Thursday, December 8, 2011

Pastor Knecht's Christmas Letter 2011

I wish everyone a blessed Advent and a very merry Christmas. There is a lot wondering out there about where we are headed these days. The Gospel of Jesus at Christmas has something wonderful to say about where we are going

On the right track?

One of the common questions pollsters ask is “is the country on the right track?” The question is used to help evaluate the chances of our leaders remaining in power and pursuing their intended policies. When we are on the right track, we are joyfully moving toward some supposed bright future. If the answer is no, then we are on the “wrong track” steaming towards some horrible destination. In my lifetime, we have hopped back and forth from the right track to the wrong track multiple times, so much so, that we never really seem to get anywhere. Like hikers lost in the woods we keep circling back to the same spot over and over again. To further the confusion one person’s right track is another’s wrong track.

Who’s driving the train?

The assumption of the right track wrong track question is that we have the power to drive the train and switch the tracks. It presupposes that only human effort matters in life. History and current events are therefore only the actions of men and women. It is a comforting illusion to believe that we have that much power, but it is still only an illusion. The reason our supposed tracks never lead anywhere is that we human beings have much less power to influence events for the good than we think we do. We can indeed act. Our actions have real consequences, but they are limited in scope. Only God can see the whole picture and only God can act in a way that fulfills the course of history. So we ride the train, we don't drive it. The Jewish Scholar Abraham Heschel writes: Human power is not the stuff of which history is made. For history is not what is displayed at the moment, but what is concealed in the mind of (God).

God’s Christmas train

For people a Christmas train is simply the circular loop that the model train makes around the tree. This train too never really goes anywhere, but this time of year, we Christians remember God starting a journey that really does go somewhere, to the place of peace. This is the journey of faith started in Bethlehem with the birth of our Savior. This train is certainly being driven by God. The real fun of this trip is that you actually do not worry about the destination because you feel so good about who you are with along the way. The God of all things who became as one of us. The ride then becomes the point, and not so much the destination. Perhaps if we feel unsettled these days it is because we are too obsessed with where the tracks are leading rather than who is with us as we ride the train.

No train in vain!

In the song “Train in Vain” by the Clash, lead singer Joe Strummer asks: “Did you stand by me? No, not at all. Did you stand by me? No way!” He laments that his beloved has abandoned him in his darkest days. Perhaps it is our fear of abandonment that leads us to focus so much on our destination rather than whom we are with on the journey. The promise of Christmas and the sending of God’s Son to our world shows us that we indeed are not alone. We read in Matthew:

She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. "All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us." (Matthew 1:21-23 NRSV)

We have a God who is promises to be with us every mile of our journey. We know this because he came as child in the manger to be with us in our world. This same Jesus promises to be with us until the end of the age. In Christian theology, we call this “incarnation” that God wants to be with us so much that he becomes one of us. This same God also secures the place where we are going through the action of Jesus at the cross and resurrection. So with the destination assured and God with us on the way we can indeed be joyful in all things this Christmas. If you would like to hear more of the Good News of Jesus Christ, we’d love to see you at Holy Cross this Christmas our schedule is as follows:

December 24rd at 3 pm Creatures at the Crèche Featuring a camel, sheep, donkey & more!
December 24th at 4 pm Family Christmas Eve Service
December 24th at 7 pm Candlelight Communion
December 25th at 10 am Christmas Day worship

Keep the Faith,
Pastor Knecht