Rehearsal

Manger

For the past 28 years, I have had the privilege of putting up the Manger scene every November and taking it down every January.  (Sometimes, when it was 5 below zero, or raining or snowing cats and dogs the ‘privilege’ part was a little questionable!)  I took-over from my friend and elder-partner, Bob Weber – now home with the Saints in Heaven. Someday, someone will take-over for me.  (You may consider that a request for help!)

Once, when we put up the Manger, I lost my wedding ring and we searched the straw for hours, trying to find it, but to no avail.  Miracle of all miracles, when we took it down in January, with 12 inches of snow on the ground, we found my ring!  God is Good!  But, where else would you expect to see a miracle, if not at the Manger of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

When we see that manger, it is a reminder of 2 important truths.  It Reminds us that THE BIBLE’S ACCOUNT OF JESUS BIRTH IS LITERAL AND RELIABLE and that CHRIST WILL LIVE WHERE ROOM IS MADE FOR HIM.    Here in the manger is visible proof that God does keep his promises, that God  loves each of us and all the world.  God is faithful and loving!  1 John 4:10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

O holy Child of Bethlehem, Descend to us we pray!
Cast out our sin and enter in; Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels and great glad tidings tell;
Oh, come to us, Abide with us, Our Lord Immanuel!

Rehearsal

Cherry

November 13, 1909, Cherry, Illinois (Mendota-area).  259 men and boys die underground in a coal mine fire; the 3rd largest mining disaster in America’s history.  Eight days later, 21 are rescued.  This month marks the 102nd anniversary of that tragedy.  (Google the Cherry Mine disaster for the details, or read Karen Tintori’s Book ‘Trapped The 1909 Cherry Mine Disaster’ for an amazing account of the story.)

Kathy and I drove out to Cherry for the 100th anniversary of the event.  Not much to see anymore except the waste piles from the mine, and an old foundation or two.  Some signs document the event, but not much else; not much else except the cemetery.  It is an odd thing to walk thru that cemetery and see the gravestones of those mostly-Italian miners; row after row of tombstones with the same death-date.  Some of the bodies weren’t recovered for months, but nevertheless their markers carried the same date.  This cemetery was created because of that tragedy – and originally was for the miners-only; although today, many of their descendants are buried there with them.

Just as in the days of Noah when almost all of mankind was wiped out – literally on the same day – we look forward to a future date when this world and all life in it will end.  1 John 2:17:  ‘The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.’  Those 21 survivors of the Cherry Mine fire, trapped in darkness for 8 days, described their feelings upon seeing the light for the first time after they were rescued, as if they were viewing the Glory of Heaven itself.  They talked in terms of re-birth; or new birth – given a second chance at life.  As we recount our blessings this Thanksgiving Season, let us put our personal relationship with a loving God who called us into His marvelous light, at the top of the list.  We were dead, but now are Alive in Christ!   Praise God from whom all blessings flow; praise Him all creatures here below.  Praise Him above, you Heavenly hosts; praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost, Amen!

Rehearsal

Crosses

I’m the son of a carpenter…….. No, I’m not writing about Jesus, I’m writing in the ‘first person’ about me; my dad was a carpenter.  When my dad’s church decided to remodel their 100-year-old sanctuary, my dad did the work.  New altar, pulpit, lectern, communion rails, and of course, new 20 foot tall oak cross.  Beautiful white-stained oak, framed with a red and gold tapestry; very inspirational and ‘modern’ for 1962.  One of my proudest accomplishments in life is having the opportunity to build the LCMS Cross in our sanctuary!  For me, it’s another connection to my earthly father – as in ‘Like father, like son’.  But it’s more than that, it’s a connection to my Heavenly Father too.

I think of the words to that well-known hymn I grew up with ‘When I Survey the Wondrous Cross’ on which the Prince of Glory died, My richest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my pride.  Or those words from ‘Alas, and did my Savior Bleed’ and this stanza: ‘Thus might I hide my blushing face While His dear cross appears, Dissolve my heart in thankfulness, And melt mine eyes to tears.’  Or maybe the most inspirational of all ‘The Old Rugged Cross’ and these words:  ‘On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame; And I love that old cross where the dearest and best, For a world of lost sinners was slain.’

In a way, the cross my dad built was a testimony to his faith, and I feel the same way about the one I built –  it is a testimony to our Lord and when I see it, I think about these words in Hebrews 12:  ‘Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.’  In a month when we celebrate the Reformation and Martin Luther, let us fix our eyes on the Cross and on our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

Rehearsal

Stand and Wait

One of my favorite poets is John Milton; often compared with Shakespeare as one of the truly great English writers.  After going blind,  Milton wrote the poem ‘On His Blindness’.  In the last line, he reflects that even with his disability, he has a place in God’s world, he wrote these famous words ‘They also serve who only stand and wait.’  A more modern reading would be: ‘Those people who only stand and wait also serve.’

Did you ever notice at a ‘State dinner’, there are always servants (or “servers”) standing by, in addition to the servers who are bringing food, pouring beverages and clearing dishes.  Or, maybe you haven’t noticed those other servers who stand in the background because they stand so still, they look like “part of the furniture,” “part of the wallpaper.”

I am struck by the number of people we have at Our Savior that provide critical services to us that we never think of – the bulletin folders; the altar people; the food preparers and servers; the drivers; the yard maintainers – and the list goes on and on!  These are the unsung heroes of Faith, the people who ‘Stand and Wait’.  This is what the Lord says of them:  (Matthew 25)  ‘ 34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

On behalf of a grateful congregation Thank You for your service; your reward is great in Heaven! (verse 40) – 40“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’