Devotional article for The Greybull Standard
and The Republican Rustler
Do we know it's Christmas?
This is Christmas. Clearly enough it is. The advertisements - that unofficial calendar controlling so much of our life and how we feel about it- is on full Christmas mode, and has been for a while. Sometimes they use the term "holidays" rather than "Christmas", but that really does not make much difference. To most people, "Christmas" and "holidays" mean exactly the same: an enjoyable peaceful atmosphere - although often sought somewhat frantically - and the pleasant visit from the kindly ghost of Christmas past, gently dressed up as "the good old days" when everything was so much better than it is now.
To most people this is Christmas. So it is only natural that some will use the greeting "happy holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas". And to be all up in arms about it will only make Christians seem petty - perhaps even almost as petty as those who can somehow make any and all references to the "holidays" as "Christmas" into something offensive - even though it should be obvious to all that the word "Christmas" in common usage has no real religious significance whatsoever.
Although most of her Christians are every bit as involved as everybody else in the frantic search for the perfect present, and for the peaceful atmosphere, the Church of Christ has more important things to concern herself with than whether this frantic search should be referred to as "Christmas" or as "the holidays".
That is also part of the reason why this is not yet Christmas in Church: because to the Church of Christ Christmas is something else. To her, Christmas is the celebration of the coming of her Saviour, and of His salvation.
And in Church these days are referred to neither as "Christmas", nor as "the hollidays"; this season is "Advent", of the Latin Adventus Domini, "the coming of the Lord".
This is a time in which we prepare to celebrate that our Saviour has come to us with His salvation. And the way the Church prepares to celebrate this corresponds to the way God Himself prepared His people for His coming, when He sent John the Baptist to call the people to repentance.
For the Church of Christ, repentance means first and foremost to acknowledge our sin: how severely we fall short of what we owe to God. And this is how we are led to acknowledge and appreciate just how wonderful it is that our Saviour has in fact come to us, when we realise where we would be without Him, and what a tremendously great love it is that He would do this for sinners such as myself.
We are sinners; and that means that we are ungodly at heart. This is what the way we live reveals: we do not love God as we owe it to Him to love Him.
And we really deserve to be where we would be without Him, bound for eternal death and damnation. For it really is evil of us not to love God for His goodness, as we owe it to Him.
And the goodness of God really is greater than all. His Son came to us for our salvation, out of His love for those who despise His love; even more than that, He came to have Himself baptised into our sin and take our evil and ungodliness upon Himself and bear it for us, and suffer for us the dreadful judgement of God against all evil, including the evil we have done to Him, and still do.
This is Christmas: our salvation, and the tremendous goodness of God. It is wonderful because of what it is. And it is wonderful also because we need it so badly.
And as wonderful as Christmas is, it is well worth celebrating for what it is; and as such it is also worth preparing for. And that is why it is not quite Christmas yet.
Pastor Jais H. Tinglund
Grace Lutheran Church, Greybull/Zion Lutheran Church, Emblem