Following is a monthly pastoral letter of Pastor Rolf Preus to his congregations of Trinity Lutheran Church, Sidney, Montana and St. John’s Lutheran Church of Fairview, Montana, for December 2015.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
What can you do with Christmas? I suppose you could market it and make some money. Or, you could use it to schedule get-togethers with family and friends. Maybe you could use it to try out new recipes or to buy clothes you need for the winter. There are all sorts of things you can do with Christmas!
But maybe the idea of doing something with Christmas is what keeps us from understanding what Christmas is all about. After all, Christmas is not something you do. Christmas is something done to you, for you, and in you.
Consider Mary. What did she say in response to Gabriel’s announcement that she would be the mother of God? She said, “Let it be to me according to your word.” She didn’t do anything with Christmas. Christmas was given to her. God showed her his favor. God gave her a Baby. God dwelled inside of her and became her Child. We honor Mary, not for what Mary did, but for what Mary received.
That’s faith, brothers and sisters in Christ. Faith is receiving. It doesn’t do. It is done to. It doesn’t use this or that this way or that way. It doesn’t give. It gets. Christmas is all about faith. It is all about Jesus.
Oh, but we’re so busy! We have so much to do. We don’t have the time to get it done. Our business leaves no time to receive. Christmas becomes our work instead of God’s work. But the whole point of Christmas is that it is God’s doing! “With God nothing shall be impossible,” said Gabriel to Mary. Then the Virgin conceived and bore a son and called his name Immanuel, that is, God with us.
Immanuel is still Immanuel. The God who joined the human race within Mary’s womb remains with us. As the hymnist wrote:
God is man, man to deliver;
His dear Son now is one
With our blood forever!
Where is he? At the shopping center? At the game? On the road? At work? He’s everywhere! But how do we receive him? Where does our faith receive what he has to give? Where his holy word is proclaimed and his holy sacraments are administered! In church! That’s where we receive grace upon grace, gift after gift, and the Child of Christmas deigns to come to where we are and make his home with us. He who labored under the heavy burden of our sin comes to us to take our burden away and give us peace.
Don’t neglect the services of God’s house during this holy season. We keep Christ in Christmas, not by doing something with Christmas, but by having the Christ of Christmas give himself to us.
Happy Advent and Merry Christmas!