- Written by Pastor Shawn Nettleton Pastor Shawn Nettleton
- Created: January 12 2022 January 12 2022
As we have celebrated the birth of our Lord Jesus in a real flesh and body human body, so now in the season of Epiphany we unwrap the gift of our Heavenly Father gazing in praise and thanksgiving at the light of life that shines from the face of Jesus!
It is appropriate in this season of life and light in Christ Jesus that Christians confess and support the sacred gift of human given by our Heavenly Father. On January 13, 1984, President Ronald Reagan issued a proclamation designating January 22 as the first National Sanctity of Human Life Day. While some Christian congregations chose to celebrate the Sanctity of Human Life on the Sunday closest to January 22, other congregations devote the month of January to promoting and supporting God's gift of life. This month, I'd like to defer my newsletter article and commend to you the excellent letter on life written by President Matthew Harrison.
The Gift of Life
by Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
As I sat in the hospital room holding my first granddaughter the week before Thanksgiving, I wondered what the world would have been like if my son and daughter-in-law had bought into the lie sold to them by their adversaries, the devil, the world and their own sinful flesh.
Their sinful selves would not have chosen to have a baby. The old Adam does not want anyone to be dependent on him but instead wants to enjoy the soft, self-indulgent life. And old Eve would never, of her own will, choose to endure the life-and-death ordeal of childbirth. She, like Adam, would prefer to stay safe and comfortable, “curved in” on herself. Bringing a child into the world is an act of rebellion against the old sinful Adam and Eve, one that calls the new people in Christ out of their selfish existence.
The world would have this young Christian couple believe that adding another person to the eight billion who already exist pushes the earth ever closer to a climate crisis. It would have them believe that the way to serve their neighbor is to prevent more children from crowding out the ones who are already here. And it would have them believe that adding another mouth to their fledgling family would jeopardize the life they share as husband and wife. Shouldn’t they keep it simple and adopt a dog from a shelter first?
Then there is the devil, who absolutely hates babies as he hated Christ and the innocents of Bethlehem. Every baby—especially every baby born to Christian parents—is a potential citizen of heaven, a candidate for Baptism, one whom Jesus will raise from the dead on the day of His return. The devil hates babies because babies are an act of resistance against his regime of death and decay. He seeks to convince this couple of these lies and convert them into evangelists for his demonic cause.
The devil knows that those ten little fingers of my new granddaughter will very soon fold in prayer and seek her heavenly Father’s protection against the devil’s wiles. He knows that her little ears will continue to be totally receptive to the Word of God, over which he has no authority. He knows she’ll be in church from the get-go, hearing the Gospel in the liturgy, and that it will stay with her until the day she passes from this life to await the resurrection.
The devil knows that my granddaughter’s parents will bring her to the baptismal font and, in her stead, renounce him and all his works and all his ways. He knows that she will be instructed in the clear Word of God until she is ready to confess with her lips—which cannot yet articulate words—that Jesus is Lord. He knows that the first word her perfectly formed little lips will say in church is “Amen!” He knows that the crucified and risen Jesus wants more mouths to feed with His body and blood. And he knows that some day the children of this little baby girl will place her body in a grave “in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection” unto life everlasting.
The devil hates babies. The devil hates it when mothers in crisis are cared for. The devil hates it when Christians provide for moms, babies and dads. The devil hates it when we supply what young mothers need to turn a crisis situation into a blessing. The devil hates it when a young couple marries and welcomes a child. The devil hates adoption, thousands upon thousands of which happen via our Lutheran agencies. The devil hates it when courageous parents welcome and love a child with developmental disabilities. The devil hates it when children are celebrated at church; loved by their extended church family; and taught the liturgy, catechism, hymns and Bible stories.
Young Christian couples continue to stick it to the devil every time they are open to God’s gift of another child into their family. It’s little wonder that we see so many young Lutherans with big families. We were amazed a few years ago when a study found that our LCMS young married couples where having more children, on average, than Roman Catholics!
Meanwhile, those who are not called to the vocation of mother or father stick it to the devil every time they embrace life, however they are called to do so, in their own vocations—by helping care for and teach the young, esteeming the old, and upholding and defending the sanctity of life at every opportunity.
Throughout this month, I’ll join with many of you in person and in prayer as we march for life. The LCMS will be at the March for Life in Chicago on January 8 and the National March for Life in Washington, D.C., on January 21. We won’t be there because, as some say, we’re opposed to women or we’re single-issue voters. We’ll be there to carry out our baptismal vows to renounce the devil and all his works and all his ways. We’ll be there to give voice to the vulnerable and unborn. We’ll be there to pray and proclaim the Word against the forces of hell that would oppose life, children, mothers, fathers, marriages and families. We’ll be there to counter lies with truth, shine light into darkness, and oppose the devil with the love of Jesus.
In the seasons of Christmas and Epiphany, when Jesus came in the flesh and was revealed as the Savior for all people, we rejoice that, though His life was opposed by many, He was brought safely into the world. And we draw great comfort and courage from His sacrifice for us on the cross. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16).
I give thanks for you and for the courageous ways you promote life in a culture of death. May God grant you strength and encouragement in these gray and latter days.
Rev. Shawn Nettleton is Senior Pastor at Saint John’s Lutheran Church. You can reach him in the church office, by email at nettleton@StJohnsFC.org or at 970-305-2420.