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OPEN WIDE THE DOOR, UNBAR THE GATE: (Translation from the German) Advent and Christmas Eve Sermon at United Lutheran Church in Manteca, CA 11/30/2014

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Advent and Christmas Eve Sermon at United Lutheran Church in Manteca, CA

November 30, 2014

OPEN WIDE THE DOOR, UNBAR THE GATE

(Translation from the German)

Pr. Peter D.S. Krey, Ph.D.

For many of us Christmas was very special, perhaps especially so for Germans. At our house, my father, who was called Rudolf and my mother, called Gertrude, (both with very German names) although they wanted 12 children ended up having 16 and they always made Christmas Eve really special for us children. In fact on Christmas Eve none of us were allowed into the Christmas room, nor allowed to see the decorated Christmas tree, except my father and mother and usually my oldest sisters Ruthie and Esther, who were their helpers. While Father and Mother unpacked and distributed all the presents around the room, they had a place for each child in which they gathered his or her presents. When the time came we children lined up in front of the door of the Christmas room in order from the littlest ones in front to the oldest in back, waiting until my father lit the real candles in the Christmas tree, and then waited through even longer minutes, until we heard my father singing, “O Come Little Children, O come one and all.” Then we opened the door and we were allowed through it into the radiant glow of the Christmas room. From the everyday of pushing and shoving in the long line we were suddenly filled with awe and wonder at the glorious, glistening and streaming light of the beautifully decorated room. It seemed as if the door of heaven had been opened.

That’s why this time I thought of the hymn: “Fling Wide the Door and Unbar the Gate,” because we are celebrating the birth of the Christchild, Jesus Christ, the King of Glory and his entering through heaven’s door to us on earth into our time from the streaming light of heaven, from the glistening glow of eternity.

With that we can also think of the little Christchild himself as the door[1] through whom we can go in and out to receive the streaming light of eternity, the light of grace shining all around us from the radiant grace streaming from that Son, the sun of grace.

When we children entered the Christmas room, we naturally looked around trying to catch a glimpse of our particular presents, which were lying all around the room glistening in the flickering lights of the Christmas tree, upon which there were 17 candles burning brightly. One burned for each child and one for each of my parents. Our brother, little James at six months of age died in a United Nations Relief Agency Camp after the war in Germany; thus there were only 17 candles.

After we finished singing, my father first read the Christmas story. We heard the old story about Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem and how God opened up the door of heaven and how the angel of the Lord approached the shepherds and proclaimed the Gospel for the first time on earth: “For see, I bring you glad tidings of great joy, which will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord.” In the background the multitudes of angels, the heavenly host descended in astonishment and ascended back into heaven rejoicing at the advent of God and Mary’s son on earth. And after the shepherds had seen the Christchild for themselves, they themselves spread the Gospel further: that the king did not only come as a child, but even as the baby Jesus from the streaming light of eternity into our time. Yes even bringing along the wonderful glow of eternity, bringing it through the open door, in which the glistening and radiant light of the Christmas tree streamed over the presents. It’s in the glistening glow of eternity, however, that we receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

After we had heard the Christmas story from my father, the pastor, that is a shepherd, we all knelt down in prayer: first of all my father, Rudolf, a master-baker’s son and a World War I soldier, who led a machine gun company and never did pastor a congregation long, that is, except his family; next my mother Gertrude also knelt down, the daughter of an officer during the Franko-Prussian War of 1871 and small town mayor of Moschien, a little suburb of Posen in Poland in the time before the First World War. We all got down on our knees, we boys considering what to say for our Christmas prayer. Sadly only we boys had to pray out-loud; not my nine sisters. But yet and still the whole family prayed fervently, because it is written, “Knock and [the door] shall be opened unto you.”[2] Because God has answered the prayer of God’s people: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given and the government will be upon his shoulders.” And at the calling of his name, the gates are opened, because he is called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”[3]

A German hymn goes “God opened wide the door of life,”[4] not only to our Christmas room, but the door into eternal life, because the birth of the Christchild is for us, in whose birth we are also born today, because through our baptisms the babe of Bethlehem is also born in our hearts. The gate of life swings open for the fullness of life and eternal life begins for us here and now.

Fling wide the door; unbar the gate

The king of glory’s birth relate.

On our knees in the Christmas room we all prayed intensely: “Lift up your heads, O gates! And be ye lifted up, O ancient doors – that the King of Glory may come in.”[5] And looking into the manger with the eyes of our hearts, we can ask: “Who is the King of Glory?” and answer, “It is this Christchild, the baby Jesus right here in the straw and hay, making our hearts rejoice today

There in the cradle oh so small

lies the Creator of us all.

Lift up your heads, O gates

And be lifted up, O ancient doors

because the King of Glory, our Savior has come to us and brings us heavenly gifts, which we receive because of his birth.

As we prayed and when you pray the glow of heaven does not remain outside of you, like in our Christmas room, but especially when the door of our hearts are open, the streaming and radiant glorious light comes inside of us, inside of you.

Open our hearts, dear Savior,

So that by your favor

this little candle of mine

Can brightly shine:

Look how he laughs and sees us,

in the manger, the baby Jesus.

And the holy radiance of eternity can also glow within you, when you keep the door of your hearts open so the Christchild, the new born King of Glory can come in. For we sing:

Oh, happy towns and blessed lands, who live by their true king’s commands.[6]

And when our hearts have become the cradle of the little Lord Jesus, the radiance of Christmas, the glorious glow of eternity will also shine in us. Let it shine in my life and your life, filled with grace and truth and the fullness of life, for when the Christchild opens the gate of life for us, then the source of life wells up in us. The source of life is love, when God’s love dwells in us through the baby Jesus. With that even the source of love wells up in us, also the source of forgiveness, the source of hope and faith well up in us; the source of joy, the source of truth, the source of grace, mercy and compassion well up in us; the source of blessing, the source of kindness, righteousness and justice well up inside us; so we sing:

Let’s all together praise our God before the highest throne;

today God opens heaven’s gate again and sends us his dear Son.[7]

Because the little child lying in the cradle, God and Mary’s son, has opened the gate of life for us, even the gate to eternal life, for this Child will overcome death for us.

When God opened Heaven’s door, God came to us in Bethlehem, and that not in Caesar’s palace, nor the halls of the castle of a king,

but in a lowly stall, this Creator of us all,

who unfurled the whole world for us all.

What a holy night! It is tonight that we also pray fervently so that in our darkness a new bright and shining day can come. What a day is this? The sun shining with grace and bliss!

This is the day the Lord has made.

Let us rejoice and be glad in it.[8]

Because it is day made by the sun shining with radiant rays of grace. And according to another song, this day is filled with heavenly light, that is not matched by a thousand suns.[9] What a light that must be!

Open up all the doors of your hearts for the word of God and Heaven’s door opens and God says, “Let there be light and there was light.”[10] Because the light of the world is born. At Christmas the Light of the world is born for us and has come to us. “Today God opened the gates of Paradise once more and the angel no longer blocks it as before.”[11] In the words of the hymn:              “[God] unlocked the door again today/ that leads to paradise/

the angel no longer bars the way/ to God let praises rise/ to God let praises rise.”[12]

Thus we too have to unbar the door to our heart and keep our hearts open to the Gospel.

Lift up your heads, O gates. Be lifted up, O ancient doors because the King of glory” is born and has come to be with us. He is the door through which we receive all the promised gifts of the Holy Spirit that the Christmas Christchild brings.

The Christchild dwelling right in us is the source of glory welling up in us,

providing us with eternal life and light,

so new life comes to us in this holy night.

As we pray,

a new day

full and bright,

begins in this deep dark night,

like a rose blooming in the cold of winter;

like a saint made out of a sinner;

like rejoicing in all our sorrow,

with new hope for tomorrow;

like new life in death, by the Savior’s breath;

here and now we live and be

in the radiant light

of eternity.

So we celebrate the birth of the Christchild, the baby, the little Lord Jesus. We behold his glory in the manger, full of grace and truth and rejoicing, because his Father God for us has opened up heaven’s portal. Amen.

Three verses of the song go like this:

  1. Fling wide the door, unbar the gate, the King of Glory comes in state.

The Lord of lords and King of kings, the Savior of the world who brings

his great salvation to the earth. So raise a shout of holy mirth

and praise our God and Lord, Creator, Spirit, Word.

  1. Oh happy towns and blessed lands that live by their true king’s commands.

And blessed be the hearts he rules, the humble places where he dwells.

He is the rightful Son of bliss, who fills our lives and makes us his,

creator of the world, our only strength for good.

  1. Come Lord, our Savior, Jesus Christ; our hearts are open wide in trust.

Oh show us now your lovely grace upon our sorrows shine your face

and let your Holy Spirit guide our journey in your grace so wide.

We praise your holy name from age to age the same.[13]

Wishing you all a Merry, Merry Christmas and Happy Healthy New Year!

Pastor Peter Krey

[1] See John 10:9.

[2] Mat 7:7.

[3] Psalm 24: At the shouting of God’s name, the Lord of Hosts, the gates were opened.

[4] Evangelisches Kirchen-Gesangbuch No. 33, verse 4: “Jauchzet, ihr Himmel” (Rejoice, you Heavens.)

[5] Psalm 24.

[6] From Hymn No. 259, verse 3 in the hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship.

[7] Ibid., Hymn No. 287, cf. verse 1.

[8] Psalm 118:24.

[9] Evangelisches Kirchen-Gesangbuch No. 32.

[10] Genesis 1:3.

[11] Hymn No. 287, cf. verse 6 in the hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship.

[12] Ibid.

[13] From the Evangelical Book of Worship, Augsburg-Fortress, Hymn No. 259.

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Written by peterkrey

December 1, 2014 at 12:30 pm

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