Tuesday, December 28, 2021

A Christian New Year's

"And at the end of eight days, when He was circumcised, He was called Jesus" (Luke 2:21).

A Christian celebration of New Year's would endeavor to include three things:

1. The ongoing celebration of Christmas (December 25-January 5)

2. The circumcision and naming of Jesus (Luke 2:21)

3. Prayer at the start of a new year

The following hymn, "Now Greet the Swiftly Changing Year," manages to incorporate all three things.

Now greet the swiftly changing year with joy and penitence sincere.
Rejoice!  Rejoice!  With thanks embrace another year of grace.

Remember now the Son of God and how He shed His infant blood.
Rejoice!  Rejoice!  With thanks embrace another year of grace.

This Jesus came to end sin's war; this Name of names for us He bore.
Rejoice!  Rejoice!  With thanks embrace another year of grace.

His love abundant far exceeds the volume of a whole year's needs.
Rejoice!  Rejoice!  With thanks embrace another year of grace.

With Him as Lord to lead our way in want and in prosperity,
What need we fear in earth or space in this new year of grace!

"All glory be to God on high, and peace on earth!" the angels cry.
Rejoice!  Rejoice!  With thanks embrace another year of grace.

God, Father, Son, and Spirit, hear!  To all our pleas incline Your ear;
Upon our lives rich blessing trace in this new year of grace.

(Lutheran Service Book, 896)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, begun in the name of Jesus who shed His blood for us!

Saturday, December 25, 2021

God in a Box

"...the baby lying in a manger" (Luke 2:16).

The manger is mentioned three times in the Christmas Gospel.  It must be significant.

manger, n.  A trough or open box in which fodder is placed for horses or cattle.

Have you ever heard the expression, "You can't put God in a box"?  Maybe you've even used it.  I think I know what it means.  It means you can't limit God.  You can't contain Him.  You can't put boundaries on Him.  You can't say, "He is exactly like this."  We can't possibly fit all of the infinite God into our finite human thoughts.

And I agree wholeheartedly.  You can't put God in a box.  I can't.  We can't.

But here's the Christmas thing: God can, and did.  For that is the meaning of Christmas and the significance of the manger: God putting Himself in a box and inviting us to look inside.

Christmas may be understood, and well understood, as God in a box.  As the Infinite now finite.  As the Uncontainable now contained.  And as the Incomprehensible now comprehensible to poor mortal sinners.

In the words of Luther's Christmas hymn: "Ah, Lord, though You created all, How weak You are, so poor and small, That You should choose to lay Your head Where lowly cattle lately fed!"

This Christmas look for God and find Him in Bethlehem's box.  Look for no other idea about God than this.  Look not up to heaven but down beneath you.  There He lies, so contained, and yet all of God.  All of His love.

And pray, "O Lord Jesus, be contained now within my heart.  Amen."

Monday, December 20, 2021

The First Trimester

"Mary remained with her about three months" (Luke 1:56).

It's called the Visitation: when Mary, pregnant with our Lord, visited the much older Elizabeth, pregnant with John the Baptist (about six months older than Christ).  And it looks like Mary spent roughly the first trimester of her pregnancy visiting Elizabeth: helping her, serving her, preparing for the birth of John.

If that is correct, then it was during the Visitation that the heart of our Lord took shape and began to beat.  The same heart that would stop beating on the cross.  During the Visitation that His face got its eyes, ears, nose, and mouth.  The same mouth that would say, "Take heart, child, your sins are forgiven" (Matt. 9:2).

We think much about the birth of our dear Lord.  And well we should!  But let us think some more about His nine months in the womb of the blessed virgin Mary.

Mary visited Elizabeth with Christ inside of her.  Holy Communion means that Christ is inside of you and that you may go and serve your spouse, children, neighbor, and especially the one in need this Christmas time.

Holy Baptism puts us inside of Christ.  Holy Communion puts Christ inside of us.  And all that is left is to love.