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January 2013 - Christ In Your Midst



            Historian Roland Bainton quotes a section of a Christmas sermon by Luther:

 “Joseph was walking to Bethlehem, accompanied by Mary in an advanced stage of pregnancy.  He thought there would be time to discover a place for her among relatives -- a fine idea that was!  Her time came.  And he tried to find room for her in the inn, and there was no room for her in the inn.  Of course there was!  There was all the room in the inn, but no one would give up a room.  Shame on you retched Bethlehem.  You should have been burned with brimstone! 

            And don’t you think you people of this congregation that if you had been there you would have any done better!  I can just hear you say it: ‘We would have loved to take care of the baby Jesus.  We would have washed His diapers.’  Yes you would.  That’s what you say because you know what He turned out to be, but if you had been there you wouldn’t have done any better.  And if you think you would, why don’t you care for your neighbor who is Christ in your midst!”


            Well said.  We talk much about Christ’s Real Presence - of how the Incarnate Christ not only came to us at His birth, but also at our Rebirth, and continues to come to us.  But Christ indeed, as Luther noted, stated that He is around us also in our neighbor, in the sense that how we treat those around us is exactly how we are treating Christ.  We talk much about the Real Presence of Christ, but do we live like He is really present in our lives/hearts, or do we ignore Him.

            Do we make room in the inn?  Do we make room in our hearts? -- Room for our neighbor -- especially for each other in this very congregation?  Or do we shut our eyes, ears and hearts to each other’s needs and hurts?

            Does the birth of Christ, Christmas, Christ among us make an impact in our DAILY lives? 

            In your family relationships, does the Incarnation and birth of Christ impact how you treat each other?  Are we putting our spouse and his/her needs ahead of our own, looking to serve them first, or are we more concerned with what’s in it for me, what are they doing for me? 

            How about your relationship with your children?  Is it one where you are raising them in the fear and knowledge of the Lord, mindful of the vows you stated at their baptism?  Do they know what the birth of Christ is about and what it means to their daily lives?  With a house full of people with sinful natures, of course there will be strife and heartache, but do they see and experience forgiveness?

            Kids, how’s your relationship with your parents, God’s most important representatives in your lives?  Are you treating them with the respect, honor, and love that God wants you to?  Are you obeying them, not talking back or lipping off?

            How about those you work with, and the people you live next to?  Do you treat them with respectful, humble even servant attitudes, or with more of an indifference or uncaring spirit?

            And especially, how about those around you in this congregation?  Is your relationship one of caring and service; one where you always have something uplifting and encouraging to say, and one of forgiveness when there is hurt?  Or is it more of criticism and back-biting, one where you maybe don’t care too much about the other person, don’t like how they do something and are quick to tell someone about it; one where you hold a grudge?

            We are to treat, love and serve everyone around us, especially our fellow believers as if it were Christ Himself we were loving and serving.  And if we find that we are not, perhaps we have forgotten what this birth means, have been swallowed up with the world and the things of it.  We are shutting the door of the inn, shutting our hearts to Christ.  Luther said “Shame on you Bethlehem”, but just as easily could he say “Shame on us”.

            What does it mean in your daily life that God was born, died and raised for you?  The answer should be “Everything”!   We have just celebrated the birth of Immanuel, of God Incarnate.  The greatest moment in history other than the Resurrection.  We celebrated the fact that He was born to die for these very sins of neglect and selfishness, and raise us up to new life.  As we celebrate  His birth, we also celebrate our Rebirth in Him -- that He has made us alive in Him (when He first entered our hearts by Faith through Word and sacrament) and enables us to begin to love as we have first been loved, give of ourselves as we have been given this greatest gift, His Son!

            Were you ashamed at the thought of the various ways that we are “like Bethlehem” and ignore or shut out our Lord, live like there is no room for Him in our heart?  Good!  But at the same time, realize that because He was born, born to live and die and raise for us, that that sin is forgiven as well.  And as you start daily, daily, daily to realize how much you have been forgiven and loved (remembering what Christmas is really all about), then our Lord enables you to more and more open your heart to Christ and let Him live through you.  More and more He enables you to open your heart to your neighbor and serve them just as if they were Christ Himself. As the Babe travels to the Inn of our hearts, the Lord grant us the grace to open the door of our hearts to care for Him, and our neighbor who is Christ!




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