Rev. Tim Radke
He who worked the church could not find a parking place. The parking lot had more cars than he was ever used to seeing. What had he forgotten and why was his usual spot taken? Then, the revelation dawned on him and the proverbial LED light bulb shined brightly through his darkness, “Today is the preschool children’s Christmas program!” The parking lot is full of parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. There was no room for him in the parking lot because people, gobs of them, have come to see their children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews perform the Biblical story of Christmas.
After a long walk, the pastor made his way to the church, having parked in a neighboring business’ parking lot. The agitation of having his normal routine interrupted wore off by the time he reached his office, turned on the lights, and took his seat. Grabbing his coffee mug, he went to fill it and meandered over to the sanctuary, where the story of Christmas was being performed by preschool children. The pastor was shocked to see there was a real baby in the manger, moving about as babies do when over-stimulated by noise, sounds, and lights.
It was time to move beyond the door with a window into the sanctuary. The pastor was taken aback to see the sanctuary fuller than he had ever seen it in three years, though the Christmas reality is told every week. In this very room the people of Christ are advented by Him every week. Christ visits His people and comes to them with His faith saving and faith sustaining gifts, every week. These thoughts were quickly interrupted by the flashes from cameras, phones, and recorders. Everyone in this place had come to see a child, their child. Few were here for the story of salvation the Child, Christ the Lord, came into the world to complete by way of a bloody cross.
Maybe the pastor is a humbug. Maybe he makes big deals of minor deals. Maybe he is cranky for having to walk farther than normal to his office. Maybe the pastor is all of these things and then some. All of these are true of him, for he remains a sinner in need of what the Christ-child in the manger came to deliver him from. This pastor moved past his self-righteousness in a couple of days as the Spirit most certainly convicted him. He was convicted about how rare it is to consider the Child, Christ Jesus, in the manger at Christmas. Convicted that he, like many, have lost the Savior in the manger and filled the manger with everything but the Savior. Christmas for believers and unbelievers, sadly and sinfully, has come to look very much the same. When the infant Son of God is pushed aside, all is lost even and especially among the faithful. “All that is Christmas originates in heaven and comes from there to us all…,” said Maria Von Wedemeyer (Lutheran pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s fiancée).
In the end, the pastor was advented by the One who had come into the world. Convicted by the Spirit and dead in his sin and made alive in Christ, by the same Spirit. The words of Bonhoeffer rang through his mind as loudly as the church bell that calls the sinful into the divine service of the Savior, “Has our head become too full or serious thoughts to deal with such a child? Can we not forget all our stresses and struggles, our sense of importance, and for once worship the child, as did the shepherds and wise men from the East, bowing before the divine child in the manger like children?” Come Lord Jesus, visit us yet again with the means of grace.