Devotional Thought of the Day:
17 The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, He will sing joyfully because of you, 18 as one sings at festivals. I will remove disaster from among you, so that none may recount your disgrace. 19 Yes, at that time I will deal with all who oppress you; I will save the lame, and assemble the outcasts; I will give them praise and renown in all the earth, when I bring about their restoration. 20 At that time I will bring you home, and at that time I will gather you; For I will give you renown and praise, among all the peoples of the earth, When I bring about your restoration before your very eyes, says the LORD. Zephaniah 3:17-20 (NAB)
“Would it be a bad thing for the church to move the celebration of Christ’s birth to the spring. The tradition of Christmas and Christ’s birth could be seperate. Just a thought.” ( my friend Mark B. )
“When I hear the phrase Merry Christmas I think of decorated trees, presents and good food. Christ’s birth is the last thing that comes to mind.” ( also from Mark B )
A few days ago, one of my friends responded to one of my wild ideas about a sermon concept, as you see above. My basic idea, well – you can read the sermon, I posted it a little while ago. ( Or listen to it on Itunes at Concordia Radio)
Mark has a very valid point. We’ve allowed Christmas and its traditions to be redefined. To the point where celebrating Christmas is a completely separate idea from celebrating God’s invasion into our lives, as the baby laid in a manger, who would die on the cross.
I’ve seen this in the lament of some, as churches cancel midnight services/masses, once “the” service that all went to on Christmas Eve. You see it in the multitude of Meme’s talking about keeping Christ in Christmas, and how to do so. You see it in the willingness of people to beleive “modern” scholarship which will claim Jesus’ birth happened at some other point in the year, but the one day it couldn’t have happened was 12/25.
I think many would go along with Mark’s thought, out of frustration, out of a sense of hopelessness. Let’s just start all over again! Let’s just celebrate Christ-birth at some other point that on Christ-mas Day.
I asked Mark if I could share this, and what his vocation is. He saw the connection, and agreed.
So here it goes.
Mark is in the furniture restoration business, so I am going to suggest we use some of his techniques in restoring Christmas, and then re-use the same concepts in restoring our congregations, our parishes, His Church.
The first thing to know is that you don’t restore something based on your vision. You didn’t create it, and as you begin to carefully work at it, the vision that has been muddled, covered over, damaged will be restored!
In restoring something, you have to be aware that it survived because it had value. Maybe it is pragmatic, maybe it is artistic, maybe it is both. If it was simply sentimental, it wouldn’t have survived and taken all the abuse, neglect and paint that it has. (Example – having everyone over to feast…. there is something about gathering together to celebrate Christ’s birth hidden under all of it!) Sure, it’s often about gluttony and to see which part of the family has bragging rights now… but once… it was to celebrate God’s faithfulness!
Because the value and vision are often so muddled, so hidden, so broken, we may not perceive it accurately. That’s okay, be willing to adapt to what is revealed. After all, no Christian at baptism knows everything… we grow and mature. So will the revelations as you see more and more what you do points to Jesus.
You also have to realize that what you thought was the valuable part, may be that which obscurs the most, and the part you originally were doing to toss aside.. is a critical component.
in order to have the patience, the ability to make this happen, you have to learn to love what you are restoring. It’s the only way you will take the years and maybe a decade it take to see the job towards completion. There will be interruptions, distractions, days of frustration, that’s okay.There might even be people who question, you wisdom, your integrity, your sanity – they do this to me all the time!
The goal is worth it – a beautiful restoration that is a double piece of work of art…..that of the Creator, and that where the Creator’s vision was once again visible to mankind… and the hopelessness became hope.
I said in the beginning that this works with churches and parishes as well with the simple idea of making Christmas about Christ’s coming to us. The Mission and concepts are the same, and the goal is the same. To preach Christ crucified, whom is our hope of Glory. It’s what we do here at my church, when Christmas Day was first 10-12 people, now is 50, (Our Christmas Eve services have also grown) where once it was a bother, now people are excited to come. It can happen
It is what God promised, look above at the scripture, dive deeply into those promises… and rejoice… for God is restoring you… that started that very first Christmas morning.
He is with us. Immanuel.
Focus on that…. and all comes into place.
For no one does restoration work like God our Father!
(and if you need restoration work done on furniture – go talk to Mark at http://www.bausmanandfather.com/ or