Friends, what are we to do? Please read, it’s lengthy but worthwhile. Remember the One who is really in charge!
(adapted from letter of fellow pastoral colleague)
I pen this letter in a time of cultural turmoil. The people of our nation are angry and divided. More than 150 years ago, as the dark clouds of civil war began to gather on the horizon, Abraham Lincoln warned a nation of angry people that a house divided against itself cannot stand. This Biblical principle stands today.
The genius of our nation’s founding is proclaimed in its motto, “E Pluribus Unum”—“Out of Many, One.” Gathered on our shores are peoples of different origins, different trades, different creeds, different colors, different dreams. The social experiment called “The United States of America” was designed to offer all people the freedom to pursue life, liberty and happiness. We don’t seem very happy these days. We have lost the sense of “oneness,” as we prefer to identify ourselves with the people who look like us, sound like us, think like us and agree with us. When we come across those that differ from our worldview, we shut them out, slam the door, and ostracize them. Our divide grows wider, deeper and more dangerous.
The intent of this letter is not to share with you my personal opinions and political views, but to express what Christians, are called to do as members of this society. Those of us who are Christians, who are in the world but not of the world, must first and foremost identify ourselves as followers of Jesus—disciples of the Savior. Recall these words from the Apostle Paul, “But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.” (3:20-21) We are alien residents here on earth; but we dare not shy away from having an impact or bearing fruit. We are dedicated to the principles of His Word and are
Happy Epiphany to you all!
That’s right, today is a party day in the life of the church. This is the church calendar day known as “The Epiphany of our Lord.”
Every year on the twelfth day of Christmas, January 6th, this commemoration is observed in the church as a celebration of Jesus’ manifestation (in Greek lit. epiphany) to earth as both 100% God and 100% man. “From heaven above to earth He comes, to bear good news to every home!” (LSB 358) If Christmas celebrates the Father’s giving of the gift of Christ Jesus to us sinners, then Epiphany might be said to be the Father unwrapping this gift for us. During the weeks of Epiphany the Father is making His Son known to the world. The redemptive and saving work of Jesus shines forth from heaven and is revealed to all mankind. Throughout this Epiphany season we rejoice over and declare loudly that Jesus is the Savior of ALL people—Jews and Gentiles alike.
This past Monday afternoon my wife and I had some errands to run. One of them, unfortunately, brought us to the Willowbrook Mall. Yikes! It was a madhouse. There were people everywhere. Mega traffic and an uncanny parking shortage for a weekday afternoon. Inside the mall, people were standing in lines all over the place just to get into the stores they wanted. Apparently Bath & Body was having quite the sale because their bags flooded the mall. Social distancing didn’t seem to apply on the escalators. Facemasked consumers flooded the Food Court. People waiting to make returns, getting frustrated as they waited to make exchanges. People searching store-to-store looking for some sweet after-Christmas sales. Uggs boots 40% off! Monster sale at the Children’s Place. Up to 75% off at Bloomingdales. In that setting, it was as if Christmas was all about getting what you can get while the getting is good. The only things missing was Charlie Brown searching for an aluminum Christmas tree. It was crazy!
And yet, as I stood waiting outside the restroom, I heard something. Very faintly in the background, I could still hear this song playing, 3 days after Christmas… “Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel… Born is the King of Israel!” Who knows how many people actually heard it. It wasn’t exactly quiet within the walls of Willowbrook. Who knows if anyone listened to the subtle, quiet reminder of what this season is actually all about. But I did. I heard it. The chorus pierced through the noise and hit me right to the core. In the midst of chaotic commercialism and mall madness, God enabled me to forget about the traffic, the crowds and my errands. Just for a moment, he recalibrated my gaze so I could stare back into the humble manger of Christmas. Steve, don’t forget about the Gift. “Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel… Born is the King of Israel!” Born is the King. Born is my King. Born is your King. Born is the King of kings. The message of Christmas doesn’t stop as the calendar moves forward. It doesn’t lessen as the decorations are taken down. It isn’t dampened as the Christmas music is boxed away for use again in another ten months. Keep listening and looking for the ways God will share His love and Gospel message with you. The angels still sing and shepherds still worship. Let’s join them! Don’t let the racket of New Year sales or crowds of rabid shoppers overtake the peace of Christmas. Dear friends in Christ, continue to rejoice and celebrate the spirit of Christmas; “For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)
Are you ready?
Have you tried starting the snowblower?
Have you pulled the shovels out from the back of the garage?
It’s coming, ready or not!
As we encounter the first blizzard of the winter, consider these words:
“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)
In this verse we are reminded of God’s compassion and mercy. The heart of the Creator revealed by the evidence of the creation. There can be no better image of purity than snow, freshly fallen and covering an otherwise bare landscape. Stained by sin, tainted by unfaithfulness, we are purified and cleansed by the declaration of God. The purity and righteousness of God covers us. The snow falls… all of nature testifies—you are loved and forgiven by God!