Archive for December 2012
What about a Teenage Christ? The First Sunday of Christmas, Shepherd by the Sea, Gualala, CA. December 30th 2012
The First Sunday of Christmas, Shepherd by the Sea, Gualala, CA. December 30th 2012
1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26 / Psalm 148 / 1 Col. 3:12-17 / Luke 2:41-52
What about a Teenage Christ?
It’s the Sixth Day of Christmas and the light of the Christ-child is still shining on us. Whereas most Americans usually crowd Christmas into Advent, we usually buy a Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas, and then let Christmas spill over into Epiphany. In our Puerto Rican congregation in Coney Island, New York, January 6th was the Day of the Three Kings and like the people of many Latin American countries, it was the day that everyone shared their gifts. The children bring shoeboxes full of straw for the camels of the Three Kings, who give them presents, like the Magi of old, who brought the Christ-child gold, frankincense, and myrrh. That seems to be a more biblical custom, don’t you think, than Santa Clause, our Father-God image?
But today we already have the story of the 12 year old Jesus brought to the temple again by his very devout parents, Mary and Joseph. They were very much into the religion that taught salvation by the law. We now follow their son, whom we also confess to be the Son of God, who brings us salvation by Jesus the Christ, this little boy. Thus for us the Ten Commandments are overshadowed by the Seven Beatitudes, for in them Jesus describes the new beings, who have become clothed in Christ, just like little Samuel, wearing that linen Ephod, that white robe his mother, Hannah made him each year. That’s why Christians also usually dress in white robes for baptism and devout Moslems also love to wear white robes.
But Christians put on Christ. We become clothed in the character of Christ, so that the wonderful words of our Colossians passage also describe us, just like the Beatitudes, when we live our lives in Christ as our way of salvation. Let’s hear the passage again:
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. Above all clothe yourself with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (1 Col. 3:12-17)
What a wonderful passage! Notice the way it moves from your personal body to the body of the community through the peace brought about by the rule of God! Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly! It needs to dwell in you so richly that God brings about the birth of Christ in you. Christ needs to be born in our hearts and then grow and mature in us so that we actually bear a family resemblance with the Christ of God, the way his followers are described in this Colossian’s passage, as well as in the Sermon on the Mount.
The law is about what we are not. What are we really? What good is it if we are not killers, adulterers, liars, thieves? What are we on the positive side of the law, when we are shaped by love? Thus our lives are not centered in the laws’ demands, but in the gracious promises of God, who overcomes our doleful old hearts and gives us loving, compassionate, forgiving, and thankful hearts ready to immerse ourselves ever more deeply in God’s Word and into the relationships with those who are the vessels of that Word.
Mary, Joseph, and Jesus had been to the temple in Jerusalem and now were on their way back to Nazareth, the families and relatives traveling together for protection from those who mugged and preyed on pilgrims. Nazareth was a very secular city and it did not even have a rabbi. When Jesus came back to the city during the time of his mature ministry, you may remember, he was not welcomed. They tried to throw him off a cliff!
So the journey to Jerusalem was a festival like Christmas, but they were returning to a secular, mostly Pagan, and violent Nazareth. (Not as violent as our society, of course. New York City is celebrating the fact that it had only 414 murders this year! There were only 598 murders in all of Canada last year. )
Meanwhile Mary and Joseph suddenly discovered that Jesus was missing on their return trip. The twelve year old Jesus had forgotten everything in his long Q and A session listening to and questioning the priests of the temple in Jerusalem. They were amazed at the boy’s understanding and his answers. Mind you that he also came from Nazareth, where the synagogue was not even worthy of a rabbi and where the family was probably hiding, so there was no one there to teach Jesus. That means God was directly revealing understanding to him, much the way St. Paul received his wonderful gospel purely by revelation.
At twelve years of age Jesus was missing on the return to Nazareth because he had to be in his Father’s House about his Father’s business. He had to be sharing and growing richly in the Word of God and in divine and human favor. But what can we make of a twelve year old Jesus, who would in one year become a teenage Jesus? The baby Jesus in his Christmas manger is all powerful. Who has more power than a baby anyway? The little bundle of love has both parents as big as they are completely wrapped around his or her little finger. They are there to fill its every need.
But what do you make of a 12 year old Christ, who is about to become a teenager? When the baby Christ is born – in us, he also grows up in us. But there are no stories about the teenage Christ in scripture. That could change if we became teenage Christs. Would we too sometimes want to be more adult that adults and more like children than a child? This age is certainly an in-between time; but we could also find ourselves there as well.
Perhaps it is necessary to step back, however and like Nicodemus, ask Jesus the question, “How can we be born again when we are old?” The new birth means filling ourselves with the expectancy of life, the life ahead of us, like that of a child. A cup in Starbucks reads: “When the old caterpillar comes to the end of the world, it finds itself a butterfly!” And we have to anticipate a wonderful life in heaven after this one! So the baby Jesus in us becomes a Christ-child, the 12 year old boy, and then the teenage Christ, with an incredible zest for life, never wanting to go to bed in order not to miss a moment for the mission for which we are heaven sent. So as old as we are we can open ourselves to the new wonders that life can bring, the new words that teenagers coin that express the wonder of their new experience. I think they coin most of the new words that are introduced into our lives. Being the time-machines that they are, they already explore the future, while still being right here with us. Like them, the Teenage Christ in us can have a new growth spurt, so that far from a journey to Nazareth, we can be on a pilgrimage growing into the embodiment of that passage in Colossians: singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with grateful hearts with the word of Christ living in us richly.
How does personal growth into the full stature of Christ and social movement into the peaceful body of Christ ruled by God, take place? Like a little child hearing grown-ups speaking grown-up language all around him or her, we have to be like the boy Jesus listening to and questioning the mature and wise priests in the temple – for us mature and wise followers of the faith. This week I read some more of Michael Polanyi, a scholar, who was a scientist who became a sociologist and philosopher and a Christian, too. He writes, “The amazing deployment of the infant mind is stirred up by a veritable blaze of confidence sensing the hidden meanings of speech and other adult behavior and grasping these meanings.”  The way a child grows up to be a teenager and then an adult is a measure of the spiritual growth that is outstanding for us. Polanyi compares the child’s intellectual progress to the highest levels of creative achievement and notes that it is like the “self-transformation…entailed in a religious conversion.”
So the Christ born in our hearts has to become surrounded by the Word of God, language that we have to grow up to understand: all the meanings that surround us in the beloved community that Jesus proclaimed so that we continue the incarnation of Christ in ourselves and in the peaceful rule of his collective body, the church, so that we become real incarnations of Christ growing from rebirth to teenage to maturity into the full stature of our Lord proclaiming the peaceful rule of God to our society.
Our Lord Jesus faced the issue of violence head on: those who live by the sword die by the sword. Those who live by a Bushmaster semi-automatic assault rifle die by one. Jesus faced the issue of the mentally deranged head on: if only a modern day Christ had faced the demons in an Adam Lansa! Jesus faced them in Legion, rebuked them, let them enter a herd of pigs that stampeded off a cliff and drowned in the sea.
But for that we need Teenage Christs and the adult and mature incarnations of Christ. We have too many people incarnating cruelty, hatred,  selfishness, and Rambo-types slaughtering defenseless innocents! What do we make of all those asserting themselves by buying these assault weapons and doing target practice right after the carnage of those children and teachers? They have hardened hearts: that is the only concept that I can come up with.
It will take many a teenage Christ with growth spurts into maturity to dismantle our culture of violence. Looking at movie posters, almost every leading actor is depicted wielding a gun and sometimes an assault weapon one would have to be a weight-lifter even to hold. But look at the social backdrop of a nuclear arsenal, drone warfare, tomahawk missiles, etc. The more we base our lives and the order of our society on the threat of death, the less we base them on God’s promise of life, the abundant life that love brings. The threat of death is becoming bankrupt in the face of those dying to kill, even themselves. God’s peaceful rule is based on the promise of life. Communion means that where two or three are gathered together and become one in Christ, God is there to do wonders. We need to repent of our culture of violence; repent for such assault weapons, but as well as for SWAT teams kicking down doors in the middle of the night. It has grown so cold. When it comes to the beloved community Christ proclaimed, we are so far away we are not even warm! We need to repent and believe the Good News. Can’t we expect that world, and enter the beloved community based on the promises of God with the exuberant energy of teenage Christs?
We also need careful and wise negotiations by the leaders of our government. They could say, “We will stop the drone attacks if you stop your suicide bombers.” Russia and the USA could say: “We will drastically decrease our nuclear arsenal if you in Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea reduce yours as well and Iran stop in its hope to join the nuclear club.” It is still the arms race or the human race, because the hydrogen bombs we have in our arsenal today make the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki look like child’s play.
As teenage Christs we can certainly believe and witness to the beloved community and teach the nations how to forgive each other and make friends once again rather than threatening each other in such a drastic way. It is not all or nothing. We can grow by increments and approximations of justice.
And we can keep growing up in Christ. But we need to face the issues head on. In a movie about the Columbine massacre, a fellow was talking about it shaking his head in incomprehension while standing in front of a tomahawk missile in the Colorado factory there that was making them. Isn’t that the backdrop to the violence we are experiencing?
Jesus was able to bring good news to the poor, to be the healing presence of God for the sick, return a mentally deranged man to his right mind, open the eyes of the blind, the ears of the deaf, let the lame walk, the paralyzed move, and the stultified grow again.
We too can incarnate the young and growing Christ. We need to be Teenage Christs as old as we are and bring the teenage, awkward and clumsy presence of God into our society. Let’s fill our time with the stories of the Teenage Christ that are not recorded in scripture! We need those stories in our time. They have to tell and be told about the beloved relationships and the beloved community that is to die for. We will end up on the cross, of course. But what a glorious resurrection! The cross is glory for you and glory for me. Amen.
 That is being merciful, humble, peace-loving, hungering and thirsting for righteousness. I would like to write “justice” but I wonder if that might not be taken for revenge, in the sense that it is often now used.
 Police Reported Crime Statistics in Canada. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/2012001/article/11692-eng.htm
 Miachael Polanyi, “The Scientific Revolution, “ in Hugh C. White, ed., Christians in a Technological Era, (New York: Seabury Press, 1964), p. 40.
 A letter to the editor from Ann Ilton, Boca Raton, FL and dated Dec. 26, 2012 in the New York Times, December 28, 2012, page A20. Her letter influenced my sermon. She said that those who came to her and gathered around her and “offered loving solace were truly God incarnate, just as cruelty and cynicism are the opposite.” She continues: “It is a tough lesson to learn. However, when love surrounds you in its light, the darkness dissipates, and you can move on to the next phase of your life. You are not stultified by tragedy.”
God’s Christmas Present: Our New Birth in Christ, The First Advent German Christmas Eve Service, United Lutheran Church, Manteca, CA – December 2, 2012
The First Advent German Christmas Eve Service
United Lutheran Church, Manteca, CA – December 2, 2012
(translated from the German)
God’s Christmas Present: Our New Birth in Christ
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Everything in this service will be in German so that we can imagine that we are back in Germany for Christmas. When Mrs. Christine Jenkins called me this time for our German Christmas Eve service, it made me very happy. The time had come once again for me to prepare myself for this wonderful service in Manteca, to once again proclaim the Good News in German, our mother tongue. I took out my trumpet right away and played all the German Christmas carols, because I have to know the key and the very first note to be able to play them by ear. But I know it is far more important to beg God, to pray to God for the grace, for the gift, to proclaim God’s Word to you.
The last time the Christmas saying that was in my heart came from a German carol: “How the Christmas room shimmers and glistens!” as if the Christmas event could also make our hearts glisten and glow the same way. But to light up our hearts, it takes more than the glitter of a decorated Christmas room, the shimmering angel hair on the Christmas tree, more than the Christmas candles burning brightly on its branches, and the Christmas presents all around the tree, – because something inside us can be missing.
When I was about eleven or twelve years old, during the sharing of the Christmas presents, I smiled from ear to ear, but only to hide my disappointment. I only acted happy.
My father asked me, “Are you satisfied?”
Of course, I answered, “Yes.” Even though I felt that something was missing and somehow I could not come to terms with myself.
For Christmas my father usually received a few pairs of socks and a can of Half and Half tobacco for his pipe and he was satisfied with that. He was also a pastor and he felt that he received his real Christmas present from God, when God gave him new insights for his Christmas sermon. Those new insights were like revelations which made him very happy.
On Christmas Eve when everything was ready, he would sing “O Come Little Children, come one and come all” and as we entered the Christmas room, we children knew that we first had to have a Christmas service with the reading of the Christmas story. There would be long prayers and many a song before we could get to our Christmas presents. My childish selfishness and greed was intense and for me the Christmas presents were the main thing and the Christmas story and the long prayers, very much secondary. The service was overshadowed by the presents and my wrong-heartedness did not leave me in peace.
In a large family one can easily get lost, because there is often too little understanding and help for getting self-knowledge and instead an emphasis on obedience, where the sharing of mercy and grace would be more helpful.
As a young preacher I was still very immature. Sometimes I preached about the dark side of Christmas: that Christmas had been sold out to consumerism, business, and commercial interests and the hectic shopping for presents and finishing all the Christmas preparations hid a great loneliness and alienation. My sisters would actually run up thousands of dollars on their credit cards buying Christmas presents. Completely indebted that way it would take till the next Christmas before they had paid off the balance, and then they would go into debt all over again.
At the office where they worked they would have Christmas parties and everyone would drink way too much. Something was missing in their lives and that was the reality of Christmas, the sharing of the gifts of grace through the Good News, the glad tidings of great joy that will reach all people, because this birth in Bethlehem meant nothing else than that God came to be with us. So through faith God is among us, really present. In the birth of Jesus Christ from the Virgin Mary, we find that God was attracted to us and fell in love with us. God has struck up a friendship with us, the people of the earth, and through Jesus Christ, he wants to be our Father.
In those days even this pastor was on the dark side of Christmas, because the reality of Christmas was missing. It is much like for our society where Black Friday has even cut away part of Thanksgiving Day in a crazy frenzy of greedy consumerism. Hearts have not been and still need to be marvelously changed, because that brings boundless love into everyday life, fresh new hope, and an ever increasing strength of faith. The Christmas spirit over these days is only faint and temporary in comparison.
In Berlin when I ministered in St. Ann’s Church in Dahlem, I learned that Bishop Scharf always celebrated Christmas with the prisoners in jail. Separated from their families, the suffering there is the worst over Christmas. To spend Christmas Eve there requires great maturity and a strong faith.
I wanted to celebrate Christmas in a special way too. In the Western District of St. Ann’s Dahlem parish, there were many very rich people who lived in villas. But there was also an orphanage for boys. So I took myself over there on Christmas Eve and asked if there was anything I could do for them, for example, what present I could give them. The present that they wanted was to go to the movies. So on Christmas Eve I sat with them in a movie house and what’s worse, we watched a shocking horror film! That on Christmas Eve! I should not say, “On that Holy Night” but “that unholy night”! I was with them as their pastor, but that Christmas Eve was pathetic, bleak, and empty.
Then I thought about our Christmas at home, the prayers, the Christmas story, the Christmas sermon of my father; it suddenly seemed to me that the Christmas room was almost transfigured – glistening in a heavenly light. Because the birth of the Christ-Child in the cradle of my heart had not yet taken place, my representation of the Good News was too weak to help those boys from the orphanage experience the real Christmas.
For that one had to have experienced God’s grace, that means, to have received a new birth in Christ, because the birth of Jesus Christ in the cradle of our hearts is our real God-given Christmas present and after receiving it, we can say with St. Paul, “I live, but it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me!” (Gal 2:20) For we believers live in Christ, in the Son of God, who was born for us, so that we too could become children of God and as Jesus said, we could have a “dear Our Father in Heaven.” Through this birth, just like through our baptism, God our Father gives us gifts of grace, hope, faith, satisfaction, protection, and the blessing of having spiritual possessions. This kind of a “blessed having” is the direct opposite of being greedy, because God gives us wonderful gifts through faith. Like Luther said, “If you believe, you have them, if you don’t believe, you don’t have them.” More poetically, “If you believe, you receive; if you do not believe, you don’t receive.” You don’t “get” it.
Christmas as a mere festival on the church calendar won’t do. That we celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ helps us, but it also won’t do. Through faith we receive a new birth in the birth of God’s Son. The Good News is that we ordinary, everyday, and even lowly people, who may not have room in the inn of our hearts, but do provide a stall and in it a cradle, so that the Christ Child, the Son of God can be born there – in our hearts. This new birth is like our baptism, because the experience includes suffering the contractions, until our new being is born into the world, a new person. This new birth takes place through the baptism of our faith, by which we are born children of God, marvelously changed and new.
At that point we have experienced the real Christmas. The Christmas story becomes our story and our life turns into a prayer, a Word of God, a loving and worshiping service of others. That is why it is also appropriate for us to celebrate Christmas Eve on the First Advent, because although we celebrate the birthday of Christ on December 25, our new birth can take place any time of year, we could even experience our Christmas birth in July. We celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ, since God came to us in his birth so that, because of God’s love for us, we also are born anew and that also means that a new start from Heaven has come down to the earth.
As I matured further in faith, like a child, I relearned the Christmas story by heart and a few years ago, I presented it dramatically in a Christmas party in Philadelphia. The people were caught in the spell of the Gospel. Then one very smart and intellectual woman said, “You told the story as if you believe it! You are pretty naive. No one in our modern times today still believes it.”
If someone has already gone through that birth, that baptism of faith, in which Jesus Christ is born in the cradle of your heart, then you know that you have received a gift from God and someone taking that kind of a critical stand merely demonstrates that she is missing what’s real about Christmas. In these modern times one can also go to the movies and see a horror show on Christmas Eve! What is holy for these modern times?
As a child I had more greed than the blessed having of God’s gift. You become blessed when Christ is in your heart. “If you believe, you receive; if you don’t, you won’t.” In this birth in Bethlehem, the overwhelming friendship to us human beings by God, the Father of Jesus, was revealed to us, and now God is with us, among us, and in us through his dear Son.
Now my knowledge is certain: the main thing is God’s Word, prayer, loving worshipful service, the Christmas story, so that God our Father through love brings about our new birth as the children of God. This God-given Christmas gift is the main thing and then as having everything, lovingly, we can give and receive presents in sharing the gifts of grace.
The peace of God which surpasses human understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
A Blessed and Merry Christmas to everyone!
Pastor Peter Krey
Das Weihnachts Geschenk Gottes: unsere neue Geburt, December 2, 2012, Advent Heiligabend Gottesdienst zu Manteca, California
Advent Heiligabend Gottesdienst zu Manteca, California
December 2, 2012
Die Gnade unsers Herrn Jesus Christus, die Liebe Gottes, und die Gemeinschaft des Heilgen Geistes sei mit Euch allen. Amen.
Das Weihnachts Geschenk Gottes: unsere neue Geburt
Alles jetzt auf Deutsch: Wir können uns wohl wieder eine Weilchen nach Deutschland versetzen. Als Frau Christine Jenkins mich dieses Mal für unseren Hl. Abend Gottesdienst anrief, hab ich mich echt gefreut. Die Zeit war wieder da mich für den deutschen Heiligabendgottesdienst in Manteca vorzubereiten; die frohe Botschaft nochmals auf Deutsch, unserer Muttersprache zu verkündigen. Gleich hab ich meine Trompete herausgeholt und all die Weihnachtslieder gespielt, denn ich muss die Tonart und den ersten Ton richtig anstimmen, sonst geht’s für mich nicht. Aber viel wichtiger ist’s, Gott zu bitten, um die Gnade, ums Geschenk, sein Wort zu verkündigen.
Das letzte Mal klang der Weihnachtliche Satz in meinem Herzen, “Wie wird dann die Stube glänzen” also, ob das Weihnachtsgeschehen auch unsere Herzen zum glänzen bringen würde. Aber dazu gehört mehr als das glänzende Weihnachtszimmer, das schimmerde Lametta am Weihnachtsbaum, die hell leuchtenden Kerzen, und die Weihnachtsgeschenke ums Zimmer herum, wenn etwas inwendig in uns fehlt.
Als ich noch elf oder zwölf Jahre alt war, bei der Bescherung der Geschenke, hab ich mit verstelltem Lächeln meine Enttäuschung zu verstecken versucht. Mein Vater fragte mich, “Bist du auch zufrieden?”
Ich hab natürlich “Ja” geantwortet, obgleich ich ahnte, dass mir etwas fehlte und ich irgendwie mit mir selbst nicht zurecht kam.
Mein Vater hat meistens ein Paar Strümpfe und eine Schachtel “Half und Half Tobacco,” das heißt, Tabak für seine Pfeife bekommen und damit war er zufrieden. Er war auch ein Pastor und neue Einsichten für seine Weihnachtspredigt hielt er für seine Gott-gegeben Weihnachtsgeschenke, auf die er sich freute.
Am Heiligabend im Weihnachtszimmer hat er, “Ihr Kinderlein Kommet” gesungen und wir Kinder wussten, dass erst ein Gottesdienst mit der Weihnachtsgeschichte, lange Gebete, und Lieder zuvor kamen, ehe wir an unsere Geschenke kommen konnten. Bei mir war die kindische Habgier sehr stark und so waren für mich die Weihnachtsgeschenke die Hauptsache und die Weihnachtsgeschichte und die langen Gebete, halt, Nebensache. Sie lagen im Schatten der Geschenke, und dabei liess mein verkehrtes Herz mich nicht in Frieden. In einer grossen Familie kann man leicht verloren gehen, denn es gibt oft zu wenig Verständniss und Hilfe zur Selbst-Erkenntniss und ein Beharren auf Gehorsam, wo eine Bescherung von Gnade mehr angebracht wäre.
Als ein junger Prediger war ich noch sehr unreif. Manchmal hab ich von der dunklen Seite von Weihnachten gepredigt, dass Weihnachten an Konsum, Betrieb, und Kommerz verkauft war und dass Hektik von Geschenkenkauf und Weihnachtsvorbereitungen eine grosse Einsamkeit und Verlorenheit versteckte. Meine Schwestern haben sich buchstäblich mit solch Kaufen von Geschenken zu Tausenden von Dollar verschuldet und es dauerte bis zum nächsten Weihnachten um sie abzubezahlen und dann haben sie wiederum neue Schulden gemacht. Im Geschäft haben die Mitarbeiter Weihnachtsfeiern gefeiert und dann viel zu viel getrunken. Etwas fehlte ihnen, und das war zwar die Weihnachtswirklichkeit – eine Gnaden Bescherung von der frohen Botschaft, die alle Menschen wiederfahren werden. Dass diese Geburt zu Bethlehem nichts anders bedeutet, als dass Gott zu uns gekommen ist. So durch den Glauben ist Gott mit uns. In der Geburt von Jesus Christus von der Jungfrau Maria, erfahren wir die Zuneigung und Liebe und die Menschenfreundlichkeit Gottes, des Gottes, der durch Jesus auch unser Vater geworden ist.
Vielleicht hatte der Prediger selbst noch nicht die Weihnachtswirklichkeit erfahren und verstanden. Man kann aber echt von einer dunklen Seite bei der Gesellschaft sprechen, wo wir nach unser Danksagungs Tag jetzt von einem schwarzen Freitag mit Konsumwahn und gehässige Habgier hören, nicht wahr? Offentsichtlich haben viele in unserer Gesellschaft, Herzen, die noch nicht verwandelt sind. Die Weihnachtswirklichkeit von der Alltäglichkeit einer grenzenlosen Liebe, frischen neuen Hoffnung, und einem immer stärker werdenden Glauben fehlte.
In Berlin als ich dort in der Sankt Annen Kirche amtierte, erfuhr ich, dass Bischof Scharf Weihnachten immer im Gefängniss unter den Gefangnen feierte. Über Weihnachten sind die Gefangenen immer am schlimmsten dran. Weihnachten dort zu feiern, dazu gehört ein sehr reifer und starker Glaube.
Ich wollte auch Weihnachten auf eine besonderne Art feiern. Im West Bezirk der Gemeinde gab es viele reiche Leute, die in Villen wohnten. Da war aber auch ein Waisenhaus für Jungs. So begab ich mich am Heiligabend dorthin und fragte, welch ein Geschenk ich allen geben könnte. Als Geschenk wünschten sie sich alle ins Kino zu gehen. Am Heiligabend sass ich mit ihnen im Kino und zwar auch in einen schrecklichen Horror Film. Was für ein Heiliger Abend! Ich sollte sagen, was für ein unheiliger Abend! Ich war als Pfarrer dabei, aber dieser Abend war armselig, öde, und leer.
Als ich an unser Weihnachten zu Hause gedacht hab, das Beten, die Weihnachtsgeschichte und Weihnachtspredigt meines Vaters, da schien mir unser Weihnachtszimmer fast verklärt im himmlischen Glanz. Weil die Geburt von Christus in der Krippe meines Herzens noch austand, war meine Vertretung der frohen Botschaft zu schwach um die Weihnachtswirklichkeit zu den Jungs in diesem Waisenhaus zu bringen.
Dafür muss man eben die Gnade, das heist, die neue Geburt von Christus bekommen und erfahren haben. Denn die Geburt von Jesus Christus in der Krippe unseres Herzens ist Gottes uns gegebenes Weihnachtsgeschenk, wonach wir mit (dem heligen)Apostel Paulus sagen können, “Ich lebe, doch nun nicht ich, sondern Christus lebt in mir” (Gal 2, 20). Denn wir Gläubigen leben in Christus, im Sohn Gottes, der für uns geboren ist, damit wir auch Kinder Gottes werden und wie Jesus uns bezeugte, einen lieben Vater im Himmel haben oder wie ein Pfarrer sagte, ein lieben „Vater Unser“ in Himmel haben. Denn durch diese Geburt, halt, wie durch unsere Taufe, schenkt uns Gott unser Vater Gnade, Hoffnung, Glaube, Zufriedenheit, Geborgenheit, und Seligkeit. Diese seelische Geschenke zu bekommen vertragt sich nicht mit Habgier. Denn Gott schenkt uns alles durch den Glauben. Wie Luther sagt, “Glaubstu, so hastu. Glaubstu nit, so hastu nit.”
Weihnachten nur als ein Fest des Kirchenjahres reicht nicht. Dass wir den Geburtstag von Jesus Christus feiern hilft uns, aber das reicht auch nicht. Im Glauben bekommen wir unsere neue Geburt in der Geburt des Sohnes Gottes. Die frohe Botschaft ist, dass wir gewöhnlichen, alltäglichen, und manchmal erniedrigten Menschen, auch wenn wir keinen Raum in unserer Herberge haben, doch im Stall, in der Krippe unseres Herzens die Geburt des Sohn Gottes erfahren und haben können. Diese neue Geburt geschieht in der Taufe des Glaubens, wodurch wir zu Kinder Gottes verwandelt werden. Anders gesagt: wie bei unserer Taufe, die neue Geburt führt durch Leiden und Schmerzen hindurch zur wahren Freude im neuen Sein. Wie Jesus sagte: „Ein Weib, wenn sie gebiert, so hat sie Traurigkeit, denn ihre Stunde ist gekommen. Wenn sie aber das Kind geboren hat, denkt sie nicht mehr an die Angst um der Freude willen, dass der Mensch zur Welt geboren ist“(John 16.21). So geht’s auch bei unserer neuen Geburt.
Dann gibt’s die Weihnachtswirklichkeit für uns. Wo die Weihnachtsgeschichte unsere Geschichte wird, wo unser Leben ein Gebet, Wort Gottes, und Gottesdienst wird. Daher ist’s auch angebracht dass wir heute Heiligabend feiern, denn der Zeitpunkt ist völlig egal; unsere neue Geburt oder „Weihnachten“ könnte auch im Juli stattfinden. Denn wir feiern den Geburtstag von Jesus Christus weil Gott in seiner Geburt zu uns gekommen ist und damit in seiner Liebe und Zuneigung, wir alle auch neu geboren werden, weil mit dem Sohne Gottes auch ein neuer Ansatz vom Himmelreich auf Erden gekommen ist.
Als ich weiter im Glauben gereift bin, hab ich wieder wie ein Kind die Weihnachtsgeschichte auswendig gelernt. Vor ein paar Jahren, als ich sie dramatisch in Philadelphia aufgeführt habe, hat eine kluge, intellektuelle Frau mich für naiv gehalten, “Du hast die Geschichte erzählt, als ob du sie noch glaubst!? Keiner in der modernen Zeit glaubt sie noch.”
Wenn man in der Glaubenstaufe selbst die Geburt von Jesus Christus in der Krippe des Herzens erfahren hat, dann hat man ein Geschenk Gottes, und solch ein Ausdruck der Kritik zeigt nur, dass ihr das Verständniss für die Weihnachtswirklichkeit fehlt. In der modernen Zeit kann man am Heiligabend ins Kino gehen und auch ein Horrorfilm anschauen. Was ist für unsere moderne Zeit heilig?
Als ein Kind hab ich mehr Habgier als Seligkeit gehabt. Selig bist du, wenn du Christus in deinem Herzen hast. “Glaubstu so hastu, glaubstu nit so hastu nit.” In dieser Geburt zu Bethlehem ist uns die Menschenfreundlkichkeit des Vaters von Jesus erschienen, damit Gott mit uns, unter uns, und in uns ist, durch seinen lieben Sohn.
Jetzt weiß ich ganz genau: Die Hauptsache ist Gottes Wort, das Gebet, der Gottesdienst, die Weihnachtsgeschichte, damit Gott unser Vater uns durch seine Liebe unsere neue Geburt als Kinder Gottes wirkt. Dieses gottgegebene Weihnachtsgeschenk ist die Hauptsache, und dann als Alles-Habende, können wir mit Liebe Geschenke geben und erhalten in einer Bescherung der Gnade.
Der Friede Gottes welcher höher ist als alle mennschliche Vernunft, bewahre Eure Herzen und Sinne in Christus Jesus. Amen.