Christ Lutheran Church Stover, MO
Christ Lutheran Church
Thursday, December 14, 2017
Loving GOD Through Worship and Service
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Pastor Tuura

  

The Spirit of Christmas in the Darkness of Winter

 

 

By Rev. Tom Tuura

Pastor of Christ Lutheran Church


The darkness of winter has descended upon the nation as usual.  However with the news and circumstances of our world, there's little to cheer about, in spite of the world serving up the best it can offer--materialism.  As an adult, I've been thankful for the Sunday School Christmas programs.  In spite of the best that the world has to offer, it is the children's program that brings me into the spirit of Christmas.  As a child, I looked forward to the Christmas specials on TV.  There was Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer with the Burl Ives snow man as narrator and Charlie Brown and Linus reminding us of the real reason of Christmas.

The Christmas program wasn't always my favorite.  In my childhood, the excitement of Christmas, was offset with the anxiety of the program, and the Saturday and Sunday morning rehearsals.   The rehearsals were tough enough, but they included strips of paper with the long verses typed on them called “pieces” (or parts).  Every kid was hoping for the shorter ones.  It was expected that we'd memorize them.   And then recite them the night of the program when it was our turn in front of a packed church.

The years have passed and another winter is nigh upon us. Where has the spirit of Christmas gone?  I suppose I am at least in part talking about sentimentality, which isn't all bad, unless that is all that there is.  Just today I heard the screams of sirens out my window of emergency vehicles, which I later learned was police chasing a bank robbery suspect.  Our national and world news isn't much better.  We have a dictator bent on launching a nuclear missile at the U.S. and our allies.  We have new scandalous revelations every day.  Here, our furnaces are out, our P.A. system was down, and we are rushing around to get everything done.  Like every other winter, darkness has descended.

I wrote about this back in the 2014 December Focus, “Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 1807-82 wrote, perhaps my favorite Christmas Carol, I heard the bells on Christmas Day.  In the song the poet observes the belfries of all Christendom “had rolled along the unbroken song of Peace on Earth, good will to men.  But then laments, “And in despair I bowed my head: 'There is no peace on earth I said, for hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.'

Longfellow lamented over a century ago that same winter darkness.  Except he was dealing with the Civil War and his own son's serious wounds.  There is no worldy expectation of “Christmas spirit” in the darkness of winter sentimental or otherwise.

The article continues, “Like the poet, do we need to despair, for hanging our heads?  What exactly is this peace on earth that the Bible speaks?  Is there peace to be found?  The answer is a resounding “Yes!”  The answer is found in the Advent message of the coming of the infant King. It is found in the waiting, the expectation, the preparation of the Child.  It is found in His creation that eagerly awaits the revealing of the sons of God (Rom 8:19).

It is not materialism, nor sentimentality but the sacred that lifts that darkness.  We need not entertainment, but the sacred carols and hymns of the church.  We need not merriment, but bold Advent preaching of themes of John the Baptist, the geographic reality of Bethlehem, angelic warriors in the heavens declaring peace to the earth, and last but not least, we need the shepherds.

What excites us now?  Sometimes not much.   Some of us out-grew Rudolph and Burl long ago.   The Sears catalog has been replaced by Amazon.com and we are still empty.  There is something; its the nativity, and children singing the sacred carols in the front of the church for an evening gathering of the congregation, moms and dads grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles, all listening and also remembering the refrain,

And in despair I bowed my head; “There is no peace on earth,” I said;

“For hate is strong, And mocks the song Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

 

The powerful message of the newborn babe in a manger sung by children, has come up against fierce darkness of every winter season, including the likes of the civil war.  And every time it has come up victorious.  This winter will be no different.  Be sure to relax into the strong arms of the now grown, risen and ascended, victorious Christ.  And let the bells ring loud and deep!

 

"That's My View From The Blackberry Patch Pulpit" 

-Pastor Tom Tuura