January 2020

“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people; to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ, the Lord.’” Luke 2:10-11

Dear Redeemer Family:
Though Christmas is a season, the majority of people think of it as only a day, or at most two days; Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. And most people will only think of the Gospel lesson from Luke 2 with its proliferating images of the nativity, which is important. But, it is just as important to make sure that the deep spiritual and theological truth of the incarnation – the Word dwelling among us here and now – is held up as well throughout the years.

If we dwell only on the images of Luke 2, without making connections to what the Incarnation means for daily life, we will miss out on one of the great spiritual truths of our faith – that all creation and all of our lives are filled with divine presence. Some theologians call this “deep incarnation,” which broadens the scope of the term beyond Jesus to all persons and, indeed, to the vast expanse of the universe. This is found in the Gospel lesson of Christmas Day, and this year, for the Second Sunday in Christmas; the First Chapter of John’s Gospel: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Jesus, the Author of Creation comes and dwells among us, still!

In other words, let us consider what becomes incarnate at Christmas. Surely, with all our senses we experience the divine presence in the liturgy and especially in the body and blood of Christ received at the altar. For us, the incarnation is not a past event but something happening in our midst. As with the Season of Advent, we are called to continually “awake” and see the salvation at hand.

The mystery never ceases to surprise and catch us off guard; in manger and on the cross, God’s hidden and vulnerable presence is revealed to us, as Martin Luther reminds us in virtually all of his writings. In the Incarnation, we have very concrete examples in which justice, love, joy, and freedom are revealed in the very human circumstances of daily life.
Let us always welcome the Christ Child. And let us always welcome the Word of God Who comes and lives among us! May you all have a very joyous, and spiritual, Christmas Season. And may He for Whom we have waited always live and dwell in our hearts!

In Christ,
Pastor Rose

November 2019

“You have raised up for us a mighty Savior.” Luke 1:69

Dear Redeemer Family:
In this final month of the church year, we are presented with Luke’s understanding of ends and beginnings, of death and resurrection, thus providing us with the opportunity to think anew about life together under the cross and empty tomb of Jesus.

Lutherans hold a particular understanding of our endings and beginnings. Martin Luther understood there to be two kinds of death, a little death and a big death. The big death is what occurs in the waters of baptism when the sinful self and the power of sin, death and the devil are drowned; they no longer have the last word or ultimate power over us. Because Jesus has died and is raised; and because in the waters of baptism we are joined to him in his death and resurrection; we face the end with anticipation. Though we are sinful, in the waters of baptism we are also given a new identity:
a saint, a child of God, one forgiven, loved, saved through the love of God in Jesus Christ. There is reason to celebrate the end; there, in the end, is a new beginning. There, in the end, is Jesus.

The little death, for Luther, is the physical death, when there is no more breath in our bodies or life in our limbs. This death tends to be the one that engenders fear, the one in which tears are shed for what is lost, for what will no longer be. When a physical death comes decades before it should have, those left to mourn experience a mix of emotions. While, on the one hand, the faithful know that this dear person was a child of God, this child of God is no longer physically here with us. For that we grieve. Years ago, in his book The Denial of Death, (it won the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction in 1979) Ernest Becker emphasized the cultural fascination not with death itself but with denying its presence, its impact on our lives. Those whose loved ones have died, or are facing an untimely diagnosis of their own that will eventually lead to death, know the struggle of the end in Christian faith. Though resurrection is a real and present reality, the sting of the end is no less real.

At the end of this season, Christ the King, we find Jesus on the cross between two who are dying. In pain and alone, those on either side of him engage him in conversation. On the one side is someone who wants Jesus to avoid the cross and to help them avoid the cross as well. (The denial of death, indeed!) On the other side is someone who recognizes the situation for what it is and realizes Jesus for who he is. The person asks Jesus to “remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

This is an honest cry, a lament, in which despair and hope are hurled at Jesus on the cross. There is no sugarcoating the situation of the person hanging next to Jesus; while the criminal recognizes that “we are getting what we deserve,” there is, somewhere from within, a deep and abiding sense of hope. In view of Jesus on the cross, all the denials end; all that is left is hope. “Today you will be with me in Paradise” is the reply he receives. No denial, but tremendous words of hope.

In Christ, Pastor Rose