Sunday, December 18, 2011

Good Christians, fear

There's a school I know that, until recently, had a problem keeping their baby Jesus in the manger of their Nativity display.  It seems that some of its students had a problem with him being on display, and would steal him each year from the manger, to be returned on Christmas Eve.  After many attempts at reasoning with the students, and even threatening expulsion, the school finally came to the conclusion that if they wanted their baby Jesus on display, they had best find a way to make him permanent.   And so, this year, the baby Jesus was nailed to the manger.

There's a beautiful hymn in our Lutheran hymnals that is sung during the Christmas season in churches, and as a Christmas carol.  It paints a lovely picture of the manger scene- Mary holding the sleeping baby Jesus on her lap, the angels singing and the shepherds keeping watch.  "Good Christians, fear;" the hymn pleads- "for sinners here/the silent Word is pleading." And then comes the line that gives this hymn its meaning, its fullness, its depth; that tells us exactly why we ought to fear; and yet, so many want to cut it out.  "Nails, spear shall pierce him through,/the cross be borne for me, for you."

Without this line, the hymn is worthless.  The Christmas season is worthless.  I know it detracts from all the good feelings we want to be feeling- how good we are for getting such wonderful presents for our families, how merry we are to be spending time with our loved ones, how sweet a newborn child is.  But folks, unless we remember that the sweet little baby grew up to be nailed to a tree, Christmas is foolish.  Our good feelings are all we have, and we'll feel them fade as soon as a child scoffs at the gifts, a loved one dies, or Lent rolls around.  The coming season finds its worth and value not in a newborn babe, but in the grown man who died for us to give us hope a beyond the merriment of our festivities and our emotional highs. 

So rejoice! Your Savior is nigh!  And fear, good Christians; fear.  For Christmas isn't Christmas until we've driven the nails through Jesus.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Garaunteed!! Or your money back?

It seems that we're all to ready to answer someone who's sharing her misgivings about her life with meaningless babble instead of recognizing her burdens as they are- the weight of sin upon her- and giving her the reassurance that can only come from the cross.  Whether she's wondering if she'll ever marry, be blessed with another child (or a child), if she'll ever get a good night's sleep, or whether she'll feel confident about the decisions she's made as a mother or wife, the correct answer is not, "Oh, it will happen."  Or even, "Give it time."  It's most definitely not, "It will happen when you least expect it."  

Unless, of course, you've had some dream or vision that you are certain is from God himself that sheds light on the future of the woman, and you have been given clear revelation about the meaning of said dream or vision.  If that's the case, then, by all means, lead the woman to believe that her trial is going to be over soon.  But if you're like the rest of us, who flounder through life without the vision and dreams, then please, point her instead to the only things that can be guaranteed:  that Christ loves her, and shed his blood for her, and will come again to redeem this world and everything in it, including her; and until then, he will sustain her in his Holy Supper, and with his life-giving Word.