December 24, 2018
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her king;
let ev'ry heart prepare him room
and heav'n and nature sing,
and heav'n and nature sing,
and heav'n, and heav'n and nature sing.
  [Evangelical Lutheran Worship #267]
The lectionary readings for this coming Sunday, December 30, 2018, the First Sunday of Christmas, are as follows:
If you're actually reading this on Monday, you're aware it's Christmas Eve. However, in the interest of full disclosure, I'm writing a few days before Christmas. I'm always leery of writing too far in advance out of fear that something may happen, like a mass shooting or some other terrible tragedy. I dread that I can't immediately address that issue in a timely manner and so I wait, usually until late Sunday afternoon or even into the wee hours of Monday morning. With the office being closed for the holiday, I don't have that luxury.
If you pay close attention to the church calendar, you'll notice that our celebration of Christmas is quickly followed by several tragic commemorations. On December 26, the very next day, the church celebrates the feast of Stephen, Deacon and Martyr. He was the first one to die in the name of Jesus. On December 28, three days after the Nativity of Our Lord, we commemorate the Holy Innocents, in remembrance of all the children who lost their lives at the hand of a jealous and insecure King Herod, who was seeking to kill the child whom he thought would topple him from the throne. Joseph and Mary were forced to take the baby Jesus and flee to Egypt in order to escape Herod's reign of terror.
Granted, these events didn't happen in such rapid succession, but it's interesting how the Church has juxtaposed them - joy followed by tragedy.
In a way, it mirrors real life. We live in the constant ebb and flow of happiness and sorrow, gladness and grief. We've become so accustomed to these heartbreaking events in recent years that when we hear of them, we react with indifference. We are simply worn out.
If you are reading this on Monday, I pray you enjoy the anticipation that the night will bring; that you will celebrate Emmanuel, God with us, in Jesus; that you will enjoy singing Christmas carols and Christmas hymns this evening, or whenever you worship this Christmas Eve.
The beauty of this year is that you have nearly two more weeks to enjoy Christmas. The Christmas season lasts until Epiphany. That means you have thirteen more days to enjoy saying Merry Christmas to each other. May you hold on to that wonder of Christmas, despite the monotony of our lives or whatever setbacks the world may bring.
During the season of Christmas and these twelve days of Christmas, we celebrate the fact that Jesus was truly human. It is important to underscore the humanity of Jesus because the humanity of Jesus underscores for us the humanity of God. This message about the humanity of God also talks about the humanity of us human beings.
At Christmas, Christ comes to us as a real live human baby to show us that we, too, as live humans can see signs and wonders in our ordinary routine lives, long after Christmas.  It happens when we believe.
Merry Christmas - today and always!
As I mentioned above, our offices are closed for the Christmas holiday and will reopen next Wednesday, January 2. I, however, will be out of the office until January 10, at our annual Bishops' Academy. This is a continuing education event that is held in various locations throughout the country. This year we gather around the theme of Caring for Our Common Home: Neighbor and Neighbor-love, for Us, Today
On December 30, for the final time, I will be with the people of God at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in New Springfield as we bring that ministry to a close. This is not the most pleasant part of my ministry but one that is necessary to bring closure to the people who have worshipped faithfully there for many years.
I'm carrying this announcement over from last week and will probably do so for a few more weeks. Rostered leaders, please remember that it's time to complete your annual reports. The link and instructions are available on our Wednesday e-news, or you can access the form by clicking [here].
This week and always, may the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, the word of Christ dwell in you richly, and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.
+Bishop Abraham Allende