Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

It is Christmas. Last night we celebrated Christmas Eve with two special worship services. I rejoiced to be a part of the St. Paul's fellowship, being given the opportunity to worship together. it lifted the soul to sing the familiar Christmas hymns, hear the Christmas Gospel and share in the Christmas joy.

We rose this morning and opened our presents from one another. Then we went to church and opened the greatest gift of all - the gift of a Savior.

I wonder to myself how many people celebrated Christmas today and don't really believe in Jesus as their Savior. Is that possible? Is it possible that there are people in the world today who don't believe "For unto you is born today in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord"? Is it possible that there are people who don't know that the meaning of Christmas is not the presents under the tree, the ham on the table or the decorations on the house? Is that really possible in today's world?

Yes! Not all people celebrate Christmas because it is the birth of their Savior. They just like the celebration that takes place with the family and the gifts that they will receive. And when the day is over, they still do not believe and therefore will actually be on their way to hell. Ouch! That isn't possible is it? People are going to hell today, Christmas Day?

When you and I finally believe that fact, we will start to pay attention to the role that the shepherds played in the Christmas story. They saw the baby in the cradle and then they began to tell others. Everywhere they went, they told others about the Savior who was born. They wanted the world to know all about the precious gift that had been given to them, to the world.

That is what you and I are to do. We finished the service today with the hymn, "Go Tell It On The Mountain." Go tell the good news. Go let people know that there is hope to be found in the Son of God, the Savior of the world. I feel that need to share the good news. Do you?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

It's Almost Christmas

There is an either/or about Christmas. You hear preachers talking about it. You hear well-meaning Christians discussing it. You hear mothers and fathers wondering about it. In fact, the movie "The Miracle on 34th Street" puts it out in front of us. What I am talking about is the decision as to whether or not a Christian can have Santa Claus. Should a Christian parent tell his/her child that there is a Santa Claus, when Santa is not the real reason for the season? Jesus is the reason for the season. Christmas is all about the birth of Christ and not about some guy in a red suit. And if you tell your child about Santa, allowing them to have Santa in their lives, then you are turning your back upon Jesus and the true meaning of Christmas.

After all, Christmas is about the birth of the Savior. That is what we learn on "A Charlie Brown Christmas." When Charlie Brown asks, "Can anyone tell me the true meaning of Christmas?" Linus does not answer, "It's about Santa Claus and his giving of presents to good little boys and girls." No, he quotes Luke 2. (To me that is the best part of the movie, and seeing that scene gives me the joy of Christmas. It is all about, "While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born and she gave birth to her firstborn, a Son...") There is absolutely no way that a Christian can have Santa and still celebrate Christmas.

We live in a time when it is one or the other - Christ or Santa.

But is that the truth? Is it really one or the other? Do we have to make a choice? I would like to say that there is another option. It was the very option that we opted to follow. A Christian can have Santa Claus while celebrating the true meaning of Christmas. We did that very thing. We taught our children the true meaning of Christmas. they understood that Christmas was about the birth of the Savior of the world, the Son of God. They celebrated year after year that Jesus was born. They rejoiced at the wonder of the Child in the manger. Their eyes sparkled as they took part in the Christmas program each year. They sang with gusto (well, Rachael sang with gusto, Matthew just took part since he didn't like to sing in front of people). Celebrating the true meaning of Christmas, our children had the fullness of Christmas.

And yet they also had Santa Claus. They went to bed on Christmas Eve in wonder that somehow Santa Claus would come to our house and leave them presents. They were wide-eyed when they got up early on Christmas morning and there were presents there where there was only empty space the night before. They were sure that they heard Santa on the roof. They were certain that Santa ate their cookies and drank their milk. They were convinced that the reindeer indeed ate the special food that we left out for them.

Santa was real to them. And when all was said and done, if you asked them what Christmas was all about, they would tell you, "Jesus' birth." Santa was real to them but the real meaning of Christmas was about the birth of their personal Savior, the Son of God. Our children are a living example that a Christian can remember the full meaning of Christmas, the birth of our Savior. And at the same time, they were able to have the fun part of Santa Claus and the wonder that held for a few years. Santa lives only for a couple years in the lives of the children. Jesus lives forever in the heart of the Christian.

Jesus is the reason for the season. Santa Claus will even tell you that fact.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

John the Baptist

The last two Sundays the Gospel reading from Luke has brought us face to face with the forerunner of the Messiah - John the Baptist. I guess he knew what he was going to be when he grew up, after all his parents named him in such a way that they wanted the world to know what he was going to do. He was called John "the Baptist." (LOL - think that one through. It is like I knew I was going to be a pastor when my parents named me "pastor" Mitchel Schuessler. At least that is what children might think.)

John had one message to proclaim - "Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand." I thought about what it means to repent. Do we really know what it means? I thought about it, I thought back to the "beer summit" at the White House. Pres Obama, the firefighter and the professor (I can't remember their names), sat down at the White House, had a beer and worked out their problems. Oh wait a minute, they didn't work out their problems. In fact, it was reported that they didn't even talk about the issues that they had between them. The president didn't apologize to the firefighter for "dissing" his work. The professor didn't apologize for his ridiculous charge of racism when he was the one that was causing issues. And the firefighter was not supposed to bring those things up, so in the end, no one had to "repent" of the situation. Drink a beer and it will be all right. Is that what John was saying?

No way! John would say that each one should repent of their sins. Don't go blaming the other person, some other event. Each one of us should look into our hearts, see where we have been wrong and repent of it. That is foreign to people today. We live in an age that doesn't want to take responsibility for ones actions. Instead we want to go on like nothing happened.

But we can't. If we allow sin to continue to fill our hearts, to eat away at us, there is absolutely no way that we can heal from the situation. Just the opposite is true. We will only slip further and further into sinful actions. We will continue to hurt one another.

So what am I saying? Take a look at yourself, your actions, your words. Honestly look at what you have done today or this last week. If you have hurt someone by what you have said or done, the repent of it. Ask God to forgive you for Christ's sake. Then go to your brother, sister or to the person you have offended and ask them to forgive you. If you have been talking behind someones back, stop it! Why are you doing it? If you have something to say, and can't say it to them or in front of them, then why are you saying it? Are you looking out only for yourself? Or are you looking for what is good for others? Then talk to them. If you can't, then don't talk about it at all. It is just wrong!

Will it be easy? No way. But that is the message that John the Baptist was proclaiming. Live in Christ. Live for Him alone, not for yourself and your sinful desires. Repent! And bear the fruit worthy of repentance. Listen to John.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Cold Wind Blows

Who would have thought that the day would go like it did? We watched the news reports of the snows in other places. We rose this morning (Wednesday) knowing that it would be a cold day. The wind was blowing outside. The temperature was dropping. But we would be inside. It would not matter what it was like outside. We could get around. We could enjoy the day in the warmth of our houses, our offices and our schools.

Went off to church to have a normal Wednesday. Sitting at the desk, putting finishing touches on my thoughts for chapel, the lights begin to flicker. "Of course they will flicker," I thought, "it is terribly windy out." But they kept flickering. Getting up to see what the problem might be, I see the rest of the lights flickering, almost strobe light like, making one dizzy if you stood too long under them. Walking down the short hall through the offices to the schools I wondered if the kids were all right.

Power was out. Some areas had power. Some didn't. Then Penny calls. Power is out at home too. Oh no, she has 2 babies there. What will we do. Chapel? In the church. Check the power there. No power there. Day Care in the dark too. Small amount of power but not enough.

Phone calls made - checking to see what the problem was. There is power for some of the lights in the gym. Chapel goes as planned, sort of. It is in the gym. Sam plays well. The children listen. Yes, everything will be all right. But it is getting a little chilly in the gym.

Chapel over. Kids back in rooms. Power won't be on till 6 p.m. What to do? No power for heat, for lunch, for water - going to get chilly as the temp outside dips to low 20's with strong winds. Decision time - send the kids home. No heat at all. Calling the parents. Getting things ready.

Now the question - church tonight - yes or no? No heat. No power. Not sure when it will be back on. Ameren now says 9 p.m. Cold, windy, and that means? Calling the service off. Hate to do it but what can you do? You can't sit in the dark. You can' have service with no heat. Sigh. I hate calling service off. I always think, "What if we did have it..." I know, shouldn't think that. Have to think about the good for the people. Can't have them out in the cold with no heat or light. So no service.

Then at noon the power comes back on. GRRRR. What happened? They figured it out. Got it fixed. We could have had service. Now what? Stay with what we have. We have told people it was cancelled so it stays that way. So now, guilt sets in. What if we would have waited? Would the power have come on? We didn't know. We made the best decision possible.

And our Lord says to us, "Fear not my children. You cannot tell the future. Only I can do that. You did what you thought was best. I still love you. Calling a service off doesn't mean you don't love Me. It means you were thinking of others more than yourself. Go in peace. And live in My love." Thank you Lord. For those words were ones I needed to hear right now because I do feel guilt and frustration. Please take it from my shoulders. Please.

Monday, December 7, 2009


This last Sunday (the 2nd Sunday in Advent) the OT reading came from the book of Malachi. Not too much is known about Malachi (I'm talking about you and me, not the theologians). He was the last prophet before those 400 years of silence when no word of God came to the prophets. He was the last one that said, "Thus says the Lord." That is, until John came on the scene. That was something else. But that isn't what we are going to talk about.

The reading was from Malachi 3:1-7. The sermon focused on 3:1 "See, i will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me." We know now that was John the Baptist. But the people of Malachi's day didn't. They didn't know that they would hold onto that promise for the next 400 years, passing it down from one generation to the next. That promise would buoy them up when things were tough - such as when they struggled to rebuild the Temple which was the central focus of their worship. No Temple, no worship. When will that change? When the Messiah comes. When will He come? We will know when the forerunner comes. The messenger will come and then, everything will be all right.

Think of the excitement of looking forward to that messenger/forerunner. Has he come yet? When the rabbi starts to become something of a local celebrity by virtue of his teaching, the question would be asked, "Is this him? Could it be?" Waiting. Watching. Wondering. Three words that encompassed the lives of the people. They were waiting for that one to arrive. They were watching expectantly. They were wondering if it was time.

What about you? Do those 3 words describe you? Are you waiting? Are you watching? Are you wondering? Waiting for the Savior. Watching for His return. Wondering when it will be. Filled with a sense of wonder, are you excited that He could comes at any moment? (Advent = Come) Does Advent fill your heart will the excitement of the coming Savior? Are you watching expectantly for the moment when the clouds will part, the trumpet will sound and the Son of Man will come upon the clouds? Are you wondering when He will come (and making the best use of that time till He does come?)?

Get ready! He is coming! The forerunner tells us that. Who is that forerunner? John already came and did his thing. So why look for someone else? There is one that is preparing the way for the coming of the Messiah, the Savior. That one is right in front of you - quite literally. It is the pastor that God has given to you and your congregation. He is calling you to prepare your heart, prepare the way for the Lord to come to you.

He is coming! Don't doubt. Don't wait. Don't think you have another day. The ax is already laid at the root of the tree. Repent! Turn from your sins and bear fruit fitting repentance! He will come and you had better be ready. You are being called out of your life to follow the Lord. Ask yourself, are you ready?

Actually, I wasn't going to write any of that. More on Malachi tomorrow.