* A TRADITION TO RE-ESTABLISH?
Last Christmas one of our pastors put out, via an e-mail message, the following word of encouragement to his brothers in the CLC ministry. The good words speak to us all–
As we approach the Christmas holydays, I would like to encourage preaching on the Incarnation and its meaning. It’s Christmas Day I’m thinking of especially. . . . If on Christmas Eve the children of the congregation describe the sending of the greatest gift of God, it is our wonderful privilege to unwrap it on the Festival Day itself. And if Christmas Day is falling into disuse in our churches, isn’t it our work to help our people see that the Christmas Day service should be a highlight of our church family’s Christmas celebration–and of each family too?
How sad to spend four weeks preparing and then to skip the service that focuses on the main event. We deplore the practice of coming to church services only on Christmas and Easter, but the reverse is surely also an aberration and something to be avoided as well.
So . . . let us speak up . . . and encourage our people to center on the Christ of Christmas by worshiping together on Christmas Day. Here’s a tradition to re-establish, one that will benefit our people from one generation to the next.
It seems the preparing of the Christmas Day sermon was a highlight of Luther’s personal Christmas devotions. At least his Christmas sermons read that way. I have personally found this can be true. And when this is the case, we will surely speak to our people from the heart–as joyful shepherds–on Christmas Day in the morning.
Dear reader–see you ‘in church’ on Christmas morning!
* A CHRISTMAS LETTER (In the recent past we, with others, were recipients of this Christmas letter from ‘the Koenig’s’–our Missionary David and his wife Mary)
Dear fellow redeemed,
We have once more entered upon that season of mystery and wonder. It is a mystery certainly to the wicked, careless world that He came. Even we wonder how He could come to this sin-darkened world for the likes of us. The true mystery though is that God became man. And the abiding wonder is not of doubt, but of amazing joy at beholding Him in the manger Who would then be on the cross.
The skeptics and detractors have assailed the Scriptures–ever since they were given–as being of doubtful veracity. Yet it was in the exact city prophesied, Bethlehem Ephratah, that He was born. It was by the exact miraculous means, through a virgin’s womb as prophesied, that He came. The star that was supposed to appear at His coming came as it was foretold. And on and on it goes, as we read the Old Testament writing about Him and His work–foretold . . . fulfilled, foretold . . . fulfilled, foretold . . . fulfilled.
It could hardly be otherwise than that when we read of a heavenly host announcing His birth to the shepherds, we believe it. Although we have not seen, yet we believe. The Shepherd’s joyful message–we are united in exuberant hearing and telling! It is in the Word of God that we find our anchor and compass. This is so because in the Word of God (the Bible) we have the Word made flesh, our Jesus, revealed to us. As He is the center, heart, and core of the Bible, so He is the anchor of our lives. In Him we live and move and have our being. He is the compass giving us the true direction to life. Relying upon His Word as He dwells within our heart, we move forward to our ultimate destination.
“Thro’ the night of doubt and sorrow Onward goes the pilgrim band, Singing songs of expectation, marching to the Promised Land.” He is at our head to lead us. He is behind us as rearguard to protect and assist the straggling. He is among us, walking at our side; upon His arms we lean when weary. He is there in the campfire’s glow, in the morning sun’s dewy dispersal, in the heat of the noonday trek, always and everywhere.
Who is this child, whose birth we celebrate? We know full well. We’ve read in the Word and seen in our lives. Foretold . . . fulfilled, foretold . . . fulfilled.
* HOW SAD . . . (From the Newsletter of Messiah Lutheran, Eau Claire, Wis. Prof. Em. Paul Koch, the writer)
During this joyous season when the voices of evangelists and apostles should sound with clarity from Christian pulpits, we hear the smooth and subtle voice of a local Protestant cleric with a Christmas message that has something in it as unsettling as fingernails down a chalkboard.
This pastor deserves one of the year’s Glittering Blotch Awards for his article in the local newspaper entitled “Christians, Jews share many values, hope of redemption.” In this article the clergyman denounces the anti-Judaism he alleges is spouted from Christian pulpits this Advent season. He feels it a “strange contradiction” that people who “voice the themes of Christian hope during Advent” at the same time contaminate their message by “anti-Judaism . . . a sinful way of thinking.” So far, that sounds like he’s on to something. We agree that our calling as God’s children and spokespersons is to reach out to others with the Christmas Gift from on high. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life for Jews, too.
But this clergyman deserves the G.B.A. for non-meritorious disservice to the Lord Jesus in his condescending disapproval of a friend who said: “How sad; Jesus came, and they missed it. They are still waiting.” At this point we must ask: Who is out of step here? Is it the sorrowing Christian–or is it the clergyman who displays his glittering ignorance of one cardinal problem: He evidently considers Christianity and Judaism as co-equal! He should be competent to recognize that they simply are not, ever since “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not” (John 1:11). How sad that a Protestant clergyman (serving in the denomination “Church of Christ”) apparently no longer believes that Judaism has chosen to follow a religion that in rejecting Jesus as Messiah/Savior is simply not God’s religion at all.
The prime issue here is not that a professing Christian may on occasion hit the sour note of anti-Jewishness, but that Judaism has soured itself in the most self-destructive way against God Himself in the person of His own Son. That remains the issue which separates Judaism from God. Anyone who glosses over that elementary distinction deserves no golden stamp on his theological diploma, for his witness is but a glittering blotch that disfigures his credentials as a spokesman for the Lord Jesus.
Who is out of step with God’s truth? If we are quick to say that we are not–for we live in a fellowship that is ultra-conservative about Biblical doctrine–let us recognize that there is another issue standing full-faced before us: our performance. Are we doing our Christian ministry in a way that has overcome all our own sour notes as we rehearse and practice our speaking parts under the direction of the Concert-Master Himself in preparation for the hour of our personal testimony? Lord, have mercy!