Putting the Mass back in "Christmas"!

Rev. George Borghardt

You’ve heard the expression, "Keep Christ in Christmas," haven’t you? That couldn’t be more true! The world has no problem talking about "God" at Christmastime, but wants to find God somewhere else other than on earth, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying and sleeping in a manger. For us, the big deal about Christmas is that Jesus has come into the flesh. We most definitely should keep Christ in Christmas!

But no one ever says not to take the "mass" out of Christmas, do they? What does the “mass” mean? Did your Lutheran alarm go off when you first read the word “mass”? Did you think, “That’s Roman Catholic”? That’s not a bad thing to think for we have many disagreements with the doctrines of the Roman Mass. But we Lutherans do celebrate mass every time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper.The Divine Service in our hymnal flows from Luther’s Deustche Messe, his German Mass. When the “mass” is celebrated by Lutherans, this means simply that the Lord Jesus gives us what He won on the cross by grace alone at His Supper.

So we are gathered together by our Lord Jesus on December 25 to celebrate the Mass of Christ. What’s the connection between Jesus being born in the manger and the Lord giving us His Body and Blood in the Sacrament? Answer: everything!

Christmas is the church feast where we remember that the Babe of Bethlehem is born not to stay in the manger, but to go to Jerusalem. Mary’s Boy is born to die, born to be sacrificed for your sins and mine on the cross. He reconciles God and sinners by giving His life for the sin of the world.

But we can’t go back to the manger that first Christmas Day no matter how hard we try. Nor can we go back to the cross when grown-up Jesus died on Good Friday. Nor will we find Jesus there! So what does Jesus do? Christmas is the day when the Babe of Bethlehem comes to us not in the manger but in His Body and Blood at the Sacrament.

Jesus came that first Christmas not in heavenly splendor, but wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in the manger.He was born so down-to-earth, so one of us, so ordinary. He came to earth not with thunder and lightning, but humble, meek, and lowly. Jesus is God with us, God one of us, God for us.

Jesus comes to you at Christmas not in heavenly splendor. He comes to you in ordinary, down-to-earth bread and wine. He comes not with thunder and lighting, but with the forgiveness of sins put into your mouth.

Dr. Luther said it this way, “If now I seek the forgiveness of sins, I do not run to the cross, for I will not find it given there... But I will find in the sacrament or Gospel the word which distributes, presents, offers, and gives to me that forgiveness which was won on the Cross” (AE 40, 214). We don’t go to the manger to find God on Christmas; we go to the Sacrament where God delivers Himself to us, into our mouths, in, with, and under the bread and wine.

But don’t we have the Lord’s Supper often and not just on Christmas? Yes! The good Lutheran question is, “What does that mean?” It means that every celebration of the Lord’s Supper is a Christmas celebration! Our Lord Jesus loves us that much that He gives us His Body and Blood not just on Christmas, but every Divine Service.

Don’t let anyone take Christ out of Christmas. And don’t let anyone take the Lord’s Supper out of Christmas either! Jesus desires to come to you in His Supper. This Christmas, He breaks into your world, not wrapped in swaddling clothes, but bearing His salvation in His Body and Blood given and shed for you for the remission of all your sins. Take Eat, His Body. Take Drink, His Blood. A blessed and merry Christ’s Mass to you!

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2004 issue of Higher Things Magazine.

Created: December 22nd, 2013