Christmas Cards that Focus on Christ

No generic winter scenes or Santa’s overflowing bag of toys for us – all else pales in comparison to God incarnate in the manger, born to die for the sins of the world. Gloria in excelsis Deo (below) features a colorful stained glass with 1 John 4:10 inscribed inside: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

Puer Natus (left) is a 16th-century illuminated manuscript from a Latin Divine Service book in Italy. The inside text is Isaiah 9:6, which also appears on the cover: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

As you’ll read on our Christmas cards page, you can create a custom assortment of Christmas cards, whether it is one design or a mixture of all eleven. Choose from a variety of styles, including stained glass, illumination, triptych, classic art, and original commissioned pieces.

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The Word Remains: All Saints’ Day

“Therefore, take comfort: it is not all over for those who have fallen asleep in the Lord! They are merely sleeping. He who by His own death-sleep in the grave sanctified our graves as mere bedrooms stands even now at the deathbed, calling, ‘Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden!’ And when He lays them in the dust of death, He says, ‘I will give you rest!’ and ‘Here you will find rest.’ And if death is sleep, then each of the dead has the hope of resurrection.”

-an excerpt from The Word Remains: Selected Writings on the Church Year and the Christian Life by Wilhelm Löhe

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Introducing…New Christ-centered Christmas cards

We are pleased to introduce two new Christmas cards this year! This brings the total to 11 designs exclusive to Emmanuel Press.

The first card, Savior (right), shows the infant Christ standing on the lap of the Virgin Mary, who gently receives her child’s embrace. We see St. Joseph through the archway. This 17th-century painting by Italian artist Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato is a tender portrayal of the bond between mother and son. Yet this Son is the Savior of the world, as is echoed in the inside greeting: “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).

The second card, Nativity Triptych (below), is an update of a previous design, now featuring a festive but subtly textured background. This beautiful nativity scene comes from a Russian triptych in our own collection. A triptych is divided into three panels which are hinged together and can be folded shut or displayed open. The angels in the side panels are identified in Russian as Michael and Gabriel, while the text in the middle declares “the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (There is a note on the back of the card with this translation.) The greeting inside proclaims, “Glory to the newborn King!” which comes from the refrain of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”

Visit our Christmas card page to create a custom assortment of Christmas cards. Choose from a variety of styles, including stained glass, illumination, triptych, classic art, and original commissioned pieces.

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Not Just for the Altar Guild

“The service which the altar guild can render is valuable as an aid to extol the beauty and greatness of God and to awaken the response of His people in all forms of beauty, care, and reverence. Beauty in the church is not a matter of indifference….Why do we want to make the house of God and our worship of God as reverent and beautiful as possible? Such a desire is of God and for God. He is present in our churches. Through His Word and sacraments, Christ comes to us as we are gathered together in His name.” (p. 11)

In What an Altar Guild Should Know, Paul H.D. Lang gives detailed information about church services and rubrics, liturgical terms, everything related to the altar, sacred vessels and linens, paraments, and other topics related to liturgical worship.

However, this is not just a How To manual for altar guild members and their pastors. Lang offers keen theological insight into why reverence and beauty and the externals of worship matter. Anyone interested in liturgical worship would benefit from reading this book (especially in conjunction with Ceremony and Celebration) In addition, we have switched to a Wire O binding so that it can now lay flat.

Preparing a setting for the Gospel: “By making God’s house and the services of the church more beautiful, we provide the Gospel a setting in which it is more attractive to people and puts them in a more receptive frame of mind for worship….Of course, God’s Word and sacraments are not dependent on human embellishment for effectiveness. They are in themselves ‘the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth’ (Rom. 1:16). It is only fitting, however, that we should present them in surroundings that are as attractive as we can make them.” (p. 11-12)

Externals not essential, but important: “God has not given Christians of the New Testament era specific laws governing the outward forms of worship. Christianity is not essentially a matter of externals but of faith and life….Where the Word of God is rightly taught and the sacraments are rightly administered, there is the Christian church….Nonetheless, externals are invariably associated with Christian worship. Therefore they are important. Christian doctrine, faith, and life are never merely theoretical, barren, or lifeless. They express themselves in outward acts.” (p. 12-13)

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A review from Pr. Todd Peperkorn: “Both exhausting and liberating”

“The book in many ways is both exhausting and liberating. It is exhausting, because of the vulnerability and courage shown by these women. They each have their own voice. They each have their own crosses to bear. Yet somehow, through it all, the Gospel of Jesus Christ shines through. They tell the story of the God who is ever present with His people, who walks with them through the valley of the shadow of death, and who never leaves their side, no matter what the trial. It doesn’t matter if they are talking about the burden of disease or death, single-hood or dementia, they share this language of faith in a way that I did not expect.

“But vulnerability is exhausting. It lets other people into your life. It gives them a place at your table, and you at theirs. It’s why true vulnerability is so rare. It is easy to have a strange kind of pride in suffering and sorrow. LOOK AT ME, we might be saying. But that’s not the voices of these authors. They see their own weaknesses and fears. They see how Satan has tried to sift through them. But more importantly, they see what it means to be one in the body of Christ, in communion with God and with each other. It is a rare treat. I feel like I’ve had a peek into an important family conversation, and I am all the more blessed for it.

“What I like the most about these essays is that they hit the challenges head on. They don’t sugar coat. They don’t turn the Gospel into the over sweet saccharine of the false hope of our age. Real sin demands a real savior, who really died, and really rose again from the dead….”

Read the entire review here. Find excerpts, author interviews, and purchase information for He Restores My Soul.

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Apostolic Agenda to release on May 15

We are very pleased to announce that Apostolic Agenda: The Epistles of the Holy Apostle Paul to Titus and Philemon will be released tomorrow, May 15, 2020. That means that today is the last day to pre-order for 10% savings on this book along with discounted prices on all of our other books. Browse our collection by hovering over the Books tab in the black bar above.

On Tuesday, May 12, after morning chapel, Seminarian and Pastor-elect Mark Kranz presented the book to Concordia Theological Seminary on behalf of the class of 2020. The idea for this project goes back several years. In January 2017, the students voted to commission an English translation of a work by “one of our forefathers in the Office of the Holy Ministry” under the guidance of Dr. Benjamin T.G. Mayes. You may watch the presentation here starting at about minute 46. After offering greetings and introductory remarks, Mark Kranz read a letter from Dr. Mayes, which follows below.

Dear Pres. Rast, Dr. Gieschen, Mr. Kranz, and all the students, professors, and friends of Concordia Theological Seminary,

Grace and peace in Christ our Lord! 

Why this book? I think the author, Friedrich Balduin (1575–1627), is an important theologian for us to meet, on account of his exegesis, casuistry, and his opposition to the Socinians. But more than that, the real significance is that here we have a Lutheran Orthodox commentary on Titus (a pastoral epistle) and Philemon. This is the first Lutheran Orthodox commentary on these books in English. In fact, I know of no Lutheran commentaries on these books in the English even from the Reformation era. This commentary, along with Johann Gerhard’s commentaries on Scripture, show us a little of the vast exegetical treasures of the early Lutheran church that are locked away in German and Latin. Now people are starting to see what good things have been hidden for so long. This exegesis is doctrinal, not according to the still-too-common stereotype of an Orthodox exegesis that would force the biblical text to conform to pre-established dogmatic categories, but according to the truth. It is a thorough, philological exegesis of the biblical text in conversation with the early church fathers and contemporaries. Here exegesis is not forced into dogmatic categories, but the Lutheran Orthodox theology arises from the biblical text. And this exegesis is clear and leads to both doctrine and practice, especially as Balduin applies it in teaching, admonishing, warning, and consoling Christians. It is a model for our exegesis and pastoral practice today. That’s why this book is important.

The team that contributed to the translating, editing, and publishing include:

Eric G. Phillips, translator of the Titus commentary
James L. Langebartels, translator of the Philemon commentary
Mark Kranz, project manager
Nathaniel Jensen, Berett Steffen, and myself, editors
Trae Fistler and Blake Martzowka, editors of Greek text
Roger Peters, cover photo
Gary Zieroth, advisor and seminary authority for the project
Michael and Janet Frese of Emmanuel Press, layout, publication, and distribution
Meghan Schultz, cover design.

Finally, the patrons of the translation include the M.Div. students of the class of 2020, along with AR students who have already graduated and are serving congregations, and with deaconess students who are at various stages of their program. These are the students who contributed the funds to make this dream a reality. My role was to organize and advise the project from start to finish.

I give thanks to God on this day that this excellent Lutheran commentary on Titus and Philemon has come to light.

Yours in Christ,
Dr. Benjamin T.G. Mayes
May 7, 2020

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“As we worship, so we believe” – Lex orandi, lex credendi

*Note: All books are on sale to celebrate the upcoming release of Apostolic Agenda.

“Our attitude toward human rites and ceremonies is evangelical, not legalistic. Rubrics and directions do not proceed from the Law but from the Gospel. We do not want conformity on the basis of legal compunction, but on the basis of our new life in Jesus Christ by which we are made free from the curse of the Law and are enabled by the Holy Spirit to live more and more in Christian love and liberty.” (p. 22)

“Ritual and ceremonial are component parts of the liturgy. They are materials of the liturgy, the things involved in doing the liturgy….Ritual refers to that part of a divine service which consists of its words, that is, the rite or the order of service….Ceremonial is everything connected with the performance of a rite. It refers not only to bodily expressions, such as speaking, singing, kneeling, bowing, making the sign of the cross, and the outward observance of the church year, but also to the ornaments, symbols, and material objects employed in the church’s worship, for example, the church building, the altar, crucifixes, candles, and vestments. Ceremonies are solemn religious things and actions….Rites and ceremonies are an outward expression of what a church believes and teaches. An ancient Latin formula puts it this way: Lex orandi lex credendi. ‘As we worship so we believe’ or ‘as we believe so we worship.’ The externals in worship are a means of communication which people understand and by which they are often affected more readily and powerfully than by words.” (p. 6, 11)

Ceremony and Celebration by Paul H.D. Lang is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to better understand why we do what we do in the Divine Service. As noted in the Preface, there is “a pious desire of both pastors and parishioners to be reverent in worship. That is the genius of this little book: It speaks to all participants in the Divine Service, not just pastors and theologians.”

The Divine Service is where Christians gather around Word and Sacrament. Its liturgy provides the structure for keeping Christ as the central focus. The words, music, actions, and physical elements of the Divine Service all play a role in the liturgy. Pastors and parishioners join together to receive God’s gifts, each playing a distinct yet integral part as defined by the liturgy, in accordance with God’s will (Heb. 10:25; 1 Cor. 14:40).

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An excerpt from The Great Works of God: Exodus

*This title is currently 10% off to celebrate the upcoming release of Apostolic Agenda.

The Israelites could have reached the Promised Land in twelve days, had they been allowed to travel in a straight line. But God knew that would not be good for the Israelites, so He led them in a wide circle, for He saw their frailty. No kink or crook is found in a good and pleasant way around. Of course, God understands better than we how to lead, guide, and govern us. So let us humble ourselves under His mighty hand (1 Pet. 5:6), and not resist His will, but stop and go and follow and move how and where He wishes. All things must work together for our good (Rom. 8:28). He will make the temptation to have an end, that we may be able to bear it (1 Cor. 10:13).

Oh, how our minds are pricked when we see the good life lying before us and cannot instantly get it! What pangs fill our hearts when we are made to suffer on strange, rough, winding ways. Yet he is a wise and blessed man who does not try to overrule the Lord God’s counsel.

The Israelites were to go forth into the Promised Land, but God went before them on the road through the wilderness to the Reed Sea.* Whoever is to make the journey into eternal life must first be led into the wilderness of this world’s misery. He who would inherit heaven with Christ must first suffer and die with Him [Rom. 8:17].

An excerpt from The Great Works of God: The Mysteries of Christ in the Book of Exodus by Valerius Herberger, translated by Matthew Carver

*this spelling is explained in a later paragraph

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