Author Archives: jculler1972

About jculler1972

My husband is the pastor of St. Paul's Free Lutheran Church in Leitersburg, Maryland. I have two grown daughters and a granddaughter and am retired after a career in Purchasing. I have published articles in The Lutheran Ambassador, Lutheran Witness, and Lutheran Digest. My Bible study on the Book of Acts was recently published by the Women's Missionary Federation of the AFLC(Association of Free Lutheran Churches).

Why Wait?

Standard

I have to admit I’m not good at waiting.  When I have a task on my “to do” list, I want to get it done and check it off.  When I’m due to be at an event, I get there early, and I have little patience for those who show up late (i.e. at the last moment.) I’m certainly not alone in my “hurry up” attitude. These days we’re not accustomed to waiting for anything — our cell phones give us instant connection with people, the internet pops up any fact we need with the push of a button, using GPS technology we can check to see exactly where our spouse or child is right now and when they’ll arrive at home. Sometimes I want God to hurry up, as well — fix my problems, show me the right decision, give me a burst of inspiration — or at least let me know WHEN the answers will come.  However, the Bible tells us that some things can’t be known immediately — they’re in God’s hands and they’re worth waiting for.

See the source image

“The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.  It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”  Lamentations 3:25-26

Advent is a time of waiting and remembering the Old Testament prophets who foretold the coming of the Messiah, the Savior.  Although they delivered the message, the timing was up to God.  The author of Hebrews says,

“These (the heroes of the Old Testament) all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar …”

Abraham and Sarah, Noah and Enoch and many others never saw the fulfillment of God’s promise, but in faith they trusted Him.  They were willing to wait. It’s a lesson I need to learn. God sent my Savior at “just the right time.” (Romans 5:6) — He’ll take care of my other concerns at the right time as well.  I just have to wait. Advent it good practice.

Advertisements

Amahl and the Night Visitors

Standard

This one act opera was written specifically for TV in 1951 and was the first Christmas special to be shown annually.  My husband and I remembered it from our youth and were eager to see it with our children years ago when a local church began staging it yearly.  Children love it — it has funny moments, beautiful costumes and a main character (Amahl, the little shepherd boy) with whom they can identify.  I thought I’d include one of the songs here on the blog.

A Poem by John Donne: Nativity

Standard

Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb,
Now leaves His well-belov’d imprisonment,
There He hath made Himself to His intent
Weak enough, now into the world to come;
But O, for thee, for Him, hath the inn no room?
Yet lay Him in this stall, and from the Orient,
Stars and wise men will travel to prevent
The effect of Herod’s jealous general doom.
Seest thou, my soul, with thy faith’s eyes, how He
Which fills all place, yet none holds Him, doth lie?
Was not His pity towards thee wondrous high,
That would have need to be pitied by thee?
Kiss Him, and with Him into Egypt go,
With His kind mother, who partakes thy woe.

God Is In the Manger

Standard

This quote is from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Book, “God Is In the Manger.” I’m planning to request it from our local library, so you may see a review later this month!

“Jesus stands at the door knocking (Rev. 3:20). In total reality, he comes in the form of the beggar, of the dissolute human child in ragged clothes, asking for help. He confronts you in every person that you meet. As long as there are people, Christ will walk the earth as your neighbor, as the one through whom God calls you, speaks to you, makes demands on you. That is the great seriousness and great blessedness of the Advent message. Christ is standing at the door; he lives in the form of a human being among us.”  

Tradition!

Standard

Remember the song, Tradition! from the movie, Fiddler On the Roof?  As the plot progresses, the father, Tevye, who wants to maintain the traditions of his Jewish culture, finds circumstances and people pulling him further and further away from them.  It’s difficult when this happens.  Throughout the story, Tevye adjusts to changes that are not always welcome or comfortable.

See the source image

What’s your favorite Christmas tradition?  When our children were at home we would always play a recording of “The Nutcracker Suite” while we decorated the tree.  Our girls still remember this.  As a family, we went together to see the play, “Amahl and the Night Visitors” at a local church. We always watched the George C. Scott version of the Christmas Carol on TV (when we visited our younger daughter over Thanksgiving, she insisted we do this).  We spent Christmas Eve with one side of the family and Christmas Day with the other.  Now our children are grown and these traditions have been replaced.  We go to church for Christmas Eve Service;  we have a big family party with all of our brothers and sisters;  we visit my mom at her nursing home.

Every family and every church, even groups within the church have their Christmas traditions.  Our traditions often include decorating, partying, giving gifts, singing particular songs, eating certain foods.  Traditions make the celebration meaningful.  It’s good to connect with the past.  However, we need to make sure we are not turning our traditions into idols.  The focus of Christmas and the object of our worship should be our Savior Jesus, not the trimmings we humans like to add on.  Traditions will change;  Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever.

Martin Luther on Christmas

Standard

Luther’s writings contain a multitude of references to Advent and Christmas. The following excerpt comes from a sermon on the Nativity that he preached in 1530:

See the source image

If Christ had arrived with trumpets and lain in a cradle of gold, his birth would have been a splendid affair. But it would not be a comfort to me. He was rather to lie in the lap of a poor maiden and be thought of little significance in the eyes of the world. Now I can come to him. Now he reveals himself to the miserable in order not to give any impression that he arrives with great power, splendor, wisdom, and aristocratic manners. But upon his return on that Day, when he will oppose the high and the mighty, it will be different. Now he comes to the poor, who need a Savior, but then he will come as a Judge against those who are persecuting him now.

O Come

Standard

As Michele said in an earlier post, we Lutherans are still celebrating Advent, not Christmas.  Every Sunday for the four weeks before Christmas, we light one or more candles on the Advent wreath and we sing “O Come O Come Emmanuel.”  My granddaughter who is 15 always tells me it is one of her favorite hymns, maybe because she has been hearing it over and over again every year of her life.  The liturgy and the familiar hymns have a way of embedding themselves in our lives that way;  they bring back childhood memories and associations that comfort and sustain us.

Anyway, this hymn has an amazing history.  We have no idea who wrote it– the song is ancient and penned by monks sometime before 800 A.D..  The tune was written by nuns in an obscure French convent in the 1500’s, then rediscovered by an evangelist named John Mason Neale who had been shunted off to labor in a church in the Madeira islands near Africa.  Isn’t it amazing how God works?  It uses a wealth of phrases from the Old Testament prophecies that speak of the coming of the Messiah:  rod of Jesse, dayspring from on high, key of David, wisdom from on high.  It was no doubt meant as a teaching tool for what was then an illiterate population.  If you’re not familiar with Katelyn’s favorite hymn, take time to listen as you wait with God’s people for the coming of the Savior.

Rest Along the Weary Road

Standard

This article was originally published in The Lutheran Ambassador, a publication of the AFLC (Association of Free Lutheran Churches).

Have you ever read a portion of Scripture and found a certain verse or phrase jumping out at you, striking you in a completely new way?  Or listened to a sermon when the Pastor said something that seemed meant just for you and your current situation?  Or had a hymn run through your mind over and over again?

See the source image

I think most of us have had that sort of experience, and when we do, we should pay attention.  The Holy Spirit may be nudging us to a deeper understanding, encouraging us with a word of comfort, or empowering us to take action.  Here’s a time that happened to me.

At our church during the Christmas season we always have a service when members have a chance to call out their favorite carols and the congregation sings a verse or two of each one.  As we sang “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” one year, I was suddenly and powerfully struck by the words, “rest along the weary road and hear the angels sing.”  Wow, I thought, that’s what Christmas should be about.  Nobody can deny that life is a weary road.  The Bible tells us that “man …is few of days and full of trouble”(Job 14:1), and that we can expect to experience trials and suffering (John 16:33).  All we have to do is look around our congregation to see people mourning the loss of loved ones, others who have lost their jobs, members in difficult relationships, or suffering from illness.  Christmas is a time to stop, to rest from all that, to remember the day God broke into our human lives with a precious gift, His own son, Jesus, to die for our sins.

Those of us in church know this.  The youngest child can tell you that Christmas is the birthday of baby Jesus, and the most theologically sophisticated use a big word to describe it, the “incarnation.”  But what is Christmas really about for most of us?  Far too often, Christmas becomes a time of frantic busyness instead of rest.  We have gifts to buy and wrap, cookies to bake, cards to send, people to entertain, parties to attend, a home and church to be decorated, more evenings out as we practice special music or a Christmas pageant.  We stress over whether our presents, our hospitality and our appearance have made the grade.  Maybe we spend more money than we should.  Then when Christmas Eve arrives, we’re too tired out to really appreciate it.  It’s just one more task to get through on the way to the conclusion of the season, when we can sigh and say, “Thank goodness I got everything done.”

None of the things we normally do around Christmas are bad.  Giving of ourselves in various ways, getting together with family and friends, spending some extra time at church, or singing Christmas carols, are all good things, especially if we do them in remembrance and thanks for God’s great gift to us.  But if, like Martha, we become “anxious and troubled about many things”  and miss “the one thing (that is ) necessary (Luke 10:41-42), we’ve lost the gift Christ wanted us to have.  Jesus Himself said, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28)  This year, I’m going to try to be more like the shepherds.  I’ll think of Christmas as a time to take a break instead of a time to get a million things done–a time to eave the worries about my life behind and stop to worship the baby King, a time to rest along the weary road and listen to the angels.