nullified by this “good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10). And all we who have gone astray like lost and wandering sheep, who have “walked in the darkness” of doubt, fear, and sinful unbelief, behold “a great light” in the nativity of Jesus Christ (Is. 9:2). In Him “the grace of God has appeared” (Titus 2:11). For this child of Mary who is born for us, this dear Son of God who is given to us, bears the burden of our sin and death in His own body on the cross. By initiating and fulfilling His earthly journey from nativity to crucifixion, Christ establishes a government of peace, “with justice and with righteousness,” which shall have no end; not by any work of man, but “the zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this” (Is. 9:7).
Isaiah 62:10–12; Titus 3:4–7; Luke 2:1–14, 15–20
Christ Jesus Reveals Himself in the Signs He Has Given to His Church
The Lord has not forsaken us. He has come to us and sought us out to save us (Is. 62:11–12), so that, “being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:7). In Christ Jesus, conceived and born of Mary, “the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared” (Titus 3:4). Now He is lifted up in the Gospel, “a signal over the peoples” (Is. 62:10), that He might call us to rejoice in His salvation. St. Luke emphasizes the signs by which the shepherds once found Him: in Bethlehem, the City of David, “wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12). The same Lord Jesus reveals Himself to us in the sure and certain signs of His Gospel. His Church is a true Bethlehem (House of Bread); for the Son of David, “a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11), feeds us with His Body and His Blood from the manger of His altar, wrapped in under and with bread and wine. We ponder these mysteries as we receive the Word of God and live out our vocations, “glorifying and praising God” (Luke 2:19–20).
Isaiah 52:7–10; Ps. 2; Hebrews 1:1–6, 7–12; John 1:1–14, 15–18
The Living and Life-Giving Word of God Dwells Among Us in the Flesh
The Lord sends out His ministers of the Gospel to make disciples “of all the nations,” so that “all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” The Lord has “bared His holy arm” in the incarnate Christ (Is. 52:7, 10). The child in the manger, born of the Mary, is the very Word of God, the only-begotten Son of the Father, “whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom He also created the world” (Heb. 1:2). As “all things were made through Him” (John 1:3), so are all things redeemed and made new in Him. In His body of flesh and blood, we behold “the radiance of the glory of God” (Heb. 1:3), “glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). He dwells among us in peace, that we might have life and light and salvation in Him. For by His Word of the Gospel, we are born again as the children of God, bearing His name and sharing His eternal life.
First Sunday after Christmas
Isaiah 63:7–14; Ps. 111; Galatians 4:4–7; Matthew 2:13–23
The Lord Jesus Undergoes a New Exodus in order to Save His People from Their Sins
Herod’s efforts to destroy the little Lord Jesus anticipate the cross for which He was born. In response to Herod’s edict, Joseph must “take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt” (Matt. 2:13). But the Lord does not abandon the holy family there. He brings about salvation for all people, just as He “had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son’” (Matt. 2:15). With might and strength, God accompanies His people causing “His glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses” (Is. 63:12). Now through Jesus, even our afflictions are borne by Christ on the cross, “He redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them” (Is. 63:9). All of this is accomplished by God’s might so that we too are claimed as members of His family. For we “receive adoption as sons” in the only-begotten Son, Christ Jesus, even as He became like us by His conception and birth of the woman. Thus redeemed by Christ, no longer slaves of sin and death but beloved children and heirs of God, we pray in Jesus’ name: “Abba! Father!” (Gal. 4:4–6).
Feast of St. Stephen, First Martyr
2 Chronicles 24:17–22; Acts 6:8—7:2a, 51–60; Matthew 23:34–39
The Lord Preaches Repentance and Bears the Cross for the Forgiveness of Our Sins
The Lord longed to gather His children to Himself, but they reject and pervert the invitation. (Matt. 23:37). Instead, they persisted in their murder of the prophets, “from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah” (Matt. 23:35). The Lord sent the prophets to preach repentance, but the people “would not pay attention” (2 Chron. 24:19). “The Spirit of God clothed Zechariah,” but the men of Jerusalem “stoned him with stones in the court of the house of the Lord” (2 Chron. 24:20, 21). Yet, when they also “betrayed and murdered” the Righteous One, Christ Jesus (Acts 7:53), He shed His blood for the forgiveness of their sins. By faith in Him, “Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people” (Acts 6:8), and in his martyr’s death he confessed the Gospel of Christ. Falsely accused, as the Lord Jesus had been, Stephen saw “the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56). Therefore, even “as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit’” (Acts 7:59), and for his murderers he prayed, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60).
Feast of The Circumcision and Name of Jesus (New Year’s Day)
Numbers 6:22–27; Galatians 3:23–29; Luke 2:21
The Lord Jesus Comes in the Flesh to Fulfill the Law for Us and Save Us from Our Sins
Circumcision is the covenant God made with Abraham and his seed. It sealed God’s promises and blessings in the flesh, but also signified the burden of the Law. When the Lord Jesus came in the flesh to redeem His people, He subjected Himself to the Law, in order to fulfill the Law and release all men from its captivity. “He was called Jesus” (Luke 2:21), because He came to save His people from their sins. He would shed His blood on their behalf, as He did already when “He was circumcised” (Luke 2:21). As He also sacrificed Himself upon the cross, you are “justified by faith” in His blood (Gal. 3:24). Therefore, “you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:29), not by the circumcision of your flesh, but in the flesh and blood of Christ Jesus, the true seed of Abraham. “Baptized into Christ,” you belong to Him, and are clothed and covered by His righteousness (Gal. 3:27). Holy Baptism is the true circumcision made without hands, by which the Lord Jesus puts His name on you and blesses you (Num. 6:22, 27).
Second Sunday after Christmas
1 Kings 3:4–15; Ps. 119:97-104; Ephesians 1:3–14; Luke 2:40–52
The Lord Jesus Is Found in the Temple of His Church
The Lord Jesus “grew and became strong” (Luke 2:40); He “increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). As His body grew and developed, His mind also increased in knowledge and understanding. For as our brother in the flesh, that we might “have redemption through His blood” (Eph. 1:7), He lived by faith in the Word of His Father. Thus, He was catechized by His parents, who took Him up “to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover” (Luke 2:41); and when He was of age, He gave attention to the Holy Scriptures in His Father’s house (Luke 2:46, 49). Christ Jesus is still found in His Church, in “the Word of truth, the Gospel,” by which we are adopted by His Father and sealed with His Spirit (Eph. 1:5, 13). Thus do we gain “an understanding mind” to go about our vocations, discerning “between good and evil” (1 Kings 3:9). And so do we also go up to Jerusalem, to stand “before the ark of the covenant of the Lord” (1 Kings 3:15), that is, in the Holy Communion of His body and blood.
Feast of The Epiphany of Our Lord (January 6)
Isaiah 60:1–6; Ps. 72:1-15; Ephesians 3:1–12; Matthew 2:1–12
The Lord God Is Manifested in the Incarnate Son
The Feast of the Epiphany centers in the visit of the Magi from the East. In that respect, it is a “Thirteenth Day” of Christmas, and yet, it also marks the beginning of a new liturgical season. Where Christmas has focused on the Incarnation of our Lord, that is, on God becoming flesh, the Season of Epiphany emphasizes the manifestation or self-revelation of God in that same flesh of Christ. For the Lord Himself has entered our darkness and rises upon us with the brightness of His true Light (Is. 60:1–2). He does so chiefly by His Word of the Gospel, which He causes to be preached within His Church on earth, not only to the Jews but also to Gentiles (Eph. 3:8–10). As the Magi were guided by the promises of Holy Scripture to find and worship the Christ-Child with His Mother in the house (Matt. 2:5–11), so does He call disciples from all nations by the preaching of His Word, to find and worship Him within His Church (Is. 60:3–6).
Baptism of Our Lord (First Sunday after Epiphany)
Isaiah 42:1–9; Ps. 29; Romans 6:1–11; Matthew 3:13–17
The Holy Triune God Is Manifested and Reveals Himself to Us in Holy Baptism
The Baptism of our Lord is an “Epiphany” of the one true God in the flesh and blood of Jesus. He is the chosen Servant of the Lord, anointed with the Spirit for the rescue of God’s people and “to bring forth justice to the nations” (Is. 42:1). Thus, He makes all things new, and He is given “as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations” (Is. 42:6). In the waters of the Jordan, He takes His place with sinners and takes all the sins of the world upon Himself. He undergoes the baptism of repentance in order to “fulfill all righteousness” for us (Matt. 3:15). He submits Himself to the curse of sin and death, in order to redeem us. We are baptized with a baptism like His, thereby dying and rising with Him, so that “we will also live with Him” (Rom. 6:8). Indeed, all of us who are baptized into Christ Jesus are anointed with His Spirit and named by His Father as beloved and well-pleasing sons and daughters.
Second Sunday after Epiphany
Isaiah 49:1–7; Ps. 40:1-11; 1 Corinthians 1:1–9; John 1:29–42a
God Reveals His Glory in Christ and His Cross
“The Lord, the Redeemer of Israel” calls forth “His Holy One” (Is. 49:7), Jesus, the Christ, “from the womb” of His Mother (Is. 49:1). The Incarnate Son of God is revealed as the Savior, not only for Israel, but also “as a light for the nations” whose salvation reaches “to the ends of the earth” (Is. 49:6). John came “baptizing with water” (John 1:31) to reveal Jesus as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) and who glorifies His God and Father by His atoning sacrifice upon the Cross. When Jesus was baptized in the waters of the Jordan, the Holy Spirit descended “from heaven like a dove” and “remained on Him” (John 1:32). By our Baptism, we are anointed by the same Spirit, adopted by God the Father, and “called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:9). Therefore, we “are not lacking in any spiritual gift,” but we can trust Him who promises to sustain us to the end, “guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:7–8).
Third Sunday after Epiphany
Isaiah 9:1–4; Ps. 27:1-14; 1 Corinthians 1:10–18; Matthew 4:12–25
The Lord Manifests His Glory through His Office of the Holy Ministry
By His coming in the flesh and by His preaching and miracles, the Lord Jesus shines the light of His Gospel upon “the people who walked in darkness” and “who dwelt in a land of deep darkness” (Is. 9:2). He has also “multiplied the nation” and “increased its joy” (Is. 9:3) by calling disciples to Himself from the ends of the earth. For this purpose, He calls Peter and Andrew, with James and John, to follow Him and be “fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). As Jesus did, they also go forth “proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people” (Matt. 4:23). They preach the foolishness of the Cross of Christ as the very power and wisdom of God. This word and preaching of the Cross divides “those who are perishing” from “us who are being saved” (1 Cor. 1:18), but it unites the Church, the one Body of Christ, “in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10).
Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
Micah 6:1–8; Ps. 15; 1 Corinthians 1:18–31; Matthew 5:1–12
God Manifests His Glory in the Humility and Weakness of Christ Crucified
The Lord tells His people, “I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery” (Micah 6:4). By the sacrifice of His beloved Son He has redeemed us from our slavery of sin and death; He has forgiven our transgressions by the shedding of His blood. His great mercy and salvation lead us “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly” with our God (Micah 6:8). We boast only in the Incarnate and Crucified Lord Jesus. He is “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24). He is our life and salvation, “our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). Now He opens His mouth and teaches us His wisdom. By His Cross and Passion the kingdom of heaven is ours, we receive mercy and are satisfied, we see God, and we are called sons of God in Christ. “Blessed are you,” therefore, “when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely” on account of Christ (Matt. 5:11).
Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
Isaiah 58:3–9a; Ps. 112:1-9; 1 Corinthians 2:1–12 (13–16); Matthew 5:13–20
The Righteousness of Christ
Jesus warns that “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20), but He also calls His imperfect people “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Matt. 5:13, 14). That’s because the Lord Jesus came not to abolish the Law or the Prophets, “but to fulfill them” (Matt. 5:17) in perfect faith and love. Since He does and teaches all of God’s commandments, He is “called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:19). God manifests His “demonstration of the Spirit and of power” in “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2-4) and through the preaching of the Gospel gives His “secret and hidden wisdom” (1 Cor. 2:7). Christ gives this perfect righteousness to His people and it leads them to true fasting, which is “to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free” (Is. 58:6) and “to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house” (Is. 58:7).
Sixth Sunday after Epiphany
Deuteronomy 30:15–20; Ps. 119:1-8; 1 Corinthians 3:1–9; Matthew 5:21–37
Christ Sets Life before Us so that We Can Walk in His Ways
The God who reveals Himself in His incarnate Son promises life and blessing to all who obey His commandments “by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules” (Deut. 30:16). However, we are “people of the flesh” and “infants in Christ” (1 Cor. 3:1) among whom “there is jealousy and strife” (1 Cor. 3:3). Jesus must instruct us against the human ways of anger, adultery, divorce, and false witness (Matt. 5:21-37), because all who live in these ways “shall surely perish” (Deut. 30:18). On the cross He died to forgive our sins and free us from the ways of curse and death. Since Jesus Christ is our “life and length of days” (Deut. 30:20), we can be reconciled to our brother, live in chastity and marital faithfulness, and speak with honesty. He who serves from His cross also offers His gift of reconciliation at His altar, and we can be at peace with our brothers and sisters in Christ who are “God’s field, God’s building” (1 Cor. 3:9).
Seventh Sunday after Epiphany
Leviticus 19:1–2, 9–18; Ps. 119:33-40; 1 Corinthians 3:10–23; Matthew 5:38–48
God Manifests His Perfect Holiness in Christ through Compassion and Forgiveness
God reveals His perfect holiness in compassion as “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45). By His grace in Jesus Christ we are holy just as He is holy (Lev. 19:2) and we are “God’s temple” in whom “God’s Spirit dwells” (1 Cor. 3:16). This gift of holiness begins with fearing, loving, and trusting God above all things and leads us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Lev. 19:18). No longer should we practice “injustice in court”; no longer should we “be partial to the poor or defer to the great”; no longer should we “go around as a slanderer” among God’s people; no longer should we “take vengeance or bear a grudge” (Lev. 19:15-18). Though we were His enemies, our Lord Jesus Christ has loved us and forgiven us. Nourished and sustained by His holy body and blood under the bread and wine of His holy Supper, we “shall be holy” (Lev. 19:2) even as the Lord our God is holy.
Eighth Sunday after Epiphany
Isaiah 49:8–16a; Ps. 115:1-8, 9-18; 1 Corinthians 4:1–13; Matthew 6:24–34
God Reveals Himself by Providing for Our Bodily Needs
Whatever good things we have, we have received them from the Lord. He freely provides all that we need for this body and life, and especially for our body and soul to life everlasting. He sends His ministers of the Gospel “as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1) in order that we may be clothed with His righteousness and nourished with His feast. Therefore, Jesus says, “do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on” (Matt. 6:25). As our heavenly Father feeds the birds of the air and clothes the grass of the field, much more will He feed and clothe us. Though we may be faithless and forgetful, and even a mother may “forget her nursing child,” yet the Lord remains faithful, and He “will not forget you” (Is. 49:15). As He has comforted His people in the past, He also has compassion on us in all our afflictions. He favors us and helps us in the day of salvation, which has appeared in the flesh and blood of Christ.
The Transfiguration of Our Lord
Exodus 24:8–18; Ps. 2:6-12; 2 Peter 1:16–21; Matthew 17:1–9
God Manifests His Glory in the Body of Christ Jesus, Transfigured for Us by His Cross
The Transfiguration confirms “the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place” (2 Pet. 1:19). The divine glory of Jesus is manifested in the word of His apostles, who were “eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Pet. 1:16). “He was transfigured before them, and His face shone like the sun” (Matt. 17:2). Moses and Elijah witnessed the fulfillment of the Old Testament in this Lord Jesus, and the Father testified concerning Him: “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 17:5). By His own blood, shed on the cross, Jesus makes and seals the new covenant with us. Hence, “the appearance of the glory of the Lord” is no longer “like a devouring fire” (Ex. 24:17), but is graciously revealed in His own body. As “Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel” went up the mountain with Moses and “beheld God, and ate and drank” (Ex. 24:9, 11), we also behold the Lord our God in Christ Jesus, and we abide with Him as we eat and drink His body and blood at the altar.
Joel 2:12–19; Ps. 51:1-19; 2 Corinthians 5:20b—6:10; Matthew 6:1–6, 16–21
Return to the Lord Your God with All Your Heart, for He Has Reconciled You to Himself
On Ash Wednesday, we come down from the mountain with Jesus and set our face toward His Cross and Passion in Jerusalem. We make our pilgrimage with Him by way of repentance, and thus we return to our dying and rising in Holy Baptism. Christ Jesus, “who knew no sin,” became our sin, so that by His death we are released from sin and in His resurrection we “become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). As God has thereby reconciled the world to Himself in Christ, “now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2). He has provided the sacrificial Lamb, and He has left “a blessing behind Him, a grain offering and a drink offering” (Joel 2:14, 19) in the Eucharist. He summons us to return to Him with all our heart, because He is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love” (Joel 2:13). We do so with faith and confidence in Him, and so we pray to Him as our Father, give to the needy from a heart of love, and fast for the sake of repentance (Matt. 6:3–4, 6, 17–18).
First Sunday in Lent
Genesis 3:1–21; Ps. 32:1-7; Romans 5:12–19; Matthew 4:1–11
The Lord Jesus Christ Is Our Champion against Satan
Following His Baptism, Jesus is “led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matt. 4:1). As He takes upon Himself the curse of our sin and sets Himself against our enemy, He trusts His Father’s voice and waits upon His Father’s hand for all things. The devil questions His sonship, but the beloved and well-pleasing Son remains faithful and lives “by every Word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). Jesus patiently suffers hunger in His mortal flesh and returns to the dust whence man was taken, and by His pain He brings forth food for all the children of men (Gen. 3:18–19). By the sweat of His brow we eat the fruit of His Cross, even as our nakedness is covered by His righteousness. Although all people live in bondage to death through the trespass of the first man, Adam, all the more “have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one Man Jesus Christ abounded for many” (Rom. 5:15). His righteous obedience “leads to justification and life for all men” (Rom. 5:18).
Second Sunday in Lent
Genesis 12:1–9; Ps. 121; Romans 4:1–8, 13–17; John 3:1–17
The Word of the Gospel Opens the Eyes of Faith and Fixes Them on Christ Jesus
The Lord called Abram (Abraham) to leave his home and go to a land that God would show him. He also promised to make of Abram “a great nation,” to bless him and make his name great, as a blessing to “all the families of the earth” (Gen. 12:2–3). “Abram went, as the Lord had told him” (Gen. 12:4), and in Canaan “he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord” (Gen. 12:8). He “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” (Rom. 4:3). Here the grace of God is manifested, that He “justifies the ungodly” (Rom. 4:5), not by works of the Law, but through faith in His promises. He removes all our sins and lawless deeds through Jesus Christ, the Offspring of Abraham in whom all the Lord’s promises are realized. This forgiveness of sins is the Word of the Gospel, the voice of the Holy Spirit, which “gives life to the dead” (Rom. 4:17). It opens the eyes of faith to behold Christ Jesus, the Son of Man lifted up on the Cross, “that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life” (John 3:14–15).
Third Sunday in Lent
Exodus 17:1–7; Ps. 95:1-9; Romans 5:1–8; John 4:5–26, 27–30, 39–42
We Worship the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Spirit and Truth of His Gospel
Though the Lord had brought them out of Egypt, “all the congregation of the people of Israel” grumbled against Him, because “there was no water for the people to drink” (Ex. 17:1). Despite their quarreling, the Lord graciously provided for them. He did not strike the people for their sins, but by the hand of Moses He struck the Rock instead and brought forth water for the people. In the same way living water flows from the pierced side of Christ “about the sixth hour” (John 4:6, 19:14), when He is lifted up on the Cross for the sins of the world. He is “the gift of God” (John 4:10), the Well from which the Holy Spirit is poured out and becomes in His people “a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). By this grace in which we stand, being at peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, we “worship the Father in spirit and truth” (John 4:23). “We rejoice in hope of the glory of God,” because “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:2, 5).
Fourth Sunday in Lent
Isaiah 42:14–21; Ps. 142; Ephesians 5:8–14; John 9:1–41 or John 9:1–7, 13–17, 34–39
By His Word of the Gospel, Jesus Calls Us Out of the Darkness into His Marvelous Light
The Lord is grieved by the spiritual blindness of His people, yet in mercy He does not forsake them. He restrains His anger and keeps His peace, until He opens their ears and eyes to hear and see Him. “For His righteousness’ sake” He magnifies His Word and makes it glorious in the coming of Christ Jesus (Is. 42:21). Jesus turns “the darkness before them into light” (Is. 42:16), because He is “the Light of the world” (John 9:5). The incarnate Son of God works the works of His Father and displays the divine glory in His own flesh “while it is day” until that night “when no one can work” (John 9:4). By the washing of water with His Word He opens the eyes of the blind and grants rest to the weary. Therefore, though “at one time you were darkness,” now “you are light in the Lord” (Eph. 5:8). By our Baptism into Christ we live in the eternal day of His Resurrection, wherein He shines upon us. As often as we fall back into the darkness of sin, He calls us by the Gospel to “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead” (Eph. 5:14).
Fifth Sunday in Lent
Ezekiel 37:1–14; Ps. 130; Romans 8:1–11; John 11:1–45, 46–53 or John 11:17–27, 38–53
Jesus Christ Is the Resurrection & the Life
The illness and death of Lazarus happened “that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4). Jesus’ miracle of raising Lazarus prompted His arrest and crucifixion, whereby He would die “for the nation” and gather “into one the children of God who are scattered abroad” (John 11:51–52). As He called Lazarus from the tomb and commanded others to “unbind him, and let him go” (John 11:44), Jesus also calls us and releases us from the bondage of sin and death. We would not “submit to God’s law,” nor could we “please God” (Rom. 8:7–8), but “He condemned sin” in His own flesh, so “that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us” (Rom. 8:3–4). Now, through the Gospel, “the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells” in us (Rom. 8:11). His Word breathes His Spirit into our mortal flesh, animating us with His own life. As His ministers preach according to His divine command, the Lord Jesus calls us from the grave into the good land that He gives us (Ezek. 37:12, 14).
Palm Sunday / Sunday of The Passion
Procession: John 12:12–19
Isaiah 50:4–9a; Ps. 118:19-29; Philippians 2:5–11; Matthew 26:1—27:66 or Matthew 27:11–66 or John 12:20–43
Now Is the Hour When the Son of Man Is Glorified
“Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming.” He comes in gentle humility, “sitting on a donkey's colt,” yet also as the King of Israel “in the name of the Lord” (John 12:13, 15). His royal glory is faithful obedience and self-sacrificing service “to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8). The Love of God is manifested in the Cross and Passion of His Son for the salvation of sinners. Since He has borne our sins and suffered our death, “God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the Name that is above every name” (Phil. 2:9), and He exalts us in His Resurrection. Our Lord did not hide His face “from disgrace and spitting” (Is. 50:6), but He trusted His God and Father, who raised Him from death and the grave and exalted Him to His right hand. This same King Jesus now comes to us in gentle humility in His Supper, feeds us with His Body, and cleanses and covers us with His Blood, so that “after His Resurrection” we also shall rise and enter the holy city (Matt. 27:52–53).
Exodus 24:3–11 OR Exodus 12:1–14
Hebrews 9:11–22 1 Corinthians 11:23–32
Matthew 26:17–30 John 13:1–17, 31b–35
Let Us Love One Another, as Christ Jesus Has Loved Us and Loves Us to the End
“The Lord’s Passover” (Ex. 12:11) and “the blood of the covenant” at Mt. Sinai (Ex. 24:8) foreshow the Lord’s Supper. The blood of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, now covers us, and we keep His Supper “as a feast to the Lord” (Ex. 12:13–14). In Him we see “the God of Israel” (Ex. 24:9), and yet He does not lay His hand on us to punish us, but from His hand we eat and drink in peace. As our High Priest, He “entered once for all into the holy places…by means of His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:11–12). He shed His own blood in order to “purify our conscience” and bring us before His God and Father “without blemish” (Heb. 9:14). The holy Apostles received this New Testament in His Blood from the Lord Jesus “on the night when He was betrayed,” and they delivered the same to His Church, which we also now receive in the name and remembrance of Christ (1 Cor. 11:23–26; Matt. 26:26–28). Since He has “loved His own who were in the world” and He loves us “to the end” (John 13:1), therefore, let us also “love one another” (John 13:34).
Isaiah 52:13—53:12; Ps. 22; Hebrews 4:14–16; 5:7–9; John 18:1—19:42 (or John 19:17–30)
Behold the Lamb of God, Who Takes Away the Sin of the World
Jesus, the Lamb of God, is led to the slaughter of His Cross as the Sacrifice of Atonement for the sin of the world. “Despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Is. 53:3), He is the righteous Servant who justifies many by His innocent suffering and death. He bears our griefs and sorrows; He is wounded for our transgressions; He is crushed for our iniquities; He suffers our chastisement; “and with His stripes we are healed” (Is. 53:4–5). As the Son of God, He fulfills the Law for us in human flesh, and so fulfills the Scriptures (John 19:7, 24). In perfect faith and faithfulness, He shares all our weaknesses and temptations, “yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). As our merciful High Priest He brings us to the Father in peace, “makes intercession for the transgressors” (Is. 53:12), and joins our prayers to His own, so that we are heard “because of His reverence” (Heb. 5:7). From His Cross He gives us His Spirit (John 19:30), washes us with water from His side, and covers us with His blood (John 19:34).
Exodus 14:10—15:1; Ps. 118:15-29; 1 Corinthians 15:1–11; John 20:1–18
The Lord Jesus Brings Us Out of Death into Life with His God and Father in Heaven
In Adam all people die, because all people sin. The children of that first gardener have been driven out of Paradise and return to the dust whence they were taken. But now another Gardener has come, who has made His bed in the dust of the earth and who by His rising restores Paradise to all the children of men. With His voice of the Gospel He calls us by name, and He opens our eyes to behold Him by faith. At His Word, we enter His tomb through Baptism into His death, so that, just as He is risen, we also “rise from the dead” (John 20:9). Come, then, “sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously” (Ex. 15:1). He has fought for us against our enemies, and in His Resurrection not one enemy remains. “Fear not,” therefore, but “see the salvation of the Lord” (Ex. 14:13), which He delivers “as of first importance” by the preaching of His Gospel (1 Cor. 15:3). Thus we are raised with Christ “in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:4), and we stand firm because we “are being saved” (1 Cor. 15:1–2).
Acts 10:34–43 (or Jeremiah 31:1–6); Ps. 16; Colossians 3:1–4; St. Matthew 28:1–10
The Victory of the Christ Crucified Is Given to You in the Preaching of His Resurrection
Every Sunday is the Lord’s Day, the day of His Resurrection, “after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week” (Matt. 28:1). In the Divine Service the Church enters upon the eternal “Eighth Day.” The Lord Jesus, “who was crucified,” who “has risen, as He said” (Matt. 28:6), is the firstborn from the dead and the first-fruits of the New Creation. Because “you have died” with Him in Holy Baptism, “you have been raised with Christ” and “your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:1, 3). The Lord Jesus has become our God, as surely as He is “the God of all the clans of Israel,” and we now belong to His people (Jer. 31:1). In this He “shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34), but “everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name” (Acts 10:43). As “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power” and “raised Him on the third day,” He also raises us up and pours out His Spirit upon us through the Gospel (Acts 10:38, 40).
Easter Evening / Monday
Exodus 15:1–18 or Daniel 12:1c–3; Acts 10:34–43 or 1 Corinthians 5:6b–8; Luke 24:13–35 (36–49)
The Passover Lamb of God Is Known in the Breaking of the Bread
The celebration of Easter is a never-ending feast, because “Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Cor. 5:7). “Let us celebrate the festival” (1 Cor. 5:8), and let us “sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously” (Ex. 15:1). He is our strength and our song because He has become our salvation. “They put Him to death by hanging Him on a tree, but God raised Him on the third day” (Acts 10:39). His chosen witnesses, “who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead” (Acts 10:41), now preach “forgiveness of sins through His name” (Acts 10:43). By this preaching Jesus draws near and leads us to His holy abode. He opens the Scriptures to us, and He opens our minds to understand “the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). He opens our eyes to recognize His wounds and to know Him “in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:35). At His Table, He pours out the Spirit of His Father upon us, so that we shall be delivered; we shall be awakened from the dust of the earth, not to shame and everlasting contempt, but “to everlasting life” (Dan. 12:2).
Second Sunday of Easter
Acts 5:29–42; Ps. 148; 1 Peter 1:3–9; John 20:19–31
Christ Jesus Breathes His Spirit and His Life into Us by the Ministry of the Gospel
The crucified and risen Lord Jesus establishes the Ministry of the Gospel, in order to bestow His life-giving Holy Spirit and His peace upon the Church. To those who are called and ordained to this Office, and to those whom they serve in His name, He grants the Holy Absolution of all sins. By the fruits of His Cross He replaces fear and doubt with peace and joy, and thus gives “repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31). Through the preaching of His sent ones He calls us to believe that He “is the Christ, the Son of God,” so that by such faith we “may have life in His name” (John 20:31). In His resurrection we have the “living hope” to which we have been “born again” and by which we are guarded “for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3, 5). Until then, “though you have not seen Him, you love Him,” and by the mercies of God “you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Peter 1:8).
Third Sunday of Easter
Acts 2:14a, 36–41; Ps. 116:1-14; 1 Peter 1:17–25; Luke 24:13–35
The Risen Lord Jesus Is with Us in Holy Baptism and in “the Breaking of the Bread”
From “before the foundation of the world” until heaven and earth pass away “the word of the Lord remains forever” (1 Peter 1:20, 25). This “living and abiding word of God” is the preaching of Christ Jesus, namely that God “raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory” (1 Peter 1:21). By this living word we “have been born again” to eternal life (1 Peter 1:23) and ransomed from our sinful and mortal life “with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18–19). This living word also calls us to repentance, to dying and rising in Holy Baptism “in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). In this, we receive the Holy Spirit “for you and for your children and for all who are far off” (Acts 2:39). Through the preaching of His Cross and Resurrection, Jesus draws near to bring us “into His glory” (Luke 24:26). As He opens the Scriptures, He opens our minds to comprehend “the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27) and He brings us to know Him “in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:35).
Fourth Sunday of Easter
Acts 2:42–47; Ps. 23; 1 Peter 2:19–25; John 10:1–10
The Crucified and Risen Lord Jesus Christ Is Our Good Shepherd
Although we “were straying like sheep,” the Lord Jesus Christ has willingly suffered and died for us, bearing our sins “in His body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24–25). We are healed by His wounds (1 Peter 2:24), and in His Resurrection He gathers us to Himself as our Good Shepherd, by whose righteousness we “have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Now, through other shepherds whom He calls and sends in His Name, He guards and keeps us in the green pastures of His Church, leading us beside the quiet waters of our Baptism and spreading the Feast of His Table before us. Since He has called us by the Gospel to be His own dear sheep, we also “hear His voice” and “know His voice” (John 10:3, 4) in the faithful preaching of His Gospel, and we follow Him by faith. When we receive His Gospel, we have the abundant life and common unity of the entire flock under one Good Shepherd, in “the apostles’ teaching and fellowship” and in “the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42).
Fifth Sunday of Easter
Acts 6:1–9; 7:2a, 51–60; Ps. 146; 1 Peter 2:2–10; John 14:1–14
The Lord Jesus Christ Is the Way, the Truth, and the Life
The risen Lord Jesus alone is “the way, the truth, and the life,” and we “come to the Father” only through Him (John 14:6). God is thus “glorified in the Son,” and those who believe in Him will do the works of Christ, because He goes to the Father for us (John 14:12–14). Stephen, “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5) and “doing great wonders and signs among the people” (Acts 6:8), did the works of Christ. When he was falsely accused and put to death, he “gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55). Fixing his hope there, he commended his spirit to the Lord Jesus and prayed for his murderers. In the same way, all the baptized are called to follow the example of Christ Jesus by faith. Though He was “rejected by men,” in the sight of God He is “chosen and precious” (1 Peter 2:4). He is the Chief Cornerstone of the Father’s “spiritual house,” and we are built upon Him as “living stones” (1 Peter 2:4–5).
Sixth Sunday of Easter
Acts 17:16–31; Ps. 66:8-20; 1 Peter 3:13–22; John 14:15–21
The Lord Jesus Comforts Us with the Preaching of His Resurrection
“The God who . . . gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:24–25) wants all people to seek Him “that they might feel their way toward him and find him” (Acts 17:27). But in our sinful ignorance we humans turn instead to idols “formed by the art and imagination of man” (Acts 17:29). Therefore God appointed the Man of Righteousness, Jesus Christ, and “has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). Because He lives, we also live (John 14:19) in His forgiveness, and thus we love Him and keep His commandments (John 14:15). While the risen Lord prepares us for His Ascension, He will not leave us “as orphans” (John 14:18), but gives “another Helper,” the Holy Spirit, to be with us forever (John 14:16) through the preaching of “Jesus and the resurrection” (Acts 17:18). Because He “suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous” (1 Peter 3:18), we “regard Christ the Lord as holy” and are always “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks” for the reason for our hope (1 Peter 3:15). Our Baptism “now saves” us “as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21).
The Ascension of Our Lord
Acts 1:1–11; Ps. 47; Ephesians 1:15–23; Luke 24:44–53
The Ascended Lord Jesus Is with Us Always in His Church on Earth
After He rose from the dead, the Lord Jesus presented Himself alive to the Apostles, “appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). When He ascended to the right hand of the Father, He did not orphan His Church, but fills all things in heaven and on earth, and gives gifts to His disciples. Even now, through His Church, He continues “to do and teach” (Acts 1:1), preaching “repentance and forgiveness of sins” (Luke 24:47), even “to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Though the cloud hid Jesus from the sight of His disciples then, and He remains hidden from sight even now, He remains with His people through His Gospel and Sacraments. He comes to us by the Word of His Apostles, by the promise of His Father and the power of the Holy Spirit, whom He pours out upon “the church, which is His body” (Eph. 1:23). In this holy, Christian Church, we bless God and worship Christ with joy, for in His Church He blesses us with forgiveness, lifts us up in His hands, and seats us with Himself “in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:20).
The Seventh Sunday of Easter
Acts 1:12–26; Ps. 68:1-10; 1 Peter 4:12–19; 5:6–11; John 17:1–11
Our Lord Jesus Is with Us in the Upper Room of His Church on Earth
On the night when He was betrayed, our Lord Jesus prayed for His Apostles and His Church on earth. “The hour” had come when the Father would glorify His Son by the Cross (John 17:1). Through the shedding of His blood, He would bring forgiveness for the sins of the world, and in His Resurrection and Ascension He would unite all Christians with the Father “that they may be one” with God (John 17:11). He manifested His Name to the Apostles and gave them the words of the Father to speak in His Name. The apostolic witness of His Cross and Resurrection (Acts 1:21–22) gathers disciples together “with one accord” into the one Body of Christ (Acts 1:14). “Devoting themselves to prayer,” they wait upon the Lord in “the upper room” (Acts 1:13–14), the place of His Holy Supper. Strengthened by the Gospel, Christians bear the Cross of Christ in patience and peace, rejoicing to share in His suffering, in order that they “may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:13).
Exodus 19:1–9; Romans 8:12–17, 22–27; John 14:8–21
Our Lord Makes Us His Holy People and Seals Us with His Spirit
At Mt. Sinai “Israel encamped before the mountain, while Moses went up to God” (Ex. 19:2–3). Through Moses God gave the Law and sealed His covenant through sacrifice. The Lord made Israel His “treasured possession among all peoples” as well as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:5–6), if they would listen to His voice and do what He had spoken. In these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, who has come down to us and gone up to God by the way of His death and resurrection. He has fulfilled the Law and poured out His own blood as the New Covenant. Therefore, “that the Father may be glorified in the Son,” He will do whatever we ask in His Name (John 14:13–14). He gives “another Helper… even the Spirit of truth” to be with us forever (John 14:16). The Spirit helps us in our weakness and intercedes for us “with groanings too deep for words” (Rom. 8:26). Now we pray with confidence as we eagerly await “the revealing of the sons of God” (Rom. 8:19).
Numbers 11:24–30; Ps. 25:1-15; Acts 2:1–21; John 7:37–39
The Risen Lord Jesus Pours Out the Holy Spirit
The Lord took “some of the Spirit” that was on Moses “and put it on the seventy elders” of Israel (Num. 11:25), and they “prophesied in the camp” (Num. 11:26). In the same way, our risen Lord Jesus poured out His Holy Spirit at the Feast of Pentecost—the fiftieth day and the “Eighth Sunday” of Easter. When “a sound like a mighty rushing wind” and “tongues as of fire appeared” and rested on each of the twelve Apostles, “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” and proclaimed “the mighty works of God” (Acts 2:2–4, 11). The Lord Jesus grants this same Spirit to His Church on earth to proclaim Him glorified on the cross and risen victorious from the grave for us sinners. From His open heart, our crucified and risen Lord pours out His Holy Spirit in “rivers of living water” (John 7:38) and invites everyone who thirsts to come to Him and drink freely (John 7:37). Through this life-giving work of the Holy Spirit, we hear our pastors “telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God” (Acts 2:11) and “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21).