Pastor's Blog

December 2017

Merry Christmas

John 1:14 "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen hs glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."

He wanted to have a spiritual relationship with mankind. He wanted us to call him father. He wanted us to be spiritually alive. He wanted us know the truth which would set us free.

But you know like I do that this truth, this life, is not what we see around us. Maybe that explains all the Christmas hype. Maybe people get all wrapped up in the season of Christmas because they’re trying to avoid something. They’re trying to avoid the darkness of sin in their hearts. If we celebrate the holidays, if we put on a happy face, if we sing carols, if we go to church—then maybe, just maybe the darkness of unbelief, the guilt, the anger, the questions I have about God—maybe then it’ll all go away. Like an alcoholic who finds escape through booze, do we try to escape the Light of life by getting drunk on Christmas?

The truth is we are the problem. The Light of life has come. We see him: wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger, proclaimed by angles and shepherds, worshiped and adored by Mary and Joseph. But is the Light of that manger enough to penetrate the darkness of Bethlehem? Is the Light that gives life enough to penetrate your soul? The answer should be an obvious “yes,” but our lives lead us to wonder... 

The Light is shining today, God is speaking to you, and if we close our ears, if you shut out the light, then you die.

But today there is still hope for sinners like me and you, because God is still speaking. Even to those who don’t want to hear it, God still speaks. He tells us that there is repentance: we can still listen to his invitation to turn away from the darkness of sin, turn away from rejecting his word and be saved.

This is why we have Christmas!

This is why lights decorate our houses, our trees. Christ is our light of life. The Word of God was born into this world; he became flesh to grant you life. And your life became his life because the moment the Word of God became flesh, he subjected himself to the same laws of God that apply to us. And the same laws we routinely break, the same laws that result in the punishment of eternal death for sinners like us—those laws are kept perfectly in the Word-Made-Flesh. As Saint Paul says in Galatians 4, “When the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.”

The Word became flesh not only to live what we couldn’t live but to die what we should have died. We deserve death, but the Word dies in our place. This Word whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, is the same one whose death and coming back to life we will celebrate in just a few months.

What is God saying today? What final word is God trying to leave on your hearts and minds? This child, this Word made flesh, this Word who was with God who is God and who created this world—this one is Jesus Christ, your Savior. Your life! Gone is the darkness of sin! As the angels tore open the sky and their holy light chased away the dark night, so God’s son breaks apart the darkness of sin and death and grants you life. 

The Word became flesh! 

And so we live!

Merry Christmas

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The Christmas Connection

He stood alone at the edge of the Jordan River, a small yet bold outline against the rising sun. The hot desert air blew gently in from the east. Gazing out across the river, out to the east, to the desolate wilderness beyond, to the hills just over the horizon, he felt lost in the immensity of it all. The terrain, the river, the silver sun, the wind it all swallowed him up. He opened his mouth to speak, as if to call out to the earth around him, but his voice went nowhere. Who was he supposed to be in this giant wilderness of a place? What was he supposed to do in such a world as this so full of people, so full of sinners? “The voice of one calling in the desert.” A voice. One solitary voice, one small human voice, calling out to a world of sinners, “Prepare the way for the Lord.” One man to get all these people ready for the coming of the Christ.

But would they listen? Would they care enough to come? Would they stand here with him against the loneliness of this place and learn about the Savior who had come? Or would they come to challenge him, to tell him they didn’t believe, wouldn’t believe?

The truth is we’ve found ourselves standing right there along the Jordan River with John the Baptist, alone in a world of sinners, alone in a world of sin, alone with our own hearts of sin. We’ve stood there, listening to the lone voice, wondering ourselves if the Christ in Christmas is really the one we wanted, the one this world wants.

Is this world ready for the Christ at Christmas? Are we? Are they ready for heaven’s light to come spilling out over this dark world of sin to condemn sin? Is that really the baby born in the manger? Are we ready for a Christ who connects us to a message far greater than the passing joys of a few presents? Will we follow John from the river’s edge, to the stable’s door, to the cross and empty grave, to the sky, and to eternity to find the timeless message that outlasts a few ornaments hung on a tree, a few cookies in a jar, and some presents that will be forgotten?

Dear people of this world, Christ is your Christmas Connection! Christ is your peace. Christ is coming. "May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it." 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24.

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Seize the Advent Blessings

It’s always fun at our house getting all of the Advent decorations ready. We get out the big box with the word “Advent” written on it. My wife pulls out all the porcelain Advent figurines and puts out the Advent candles. Then it’s time to bake all of our favorite Advent recipes: like Advent cookies, and even Advent candies. Then we dig further into the box and get out our Advent lights and plug them in to make sure they all work and then we hang them on the house. We’ve got our Advent wreaths, and Advent pictures, and Advent streamers. Of course you’ve probably already had your Advent decorations up a lot sooner than we did; we always seem to get behind this time of year. you not have any Advent decorations? You don’t have Advent wreaths? No Advent candles? No Advent cookies or Advent figurines or Advent streamers and pictures? So I guess no Advent lights on the outside of the house, either...

Well, actually neither do we. We’ve got lots of Christmas decorations. That’s true. But it’s Advent. So why can’t we go to Target and get Advent decorations?

That’s because Advent happens within, inside, our heart of faith. Advent is a season to prepare our souls for the coming of Jesus Christ. And the best preparation, the best way to decorate our homes for Advent, is to repent of our sins, to come clean about our sinfulness and seek forgiveness. Sure it doesn’t seem like much fun; maybe we would rather just have some Advent decorations. And a lot of people would agree with you: repentance doesn’t sound like much fun. But repentance is a beautiful and happy thing. Repentance brings along with it blessings that make Christmas, that make the rest of the church year, that make our Christian lives better. Seize the blessings of Advent, the blessings of repentance!

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Yes, Virginia, St. Nick is Real

Should Christians celebrate the tradition of Santa Claus? Well, you might be surprised to find out that Santa Claus is actually a Christian tradition—and December 6 is the day which Christians celebrate the life of this kind and generous man.

History of St. Nicholas

Nicholas was born sometime circa A.D. 280 in Patara, Lycia, an area that is part of present-day Turkey. He lost both of his parents as a young man and reportedly used his inheritance to help the poor and sick. A devout Christian, he later served as bishop of Myra, a city that is now called Demre. There are many legends about St. Nicholas of Myra. One story tells how he helped three poor sisters. Their father did not have enough money to pay their dowries and thought of selling them into servitude. Three times, St. Nicholas secretly went to their house at night and put a bag of money inside. The man used the money so that one of his daughters could marry. On the third visit, the man saw St. Nicholas and thanked him for his kindness. He also reportedly saved three men who were falsely imprisoned and sentenced to death.

Several sources state St. Nicholas is believed to have died on December 6, A.D. 343. Over the years, stories of his work for the poor spread to other parts of the world. Luther himself looked to the example of Nicholas many times throughout his ministry, pointing to the life of generosity and compassion that seemed to be lacking in the world in which he lived.

Customs of St. Nicholas

In many homes in Europe, it was a common practice for children to put out their shoes the night before. In the morning, they would discover the gifts that St. Nicholas had left there for them. Dutch immigrants brought St. Nicholas, known to them as Sinter Klaas (English, Santa Claus) and his gift-giving ways to America in the 1700s.

Why do Christians celebrate the commemoration of St. Nicholas?

Without realizing it, St. Nicholas influenced Christianity in a significant way. In the A.D. 300s, a false teaching called “Arianism” arose in the church. This teaching denied the existence of the Trinity and refused to assign divine attributes to the second person of the Trinity. Legend has it that St. Nicholas (Remember! Kind-hearted, generous, and compassionate) became so angry with Arius in a discussion with him, that Nicholas punched him in the face. From that time forward, Nicholas, in his preaching and teaching, made a concerted effort to push back against this (very dangerous!) heresy. It wasn’t until the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325 that Arianism was put to rest and the Christian Church rallied around the pure and correct teaching of the Trinity.

Can Christians celebrate St. Nicholas Day?

Absolutely. In fact, an argument could be made that by celebrating Santa Claus on December 6, focus on the true meaning of Christmas can be that much more enjoyable and beneficial. Instead of putting St. Nick where he doesn’t belong (on Christmas Eve), Christians can not only honor the time-tested traditions of the Church, but also praise God for such a kind-hearted and generous man in St. Nicholas.

Thanks to Rev. Nathan Seelow for putting this together.

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For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. ~ ROMANS 6:23