What you do to your neighbor you do to Christ

Christian_Krohg_-_Mother_and_Child_-_Google_Art_ProjectIt still being Christmas–there are twelve days of it, remember–we can still contemplate the inexhaustible topic of God’s incarnation.  After the jump, read an excerpt from one of Luther’s Christmas sermons, which our pastor quoted in his Christmas Eve message.  The passage deals both with Christmas and vocation–that is, our calling to love and serve our neighbors in our various tasks and relationships.

To those who think that they would have shown kindness to the Christ child and His parents, unlike the residents of Bethlehem, Luther says, “Why don’t you do it now” by showing kindness to other needy children and their parents?

“What you do to your neighbor in need you do to the Lord Christ himself.”
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“The light shines in the darkness”

How fitting that we commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ around the time of the Winter Solstice, when the day is at its shortest and the night is at its longest.  At this darkest time of the year, we celebrate Christ’s coming.  Just as He comes at the darkest points of our lives.  (This is also why lights at night are key Christmas symbols.)  As St. John says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

After the jump, the Christmas story according to the Gospel of John.   Mark begins with the start of Christ’s ministry.  Matthew begins with His birth to Mary and Joseph.  Luke begins with His conception by the Virgin Mary.  John begins where Genesis begins, “In the beginning.”

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“That’s Christmas”

young-boy-83171_640Chicago Tribune columnist Rex Huppke writes about how when he was a kid Christmas was hugely exciting, but that it has gotten even better now that he is older.

He writes about that, focusing on “a series of moments before, during and after Dec. 25 that make you stop and think: ‘That — that right there — is Christmas.'”

Read what he is referring to after the jump.

What are the moments that make YOU reflect, “that’s Christmas”? [Read more…]

Cancelling church on Christmas

Trinity_Lutheran_Church,_Friedheim,_Missouri_altar,_Dec_20,_2013Christmas falls on a Sunday this year.  So once again, many congregations are CANCELLING SERVICES!  That boggles my mind.  You should go to church on Christmas even when it doesn’t fall on a Sunday!  But when it does, why wouldn’t you go to church as you usually would?

OK, I understand about opening presents, making the Christmas dinner, and all that.  I understand someone missing church, though that’s not to condone it.  But what I cannot understand is a church that would not open its doors on Christmas day, that would not worship Christ on the commemoration of His birth.

I guess this practice is more common than I realized.  I’ve heard the reason given that Christmas is a family time, so we are going to be “worshipping” by spending time with our families.  But that’s just more secularizing of the holiday.  Maybe someone can explain it to me.

UPDATE:  Here is a defense of the practice, one that slams us critics.  Do you find it convincing?  I guess the big difference is one of theology.  The defense portrays worship as something we do–hard work that we sometimes need a break from–with little sense of what we receive when we worship or of Christ actually being present when we worship.

After the jump, Jonathan Aigner, gives 8 reasons NOT to cancel church services on Christmas.

Just as it’s important to keep Christ in Christmas, it’s important to keep “mass” in Christmas.  In fact, doing the latter is the best way to do the former.

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The Christmas wars throughout history

Christmas in the CrosshairsA new book by Gerry Bowler entitled Christmas in the Crosshairs:  Two Thousand Years of Denouncing and Defending the World’s Most Celebrated Holiday points out that the “Christmas wars”–the conflict between secular and religious observances of Christmas–have been going on throughout the history of Christianity.  The Bishop of Amasea complained in 400 A.D. about how Christmas presents make children greedy.  St. Augustine complained about the commercialization of Christmas.  And Christians have long complained about the conflict between the drunken revelry once Theassociated with the day and its true meaning.

Meanwhile opponents of Christianity have tried to either suppress or co-opt the birthday of Christ.  At one point in the Soviet Union, children had to be told that their presents came not from St. Nicholas but from Stalin.  And Nazi Germany sang a revised version of “Silent Night” that replaced Jesus with Hitler.

After the jump, an excerpt from a review of the book.

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And now, the commercialization of Advent

Adventkalender_AROne reason that many Christians are rediscovering Advent is that Christmas has become so commercialized.  Advent is a way to keep our concentration on what the Christmas season is supposed to be about, namely, the coming of Christ.  But now Advent is also becoming commercialized!

Alissa Wilkinson has written a good explanation of Advent for Vox.  She explains the history of the season and what it means.  She includes some interesting details that I had not realized.  (For example, that Lutherans invented the Advent Calendar.  By the way, Lutherans apparently also invented the Advent Wreath, according to another source that I stumbled upon, which says the wreath derives from the Scandinavian custom of hanging up a wagon wheel decorated with evergreens and candles.)

She then says that the theme of “anticipation”–specifically, anticipation for Christmas (rather than for Christ)–is for non-religious people too.  She focuses on the secularized versions of Advent calendars, which are built around candy or Santa Clausy things for children and product lines for adults.   [Read more…]