THE TRUE JOY OF CHRISTMAS
The real intrusion of this world into the spirit of Christmas is not so much the commercialism of Christmas, but the fantasizing of it. Commercialism isn’t really so bad, when one considers the fact that it occasionally brings the piping in of “God and sinners reconciled” at department stores and malls. But a spirit of fantasizing is the real culprit, the devil’s greater tool in causing the meaning of Christmas to be put away from the hearts and minds of an unsuspecting public.
Christmas has come to be about magic, elves, fairies, and a jolly plump man in a red suit. And if not that, the real deception comes when we hear of the famous changes of heart that came over some of our favorite Christmas characters: Ebenezer Scrooge, the Grinch, and even George Bailey.
Of course we love those stories, and their messages are not lost on us either. They can be pretty good messages, too: Scrooge and the Grinch learn of the importance of giving, and George Bailey learns to rejoice in the wonderful life he has been given.
But for all their sentimental and moral value, these stories are not really about Christmas, and they do not convey its true joy.
That joy was announced by the angel to the
Bethlehem shepherds: “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people;
for unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior which is Christ the
So it’s fitting that the Church should celebrate Christmas a little differently than the world does, though we are of course free to join in the world’s celebrations too, provided they do not impinge on or compromise our faith’s celebration. We note that the world’s Christmas season does not exactly interlock with the Church’s Christmastide, something that can serve to remind us of the difference. For the Church, Christmas begins on Christmas Eve, and runs through the twelve days of Christmas up to Epiphany, January 6th. And then there’s Epiphanytide, another extension.
And chief among the differences is this, that for us Christmas has to do with a very real historical event: the birth of our Lord. Jesus is no fantasy. If he were, then so would our salvation be. But since he is real, the Incarnate God among us, then our salvation is secure in him.
And our true joy far outweighs any moral message. Mr. Scrooge is representative of a kind of personal redemption gained by a change of attitude; but that message will save no one. True redemption is a gift, purchased by our Incarnate Redeemer’s sacrifice, and sealed by his resurrection. This is no fantasy; and since it is not, our joy is entirely genuine.
+ Pastor Eckardt
There once was a limerick writer
Who married a girl to delight her
And she bore him six sons
Who grew up all at once
With a story to tell, a good-nighter.
Soon Burnell drives to school in his Chevy
While Amanda is with baby Bevy
He’ll be training to lead
At a Wal-Mart in need;
Where he’s hired as a de-partment heavy.
there are four: Oregon
Andy, Kristy, and two children more:
Sarah’s six-fest will find
David two years behind,
Spreading laughter and giggles galore.
Then there’s Peter who’s at semin-ary.
Like his father before him? Yes, very.
At the very same place
Learning of the same grace
Of the Lord Jesus Christ born of Mary.
Then there’s John, with Alissa, at Whiteman—
he works for Stealth Fightmen— Missouri
Oops, I gave it away!
It’s a secret, ok?;
Well, not really, but really all right, man.
Worker Joe is now into construction
Making diagrams for the production
Of farm buildings, we’re told
And although it’s not gold,
It’s a pretty good bang for the buck, son.
On the jazz trumpet Michael plays well,
And at Eastern they do think he’s swell,
In his junior year now,
He expects to learn how
All the talent he offers will sell.
And they all will be coming for Christmas,
Turning this empty house to an isthmus,
Where the kids run and play
On our festival day
As the fam’ly rejoices in blissness.
For you’ve all heard the angelic chorus,
Praising Christ who was humbly born for us,
To redeem us from sin
And make room in the inn
(In the church, and in heaven, all glorious).
Oh rejoice with this limerick writer!
For what binds us together the tighter
Is that we can rejoice
Upon hearing the voice:
Christ is born! For no light could be brighter!
God rest ye merry, this Christmas 2013 and always – the Eckardt family
In Our Prayers
In addition to our shut-ins, our current list of prayer intentions at mass includes the names on the lists here following. Anyone wishing to update the lest by addition or subtraction, please inform the pastor.
Sick or infirm:
in our parish:
Sara Bidni, Emilie Ricknell, Linda Rowe, Sharon Hartz, John Sovanski, Jean Russell
And all of our shut-ins.
David Dakin [re Harris]
Anna Rutowicz [re Harris]
Julie Ross [Svetlana Meaker’s daughter, cancer]
Caleb Cleaver [Ricknell]
Christian Johnson [re Kemerlings]
Madison Lindsay [re
Rev. Don Chambers [Manito]
Rev. Brian Feicho [
E. St. Louis]
Stacie Liese [wife of Rev.
Michelle Steuber [re Fischer]
Marilyn Johnson [relative of the Kemerlings]
Jill Matchett [re Shreck]
Michele Dador [friend of Kemerlings]
Rick Nelson [Ricknells’ son-in-law]
Christopher Krueger [re Fishers]
Anthony Strand [re Murphys]
In the military:
Donny Appleman [re Ricknell]
Thomas Kim [re Shreck]
Jaclyn Harden Alvarez
and Richard Heiden [re Eckardt]
any unborn children in danger of abortion
Those suffering persecution in Egypt, Nigeria, Eritrea, Guinea, Khazakstan, Pakistan, Iran, Syria, China, the Philippines, Laos, Vietnam, North Korea, the Central African Republic, Bangladesh, and elsewhere.
Here are some details:
As rebel groups and soldiers ravage the country of Central African Republic (CAR), the international community fears the possibility of religious genocide. The rebels, known as "Seleka" (meaning "Alliance"), have been pillaging villages, raping women, conscripting children as soldiers, and brutally murdering innocent victims in recent months. Sources estimate that approximately 10 percent of the population has been displaced. Approximately half of the population of CAR is Christian, a quarter is Muslim, and the remaining has indigenous beliefs. While Muslims and Christians have largely lived at peace together, the ongoing attacks from the Seleka rebels threaten to unravel the country's unity. Armed Christian groups have formed to defend themselves; however, some have launched counterattacks on Muslim communities. As the violence continues, both Christians and Muslims are becoming increasingly hostile towards one another and the fighting is taking on a more religious tone. A concerned church leader stated, "The Christians feel betrayed by the Muslims and are starting to feel vengeance in their hearts.... This is a very big challenge for the church."
Just months after the construction of a church building had been ordered to cease, a "committee" was formed to stop all Christian activity in Bilbathuagani village, Tangail. The committee is made up of political leaders, Muslim elders, and an elected local government official. The church construction initially began in early September by approximately 25 believers who had been meeting secretly for three years. Five days after the construction had commenced, the local council chairman and approximately 200 Muslims went to the site and ordered the building project to stop. The following day, after announcements were made in the area mosques, more than 1,000 Muslims gathered outside the chairman's office to protest the church. A committee was then formed to stop the believers from "misguiding" Muslims.
Since the church construction was halted, several of the Christians in the community have returned to Islam.
Approximately 40 people were tragically murdered in the early hours of November 26th when assailants launched attacks on four Christian-majority villages in
1/1 Chris Erickson
1/4 Lucille Kemerling
1/13 James Hornback
Steve Peart, Grant Andresen, Larry Campbell
Mary Hamilton at home; Ann Baker at home. Mirilda Greiert at Kewanee Care; Emmy Wear at
January Anniversaries None
Annual Voters’ Meeting
Our Annual Voters’ Meeting is scheduled for Sunday, January 5th, at 10:30 a.m. (in the time slot normally reserved for Bible Class).
The offering envelopes should be delivered to the mailboxes by January 1.
Altar Guild Notes
Altar color is white for the entire month of January. Epiphany Day mass will be held on Monday, January 6th, at 9 a.m. (followed by a Day of Theological Reflection).
At our December meeting, we discussed the greater difficulty of changing the superfrontal colors over the new frontal, and discussed the possibility that it may be easier to do so if the following steps are taken:
1) the frontal is carefully positioned before the superfrontal is placed
2) the superfrontal is placed on top with the colored part folded back over the top, to enable easier positioning
3) the colored part is placed in position
Hopefully the changing will become easier as we get more accustomed to the new frontal.
Our next meeting is Tuesday, January 7th.
First Tuesday meetings and Vespers
Tuesday, January 7th, our First Tuesday meetings are scheduled, beginning with Altar Guild at 6 pm, Vespers at 6:45, and Elders at 7:15. Anyone is welcome to join us for vespers.
Alms for the Needy
Please remember those less fortunate during this season. The alms box is in the back of the church, and the offerings will be distributed during the holidays.
Epiphany Vespers on Sunday Night, January 5th; Epiphany Mass and Retreat the Next Day
Our annual winter Vespers is scheduled for Sunday night, January 5th, 2013, at 7 pm. This is the Eve of Epiphany.
It will be followed by our traditional wine-and-cheese reception, another annual tradition. Then on Monday January 6th, we’ll have a Day of Theological Reflection, beginning with Epiphany Mass at 9:00 a.m. This will be our fifteenth retreat in the Theological Reflection series, and is entitled,
st. luke’s subtle confessions of Jesus’ divinity
This retreat will focus on several passages in the Gospel according to St. Luke that subtly show the divinity of Jesus. While the overt references to Jesus in this Gospel are hard to miss, the subtle ones provide further insight into this evangelist’s keen awareness of who Jesus is.
New Paraments to Arrive Soon
The Altar Guild is anticipating the final changes to our altar paraments, the arrival of new superfrontals, in violet, green, and red, to match the style of the white superfrontal we already own. The anticipated date of arrival is mid-January. The three sets are dedicated to 1) the memory of Roy and Helen Hepner, 2) the memory of Lillian Freeburg, and 3) the service of our retired organist Jean Russell.
The Lighter Side
The three stages of life:
1) You believe in Santa Claus
2) You don't believe in Santa Claus
3) You are Santa Claus
1) You believe in Santa Claus
2) You don't believe in Santa Claus
3) You are Santa Claus
The New Testament in His Blood
This series contains brief liturgical explanations which appear in Pastor Eckardt’s book The New Testament in His Blood (Gottesdienst, 2010).
Elevation and Adoration
The placement of the elevation immediately after the consecration of the Host seems to have begun at the close of the twelfth century in Paris, where the bishop directed it, probably in response to the offensive and curious view of some at the university there, who held that bread only became the Body of Christ after the words of consecration had been spoken over both the bread and the wine. Since this view aroused considerable opposition, the elevation of the Host arose immediately after its consecration, as a kind of protest, a confession that it was the word of Christ which made it immediately so. By the end of the thirteenth century it was ordered throughout the Continent and
that one of the great bells of the church should be tolled at the moment of the
Elevation, in order that even those at work in the fields might kneel down and
adore at the same time as the assembled congregation is doing so.
The elevation of the Elements after their consecration is meant to be a wordless confession of what they are: the true Body and Blood of Christ. Here we raise our eyes to look upon and adore the elements, quite simply because we know them to be what Christ has declared them to be, which is a most salutary thing to remember before receiving the Sacrament. One does not elevate symbols or mere tokens of Christ, nor should we kneel before mere ordinary things such as bread and wine. But here is no ordinary bread and wine! According to Jesus’ own words, this bread is His body, and this wine is His blood.
Although, to be sure, the Lutheran Church has always considered the practice of elevating the consecrated elements an optional thing, there is also the matter of the adiaphoristic controversy of the sixteenth century, in which the fathers declared, “when a plain and steadfast confession is required of us, we should not yield to the enemies in regard to such adiaphora” (Formula of Condord, Epitome X:6). So although we would not wish to condemn those who do not elevate the elements, we also ought to regard the current state of affairs in the churches, where even in our own circles there have been found those who deny that the Sacrament is Christ Himself, and others who say that the Sacrament does not become the body of Christ until it is consumed—an odd interpretation of is if ever there was one!—and so also deny that the consecrated elements are truly Christ’s body before they are consumed.
Hence it becomes even more appropriate and fitting to elevate the elements and adore them with the eyes, and so declare that we know them to be what Christ says they are; for surely we cannot think it wrong to adore Christ’s Body, which is Christ Himself. To be sure, His purpose is not to present His Body here for adoration but for reception, but is it not fitting to emphasize in our ceremony the truth that it is His Body that we are about to receive? Do we not agree that His true Body is where He says that it is? These ceremonies, then, are no mere smoke and fire, but most appropriate settings for the Mystery that is Christ among us, and for us. “No one, unless he be an Arian heretic, can and will deny that Christ Himself, true God and man, who is truly and essentially present in the Supper, should be adored in spirit and in truth in the true use of the same, as also in all other places, especially where His congregation is assembled” (Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration VII.126).