Archive for December, 2009

Commemoration of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist

The days after Christmas can be spent a number of ways.  One is recuperation.  This is a big item, esp. if you have been the host or cook for a gathering the day before.  These days can also be spent stocking up on Christmas items – wrapping paper, decorations, lights, etc. maybe even next year’s gifts (only 363 shopping days left you know!)  Many people use the day to take back a gift or two that they graciously received the day before in exchange for something they really wanted!

But the three days after Christmas on the church year calendar have a different focus.  December 26 is the day to commemorate St. Stephen, the first martyr.  (Remember, “Good King Wensleslas looked out on the feast of Stephen . . . ?)  December 28 is the day to remember the innocent baby boys of Bethlehem who were slaughtered by Herod’s wicked decree in his attempt to eliminate the newborn king – more on that next Sunday.  And in the middle of these two days, December 27 – today – is the feast day of St. John, beloved disciple of our Lord, evangelist, and writer of 5 books of the N.T. and Jesus’ best friend. (more…)

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Christmas Day, 2009

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is credited with reviving Christmas celebrations in America and around the world.  Les Standiford wrote a book on the back story of Dickens’ famous tale called “The Man who Invented Christmas” and he writes, “Dickens came to the rescue of a downtrodden holiday that a repressed Western world was fairly bursting to revive.”  Many believe that it was A Christmas Carol that saved Christmas from our early American Puritan founders who frowned on Christmas revelry, considered it a sin and even tried to ban its celebration. 

This year we had the opportunity to see A Christmas Carol at the Guthrie theater – a lavish, well-done production.  And as I watched it, I discovered a character I had not paid as much attention to before.  Fred. (more…)

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Christmas Eve, 2009

Is Christmas at your house big and loud?  Or small and quiet?  In the weeks before Christmas I had dreams of experiencing some quiet moments of calm reflection in front of the tree with a cup of hot chocolate and some Christmas music playing.  I’ve had good intentions of trying to create these moments for my wife and family.  But I find that Christmas is here and I’ve had more hustling, bustling, frenzied hurried moments than I probably needed to have or should have had.  I haven’t been very quiet and with everyone home and with places to go and things to do and work schedules to coordinate, our house hasn’t really been all that calm and quiet. (more…)

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Savior of the Nations

Led by the children and youth at Grace of God

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Let us go to Bethlehem . . . with David

Watch a video of the dramatic monologue here:


What the prophet Micah said about Bethlehem is a familiar Christmas prophecy about the birth of Christ. “You Bethlehem, though you are least among the clans of Judah, out of you shall come one who will be ruler over Israel.”   Bethlehem was one of those towns no one expected much from.   Jacob buried his beloved wife Rachel there out of necessity, not because it was a particularly beautiful or significant place.  Ruth went there with her mother-in-law out of desperation during a famine.  And God sent his servant, Samuel, to Bethlehem to anoint a king – much to everyone’s surprise. (more…)

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“Joy to the World”

Text: Psalm 98

“Joy to the World” is an all time favorite Christmas carol.  Or is it?  Is it really an Advent Carol?  Listen to some of the words in stanza one.   It mentions the Lord coming, the earth receiving him and hearts preparing for him.  Those are Advent themes, are they not?  In fact, the newest Lutheran hymnal has placed “Joy to the World” in the Advent section of hymns not the Christmas section as a way of encouraging its use during Advent. So it’s a good Advent Carol for the third Sunday of Advent – our “JOY” Sunday or it’s just an excuse to sing a Christmas carol a couple weeks early – take your pick.  Either way, we will sing it with gusto in just a few minutes. 

Interestingly enough, there was a time when the church didn’t think this hymn should be in ANY hymnal or even sung in worship – during Advent, at Christmas, or ANY time.  That one of our most beloved songs would be treated with suspicion and even contempt is hard to imagine. (more…)

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Let us go to Bethlehem . . . with Ruth

Click below for a video of the dramatic monologue:


When you think of romantic places where people fall in love you might think of Paris or Niagara Falls.  In Minnesota you might think of the North Shore – a popular destination for honeymooners.  No one would probably think of a little Palestinian village in the Middle East.  But it was in the little town of Bethlehem that two people fell in love and started a family – and not just any family – the family into which Christ was born. 

You may think I’m referring to Mary and Joseph.  Joseph brought his wife to this town soon after their betrothal and it was here they started their family.  But tonight we go further back into the salvation history where we find Ruth and her husband Boaz who found love in Bethlehem and became ancestors of the Messiah, Jesus.  (more…)

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In July of  2008 when Barack Obama was a candidate for president, he visited the city of Jerusalem and a very significant holy site for Jews — the Western Wall also known as the Wailing Wall.  This wall is all that remains of the temple in Jerusalem.  So faithful Jews gather there to mourn the loss of their temple and to offer prayers.  The tradition at the site is to write a prayer on a slip a piece of paper and stuff it in between the cracks of the stones on the wall.  Over a million little slips of paper prayers are collected from the site each year and buried at the Mount of Olives. 

President Obama offered a prayer there as well during his visit.  Obviously, this is supposed to be a very private and personal act, but a presidential candidate puts much of his privacy.  After Obama left his prayer, an Israeli seminary student went to the wall, found the prayer, photographed it and sold it a Jerusalem newspaper which printed it for the world to see.  So the content of the prayer is no longer a secret and unfortunately no longer just between President Obama and God.  (more…)

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Let Us Go to Bethlehem . . . with Jacob

Click here for the dramatic monologue:


The little town of Bethlehem.  The prophet Micah called it the least – the smallest of all the clans of Judah.  It was located just 6 miles south of the Jerusalem.  And in the shadow of the big city, this little sleepy village became the birthplace of the Savior.

Today Bethlehem is a Palestinian city in the West Bank with a population of about 30,000.  It is home to one of the oldest Christian communities in the world and a large Greek Orthodox Church – the Church of the Nativity.  In the lower levels of this church visitors find a small grotto with a silver star on the floor marking the place a poor Jewish mother gave birth to her firstborn son.  Thousands flock to Bethlehem each year to visit the place where Christ was born. (more…)

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