Here’s a little secret: I always enjoy Christmas best about three days afterward, say on the 27th or 28th. For Pastors, the season is quite busy, and very involved. But immediately after Christmas, many are taking time with family, or are visiting them out of town, and things get fairly quiet. It’s at some time during those days, when better rested, I personally and intimately realize the sweetness and strength of all that “Christ is born” means, and say to myself — even out loud — “Christ is born for me.” It feels good, and I smile.
Here at Martini Lutheran Church we’ve had a busy, happy December leading up to Christmas. We set the tables in the fellowship hall for Christmas crab cake dinner for Augsburg Lutheran Home residents, and shared with them a Christmas “chapel” service with Luke 2, and sang carols in our sanctuary. Also, our Choir fixes, as a gift, a delicious dinner for the congregation. Children come and meet a Santa who bows before the manger before asking about other gifts. Admission is warm knitwear for children in need. And there’s Christmas singing and a great turnout! From Thanksgiving time to Christmas time, we give out food baskets. This year we gave 49 heaping baskets, plus two additional turkeys! Because we know the Christmas story before it’s told us again, we find ourselves excited by the giving initiated by God’s gift of His Son, and wanting to share the Word in Word and deed.
Worship is central to all we do. After the Sunday and Midweek worship’s “expectancy” of Advent worship, Christmas worship brings us a satisfaction in God’s compassion, the joy of having an ancient, promise-keeping God who cares for each of us yet today, and the excitement of celebrating this with everyone around us. Each Christmas time, we give the nod to Sunday School to bring the first worship proclaiming Jesus’ birth. This year we were blessed to see a great group of children among us, telling from the front of the church of the Savior who came for them. From the simplicity of the children’s words, we came to the high joy of Christmas Eve Candlelight and Carols. The sermon looked at the condition of our world as precisely the reason we need the manger, the cross, and Christ in His fullness for our day.
As the local church, we are the place where celebrating Christmas gets its rationale. A few days before Christmas, the many hip bars in our area were having Mayan Calendar “end of the world” parties. No question, they made money. But most people saw it as an excuse, rather than a reason, to celebrate. And I thought, “For how many people is Christmas an excuse, rather than a rationale, to celebrate?” The question attended my hearing as I listened to the radio at Christmas. On the commercial stations, there were three kinds of Christmas songs. First, there were artists doing songs of Christ, the Shepherds, the Wise men of the Epiphany, and Angels. Next, there were songs about the accoutrements of Christmas: Rockin’ around the Christmas tree, Santa looked a lot like Daddy, and songs about snow, snowmen, chestnuts, reindeer noses, et al. Finally, there were the songs about something else happening at Christmas: We fell in love, it happened it was at Christmas, and we were happy as carolers sang in the distance, or some such thing.
It’s my observation that people’s spiritual lives are like the songs of Christmas. Some are squarely built on Jesus Christ, and His life and death for them. These folks also enjoy the accoutrements of Christmas, and all that life means with Christmas in it. Then there are some get into the “Christmas spirit” and become more giving and more happy, or at least more uninhibited. But the centrality and truth of Christ is not there for them. When or if they come to a Christmas service, it’s more about the decorations and trappings than the Divine Incarnation. Yet others are just living as best they can, without the true Gift of Christmas, only a passing knowledge. Some of their life happens at the same time as Christmas, and they notice that that was the case.
Here at Martini Lutheran Church, we are here to share the best news of all: Christ was born for you! He was born for you that He might live for you. He lived for you that He might die to forgive your sins. He died, then rose again, that His power may be strong in your life. And, much as the promise of His first coming, He has promised to come again. When you think of all this means, and of a God who is so wonderfully accessible, and who wants your worship, wherein He has many gifts for you, it brings a wonderful joy.
May God bless you with a wonderful Christmas joy which takes you well through the year ahead!