Category Archives: Christmas

Christmas Light

Christmas Eve may not be cute, but it certainly can be magical. One of my deepest memories of Christmas Eve was driving to candlelight worship while listening to the Apollo 8 astronauts, who were circling the moon, read from the first chapter of Genesis: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.  I remember looking up an the moon and thinking of the light of God coming for us.  The mystery and wonder of that night changed how I look at the world.

And God said,” Let there be light;” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good: and God separated the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1:3-4)

This evening at Resurrection Lutheran Church we had candle light at worship as we sang “Silent Night, Holy Night.” And once again in the golden glow of awed faces, the Christ child was born into our lives. He brings the magic of hope, the promise that he will rescue us from sin, Satan and death. Thanks be to God.

Lord Jesus, be the light of my life once again.

Christmas Cute?

“It is indeed annoying to our nature to see God Himself take on this poor, feeble, and corrupt human nature, and disdain the holy, glorious, angelic nature.” – Martin Luther

Sometime we push the cute button of Christmas. We think it’s cute that God would want to become a human baby like us. And since babies are always so cute, then the idea that God became a baby must be cute. We paint Christmas in a wondrous glow of beauty.

We forget that God was already beyond any description of cute, beautiful or wondrous. God chose to sink down into our corrupt nature and experience the wretched brokenness of our human nature. We might like to think that we climb up the moral ladder of human achievement to meet our God. Nothing is further from the truth. God came all the way down the cosmic ladder to meet us in our poverty and desperate need, in the darkness of night.

And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

Jesus birth is more than cute. It shatters the heavens and bridges the gap between God and humanity. Prepared to be awed by God’s dramatic entrance into the story of our rescue.

Lord Jesus, come.

Christmas Is Natural

During the season of Advent, I have been using Luther Seminary’s God Pause devotional. This morning Dr. Fred Gaiser reflected on Psalm 98, a favorite of mine, to help us see how the whole creation participates in Christmas.

O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things.
His right hand and his holy arm have gained him victory.
The Lord has made known his victory;
He has remembered his steadfast love
and faithfulness to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises.

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
the world and those who live in it.
Let the floods clap their hands;
let the hills sing together for joy at the presence of the Lord,
for he is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with equity.

Dr. Gaiser wrote,

Advent means coming. God is coming to judge the earth, sings the psalmist. But will we survive this? Will we like it? The creation seems to—the floods clap, the sea roars and the hills sing because they know something we might not: that God’s judgment is always just, that this Judge is always good. But we humans are not as innocent as the creation.

Can we sing as quickly as the creatures? There is evil around us and within us that needs to be cleansed, removed, cut out. God knows this to be true—so do the hills and so do we. But even as we fear God’s coming, we look forward to it because it will make us new. Come, God. Come, Lord Jesus. Make all things new—me too.

All I can write is AMEN!  As the Christmas carol Joy to the World declares, “Let heaven and nature sing!”

Stir up your power, O Lord, and come. Make your world shine as on the day of creation’s dawn. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Christmas Peace

Christmas Children and PresentsI normally add a picture after I write my post, but today is different. The picture above became my inspiration. I was struck by the serene, peaceful aura of each child as they opened a Christmas present. This is obviously a stock photo of an idealized Christmas morning, especially how the little girl is observing her brother as he opens his package. It is what families hope for, but somehow it is appears too surreal to be true.

None of my siblings did that with me when I opened a present and I don’t remember it happening with my children either. We did take turns; it was not a free for all. Still the rapt attention the girl gives to her brother is off the charts. I bet they ate their Christmas oatmeal and made their beds before they started opening presents.

But there is something else that caught my attention. It is the bookshelf behind them. I always like a well-stocked bookshelf. That made me wonder if the children know the Biblical story of Christmas: the birth of Jesus, the shepherds in the field, the angelic announcement.

“Behold I bring good news of great joy for all people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior.” (Luke 2:11).

What troubles me is that this idealized picture does not need a savior. The kids are angelic already. Now it is simple a moment caught in the lens. Who knows if chaos erupted immediately after the present was opened.  I wonder if there is a Nerf gun inside.

Now I hope your Christmas morning is peaceful and joyous. I pray that your children, grandchildren, cousins, or siblings experience a special moment of Christmas love and cheer. But remember, even if chaos reigns, a Savior has been born. One who comes to rescue us from our self-centered ways. And that might be the best gift of all.

Lord Jesus, come.

Rushing towards Christmas

Santa racing on a bicycleChristmas is fast approaching. On my way to work this morning, two people asked me if I was ready. It seems like Christmas has become an invasion that requires complex preparation, sort of like the D-day invasion of Normandy beaches during World War II. There are the gifts to buy and wrap, the cookies to bake, the programs and parties to attend. Each is good in itself, but the intensity and high expectation surrounding each piece puts a crimp in the holiday season. Some people just seem to go crazy with the stress of the holidays.

Of course, the first Christmas was a very simple affair: a mom, a dad, and a baby. The setting was a lowly stable, nothing fancy. There was a great sound and light show with angelic choirs, but the family only heard about it second-hand. Mary and Joe kept their focus on the baby. Later Mary pondered the shepherd’s words (Luke 2:19).

As a pastor, my Christmas celebration revolves around the worship services on Christmas Eve and Day. With the familiar carols and Gospel story, it is hard to deliver something new and spectacular. Many have told me that their deepest, most joyful Christmas memory is lighting candle in a darkened church and singing Silent Night, Holy Night. Tradition has depth that builds intensity year-by-year. The new and spectacular is overshadowed by the old and familiar.

I pray that you will have time to ponder, to reflect, to simply embrace God’s love for you. It might be late at night after the packages are wrapped, or early in the morning before you run last set of errands. The Prince of Peace is coming. He is coming for you.

Lord Jesus, break through the complexity of my life and grant me peace, your peace.

 

Looking Backward and Forward

The last verses of the Old Testament have both a backward and forward orientation. Malachi instructs the reader to Remember the past and to Anticipate the future.

Remember the teaching of my servant Moses, the statutes and ordinances that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. (Malachi 4:4)

Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents. (Malachi 4:5-6)

Malachi reminds us that God has worked in Israel’s past. Look back and remember how God worked at Mt. Horeb (Sinai). It calls us to remember how God has worked in our own past, to instruct and teach us.

I remember making a pilgrimage to Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Port Angeles, Washington, to remember the place where I first learned the Bible stories, acted in Christmas plays and sang the familiar carols. Christmas has so many specific memories for many of us. It can be simple nostalgia, but it can also become a deep spring of joy, light and love that calls us back to our spiritual roots. Where and when do you remember hearing the story of God’s statutes?

Yet Malachi also pushes into the future, that God is not simply an ancient figure of distant history, but a God who will act in our future. The prophet Malachi recycles the ancient prophet, Elijah, to describe the messenger who is coming. (Elijah had not “died” but was taken up into heaven on a chariot of fire, 2 Kings 2:11). The future return of Elijah will cause our hearts to turn to one another, to bring peace and harmony to God’s family. And God’s family is much larger than our own households; Jesus redefines family in the New Testament.

Looking at those who sat around him, Jesus said, “Here are my mother and brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother, sister and mother.”

Further, Jesus, the Son of God, turns the hearts of God’s children to their heavenly Papa. The future is so much brighter than our present reality. To what do you look forward in God’s glorious kingdom?

As we read scripture, we need to be mindful of how the past, the present and the future all intertwine.

Lord Jesus, be thou my vision, backwards and forwards.

See, the Day is Coming

Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament in the Christian Bible yet it points beyond itself.  It is not the final chapter in God’s dealing with Israel, but rather points to something yet to come.

See, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.  But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. (Malachi 4:1-2)

Malachi assumes two things.  First, the future day of God’s judgment has not come yet.  God is not finished with God’s creation.  The second assumption is that you and I, the readers of this text, will receive mercy and healing, not burning judgment.  There is hope for you in this world.

As Charles Welsey wrote in  the third stanza of the Christmas carol, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, quoting Malachi 4:2.

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and Life to all he brings,
ris’n with healing in his wings.

God’s day will come with Jesus Christ.  He is the true climax to the story of the Old Testament as well as our human story. Are you ready to leap?

Lord Jesus, come quickly so I can leap with joy and justice.