I went to the LCMS church’s 5:00 Christmas Eve service. It was a full house! Here are some quick items.
A. The youth pastor talked about how Christmas trees used to have apples rather than ornaments hanging on them. One reason was that the apples recalled original sin: the forbidden fruit that Adam and Eve ate in the Garden of Eden. Another reason is that the core of an apple looks like a star, and that recalls the star of Bethlehem.
The youth pastor also talked about how we give gifts to each other on Christmas. Similarly, the pastor said, that is what Jesus has done for us. Jesus left his home in heaven to be born in a stable, and he laid down his life for us.
I grew up not observing Christmas, and something I heard people say was, “Why do people give gifts to each other on Christmas? The wise men gave gifts to Jesus, not to each other.” But giving gifts to others can remind us of the importance of giving, which Jesus exemplifies.
B. Some points that the pastor made in his sermon:
—-The pastor opened with a story about when he was a vicar and, every Sunday, the pastor’s wife, who was also the church organist, would greet him by saying, “Vicar, this is the day that the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it!” After months of this, he wondered if it was real. This lady rejoiced in the Lord, even though she had her share of problems. One of her sons was a pastor, but another of her sons was in jail for manslaughter. One of her daughters had been married for decades, but another daughter had gone through multiple divorces and herself had a daughter who had made bad decisions.
—-The pastor talked about the light, since we were going to light candles to shine in the darkness. The pastor exhorted us not just to see this ritual as a sweet reminder of past Christmas eves but to reflect on how God has conquered the darkness, and that gives us hope, which helps us to be light in the darkness.
—-The pastor talked about how we like to be in charge and have our own version of God. But that comes crashing against reality. God’s wrath in the Minor Prophets is real. People flee from a lion and meet a bear (Amos 5:19).
—-The pastor’s main text was Zephaniah 3:14-17, which exhorts Zion not to give up. God has cleared away her enemies, is a mighty one who will save, and rejoices over her with gladness. The name “Jesus” relates to salvation, and Jesus fights for us, against our sin and selfishness.
On these notes, let me say that I respect people who continue to go to church, even though life is extremely rough. I know people who are having trials at this church, and at a previous church that I attended when I lived in another state. Yet, they remain faithful.