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Christmas 2021

Merry Christmas! The people of Parkview hope you are having a merry Christmas and are preparing for a Happy New Year.

On Christmas Eve we met for a wonderful worship service at dusk, ending with "Silent Night, Holy Night" as you'll see in this video:

We heard and Pastor Adam reflected on several of the most beloved Scripture readings for Christmas.

Isaiah 9:2-7

It’s often best not to read some of the Old Testament right before bed. You all know what I’m getting at after hearing the first half of this reading from the prophet Isaiah.

Over the thousands of years we are led through while reading the Old Testament scriptures, we enter into a world of powerful empires and bloody battles.

Family dysfunction and domestic violence.

Palace intrigue and tyrannical rulers.

In the world world leading up to Isaiah chapter 9, the darkness of violence, betrayal, hostility, and fear was widespread, the first half of this reading makes that abundantly clear.

However, all throughout the Old Testament we also come across words of hope that shine in the darkness, such as the second half of this beautiful passage from the prophet Isaiah. Here, under the shadow of death and the shadow of darkness, uncertainty and fear, the prophet Isaiah delivers a word from God. Here, Isaiah proclaims that God is about to do something new. Here Isaiah proclaims that there is light and life.

The prophet’s word reveals that the new thing God will do is going to be embodied in a person. And not just any person, but a person who will be the embodiment of God’s own zeal.

Throughout the centuries and generations, the people of God have been drawn to this passage. For the sort of light that is revealed and the sort of king that is announced fulfills all of humanity’s deepest longings.

What makes this passage so central to our faith today, therefore, is Isaiah’s careful use of the future tense as he writes verse 7. This ancient prophetic word of hope in the midst of darkness is an invitation to look forward into a different world--a world that is still unfolding through the embodiment of God’s love, grace, and, most importantly here, God’s zeal.

This passage invites us to look at the present not with fear, to look at the future with hope, and all the while to be eagerly seeking the one who is the most Wonderful Counselor,

the only Mighty God,

the true Everlasting Father,

and the long-awaited Prince of Peace.

Luke 2:1-20

One of the first and most bitter controversies within the early Church was over Christology. By Christology I mean the study of the nature of Jesus Christ and his role in God’s mission of salvation. At its most basic, the Christological controversy can be divided into two sides: high Christology and low Christology.

On the one hand, using the term High Christology is a shorter way of arguing that Jesus is the Incarnation, the embodiment of God in a mortal human being, completely and fully his entire life--from Mary’s womb to the tomb.

On the other hand, Low Christology is a short way to summarize the view that Jesus became fully God only after being raised from the dead. He was always the messiah, the chosen one, and the anointed one, but he wasn’t God incarnate until Eastern morning as he walked out of the tomb after three days.

Both High and Low Christology hold that Jesus is fully God and fully human, yet they differ on when he began to hold both divine and human nature.

As with most of these sorts of theological discussions and debates that began so long ago, the question is often raised, “does it even matter?” Quickly followed by “how does this affect me?”

Earlier this fall while we were sharing prayer joys and concerns we had two very proud great-grandmothers who shared one after another about the birth of their respective great grandchildren.

As we joined together to give thanks for the safe arrival of baby Tanner and Elisa, I was reminded of how fascinating the Christological controversy of the early church really was. Hearing of these newborns prompted me to wonder anew how on earth it could be that at one point the one we call Wonder Counselor, the Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace, the Messiah, the Anointed one, the Christ would have been just that small.

Just that sleepy.

Just that cute.

Just that dependent.

Just that seemingly weak and helpless as baby Elisa and Tanner are.

I can see why many of the first few generations of Christians were more in favor of a low Christology than a high Christology--were more on board with the idea that Jesus became fully God only after his bodily resurrection as a full grown man.

After all, the early Church was within living memory of the reign of Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus who issued the census decree that compelled Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem in the first place. Keep in mind that issuing such a decree meant that you believed that all the world belonged to you and all people owe you a debt of gratitude in the form of taxes for being the ruler.

The world of Luke chapter 2 is a world in which those living under the yoke, bar, and rod of the Roman Empire would find it incredibly difficult to accept that the Creator of the Universe and the God of Abraham and King David, could dwell within such a tiny infant body.

It made little sense for the fullness of God to dwell within a child, then a teenager, and then young man who didn’t begin his public and prophetic ministry until his 30s. It was puzzling why God would come to live among us and not lead a successful political revolution and overthrow the tyrants and perpetrators of injustice. It was a hard claim to believe that our God came to us as a baby, just as we all come into this world.

Those who raised, followed, and lived among Jesus were again in a world of darkness, lived under the shadow of death as Isaiah described earlier.

No wonder it was so hard for so many of them accept that what they had just seen, heard, and experienced in Jesus of Nazareth could truly be the fullness of God.

The resurrection is a powerful statement of God’s power over death. But Jesus’s humble birth, brief life and violent death didn’t seem to embody a God who could take down the Emperor and Empire.

The debate over Christology is sparked by wondering if God’s true power and self is fully revealed only in resurrection on Easter, or if God’s true power and self is also fully revealed in story of Christmas.

We sometimes become too wrapped up in what we expect God to do or want God to be that we turn Jesus into our own limited human image or we think all of who Jesus is before his resurrection can’t truly and fully be of God.

Yet the nature of Christ and his role in God’s mission of salvation are not captive to our personal desires, understandings, or even perspectives.

There are times when we have to simply accept the logic of God even though it makes no sense to us. How else can you explain God answering those ancient and our current prayers for a savior, redeemer, and king by first becoming a sleepy, cute, dependent, and seemingly weak and helpless baby?

Yet this is the God we find on Christmas. Even if it doesn’t make sense all the time, let us say, thanks be to God.

Titus 2:11-14

Here in Paul’s letter to Titus, he makes it clear that because God has done something amazing. He writes “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.”

Being a letter from one Christian to another, it is obvious that Christ is at the center of this amazing, grace-filled, salvific thing God has done for all of humanity.

Through Christ, God’s grace has been made known and has been infused into this world. Yet, we still wait for an even more amazing thing: the blessed hope--the glorious appearance of our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ.

Friends, Christmas is an important holiday in the Christian church and tradition because it reminds us that Christ has come to us, but it also calls us to live into the reality of the here yet not-fully here nature of the kingdom of God.

For just as in Isaiah’s world, there are still people walking in darkness believing out of fear that the ways of violence and alliance with the powerful are what is needed to ensure safety, security, and survival.

There are still many who live in the land of the shadow of death, who suffer under the yoke, bar, and rod of oppression because of the misjudgments and fear of others.

Yet through these words of the prophet Isaiah and through the person of Jesus Christ, we have seen a great light.

We began by reading an excerpt from the World of Isaiah Chapter 9 and that word of hope from the prophet that a light has dawned and what God is up to is continually unfolding.

We then dove into the world of Luke chapter 2 and pondered alongside Mary the unfathomable, nonsensical, puzzling revelation that God has come into a world ruled by powerful emperors by being a baby born in a stable and placed in a manger.

We don’t even need to enter the world of Titus to understand how this passage speaks into our world today. As the people of God who gather to worship on Christmas Eve, we live in grace and into the salvation offered by the one who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

That final phrase, eager to do what is good, is perhaps better translated into English as, zealous for good deeds. I say zealous is a better translation because that is the word often used in English translation of Isaiah 9:7 to describe how the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace will establish and uphold a kingdom of justice and righteousness.

Friends, on this Christmas Eve may we all know that the grace of God has appeared and is bringing salvation. And may we all seek to live zealously into the grace of God which brings salvation.


This week we also joined with our friends at Balsam, Elim and Bone Lake Lutheran Churches for a Longest Night Service of Lament. In this service Pastors Adam, Laurie, and Makayla offer scripture readings and prayer that help us celebrate the hope of the season while acknowledging that the holiday season can bring up difficult memories and tough emotions.

As you celebrate Christmas this weekend, we pray that this service can give voice to those feelings that arise when we remember the grief we sometimes feel when we remember those who we won't be spending Christmas with and when we take stock of all the ways the world still longs for God's love and light to shine in the darkness.

Merry Christmas!

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