Welcome to our Vlog for this week of February 17th. I hope you had a great Valentine’s Day with your favorite valentines. I’m Lee Harder, the senor pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church of Bulverde, Texas. We celebrate Christ in worship every Sunday at 8:30 AM and 10:45 AM. If you can’t stop by, then please check out our streamed worship instead. St. Paul just might have what you’re looking for in a spiritual home. Come see us and find out.
Since the middle of January, we have been in a spiritual campaign as an exercise program to strengthen the heart of a believer. We’re trying to come to the realization that there are dark forces at work in the world that seek to silence God’s Word of hope in Jesus Christ. That truth took on a new reality this past week.
Apparently, several months ago a former Muslim, who has become a Christian and trained to serve as a pastor currently leading a congregation elsewhere in the nation, was arrested in Minnesota’s Mall of America. Here in his own words are the events that transpired.
I was speaking at a church yesterday in Minneapolis, Minnesota and after the church one of the pastors and his son took me to the Mall of America. We randomly ran into some Muslims and we began a casual conversation. They asked me where I’m from and I told them, Iran. The conversation led to whether I’m a Muslim or not and I said I used to be a Muslim but I converted to Christianity. They asked me why? What happened? Why did you change? I told them after I heard that Jesus died for me and rose again, I gave my heart to him. And I was giving them my testimony. Another Muslim lady who was hearing us went and told the security that, “I’m harassing them.” The security came and arrested me, filed a report and the police came and took me to jail. I was charged with “illegal soliciting” and “criminal trespassing.” I need to appear in court sometime soon.
This event happening scares me in ways I haven’t been before. As a Christian and a pastor, I am only too aware of the painful truth and reality that Christians are no longer, how shall I put it, “The flavor of the month.” We are seeing the Christian faith, an integral part of the foundation of who we are as a nation and a people, being discarded which is sad enough. The Christian faith has been locked out our schools, the marketplace and the halls of justice; but, of greater concern is how other belief systems are being not just tolerated, (as they should be in our free nation) but embraced with enthusiastic acceptance where Christianity is not.
I truly believe God has blessed this country so richly as a Christian nation for a reason. We are to be an example of freedom and liberty for all regardless of creed or race. While we are far from perfect, by any means, we still are a model that the world could pattern itself after in generosity, freedom and compassion, despite our flaws which we do not deny, but seek to outgrow.
Yet, now there seems a concerted effort to silence who we are as believers in Jesus Christ. I have heard examples of pastors in Canada who have been silenced in their pulpits because of threats that their sermons can be considered “hate speech” because God’s Word runs contrary to current public standards of correctness. It would not surprise me if such would eventually happen here with current political and social trends. Now arresting a pastor because he is witnessing, not proselytizing or evangelizing, but sharing how he became a Christian to some Muslims who asked him how and why seems just wrong?
I continue to be shocked and dismayed when I see and hear how Christians are being attacked and ostracized from different elements of our culture because they are Christian. I am angered and enraged when I see people, especially leaders within the Christian community, treating forces that threaten our faith and the freedom of this nation as acceptable and equal in status to the Lord they confess.
Here’s where I stand concerning these outside forces. We do not worship the same God, but I accept every one’s right, in this free nation, to worship a god or deity any way they want. I expect the same from them in this free America. This is especially true of those who have the responsibility and duty to protect those rights. We all have freedom of speech and of worship as we see fit, regardless of our religion or faith. From a Christian perspective, acknowledging Jesus is not the same as believing in Him for our salvation, but we will respect another’s right to choose a different path. Every Christian should know that truth and act accordingly.
The church has been persecuted before, it is now and will be again in the future. However, I also know and believe it will never be destroyed or silenced because it is the body of Christ. It is His church, not ours. He is in control as these others continually discover to their regret. Fear not for He is with us.
And those are my thoughts. God bless us everyone!
I wish I could greet you with joy in my heart. I can’t. I will invite you to be a part of a family of believers that hold life sacred & humble ourselves before our Lord Jesus Christ. I’m Lee Harder, the senior pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church of Bulverde, Texas. We have worship celebrations every Sunday at 8:30 AM & 10:45 AM and you are welcomed to join us. I make this promise: You WILL hear God’s Word preached without compromise and that word does not condone or tolerate the murder of unborn children.
As I drove to church this morning I was dumb struck with the news that the state of New York has passed a law that…Well, let me quote — The law allows abortions to be performed by non-doctors up until the point of birth for many reasons. They actually cheered when it passed. It seems this same law will find its way into other states very quickly.
The murder of unborn children, children who have been conceived and grown within their mother for nine months, children who could survive and thrive outside the womb, is now acceptable in our society & heralded as wonderful news by the progressive left and the vile forces that pay them homage — the leftist media, the democratic party, the feminist movement, and more. Normally, I refrain from political statements about a party one way or the other, but on this subject I cannot be silent. Those who have taken the murder of unborn children to new, absurd levels have forced me, for the sake of personal conscience, to take a stand. I know, it’s all about the woman’s right to choose & control her own body. I get that.
I recognize I’m a man and know nothing. However, if a woman has the right to choose what happens to her body involving a pregnancy (and I believe she has), then explain why she doesn’t make the CHOICE not to get pregnant in the first place. Put aside the extreme circumstances where a pregnancy is the result of a violent act and let’s focus on willingly getting pregnant. YOU DON’T HAVE TO. For crying out loud, my teenage granddaughters can get all the birth control aids of all sorts for nothing, just ask. Some of them are not that old, but that doesn’t seem to matter to our modern schools. They will hand out birth control stuff just for the asking and mom and dad don’t have to know. For a woman, regardless of color, try saying “No!” If that’s not possible, for whatever reason including lust, then I say “You made your choice.” But there are still options. If you find yourself pregnant, which shouldn’t take that many weeks to figure out (if it does, you really aren’t smart enough to be a parent), seek out one of the countless free abortion clinics available, if you must. After all, isn’t that one of the benefits of tax payer supported places like Planned Parenthood?
However, if you feel you can have an abortion after nine months of carrying this child (Yes, it is a child.) then, please don’t kill it. Someone else will gladly take on the burden of responsibility you were too incapable or unwilling or too cowardly to do. Make a good choice!
Our nation is no longer sliding down the slippery slope to destruction. It has arrived when it is legal and acceptable in the name of choice and women’s rights to murder the unborn. You want proof it’s that bad. Check out the Animal Planet and the pet police. Persons who abuse and cause injury and death to a dog or cat will receive more punishment and condemnation in the state of New York than someone who seeks to have or performs an abortion of a child ready to come into the world as a real human being after nine months in the womb. That’s pathetic.
And those are my thoughts. May God bless us and have mercy on us.
Grace and peace to you and yours from the great folks of St. Paul Lutheran Church of Bulverde, Texas. I’m Lee Harder, the senior pastor, and I invite you to come to worship with us live and in person or via our website where we offer a live stream of our traditional and our contemporary worship celebrations. Join us at 8:30 AM or 10:45 AM and celebrate the Word of God in Christ Jesus.
It’s Monday morning, my day off according to rumors. On TV, TCM is showing 2001: A Space Odyssey — they’re walking down the ramp to the monolith on the moon right now. I usually write my blog on Mondays, even if I don’t record and upload it until Thursday or Friday. As I struggle for this week’s topic, I find it amusing to think that such an old movie, one made back in the late sixties (about 60 years ago), still packs a punch in what it reveals and contemplates. And why not! Old doesn’t mean the absence of dynamics, value or substance. I’d stack the multiple, thought provoking messages and the methods of presenting them in this old Syfy movie (which was a ground breaker in its day that still challenges today’s high-tech, computer generated new stuff) against most of our modern equivalents. Why am I mentioning the qualities of “old stuff”? For two reasons. (I have a feeling I should have phrased that better, but we’ll see when I let Karen see it.)
Karen, my better half for the last 47 years of marriage (not counting those before) and I just celebrated her birthday last week. I refuse to mention years since I do not yet have a death wish. We’ve shared our years together for what many today would consider a long time. Yet, I would triple it and still find it too few. Sure, the years have left their mark on both of us, but I look at her and still see the woman wearing the yellow, long-sleeved blouse, white jeans, blowing long dark hair and sunglasses sitting in the back of the boat or that athletic young woman exercising in our first home. They are two pictures I have etched into my memory and can view faster than any cell phone or computer can display. I love my wife more today than ever.
The second reason is the Bible/Church stuff that seems to have less and less importance in the lives of many who call themselves Christian. Even the Church and so much of its intellectual leadership wants to modernize our relationship with God. I see God’s Word and the basic tenants of what we believe in the same way as I see my beautiful and much needed and desired wife, Karen. I can’t live without it.
If we love someone or a special relationship, truly love, then that love becomes richer and deeper, more meaningful and precious the longer we live and the older we get. I cannot, will not, think of my life without Karen. Yet, as important as her being with me is to my existence, even it pales next to my desperate need for the love of my Lord. I dare not, could not contemplate life without all He has done, is doing and promising to continue to do in the future.
I still see my relationship with God having the simplicity and purity, the assuring confidence of those Sunday school stories of my past or the trust of my youth knowing “Jesus loves me, this I know.” It may be “old stuff” but it possesses a dynamic presence that has no modern equal.
This past Sunday as we entered into our spiritual campaign recognizing that we are at war with evil in this life, I preached on the reality of Satan and how Job remained true to his faith and love of God. At the services, our Melodic Minions sang the old song “This Little Light of Mine.” The line “Don’t let Satan blow it out” with proper actions and sound effects I might add, reminded me that we need to do the same.
Too many of today’s moderns in the church and in the world want to discard or update the “old stuff” (blow it out) because it doesn’t fit their image. I submit: Maybe the problem is with their image and not the “old stuff” they seek to ignore or snuff out. Sure, Karen adds color to her hair every once in a while and I’m trying to lose some weight and eat a little better, but we’re not trying to change who we are. It’s okay to put a new polish to God’s Word so it communicates to more people the message of His love, but not at the cost of His Words of promise, integrity and absolute truth being altered.
I want a God who is beyond my ability to control (like my Karen); who challenges me to be better than I am (like my Karen); and who loves me despite me (Karen again). An awesome God like that doesn’t need changing or improving, just more loving and trusting.
And those are my thoughts.
God bless and have a great week. God is watching.
Greetings to you and yours from St. Paul Lutheran Church of Bulverde, Texas. I’m Lee Harder, the senior pastor, wishing you the warmest welcome in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. If you are in our area of Texas, the beautiful hill country, and looking for a church to call your own, then I invite you to St. Paul where we worship every Sunday at 8:30 and 10:45 AM. We’d love to have you consider us for your spiritual home.
Ever so often I come across something that makes me think, “Well, now I’ve seen everything.” That happens a lot with stuff inside the church as a great many Christians try to secularize the church to make it fit into the world’s image. After all, we just want to get along. When Christians started preaching and teaching that Jesus isn’t the only source of salvation, I thought, you know, that thought “I’ve seen everything.” Well, I was in error. Apparently there’s always somebody willing to step up to the plate and hit a record home run in stupidity. California just did it.
Under a new California law, those who work in health care who use the wrong gender pronoun when referring to a transgender patient could face prison time. The new law, signed last week by California Gov. Jerry Brown, will punish any health care worker who “willfully and repeatedly” does not use the “preferred name or pronouns” of transgender patients. Behind the bill is Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener who argues that no one will face criminal prosecution for using the wrong gender pronoun — even though the bill leaves the possibility open.
The bill states: It shall be unlawful for a long-term care facility or facility staff to take any of the following actions wholly or partially on the basis of a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) status.
The law states that violations can be punishable by a fine “not to exceed one thousand dollars” or “by imprisonment in the county jail for a period not to exceed one year,” or both.
Now as a pastor somewhat familiar with how GOD created the universe and all that exists, a student of English who has been referred to as a “wordsmith” denoting some working knowledge of the language, and someone familiar with human anatomy possessing a mirror, a wife of 47 years, three children, two girls and one boy, (oops, I suppose that might be considered gender insensitive) and 10 grandchildren of the usual mixtures, I thought I had a handle on pronouns. As of now I know otherwise.
For my blog today, I do not wish to get into the pronoun discussion on the basis of sexuality, preferred or otherwise, nor to seek debate on the basis of why about 10% of the population of the world (4.1 % in the US) can demand that their lifestyle is to be considered a norm for everyone.
Do I agree that there are shortcomings within the English language? Yes. However, these additions of gender neutral pronouns sound more like gibberish that has not been thoughtfully worked through or an agenda that seeks to establish the LGBT lifestyle as normal. It might be “normal” for the small percentage of the population that deals with it; but, it is not for the rest of the world, nor should it be used as a vehicle to teach our young, vulnerable, impressionable children seeking to create in them something they are not.
Now, if you were to ask me if LGBT persons should be treated with the same respect, love and consideration as everyone else, I would agree. As a pastor, I welcome them into the life of the church to use God’s gifts to them in furthering GOD’S PURPOSE & AGENDA in the great commission. Yet, they, too, fall under the realm of God’s rule, creation, and defining of what is right and wrong. Like for everyone else — that’s ALL PEOPLE — so there can be no doubts, I call sin for what it is sin. Sin also includes sexual activity outside of marriage between a man and a woman, gossiping about anyone at anytime, doing anything that tears down a person’s self-worth and does not build and support them as a child of God to name but a few things that fall in the realm of sinful living. The list is quite endless because we are all guilty of sin. As I tell my students of all ages, we human beings are by nature sinful and unclean. That’s why Jesus came into the world, to pay the price of our sinfulness.
God created us, He made us male and female and placed us in this creation to be its stewards. I won’t deny that the world in its sinful nature has managed to mess things up royally, but that doesn’t make it acceptable to establish the world’s vision of what should be a reality for all. God is still the landlord in charge and those who occupy His holdings had better take it to heart.
And those are my thoughts.
God bless us, everyone.
Greetings for this new week from St. Paul Lutheran Church of Bulverde, Texas. I’m Lee Harder, the senior pastor, inviting you to celebrate Christ with us every Sunday at 8:30 and 10:45 AM. In between worship celebrations we offer Christian education for all ages & plenty of refreshments to tide one over. Join us this week.
Let me begin by apologizing. I just might go a little over the top this week, but I have good reason. It seems nobody wants to deal with the topic of sin and that’s not just bad, that’s dangerous. Case in point, apparently the Ten Commandments are no longer to be followed by Christians in today’s modern church. A pastor, Andy Stanley, at a popular Georgia megachurch (I’ll take their word for its popularity since I don’t get out and around much on Sundays.) called North Point Ministries has declared that “Participants in the new covenant (that’s Christians) are not required to obey any of the commandments found in the first part of the Bibles. Participants in the new covenant are expected to obey the single command Jesus issued as part of his new covenant: as I have loved you, so you must love one another.” He also added, “Just as his new covenant replaced the old covenant, Jesus’ new commandment replaced all the old commandments.”
For the record, he has a lot of company in several mainline Christian denominations. There are those Christian denominations, including a Lutheran one, that have declared that the Old Testament scriptures no longer apply to Christians. They are merely a collection of old stories, like fairy tales, to entertain children. Pastor Stanley also has the support of many of his various non-denominational colleagues, both mega and a little more modest, that avoid Old Testament stuff like the plague, especially as it pertains to sin because it might upset the crowds (that and impact contributions).
To all this ignoring, dismissing and voiding of the Old Testament by such brilliant minds like Pastor Stanley’s and the church leaders and theologians of mainline Christian denominations like the ELCA and Methodist Church, among others, I say this: God gives us ALL the right to be stupid, but some of us feel the need to abuse that right. Those who dismiss the Old Testament and the Ten Commandments as no longer applying to our Christian faith, fall into the abusive category.
One could say that Pastor Stanley with his mega church crowd are like so many others that I referenced in last week’s blog when I said how many Christians want to believe in God on their terms, not God’s. We want God to fit our definition. Doing away with the Ten Commandments is precisely what I meant. We find their adherence difficult, challenging and impossible causing us to be guilty of sin. Since we don’t like the thought of our sin, we simply eliminate what we believe to be the cause of our sin.
It doesn’t work that way!
The whole Bible is the inspired Word of God, not just the New Testament. Jesus did not come into the world to discard the Old Testament, the Jewish Scriptures, and replace them with the New or Christian Scriptures. The Old Testament is the account of God building the Hebrew people into a holy and chosen nation from which His Messiah would come into the world. The New Testament is the account of the birth and initial growth of the Christian church from which the message of God’s salvation in Christ Jesus would come to the world. What part of that do persons who call themselves Christian, much less pastors, or Christian denominations as a whole fail to grasp?
Dismissing the Old Testament, including the Ten Commandments, is heresy. It is a false teaching and Jesus warned us the there would be those, including those inside the church, who would serve the forces of evil, the devil, attempting to diminish the influence of God’s Word for us.
The Law serves the invaluable purpose of making us aware of our desperate need of Gospel’s hope in Christ. The law condemns us because we can’t keep it. We need to know that. Without that knowledge, we will not turn to Christ and the salvation only He makes possible in His death and resurrection. The Law opens us to the power of the Gospel.
Our preaching and teaching as Christians in the pews and pastors in the pulpits MUST count on the balance of Law and Gospel for God’s Word to be understood. The Law is to condemn us and the Gospel in Christ is to save. It doesn’t get any more basic than that.
I suggest that these so called authorities on Scripture spend a little more time in God’s Word before they start dismissing portions of it as non-essential. And those are my thoughts.
God bless and have a great week.
Greetings for a new week from St. Paul Lutheran Church of Bulverde, Texas. I’m Lee Harder, the senior pastor, inviting you to consider St. Paul as your spiritual home for worship and growth. We celebrate Christ every Sunday at 8:30 and 10:45 AM. Check us out with our streaming worship services at our website on www.redroofchurch.org.
In the lull that follows the rush and hectic time of Christmas, I had the chance to relax at home. For me, that includes a recliner, handy beverage, and an old movie on our new large screen TV. One of the movies I chose this time was Cecil B. DeMile’s “Ten Commandments.” I’ve been on an epic kick lately.
Anyway, my favorite scene is when Yul Bryner, playing pharaoh, returns from pursuing the Hebrews where have his army is crushed in the waters of the Red Sea. Confronted by his wife, Nefretiri (this isn’t history folks), when explaining why he has not killed Moses, says, “Because his God is God!” I love that line.
I mention this because many of us need to experience the same kind of reality check that pharaoh did. Far too many Christians want God on their terms and not His. They want to believe the way they want and find God can sometimes be difficult to work with and understand. Here are a few examples I’ve dealt with over the years.
1. In worship — we want it to be an entertaining and painless experience, not instructional that is conditional and demanding.
2. In believing — we believe in Jesus, but we don’t want to exclude others who don’t believe in Him from eternity. In other words, I’m okay and you’re okay. We’re okay together.
3. In confronting sin — Sin shouldn’t bother us or be an issue since we are all saved.
There are more examples, but I hope you get the point. It’s as if we Christians have never read a word from the Bible because these notions are not biblical. What they are is us defining how God should act. Bad move!
The Christian faith lays out some definite specifics as to how God works. I’m not talking about the man made church stuff that can and does frequently get in the way of our relationship with God. That’s religion. I’m more concerned about the faith stuff. You know, the God stuff, the stuff about Jesus from Jesus as it is revealed in Scripture.
I would be the first to admit, there’s a lot of stuff about God, the way He works, the things He has, is and will do that I do not understand and probably never will. However, there is a lot that is crystal clear when defining a relationship with Him. For the Christian the path is Jesus, period. That is the path I choose to walk, aided and guided by the Spirit. When I fall off (and I do fall off) I believe that God will help to get me back on the path. The rest, other belief systems, what God will do in the future, and a whole lot more, I don’t have a clue about and am content not to understand unless He decides to make something clear. I leave it all in God’s more than capable hands. I have tried to stop putting my agenda for God before His. I’m more than willing to let God be God because He is God and I’m not. More of us need to learn that lesson.
And those are my thoughts.
God bless. Hope to see you next week.
Merry Christmas! And yes, it’s still Christmas until January 6th. So, Merry Christmas! Oh, and let me add a hearty Happy New Year. Lee Harder, senior pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Bulverde, Texas wishing you greetings for a new year.
Before I launch into our first Blog of 2019, let me invite you to join us this January 6th, Epiphany Sunday, as we return to our regular schedule of worship celebrations at 8:30 AM (traditional) in our sanctuary and 10:45 AM (contemporary) in our Christian Faith Center. In between these celebrations, we have refreshments of coffee, lemonade and sweet rolls along with Christian education opportunities for ALL ages. We would very much like you to join us.
With New Year’s Day only hours away (from the time of writing this blog) I suspect one or two of us have made some New Year’s resolutions. I don’t know what it is about starting a new year, but we have a desire to better ourselves. So, we make conscious decisions to improve our lot in life.
1) We’ll eat better.
2) We’ll exercise more.
3) We’ll save more.
4) We’ll spend more time as a family.
5) We’ll go to church more.
(Naturally this last one is a favorite for pastor to hear.)
I personally am falling into point number two. I am getting a piece of exercise equipment (another one) — a walking treadmill — that will support my weight. As noted, I have other pieces of equipment, but they rest in rooms where I must go off by myself to exercise offering no real incentive and no social contact. With this walking treadmill, I’ve talked Karen (no small feat requiring firm commitment and agreements of consequences with failure to use by myself) into having it set up in the family room near the kitchen. I can walk and watch TV or work in the kitchen at the same time with our girls (our two Goldens) and Karen close at hand. My hope is that this will inspire me (along with my promises to Karen) to begin and maintain some kind of exercise regiment. Besides, my cardiologist has done such a great job in fixing my heart, it would be a shame not to try to keep his handiwork in good shape. So, I’ll try my best.
It’s funny, though, how many of us make New Year’s resolutions with the best of intentions, only to fail to keep them. I’ve made them before and broken them. You, too? What makes it so hard, what really challenges us, is the ability to break bad habits. We are reluctant to do so.
The experts say if a person does something 21 times in succession, it will become a habit. But, 21 times? How come the bad habits come so easily? I mean, once or twice and we have it nailed.
I can’t speak to the other resolutions, but I can speak to the one about church or more precisely a better relationship with God.
Having a relationship with God in His church is a good thing. We know that. One hour on Sunday morning as a minimum, isn’t really too great a demand. Few would deny that. However, as many declare, having a relationship with God doesn’t require going to church. A person can pray and believe without church attendance, which is true. That’s not why we make church worship part of a healthy regiment. (Yes, we need to be spiritually healthy, too.) Worshiping with other believers enriches us in ways that worshiping alone cannot.
Yes, we can read and seek to interpret God’s Word from Scripture as we apply it to our lives, but that’s not the same as a sermon (even a mediocre one) that tries to expand our understanding of a text with others.
Yes, we will be surrounded by sinners, and probably a few hypocrites too (like ourselves) who are also seeking a healthy spiritual lifestyle. We can learn from and be enriched by fellow believers which is impossible in seclusion on our own.
Yes, there is a power that is evident when people engage in worship of God as a community together as opposed to being alone with God. It isn’t tangible, but it is real and rewarding.
My suggestion and recommendation for this New Year is that if [IF, mind you] you make a New Year’s resolution, you try to live by it a dozen times. 21 seems an impossible goal. For 12 days, I will walk at least 10 minutes, twice a day. Maybe, I can work up to 15 minutes. One step at a time.
If you want to start worshiping as a family and develop or enhance or begin a relationship with God in the church setting, then pick a certain Sunday and go. Don’t let any other activity, event or excuse prevent you. If after going, you weren’t turned away, publicly embarrassed or totally uncomfortable, pick another Sunday and go again. As a pastor, a sinner, a believer and a preacher — I will try to do my part and make worship as interesting and rewarding as possible. We need you there. You need you there!
It’s a resolution worth keeping, but then all the good ones really are, if only we would. Maybe, I’ll see you at church this weekend.
And those are my thoughts.
Merry Christmas from St. Paul Lutheran Church of Bulverde, Texas. I’m the senior pastor at St. Paul, Lee Harder. Our prayer for you at this glorious time of year is for a blessed Christmas.
We celebrate the Word of God from Scripture at St. Paul. Every week our worship celebrations at 8:30 AM (traditional) and 10:45 AM (contemporary) rejoice in God’s message of hope. In between, we offer Christian education for the whole family. Please consider making us your spiritual home.
This week I pray for all to come to know the love of God in the Babe born in Bethlehem, Jesus Christ. May you join with shepherds and wise men at a manger and worship the Son of God and our Savior.
Merry Christmas and a Blessed Happy New Year!
Yours in Christ,
Greetings from St. Paul Lutheran Church of Bulverde, Texas. The people of this family of believers wish you a joyous Christmas as we celebrate the coming of God’s Son into the world. I’m Lee Harder, the senior pastor, sharing some time with you every week that might offer to you some pause for thought about our place in this world as people of faith. If you don’t know Jesus, maybe these moments might introduce you.
I’d like a moment to invite you to join us this Christmas Eve for worship as we celebrate the coming of Christ. At 5:00 PM, we have our Family Nativity Service with carols and prayers, our Lord’s Supper and a candlelight litany all tied together in God’s Word of salvation in the birth of Jesus. Then at 9:00 PM, we have a full Candlelight Service with a focus on a much loved hymn “Silent Night, Holy Night.” I think you’ll be surprised where it takes us and it won’t be silent, I guarantee. Please feel free to come and join us.
With Christmas only a little more than a week away, you might know my Blog/Vlog is about Christmas. Believe it or not, I have no intention of running down the barrage of commercialism assaulting the season. Nor will I remark on the questionable decorations that some appoint as appropriate for the season. Nope! I want to share a few thoughts about family and friends.
I had my last chapel session with the children of our Christian Day School this past Tuesday. Naturally we talked about Christmas. With their help (which seemed more challenging than normal because either they all had on a sugar rush or the excitement of Christmas was weighing heavily on them), we identified all the key parts of the Christmas story — the Bible one not the TV one. I was overjoyed when they started with Jesus instead of Santa Claus (he didn’t even get mentioned) and moved on to all the rest — Mary and Joseph, shepherds (lambs were included) and angels (at least a ga-zillion of them), a star and wise men (no magi, but a few kings).
Then I told them there was one important person missing that they forgot to mention. You wouldn’t believe some of the answers I got. I finally pointed to the kids and said, “YOU!” Christmas needs you. It wouldn’t be complete without you. After all, God came into this world because of His love for you, for me, and for all people everywhere. He is terribly disappointed if you or I or any of us aren’t there.
Our presence is of such great importance because after the work of saving us from sin, death and the power of the devil, God has charged us with the responsibility of sharing His message of hope and life, light and love with the world. For 2,000 years the birth of the Christ child has been proclaimed and witnessed, treasured and shared with countless people. Many have come to believe in Him. Others still refuse because they can’t or won’t, but the Word of God’s salvation in Jesus persists. It will not be silenced as long as we who believe are a part of Christmas.
So, don’t worry about getting caught up in the trappings of the holiday season as long as we remember the holiday we are celebrating is Christmas. Nothing can compare to it and nothing stands greater. Enjoy your presents in the giving and the receiving, oooh and aaah at the blinking lights decked in silver and gold, and indulge yourself, a little, in the fruit of the season.
However, please remember to share yourself in this world among those who need to hear of God’s love and mercy, His overflowing grace. God has given a gift to you in His Son. Make yourself a gift to give to others by serving a heaping portion of God’s love so they may come to know Jesus, too.
And those are my thoughts. Merry Christmas!
Lee Harder, senior pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church of Bulverde, Texas greeting you after a few weeks apart. I haven’t been idle, at least not in the traditional sense, I assure you. All of us have celebrated Thanksgiving and I hope you had the opportunity to give thanks to God, as well as have time to share with family and friends. Since then, I also managed to spend some time in the hospital having heart surgery (procedure) and an additional splint put in the lower part of my heart. It was preventative to avoid having a problem as opposed to getting one after a serious problem occurred. So, all is well and I figured I should get back to work.
The holidays and the celebration of Christ’s birth aren’t far away. It’s Advent and a time of preparing and getting ready. Trouble is, it seems everyone is in such a rush to get to Christmas that we forget to really celebrate it by getting ready for it.
December, the days prior to the twenty-fifth, are a count down to Christmas like on the old fashioned Advent calendars. Filled with twenty-five doors, the child slowly opens one door at a time, one each day, counting down to Christmas. The door once opened reveals a verse of Scripture, a picture displaying the joy of the season, or maybe with the right grandparents, a chocolate treat (Karen and I ARE those grandparents). In worship, we light one of the four Advent candles on the Advent wreath each week. No matter how we count the days out, we get more excited and anxious the closer we get to THE day — Christmas.
Lately, with all the parties and sales, the exchanges and events, by the time Christmas is really here our enthusiasm is about spent. I mean really, they started showing Christmas programing on TV weeks ago already. The stores had Christmas stuff out right next to the Halloween candy and costumes. Christmas music has filled the ether even before Thanksgiving (that’s in November with Christmas at the end of December in case you forgot). What’s sad is that a day or two after the twenty-fifth the music will fall silent, the celebrating be reduced to torn wrapping paper and returned presents, and the stores displaying the latest in swim wear. The feeling of peace on earth, good will to all overshadowed by the usual business of “if it feels good, just do it” mode of living.
I distinctly recall the church calendar and the carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas” in complete agreement that Christmas isn’t just one day but a season of celebration of at least twelve days in length which begins ON the twenty-fifth, not concludes.
My suggestion for these days before Christmas, you know the season of Advent, is to slow down — a little. To borrow from one of Advent’s themes, “Watch” “Be Ready” for the Savior is coming. I wouldn’t want you to miss Him because you were distracted by something less important or spent all your energy on a party before the guest of honor arrives.
Have a blessed Advent season as we get ready for Christ’s coming. Don’t worry. He’ll get here. Let’s just make sure WE ARE READY!
And those are my thoughts.