WAS Christmas ruined?
Consider the question, if you will, from a liturgical perspective. Almost immediately after Christmas comes the Feast of the Holy Innocents, containing the Gospel that recounts the horrid events that befell the citizens of Bethlehem so soon after Jesus was born. Herod the madman wanted to destroy the Christ-Child he deemed a threat to his own throne, so he plotted to find out from the wise men where Christ was, and when the plot was foiled because an angel warned them not to return to him but go home another way, he sent forth in his rage his men of war to kill every male infant in Bethlehem and its region. The result was the murder of the holy innocents. And the sanctoral calendar puts this Feast on the 28th of December, which is also the 4th day of Christmas.
Such a bad intrusion! While we are in the midst of rejoicing over the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, and his holy nativity, we find this grisly, ghastly event to observe.
Not only, it turns out, on our liturgical calendar, but also in reality, for it couldn’t have been too long after Christ’s birth that the wise men came or the order to murder went forth. Our evidence for this comes from St. Matthew’s Gospel. We learn there that Herod ordered the murder of every male child “from two years old and under,” which, in a Hebrew manner of counting, means “every child in his second year and under,” that is, to cover the population up to every one-year-old male. Second, the fact that Mary and Joseph were still living in Bethlehem rather than returning to Nazareth at least suggests that the Child was quite young. In short, the very first Christmas, that is, the actual birth of Jesus himself, was soon interrupted by the pall of horror and bloodshed. Joseph had to take his young family and flee by night into Egypt to escape the unimaginably bitter grief of the mothers whose infantst were martyred.
Was Christmas ruined?
Of course not. The point of this recollection of the brutality and bloodshed is to show that the birth of the Savior is a cure for every trouble, even for death itself. Into the midst of a world of sorrow, grief, pain, and all trouble, the Savior has come, to promise his eternal relief to all his faithful people.
Be of good cheer. Christmas was not ruined then, and is not ruined today, no matter the circumstances that may intrude and, with the devil’s help, seek to destroy. As one great carol puts it: Let hell and Satan rage and chafe: Christ is your Brother. Ye are safe!
+ Pastor Eckardt
For the Eckardt family greeting,
Epiphany Retreat, Mass, and Reception January 5th
For the second time, our annual winter Epiphany retreat is to be scheduled all on one day, the eve of Epiphany. This should accommodate people who come from a distance. The day of reflection is planned for Thursday, January 5th. At the close of the seminar we will be observing Epiphany. Here is the schedule:
1:00 p.m. Opening mid-day prayer service
1:30 p.m. Seminar (day of reflection):
The sixteenth retreat in the Theological Reflection series is entitled,
“THE FRIEND AT MIDNIGHT”
At this retreat, we will examine St. Luke 11, particularly Jesus’ liturgical instruction to pray and the parable of the friend at midnight. Jesus’ command, “When you pray, say Our Father,” etc., is followed immediately by the parable, which has rich sacramental overtones. Curiously, “This do” is omitted in the Lucan account of the Verba (22:19-20), quite possibly because, following the parable of the friend, Jesus had already instructed his disciples to ask, seek, and knock (11:9).
4:00 p.m. break for dinner
7:00 p.m. Epiphany Mass
7:45 p.m. Wine and Cheese reception
Mark your calendar!
1/1 Chris Erickson
1/4 Lucille Kemerling
1/13 James Hornback
Steve Peart, Grant Andresen, Larry Campbell (unless Larry is scheduled to sub-deacon, in which case Steve Harris is on the schedule)
Mary Hamilton at home; Emilie Ricknell at home; Emmy Wear at Williamsfield Retirement Center
January Anniversaries None
Annual Voters’ Meeting
Our Annual Voters’ Meeting is scheduled for Sunday, January 8rd, at 10:00 a.m. (in the time slot normally reserved for Bible Class).
The offering envelopes have been in your mailboxes for several days.
Altar Guild Notes
Altar color is white throughout the month. No mass on Wednesday, January 18th.
First Tuesday meetings
Our First Tuesday meetings will be held January 3rd, beginning with Altar Guild at 6 pm, Vespers at 6:45, and Elders at 7:15. Anyone is welcome to join us for vespers.
Pastor Presenting Sectional Paper at Symposium
I have been selected to present again at the Concordia Theological Seminary symposium during the third week in January on the topic “The Friend at Midnight,” which is the same topic that is to be discussed at the Epiphany seminar advertised nearby - Pastor
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.
Our current list of prayer intentions at mass includes the names on the lists here following. Anyone wishing to update the list by addition or subtraction, please inform the pastor.
in our parish:
Anna Rutowicz [granddaughter of Harrises]
Jodi Rutowicz [daughter of Harrises]
Julie Ross [Svetlana Meaker’s daughter]
Jill Matchett [at request of Diana Shreck]
Annie Eastman [at request of Svetlana Meaker]
Nancy Popejoy [relative of Sharon Hartz]
Dave Colgron [friend of Tom Wells]
Shannon Watson [Jim’s daughter]
Noah Muske [relative of Kraklows]
Jonna Dougherty [friend of Chris Erickson, stroke]
Steve Draminski [friend of Jim Watson]
Kathy Nussear [Joyce Long’s daughter, cancer]
Ray Zarvell [friend of Steve Harris and Fr Eckardt]
Theresa Lewis [niece of Carol Eckardt]
Bud Harfst [Sue Murphy’s brother]
Matt Martain [Ricknells’ grandson, cancer]
Tina Thompson [relative of the Thompsons]
And those we name in our hearts.
in the milistary
Donny Appleman [at request of the Ricknells]
Thomas Kim [at request of the Shrecks]
Michael Creech [at request of the Murphys]
Katherine Creech [at request of the Murphys]
Richard Heiden [at request of the Eckardts]
Carter Wills [grandson of the Thompsons]
Luke Van Landigan [grandson of Dick Melchin]
Jaclyn Alvarez [daughter of Kris Harden]
especially any unborn children in danger of abortion
those suffering from unrest, persecution, and imprisonment in Algeria, Libya, Sudan, Germany, North Korea, and elsewhere.
and our own church
Persecution details (from CP World, Release International, China Aid) at www.persecution.net (8 December):
ALGERIA: In January 2008, an intense media campaign against the church began as newspapers carried articles expressing concern about the growth of Christianity. Intense persecution followed -- house churches were closed by authorities, several believers were arrested and some were formally charged with insulting Islam. The government has not allowed any new church buildings to be built, and all newer churches that exist in Algeria today are house churches. Persecution continues to intensify with ongoing pressure from Islamists who are demanding the implementation of Sharia law, but reports of Muslims coming to faith in Jesus Christ have also been increasing.
LIBYA: A major challenge for Libya has been migrants passing through Libya from sub-Saharan Africa, most heading for Europe. The Christian community is small but growing, though the majority are foreign workers. There are, at present, no laws officially restricting religious freedom, but Islamic law continues to dominate. The presence of ISIS militants is a significant concern. In April 2015, a video was released of Christian migrant workers being beheaded and shot by militants.
SUDAN: In Sudan, Christians face poverty, war and genocide. Arab-Sudanese are trying to eradicate black Sudanese in the Nuba Mountains, where Christian villages face daily bombings by the Sudanese military. The government is trying to eliminate all Christian villages, churches, hospitals and schools in an effort to Islamize the country. Although the constitution guarantees religious freedom, Islam remains the de facto state religion, and apostasy is punishable by death under the government's Shariah law. Muslims are given preferential treatment, and non-Islamic proselytism is prohibited. It is difficult for Christians to obtain permission to build churches. Converts face social pressure and harassment from security services. They typically do not stay in Sudan.
Council Meeting Moved
A January council meeting is moved from the third Wednesday to the fourth Wednesday. Sometimes the council does not meet in January because of the annual voters’ assembly, but this month is more important in view of the fact that the December meeting was cancelled.
No Wednesday mass on January 4; moved to Thursday
Because of our Epiphany retreat on Thursday, January 5th, the midweek mass is moved this week from Wednesday to Thursday the 5th, which is the Eve of Epiphany. We will observe Epiphany that day.
Baptism of our Lord
The Baptism of our Lord is January 13th. This year we will observe it the day before, on January 12th, at the 7 pm time set for our regular Wednesday mass.
St. Paul’s Feast of Title January 25th
On Wednesday, January 25th, we will celebrate the Conversion of St. Paul. Since this congregation is named for this saint, the day is for us a “Feast of Title,” a First Class Feast. At 7 p.m., our usual Wednesday time.
Pastor Speaking in Alabama
I have been asked to speak at a “free conference” for pastors at a church near Birmingham, Alabama, late in January. My itinerary has me flying out on Sunday afternoon, January 22nd, and returning Wednesday afternoon, the 25th. - Pastor