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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.






21 December 2005

A Musical Christmas Card


Dear fellow redeemed, please receive this edition of “Ask the Pastor” as my Christmas card to you. Unlike the pasteboard cards our family hasn’t finished mailing, this one should get to its recipients on time!

Nativity Stained GlassFinally, after months of marketing of this sacred time by secular sources, the Feast of the Nativity is upon us. The Church shouldn’t let Christmas slip by without fully appreciating the mystery and the wonder of the Incarnation: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1:14)”

Rather than hurrying yourself onward past the celebration of His birth, or withdrawing into your home to restrict the celebration to family, I urge you also to come into His house to see for yourself the One whose birth the prophets foretold, the angels proclaimed, and the Church adores. “Unto you is born ... a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11)”

Simeon and JesusHe wasn’t only for those shepherds who first left everything and came hurrying to see what was so important that God’s messengers left heaven to make announcement. He wasn’t born only so Simeon could hold and proclaim Him as Light and Salvation or to give Anna a final glimpse of God fulfilling His divine will before she died.

Dear friends, “unto you is born ... a Savior who is Christ the Lord.” He came to earth as have millions of human babies, yet He came as no other. He was born flesh and blood — He was (and is) a true, living human being. Yet He was born as no other, for He was also born sinless — indeed, He was (and is) truly and fully God.

It’s impossible to understand the totality of this Gift. So we don’t try to understand. Instead, we joyfully receive Him through His Word and His forgiveness, through Baptism and His Supper. The Scriptures do not tell us all there is to know, but they do tell us all we need to know. This Holy Day’s songs aren’t the fullness of our celebration, but they do give it structure and join our joyful expression with that of like-minded believers the world round.

Using a hymn of the 1800s, we joyfully sing, “Let us all with gladsome voice Praise the God of heaven, Who, to make our hearts rejoice, His own Son has given.” While this one verse sums up Christmas nicely, God would have us know His Son better. Following the Scriptures, the song continues, “To this place of fears He came, Servant, Healer, Mender; Through His death we heaven claim, There to reign in splendor.”

Procession to CalvaryChristmas didn’t end the world’s wait from the prophesied Savior; that first Noel only began Jesus’ earthly life. It started His journey toward the cross, as He carryed our sins with Him. Thus, the hymn continues, “We are rich, for he was poor; Is not this a wonder? Therefore praise God evermore Here on earth and yonder.” Jesus left the eternal glory and riches of heaven. Not only did He become a poor, weak, helpless child — He carried our sins to Calvary that we sinners might receive the riches that were due only to Him. By His sacrifice, we have life eternal.

We are children of the Heavenly Father only because God’s love came down at Christmas. We couldn’t earn and didn’t merit anything: All praise belongs to God, “here on earth and yonder,” since Christ is our hope in this life and our eternal joy in the life to come in heaven.

Candle Light ServiceBecause of His all-availing sacrifice, because He remakes us through His life, suffering, and death, Christians rejoice in His presence.

We have only one theme: We want “All Jesus, All the Time.” Therefore the author concludes the carol, “Christ, our Lord and Savior dear, Oh, be ever near us. Be our joy throughout each year. Amen, Jesus, hear us.”

“Amen” — faith responds to our faithful God in true worship. Amen is the Biblical proclamation of certainty. It concludes our prayers because we trust that God will answer for Christ’s sake. We use it to respond to God’s gifts because it acknowledges that all that we have comes only by the good and gracious will of God. It is most certainly true that our dear Jesus joyfully hears us and continues to plead for the Father’s continuing mercy and blessing all the days of our lives.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and God’s richest blessings now and all the days of your life.

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

Send email to Ask the Pastor.

Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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