Dear Members and Friends of St. John,
I was personally convicted recently as I read a devotion from my friend, Pastor Dale Meyer of Concordia Seminary. In his devotion he has stated what we all know about the traps of the Christmas season. “The busy-ness of these days before Christmas easily frays our nerves and we pop off against one another.” Yup, he’s right,” I thought to myself, realizing I had just been short with my wife and my daughter. It wasn’t a big thing. I’m not even sure they knew I had “popped off” at them. I was wondering to myself, “What’s making me irritable?” I decided there was no one irritant. I suspected I was reacting to the accumulated busy-ness of church, of family, and Christmas expectations. But, I sensed an impatience in myself that caused me to treat those I loved with less patience and love than I desired.
We are near the culmination of our preparation to celebrate the birth of God’s Son. Unfortunately we all know that sometimes all the preparations can obscure the reason for the season. The songs about Jesus’ birth can become irritable when we hear them in the stores starting in October. The buying of gifts can deceive us into forgetting THE Gift. The busy-ness of the season can lead us to act unlovingly in the season of love. Our “frayed nerves,” as Dr. Meyer wrote, can steal peace when the angels proclaim “Peace on Earth.” And the unreasonable expectations from society and the media concerning Christmas can cause us to lose our joy when this is a time of “great joy to all the people.” Is anyone else needing to confess with me?
But, while it is good to prepare to receive our servant-king, our Savior, Jesus, it is not our preparation that makes the season. Nothing we do, and nothing we fail to do, can take away the fact that Jesus, the Son of God and the Savior of the world, was born. Satan may seek to use the busy-ness of this season to hide the light of the world under a bushel basket, but the light is still there. The rays of light and love and peace seep through the holes in that basket and still bring life and love to our world, and to us.
Nothing can take away the fact that, in Jesus, God Himself came to earth that first Christmas to help us, to love us, to save us.
None of our busyness can make the fact go away that Jesus is Savior of “All People.” After all, the angels did not sing of his birth to kings and priests, but to shepherds, to common people at work.
None of our own irritable, prideful, or sinful behavior can deny the Christmas love of God. The angel told Joseph, “you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21) Jesus was born knowing our sin, because we need a Savior.
When the world seems to fight against us and tell us we are worthless, nothing can take away the fact that the birth of Jesus is a gift of love.
Not the stress I bring on myself, nor the antagonism and distraction of the world, can take away the gift, God’s Son born for us. So, whether your presents are bought, your house is decorated, or whether you have made amends with those you have wronged, I encourage you to remember that Jesus is God’s gift of love. We don’t earn a gift, we receive it. Therefore, there are some simple ways we can all receive the love, and the peace, and the joy with which God gifts us again this year.
· Take time to attend worship this Christmas with your family, your friends, your neighbors, or by yourself if no one else will go. When we thank and praise God it opens our hearts to receive this gift of Jesus.
· When you worship, LISTEN to God’s Christmas good news as the Christmas lessons are read from Scripture.
· Consider how God’s love is bigger than any disappointment, heart break, or problems you may have today.
· Then, like the shepherds give joyful thanks and praise to God for this priceless gift that changes our lives for good, not only at Christmas time – but through eternity.
The angels told the Shepherds, 10. . . "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11) That is the reason for all the preparation and the celebration. And this gift is not earned, it is received by faith.
May the light of Jesus shine through the darkness of your “frayed nerves” and disappointments this Christmas. May Jesus light up your home and your life with God’s love and peace and joy.
A Child of God Wishing Jesus to you this Christmas
P.S. Please note the schedule of Advent and Christmas services in the next few days.
· Mid-Week Advent Worship – Worship is held on Wednesday, December 20, at noon with Hunter Richards, and in the evening at 6:30 p.m. in our final Advent Worship Service for 2017. A Fellowship Advent Meal is served at 5:30 p.m.
· There is only one worship service on Sunday morning, December 24 at 11:00 a.m. (However, adult Bible Classes will be held at 10:45 a.m.)
· There are 3 Christmas Eve services:
o Children’s Christmas Candlelight Service – This 6:00 p.m. service is earlier, a little shorter, and has a children’s message to make this a “kid friendly” worship experience.
o Christmas Eve Candlelight Worship is held at 8:00 and 10:00 p.m. Two soloists and two choir numbers help us thank and praise God in these candlelight worship services.
· Christmas Day worship with communion is held on Christmas morning at 11:00 a.m.
COME AND JOIN US IN WORSHIPING OUR SAVIOR!
There are postcard invitations in the back of the church which you can use to invite others to join in this celebration!
P.P.S. This past week was another busy week of preparation and activities at St. John! Here are some pictures.
· Confirmation classes last week made Christmas stockings. https://photos.app.goo.gl/btT0VFCtT6mt0Zof1
· Here are some pictures from our Advent Meal last Wednesday, https://photos.app.goo.gl/N5Lo2863GtMaxIMH2
· I intended to go ice fishing, but last minute chores before Christmas and before a wedding kept me going till about 7 p.m. It was too dark then to go fishing, so no fish this week.
ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ - I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have. (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.) However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.