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Month: December 2011

Christ in the Neighbor

  And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger.’ There are many of you in this congregation who think to yourselves: “If only I had been there! How quick I would have been to help the Baby! I would have washed His linen. How happy I would have been to go with the shepherds to see the Lord lying in the manger!” Yes, you would! You say that because you know how great Christ is, but if you had been there at that time you would have done no better than the people of Bethlehem. Childish and silly thoughts are these! Why don’t you do it now? You have Christ in your neighbors. You ought to serve them, for what you do to your neighbor in need you do to the Lord Christ Himself. Let us, then, meditate upon the nativity just as we see it happening in our own babies. I would not have you contemplate the deity of Christ, the majesty of Christ, but rather His flesh. Look upon the baby Jesus. Divinity may terrify man. Inexpressible majesty will crush him. That is why Christ took on our humanity, save for sin, that He should not terrify us...

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Come and See

One of the Mission workers in out partner church in Germany, the SELK, wrote and article about the work going on among the immigrants that are moving to that country.  He says that a lot of people come up to him and say, “I’m not a Christian but….” and then they want to help with something or give a donation.  Well, let him tell the story……  Every time people came to me with this little introduction: “I am not Christian, but….” I have a feeling of warmth in my heart. This is because people who say this are on the road to Bethlehem! They have seen the star of Bethelehem and are somehow on their way to Jesus Christ! The wise men in the Christmas narratative were no different. In a very curious way, they heard about the star of Bethlehem by means of astrology. These wise men were complete outsiders. They were not even Jewish. Similarly the shepherds on the fields were outsiders and had little hope of climbing the social ladder. But then the heavens were opened above them and they too could see and understand what it means when God seeks his own. They were to become the first Christian witnesses! How wonderful to see God choosing his people from those who have no hope of belonging! In the Asylum home in Saxony we could once again...

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I Wanna Go To Bethlehem

We are in the “between times”. We celebrate the birth of Christ and continue that celebration for 12 days and then we celebrate the coming of the “wise men from the East”.  But it is in the between times that my imagination runs wild.  How long did they stay in the stable?  Did the innkeeper finally find a room?  How long did it take to “register”?  Was Roman efficency like our government so that Joseph had to fill out a WD40, or whatever they call that thing, five times because he got five different sets of instructions from 5 different bureacrats?  Was Jesus a tax deduction?  When did he finally get a house?  We know they were living in a house in Bethlehem because that is what Matthew says.  The star led them to a house where they found Mary and the baby.  How long from the time the wise men saw the star until they came to the house?  Herod seems to have thought it could have been almost two years which is why he murdered the boy babies under the age of two. I would love to go to Bethlehem.  Not the tourist trap – buy a plastic manger scene – AK47 guarded place that it is today, but whatever it was back then.  The romance of our celebration and our Divine Worship on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day might...

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Gentle Jesus Meek and Mild

   One of the things that I will ramble on about at this time of the year is that Christmas is not over.  We celebrate until the 6th of January when we begin the Epiphany season and the visit of the Wisemen.  Another thing that drives me crazy is the idea perpetrated by someone that Mary and Joseph were poor homeless people and it is not the truth.  They had a home, Joseph just forgot to get reservations.  If we want to identify them with some needy group how about political refugees?  That I believe is the Gospel lesson for this week. That led me to this picture taken back in October of working folk who got jobs in Williston in the oil fields but have no place to live.   Note the rifle and the fishing pole in the “rafters”.   I think these folks are still in this spot and the word is that the housing shortage in the Western part of North Dakota is beyond comprehension. Someone wrote to me and wondered what we can do as the church –How do we respond to the impact of our population increase in Western North Dakota in ways which are feasible and prudent? There are thousands of people moving to western ND. One of my coworkers said he heard the population could increase by 700,000 in northwest ND in the next several years....

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Shepherds Song

Christmas is the most “sensuous” of holidays.  The smell of a pine forest in the snow around Brainerd will bring back Christmas memories.  The taste of peppermint will take me back almost 50 years to a Christmas program practice and my teachers explanation of the theological significance of the Christmas Candy Cane.  The sight of a broken down cattle shed in the wilds of North Dakota will take me to a manger throne and a babe lying there that is the Savior of the World.  The feel of old tinsel that lies on the bottom of some of our decoration boxes flashes scenes of Christmas’ past through my head until I feel like Ebenezer Scrooge.  And of course, the sounds.  Bells, hymns, carols, all of these are rich in memory and context. One memory that stands out that combines many of the senses happened a few years ago.  I was looking though a book that at one time was one of those “memories” itself.  There was a magazine that was published every year for Christmas that had beautiful pictures and poems and songs.  My memory is that it printed “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry, with marvelous illustrations.  It may have been “Christmas Ideals” but I am not sure.  If anyone can help with this I would appreciate it.  Anyway I was listening to carols and drinking Christmas...

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